Sunday, February 12, 2006

Septuagesima Sunday. The necessity for interior purification - the meditation from "Divine Intimacy" by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen OCD

PRESENCE OF GOD - Purify my soul, O Lord, so that it may be filled completely with Your light and Your love.

1. St John of the Cross compares the soul to a glass window with a ray of sunlight shining on it. If the glass is dirty, "the ray cannot illuminate it, nor transform it completely into its light; its illumination will be in proportion to its clearness. If, on the other hand, it is absolutely clean and spotless, it will be illuminated and transformed in such a way as to appear to be luminous ray itself, and to give the same light" (Ascent of Mount Carmel II,5,6). God is the divine Sun shining upon our souls, desiring to invade them and penetrate them, completely transforming them into His light and love. Before He does this, however, He waits until the soul resolve to free itself from every "creature stain", that is, the stain of sin and inordinate attachments. As soon as God finds a soul is free from mortal sin, He immediately fills it with grace. This precious gift is the first step in the great transformation which the Lord desires to bring about in us. The more we become purified of all sin and imperfection, and of even the slightest attachment; that is, in proportion as we conform our will to the will of God, not only in serious matters of obligation but even in the least details of perfection, the more capable we become of being entirely penetrated and transformed by divine Grace. Grace, the gift of God which makes the soul a participant in the divine nature, is poured forth into the soul in proportion to its degree of interior purity, which always corresponds to the degree of conformity with God's will. Therefore, the soul that wishes to be totally possessed and transformed by divine Grace, must in practice strive to conform fully to the will of God, according to the teaching of St John of the Cross, "so that there may be nothing in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that in all and through all its movement may be that of the will of God alone" (AS - Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,2).
2. God not only illuminates our soul with the rays of His divine Grace, but He Himself, Unity and Trinity, takes up His abode within us, according to the promise of Jesus: "If anyone love Me... We will come to him, and will make our abode with him" (Jn 14, 23). Even if we possess but one single degree of grace, God dwells in us and invite us to live in real union with Him; nevertheless, He does not give Himself completely to us; He does not consummate us in His unity nor transform us completely into Himself as long as He finds in us the slightest thing contrary to His will. The smallest imperfection is opposed to the will of God because God cannot desire the slightest imperfection and, a fortiori, He cannot admit to perfect union with Himself a soul who keeps any trace - no matter how insignificant - of opposition to His infinite perfection. The basis of all perfect union is total conformity of will and affection. As long as we love and desire, even in small details, anything that God cannot love or desire, our will is not fully conformed to the divine will, and these two wills, God's will and our own will, cannot become one, "that is, the will of God become also the will of the soul" (J.C. AS I, 11,3). As long as we do not attain this perfect union of wills, God, although He dwells in us, will not communicate Himself fully to our soul. Hence St John of the Cross teaches that "the soul disposes itself for purity and love, that is. By renouncement and perfect detachment from all things for God's sake alone." When the soul is thus disposed, God bestows on it "that supernatural favor by which all the things of God and the soul are in one in participant transformation, and the soul seems to be God rather soul, and is indeed God by participation, although its natural being is as distinct from Being of God as it was before... even as the widow has a nature distinct from that of the ray by which it is illuminated" (AS II, 5, 8-7).

O my God, for what great things have You created me! You have created me to know You, to love You, to serve You - and not as a slave, but as Your child, Your friend, living in intimacy with You, sitting at Your table, enjoying Your presence. O Jesus, You have said, "I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth. But I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you" (Jn 15,15). You have revealed to me the great mystery of a God who deigns to love me as His child. To establish His dwelling in my soul, to invite me to a more intimate friendship and union with Him. You Yourself asked for this union for me at the Last Supper: "As Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (ibid. 17,21). To be one with God, to be consumed in the Unity of the Most Holy Trinity! O Jesus, how sublime is the ideal You propose to me, how wonderful the invitation you offer me! Yes, Your words apply also to me, a creature of sin and misery. Why should I delay, remaining among the base things and vanities of this earthly life? Why should I, like a reptile, be content to crawl on the ground, when You invite me to soar like an eagle and give me wings with which to do so? Alone I can do nothing and would struggle in vain to free myself from the bonds of sin, to detach myself from creatures and from myself; all my efforts would be useless because my natural weakness constantly tends to drag me down. By Your grace and love are the wings on which I can fly to perfect union with You. With such an ideal, how could I think it hard to undertake and carry out a work of profound purification and total detachment?
O God, make me understand clearly that "real love consist in detaching oneself from everything that is not You" (J.C.,AS II, 5,7). From everything, not only from this thing or that, but from everything, for love is by nature totalitarian, and perfect union demands perfect harmony of wills, desires, and affections. My God, what profound purification I must undergo in order that You may be able to unite me to Yourself who art infinite perfection!