Monday, February 20, 2006

Sexagesima Week. The meditation themes for improvement of the "requisite qualities" of Christian heart, to make it worthy to receive the seeds of Divine Sower, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Fragments taken from "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD.

"The necessity for interior purification"
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 the luminous ray itself, and to give the same light" (AS 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 resolves to free itself from every "creature stain", that is, the stains of sin and inordinate attachments. As soon as God finds that a soul is free from mortal sin, He immediately fills it with His 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 its 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 I, 11,2).
2. God not only illuminates our soul with the rays of His divine Grace, but He Himself, Unitiy 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 invites us to live in real union with Him; nevertheless, He does not give Himself completely to us; He does not consumate us in His unity nor transform us completely into Himself as long as He finds in us slightest things contrary to His will. The smallest imperfections 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 favour by which all the things of God and the soul are one in participant transformation, and the soul seems to be God rather than soul, and is indeed God by participation, although its natural being is as distinct from the Being of God, as it were before....even as the window has a nature distinct from that of the ray by which it is illuminated" (AS II, 5, 7-8).
....O, God, make me understand clearly that "real love consists 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!

"Voluntary attachments"
PRESENCE OF GOD- O, Lord, I place myself in Your presence, begging You to enlighten my soul so that I may see what are the obstacles to my union with You.
1. "To be perfectly united to God by love and will, the soul must first be cleansed of all appetites of the will, even the smallest" (J.C. AS I, 11,3). In the language of St John of the Cross, appetites are disordered inclinations or affections for oneself or creatures, tendencies which are, according to their seriousness, more or less contrary to the divine will. God wishes us to love ourselves, as well as created things, in the measure assigned by Him, with a view to His pleasure and not to our own selfish satisfaction. These inclinations or appetites always give rise to venial sins, or at least to deliberate imperfections, when one willingly yields to them, even though it be only in matters of slight importance. The will of the soul which freely assents to these failings, slight though they be, is stained by this opposition to the will of God; for this reason a perfect union cannot exist between its will and God's. Moreover, if these imperfections become habitual and the soul does not try to correct them, they form a great obstacle to divine union; and according to St. John of the Cross, "they prevent not only divine union but also advancement in perfection" (ibid). He gives a few examples of these unmortified "habitual imperfections": the habit of talking too much, unrestrained curiosity, attachment to little things - whether persons or objects - such as food and so forth, which the soul refuses to give up. There is also the attachment to one's comfort, to certain sensible satisfactions, little vanities, foolish self-complacency, attachment to one's own opinion or reputation. There is a real mushroom-bed of "appetites" and disordered inclinations from which the soul will not free itself.... it cannot make the decision to give them up completely. These are precisely the "habitual voluntary appetites" of which St John of the Cross says, "One single unmortified appetite is sufficient to fetter the soul" (ibid). On the other hand, when it is a question of imperfect inclinations arising solely from human weakness, of these which do not get beyond the stage of "first movements" in which the will has no part, "either before or after", but rather tries to repress as soon as it notices them, "these do not prevent one from attaining divine union" (ibid., 11,2). It is the will that counts and it must be completely free from the slightest attachment.
2. ....It is not so much these "isolated falls", due to inadvertence or weakness, which hinder the soul's advancement, as it is the little venial faults and even simple imperfections caused by habitual voluntary attachments which the soul does not take the trouble to uproot. Even though they are slight, they nevertheless constitute bonds which attach it to earth....And thus the soul that has attachment to anything, however great its virtue, will not attain to the liberty of divine union" (ibid).
St John of the Cross has only one thing to say about renouncement and detachment: renounce everything, be detached from everything, If this demand seems unreasonable, let us remember that it is pure evangelical doctrine, that it asks nothing more than what Jesus proposes to us when He says, "Renounce thyself." He asks us to renounce ourselves not only in this or that matter, but in everything that might prevent us from following Him: "For he that will save his life shall lose it, and he that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it. If thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee" (Mt 16, 25-18,8). Jesus teaches us in these words that, for the salvation and sanctification of our soul, we must give up everything that might become a stunbling block to us. It is precisely in this thorough renunciation, in this "losing" of self in everything - even in what is dearest to us and if it were necessary, even to the extent of sacrificing our life - that we find the road to salvation and sanctity.

....My God, give me the light necessary to recognize in myself all that keeps me from union with Thee. Grant me the light to recognize all the attachments which still bind me to creatures, and especially those which are most displeasing to You because they proceed directly from pride and self-love. In the secrecy of my heart You teach me sweetly and gently, You show me clearly that I am still far from conforming my will to Yours, in all things and for all things. I love and desire so many trifles, so many imperfections which You neither love nor desire because they are contrary to your infinite perfections. Give me strength to wage a constant and courageous battle against them....

Next: "The essence of detachment" and the "Rules for detachment"