“Blinded By The Light” Of The Dark Night

It sounds like something Darth Vader should be introducing…(cue the mechanical heaving breathing)…”The Dark Night of the Soul!” Perfect for Halloween.

Stella luce astro spazio sole illuminare

Many of us have heard something or other about this strange phenomenon made famous by St. John of the Cross. It’s the feeling of total abandonment by God experienced by a person in the higher stages of the spiritual life as they transition from the second to the third stage of the spiritual life – the Illuminative to the Unitive way.

God’s not really gone, but in this temporary transition you don’t feel his presence anymore…at all.

(If this is gobbledygook to you, no worries. I wrote a very easy to read
book which spends a couple chapters describing all of this. It’s called, “Prayer Works: Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality.”)T1586_300

The spiritual writers make it clear the transition not easy. It’s a purgation that requires abandonment to our Lord. And sometimes John’s language of a “Dark Night” scares people to death (with good reason).

While some spiritual writers see spiritual growth as movement toward “light”, (which sounds much more pleasant), John of the Cross seems to echo St. Gregory of Nyssa. Both spiritual masters describe the soul’s move toward God as a progression from light to darkness.

Huh?

What they mean is that we move from the world of natural sense perception into the supernatural world that is beyond our senses. It’s a hidden world that Gregory elsewhere calls the “luminous darkness” (Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles).

A “luminous darkness”? Isn’t that a contradiction?

Gregory’s point is that the darkness and light we encounter in spiritual growth is relative. What appears to be light when we first arrive becomes dark if we linger too long. This urges us on toward the perfect luminescence of God.

Similarly, “Dark Night” is what high brow spiritual theologians call an “antithetical term.”  What may appear or feel like “darkness” is actually the “inaccessible light” of God. We are, in a sense, blinded into darkness by His super-abundant luminosity.

In other words, it’s not easy, but there’s no reason to be afraid of the dark.

God bless and keep growing!

Matthew

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of my quick guide to deeper prayer 8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Prayer Life! It’s an easy step-by-step guide to help you rocket to God!

8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Prayer Life Cover Image

 

 

 

 

017: The Bible and the Church Fathers

catholic_FINAL_150We all want to know where we come from. What are our biological roots? Who are we related to? People spend a lot of money every year tracing their family tree (hoping it forks!).

As Christians, we should desire to know our family tree, too. Like in our natural families, we should want to know who has gone before us in the Faith and what they believed. We should want to know our history.

Now’s our chance.

In this Art of Catholic episode, I’m featuring the first half of Lesson One of The Bible and the Church Fathers. This study is part of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology’s Journey Through Scripture Bible study program…and you’re going to love it. It’s a great primer on the men upon whose shoulders we stand.

I’ve been presenting Journey Through Scripture all over the country (and world) for more than eight years. While I wrote the study, much of it is based upon Mike Aquilina’s book 51S4+GkQ1tL._SL250_The Fathers of the Church (3rd edition).

As I mentioned, what you’re about to hear is part 1 of Lesson One, which is titled Introduction to the Fathers. In my next episode, I’ll have part 2.

For now, pour yourself a nice tall cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy…

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Why Fast & Furious Loses The Spiritual Race

Fast cars. Fast cash. Fast food. Everybody wants things fast. But in the spiritual life, that’s the fastest way to crash and burn.

speeding car disintegrating

When becoming serious about spiritual growth, many beginners forget that conforming one’s life to Christ is a lifetime project. Sin cannot be overcome through one fervent reception of the Eucharist, one excruciating confession, or even one 2am trip to the adoration chapel.

The spiritual life is a marathon.

In his classic work Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales says that “purgation and healing, whether body or of soul, takes place only little by little and by passing from one advance to another with difficulty and patience” (Part One Section 5). Even the winged angels on Jacob’s ladder “did not fly but went up and down in order and step by step.”

Just like a person recovering from a natural illness, it takes time to overcome spiritual sickness and restore health.

This is why perseverance and patience are so necessary. Too many of us get down on ourselves for not improving rapidly. We’re so geared for immediate results, that we forget the spiritual life is all about undoing the evil that has been festering for millennia.

And we’re not just fighting ourselves.

We’re fighting against “the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” says St. Paul (Eph 6:12). It’s a war in which every inch of territory of our lives we retake from the Evil One takes blood, sweat, tears, and a truckload of time and grace.

Don’t give up just because you don’t see immediate change. Don’t get discouraged because you sometimes fall. Just as in the natural life, growth takes time. Slow and steady wins the spiritual race.

God bless!

Matthew

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of my quick guide to deeper prayer 8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Prayer Life! It’s an easy step-by-step guide to help you rocket to God!

8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Prayer Life Cover Image