This chapter on Faith to finish the book is very long – 32 pages. These summaries have always averaged about four pages. That would be a lot of condensing so I always encourage all of you to read the entire chapter as well as browse this summary.
The purpose of this whole book is to draw us closer to God and to draw more grace within our soul through prayer so that we will have divine life within us. In this last chapter, Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus shows us that St. John of the Cross reduces the whole doctrine of contemplation to an exposition of the role of faith. This chapter shows how faith is necessary, what it is, in what ways it is exercised, and what are the characteristics of the knowledge it secures.
Since faith attains to God and since God, like a consuming fire is always ready to communicate Himself, each act of living faith accompanied by charity – puts one in contact with that burning fire which places one under the influence of its light and its flame; in other words, it procures for the soul an increase of grace and hence participation In the divine nature which is what we should all be seeking. Faith is the door of entry, necessary for attaining to God. For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder to those who seek Him. Whatever may be the circumstances that accompany the act of faith – aridities or enthusiasm, joy or suffering – it attains to the divine Reality; and even if one experiences nothing of this contact in its faculties, one knows that it has existed and has been efficacious. Grace is drawn from God in the measure of one’s faith; in a more abundant measure, perhaps, if the divine Mercy has intervened to supply for deficiencies. God entirely eludes the senses.
The powerlessness of the intellect to know the Deity as it is in Itself, and the Triune Life, permits us to conclude that we will know God in Himself only if He reveals Himself, and at the same time gives us a supernatural power capable of perceiving His light. Actually, God has made a revelation of Himself and given us the virtue of faith which is an aptitude of possessing Him in knowledge. Faith is a supernatural theological virtue by which we believe in God and in the truths that He proposes to us, on the authority of God Who reveals them.
Since faith is the only proximate and proportionate means for attaining to God, any striving for union with God will have recourse to its mediation and activity. Faith alone can lead us to the divine source of grace. The act of faith, according to St. Thomas “is an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God.”
The sacraments themselves which give grace by their own intrinsic power, normally require faith in the recipient. We must have faith if we would be united to our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, here even His sacred humanity lies hid. Likewise, the exchange of friendship with God in mental prayer will take place only through faith. Mental prayer considered from the view of the soul’s part in it, is nothing but faith lovingly in quest of God, and may be considered as a succession of acts of faith. Consequently, if, during dryness and powerlessness, the soul perseveringly makes acts of faith and of love, it can be assured that its prayer is good, even if it does not experience the effects of it.
Mental prayer, attaining to God only by faith, will take its own perfection from the quality of the faith from which it springs. Hence, we will find in the development of the life of prayer two phases parallel to the development of the virtue of faith. The first phase, or active prayer, corresponds to that faith which draws light from reason; the second, or passive prayer, is nourished by the living faith that is perfected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Conceptual faith, as we have seen, attains to divine Reality, but reverts to the exercise of the faculties to find in them its light and food. The prayer that corresponds to it will truly be a friendly converse with God, but one that is sustained by the activity of the imagination, of the intellect, or of the will. The activity of these faculties is predominant; hence the name of active prayer, the different forms of which are distinguished in the first three Teresian Mansions.
Living, perfect faith receives from God Himself, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, its light and its measure. In the state of prayer animated by faith, the soul is drawn towards the divine Reality by the obscure perception of it that it receives through the gifts, and is, as it were, raised above its own natural manner of activity; or at least, it continually tends towards the divine Reality revealing itself. This is called contemplative or passive prayer, because the action of God predominates.
St. John of the Cross gives the signs that permit one to distinguish these two phases of the life of prayer, signs of the greatest importance because of the difference in the conduct that each imposes on the soul.
Since it is true that in active prayer, faith finds its sustenance and its support in the activity of the faculties, the soul has the duty of studying revealed truth, preparing for prayer, and activating the faculties during the prayer, to the extent that such activity is necessary in order to maintain the conversation with God.
In the second phase, that of contemplative prayer, since faith finds its food in God Himself, the duty of the soul is to calm the activity of the natural faculties and, by very simple acts, to sustain the attraction that the divine Reality exercises over it. The operation of the gifts requires that silent peaceful attitude of soul; and the respect due to the divine working, now predominant in the soul, demands a continued orientation towards the Divine.
Since prayer finds its supernatural efficacy in the quality of the faith that animates it, and consequently, in the intimacy and frequency of the contacts with God that it secures, contemplative prayer is usually more efficacious than active prayer.
In active prayer, faith is imperfect, having contact with God only intermittently, and closely linked to the natural activity of the faculties; while in the passive, contemplative prayer - faith – thanks to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which perfect it in its exercise – habitually maintains the soul under the action of God. In active prayer, the soul draws from time to time from the divine fountains; in passive prayer, it remains bathed in the purifying waters and flames of the Holy Spirit where it is transformed from rightness to brightness until it resembles the Divine.
One might ask if the desire for a deeper and more rapid transformation of love warrants an effort on the soul’s part to rise to passive prayer. It would be sufficient, so it seems, to stop the activity of the faculties after an act of faith, in order to prevent a return to the natural acts and to keep the soul in the obscure reality to which it has just attained. St. Teresa has treated at quite some length of this attempt, and declares that it proceeds from presumptious pride and that it would be useless.
Supernatural contemplation is a gratuitous gift of divine Mercy. God alone can put in action the gifts of the Holy Spirit which produce it by perfecting the exercise of faith. (An opportunity here to throw in that the new "speaking in tongues" spread throughout the Church goes against this teaching of St. John of the Cross - so beware!) God bestows it “when He wills and as He wills and having nothing to do either with time or with service. I do not mean that these latter things are unimportant but that often the Lord grants to one person less contemplation in twenty years than to others in one.” writes St. Teresa. And elsewhere she says: “I cannot believe in the efficacy of human activity in matters where His Majesty appears to have set a limit to it and to have been pleased to reserve action to Himself”.
Humility alone can claim to draw down these divine gifts, for God resists the proud and gives His grace to the humble. In order to arrive at contemplation more useful than the most violent efforts. This humility will consist practically in begging “like poor and needy persons coming before a great and rich Emperor,” in resorting to the modest forms of active prayer and continuing thus in patient and peaceful labor until God lift us up to passive prayer:
When you are invited to a wedding feast, do not recline in the first place… but in the last place; that when he who invited you comes in, he may say to you: “friend, go up higher! Then you will be honored in the presence of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The parable of the Gospel can be applied to the letter to the life of prayer; in order to merit to be elevated to contemplation, one must humbly take the last place among the spiritual. And in this last place, it is good to desire higher and quicker means of arriving at perfect union, but always while guarding against any presumptuous effort to procure them on one’s own. (Adding - St. Teresa would always say that we need determined determination - do not be fickle about your prayer life. Have faith that God is always there and always beckoning us to be with Him. Remain constant in our faith and in our time dedicated for prayer and He will be faithful to us.)
Contemplation, like the living faith of which it is the fruit, has for its object the Deity itself and can perceive it only as an obscure reality, because of its transcendence. Like faith, it is a knowledge that is certain and obscure. This twofold character of certitude and obscurity, especially the second, will reveal its existence in the soul and be a criterion of its purity. Deep within the multiplicity of impressions, within the interior agitation that rather frequently accompanies supernatural contemplation, the darkness will indicate to the contemplative the regions where living faith is active, which he must protect and where he must take refuge.
Darkness being the revealing sign of the divine Reality, the contemplative, in his contemplation, will have to prefer that darkness to all distinct lights – whether those lights come from the formulas of dogma or even from God Himself – in order that, through it, he may remain in contact with the Divine. He will have to watch, not to allow himself to be drawn away by the disquiet of the lower faculties, not even to put them at peace, nor to let himself be wrapped up by the sweetness that comes from God, nor to follow after the delight of it in the senses. No matter what happens, he must lift up the antenna of his faith above all perceptions and unrest and turn back to the serene and peaceful darkness in which the Infinite is revealing and giving Himself.
St. John of the Cross tells us how the devil excels in giving knowledge and delights to souls in this state. Great harm is done to the soul that does not understand itself and taking a mouthful of distinct knowledge and sensible sweetness, prevents itself from feeding wholly upon God when He absorbs it. Likewise, in stanzas 31 and 32 of the Spiritual Canticle, after asking the lower faculties to remain in their own sphere, the “outskirts” so as not to trouble and distract the hidden inward depth of the soul, he asks God to grant such favors that he may not be able to describe them and the sensual part may have no share in them.
Faith being the only proximate and proportionate means for attaining to God in our progress towards divine union, we must not prefer any natural light to it, nor any supernatural gift however elevated it may be. This utter detachment from all created goods constitutes the whole of contemplative asceticism. Thus faith and hope are purified, and perfect union with God is realized according to the measure of our grace.
These developments permit us:
To estimate at their proper value whatever distinct knowledge or delights we receive in mental prayer. These illumine the way and calm the faculties; they ‘captivate’ to us the expression of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. They are a precious means for going to God, and the soul must use them with gratitude and humility; but attachment to them can change them into dangerous obstacles.
To state that they are not absolutely necessary for arriving at perfection or even at perfect contemplation. One can conceive of – and actually they exist – contemplative states in which, in the midst of disquiet and trouble in the faculties, there is manifest only that obscure perception of God which is the essential element of contemplation.
To note that the greatest contemplatives are not necessarily those who receive the most distinct light as to God: but that more than all the others, they are aware of the divine transcendence in the transluminous darkness of His mysteries.
To say that, putting aside the designs of God on such or such a soul and the share in the Passion of His Son that He imposes on it, the state of perfection involves normally a pervasion of that darkness through the whole soul and its faculties which, thereafter purified and made amenable to the Divine, find in it a delightful food. The divine transcendence is better known and hence more obscure than ever, but in that deeper obscurity the soul glimpses the light of dawn. Lights and subtle sweetness, delicate unctions that the senses do not know, that the soul itself seems not to know, so true is it that it is tending towards the divine Reality that is penetrating it and to whom it longs to surrender itself more and more.
This all leads of course to Our Blessed Mother. The model of all saints. Such was the perfect faith in prayer of the most blessed Virgin Mary, all illumined and enflamed as she was with the divine fires; but whose humble, peaceful and ardent faith seemed not to know the riches that she possessed, enabling her to progress always still farther into the luminous night of the Holy Spirit who enfolded Her in His Love.
May we all turn to Her and ask Her to guide us in prayer, in our faith, in our love for Her Son, Jesus Christ. She is the model of all Carmelite saints. May we turn to Her always before we turn in faith to prayer! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel - pray for us!
Well, we are one chapter away from finishing the book after this is studied. This chapter seems from the surface a bit intimidating as well as long – 27 pages! How does one condense this? Actually, upon finishing this chapter, I found that Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene’s ending was worth getting excited about. It was very Carmelite and in order to boost your interest – I will give you the ending first!
As taught to us always, we need to go to God in prayer with love, humility and detachment. Those are the Carmelite principles. So how does theology fit in? The dogmas of the Faith – give us our roots, our foundation and help as a control to see clearly that we are on the right path. This chapter explains that Theology is necessary but it is not to be our goal. Our goal is always – union with God – supernatural contemplation. So how does Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene end the chapter? With the example of St. Thomas Aquinas. For those who know how his story ends, I need not say more. St. Thomas is the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church. Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene says it like this:
“Let us end with the account that Brother Reginald has left us of an episode in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas. One day, the sixth of December, three months before his death, while St. Thomas was celebrating Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Nicholas at Naples, a great change came over him. From that moment, he stopped writing and dictating. Was the Summa, then to remain unfinished? To Reginald’s complaints, came his master’s reply, “I can do no more”, and the other insisting…” “Reginald, I can do no more, such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems to me like straw. Now I await the end of my life, after that of my works.”
“Straw!” the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of theology, when one places it in the presence of the ineffable light that the Word, the Sun divine, causes to shine silently into the soul that offers itself, pure and peaceful, to the inflowing of its warming rays. That ought to suffice us.”
OK for those who wish to go no further – this is it! WE NEED THEOLOGY BUT WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT WE NEED THE UNION OF GOD WHO IS LOVE - MORE!
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene also uses the examples of St. Therese and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. At the time of this book, St. Therese was not yet called a Doctor of the Church. This chapter is good for all those Catholics who are puzzled over the fact that a 24 year old “uneducated” woman could be called a Doctor of the Church! She teaches this very same lesson. Her little way was the Way. This is a great lesson for all of us today because we put education on such a pedestal. We should seek holiness as our goal when we open the books and seek out PhD’s.
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene does touch on Our Lady in this book but in my opinion - not enough. It is in the Old Rule that the Consecration to Jesus Through Mary is recommended. NOT SO IN THE NOVUS ORDO THIRD ORDER! I was told by Carmelite friars (no names) that this goes against Carmelite spirituality. (Seriously??) I was so thrilled to find this promoted in the Old Rule. All the things that lead us to Mary are found! I bring this up because – like St. Therese with her little Way. Our Lady is the sure way to supernatural contemplation because She is the sure way to Jesus Christ. Today, it is difficult to find a spiritual advisor for our souls. Most likely, because most are busy with business rather than the love of God and souls. The prayer life in the world has grown cold for many. People are too busy for God. Who do we go to – go to Mary! Of course, if one has means of a good spiritual advisor – both Mary and the advisor would be better.
Well – let us now cover these 27 pages – the best we can.
Theology and supernatural contemplation have a common object, namely, Divine Truth. Theology, using reason enlightened by faith, works on dogmatic truth – the perfect expression in human language of divine truth, but an expression that remains analogical. Contemplation, through faith perfected in its exercise by the gifts, is born beyond the covering that the dogmatic formula is, and penetrates to the very reality that is Divine Truth. Theology and Contemplation are differentiated by the way each grasps Divine Truth.
2. Contemplation goes Beyond the Formulas of Theology
Taking it a step further, St. John of the Cross calls contemplation the “secret ladder”. It reaches to Truth itself and its proper domain is the dark mystery of divine Truth. Contemplation sometimes absorbs the soul and engulfs it in its abyss in such a way that the soul clearly sees that it has been carried far away from every creature and considers itself as having been placed in a most profound and vast retreat to which no human creature can attain, such as an immense desert which nowhere has any boundary, a desert the more delectable, pleasant and lovely for its secrecy, vastness and solitude, wherein, the more the soul is raised up above all temporal creatures, the more deeply does it find itself hidden.” Dark Night, p. 458
St. John continues that this elevation is accompanied by knowledge:
“And so greatly does this abyss of wisdom raise up and exalt the souls at this time, making it strike deep into the veins of the science of love…” “It is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator.” Dark Night, p. 459
Found in the “Spiritual Canticle” by St. John and written by St. Paul, we read: “In Christ dwells hidden all the treasures and wisdom of God.” Such are the glorious riches of light that contemplation opens up to the soul and through it to the Church.
Theology brings the power and logic of reason enlightened by faith. Supernatural contemplation further contributes to it, with the great penetration of love. The theologian reasons, deduces, expresses his conclusions in exact formulas; the contemplative gazes on the living depths of Truth. Both are in the service of the same cause.
3. Contemplation Submits its Light to the Control of Theology
Theology which represents the teaching power of the Church is the guardian of the deposit of revealed Truth. The contemplative to whatever sublime heights his contemplation may ascend, must submit his lights to this control of theology. This is what the great spiritual persons have done – submit all to the judgment of Holy Mother Church.
Many heresies and unorthodox spiritual movements have come from authentic mystical experiences but were mingled with pride in not submitting to the authority of the Church.
4. Contemplation Has Its Own Living and Delightful Language
The soul’s response to contemplation as well as the expression of it, will be subject in some measure to the qualities and the defects of the temperament of the mystic.
When the mystical experience is very elevated, when it affects a purified soul and its powers, when it finds faculties refined enough to transmit it to us, it then brings us the harmonious sound of all the human riches of a soul, singing, exultant and vibrant under the light and the touch of the Infinite.
5. Theology Must Sustain Contemplation in its Progress
The mystical experience affects all the powers of the soul; yet because it proceeds from love and bears within it a vague echo of the Infinite, it seems to flee the intellectual framework of thought, which oppresses it with its precision and bounds. The spiritual beginner no longer wants to be anything but mystical, and becomes almost anti-intellectual.
This danger can be grave; there is a danger of illuminism, eager for sensible manifestations of the spiritual, constantly seeking the light and support of these manifestations in all stages of the moral and spiritual life. Thus human balance is jeopardized.
There is an intoxification of the senses which is produced by the divine outpourings of love and when they are not experienced, a very painful reaction follows. Thus the need for support and control is all the more needed and intense, as the soul now experiences only emptiness, a void that seems the more hollow after the fullness of delight that it has just known.
St. Teresa of Jesus is a great example of this sudden emptiness after an experience of God was now absent. She experienced so many mystical experiences that she was constantly in need of good spiritual advice and was greatly blessed with many theologians to help her progress.
Theology and contemplation enjoy mutual esteem and serve one another. Theology makes learned men and contemplation makes saints.
Theological contemplation (the joy found in the search and find of study) and supernatural contemplation do not require the same cooperation on the part of the soul. Intellectual activity is indispensable to the first; the second is sustained above all by peaceful surrender and humility. To impose a supernatural contemplative with intellectual activity would be to cast trouble. It would go against the will of God for that soul. St. John of the Cross speaks against the advisor that offers this to a contemplative soul by saying in the Living Flame of Love: “There will come some director who has no knowledge save of hammering souls and pounding them like a blacksmith and because his only teaching is of that kind, he will say…”Come now, leave all this, for you are only wasting time and living in idleness. Get to work, meditate and make interior acts, for it is right that you should do these things for yourself and be diligent about them, for these other things are the practices of Illuminists and fools…” Living Flame of Love
Such persons have no understanding of the degrees of prayer or of the ways of the spirit.
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene states: May all be so favored as to find a master in spirituality who, following the Reformer of Carmel, has enough influence and wisdom to teach them that:
mental prayer consists less in thinking than in loving - less in acting than in surrendering.
Wisdom is to be found where humility is.
There are examples in the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus searching for simplicity among her sisters rather than exhibiting knowledge above love.
6. Contemplation and Spirituality
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene uses the examples of St. Therese and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity to show the simplicity of these two souls that seek Truth through humility and love.
He says that St. Therese of the Child Jesus speaks with confidence and abandonment while preaching faithfulness in little things, orientates us toward the living Christ in His Crib and His Passion and all with the language and charm of a child.
He talks about Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and how while still at home, she experienced sensibly the presence of the Holy Trinity in her soul. A Dominican Fr. Vallee with the luminous soul of a theologian and contemplative, gives her the explanation of her experiences by expounding for her the dogma of the indwelling of God within us. Throughout her short life, she had this dogma always before her as she surrendered herself to the inflowing of divine Truth. May we all learn from Sister Elizabeth to make use of the truths of dogma in order to be recollected in God.
St. Therese and Blessed Elizabeth were neither philosopher nor theologians – they only aspired to know and love God and to become saints. They both succeeded, each one by the way that corresponded with her grace.
May we be true Carmelites and seek to love God with our whole hearts, minds and souls. May we pray to Our Blessed Mother to supply us with profound love, profound humility and profound detachment so that we can experience the everlasting joys of Heaven while still on earth and may we hunger for Him for all eternity while always submitting ourselves to the teachings of Divine Truth found in our Catholic Theology.
Father Marie Eugene tackles the question of: Are we ALL called to contemplation? Don’t we all want to be sanctified to the fullest measure here on earth by the power of God’s grace? He answers by giving us the wisdom of the Holy Ghost through the writings of St. Teresa and St. John. The findings are both inspiring and sad. Inspiring because God wants ALL TO BE SAINTS!!! Sad because the reality is– most do not have the generosity to seek God with our whole heart, mind and soul in order to be His saints. May we read these words and decide to have a determined determination to seek God!
Mystical life is the spiritual life marked by the habitual intervention of God through the various gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Contemplative life is the life of mental prayer marked by the habitual intervention of God through the particularly contemplative gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Mystical life, then, is a broader term than contemplative life which is only one form of it, but on a more elevated level. Basically, whatever may be the gifts that God uses to intervene in souls, it is to the same holiness and the same participation in His divine life that He leads all, but by different ways.
Question of Right
Are all souls called to the mystical life and to contemplation? A distinction has been made between a general call and a particular call and it is determined that all baptized souls have the practical means for attaining it.
Father Marie Eugene emphatically states YES to the general call to a mystical life and to contemplation by means of our Baptism. Every soul possessing the seven gifts received at Baptism can be moved by God and brought by Him to the plentitude of the mystical life, including supernatural contemplation!
It does depend on the free intervention of God’s Will to elevate the soul to mystical life and contemplation. The mystery of God for the design of each soul does belongs to God but we also know that God is Love and is therefore the Good, communicative of itself. To give Himself is an essential movement of His nature. He finds incomparable joy and glory in the diffusion of His grace in souls; and most especially, in His perfect reign in each one of them. His free will is captivated by the movement of His love. How could His will resist the call of the gifts of the Holy Ghost in souls that long to be filled with His holy love. This is precisely what St. Teresa of Jesus stresses – She stressed His Love and also our need to be totally persistent. We must have determined determination. If He sees our longing – His love does not resist that longing. She states:
“Remember, the Lord invites us all; and since He is Truth Itself, we cannot doubt Him. If His invitation were not a general one, He would not have said: “I will give you to drink”. He might have said: “Come all of you, for after all you will lose nothing by coming; and I will give drink to those whom I think fit for it.” But, as He said we were all to come, without making this condition, I feel sure that none will fail to receive this living water unless they cannot keep to the path.” (Way of Perfection, Peers, p. 85)
She emphasizes the following ---
“So take my advice and do not tarry on the way, but strive like strong men until you die in the attempt, for you are here for nothing else than to strive… always pursue this determination to die rather than fail to reach the end of the road.” (Way of Perfection, Peers, p. 85-6)
St. John of the Cross states the following regarding this subject of our determination: “And here it behooves us to note why it is that there are so few that attain to this lofty state. It must be known that this is not because God is pleased that there should be few raised to this high spiritual state – on the contrary, it would please Him if ALL were so raised.” (Living Flame, Peers, p. 51)
We are prone in our thinking to setting limits but yet the ways of God are many. There is a different approach by God not just for each saint but for each soul, even the most humble. Holiness is one, it is true, but its gifts are varied to infinity. All are called to the fullness of divine union and of charity, though the roads that lead to the summit come from starting points far remote from each other. St. Teresa says that there are many roads to God as there are many mansions in Heaven.
Question of Fact
Among the seven Mansions, only the last four concern the mystical life. The first three constitute a phase of the spiritual life characterized by the predominance of the activity of the virtues in their human modes.
Souls Outside the Castle
Those outside the castle are obviously outside of God’s grace. As stated previously, only those who have received Baptism can receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Those non-Christians can receive manifestations of God’s divine actions both exterior and interior which only touch their senses. God can speak or manifest His power to any intelligent creature whatever, and make known to him His will and by miraculous or supernatural means. He can also use him as an instrument but all of these manifestations only reach the senses and do not effect supernatural grace for the soul because of the lack of Baptism. To refuse this power of God would be to refuse His dominion over all. These manifestations may be to move the soul such as in the case of St. Paul.
Souls in the First Three Mansions
The first three mansions are considered the first phase of the spiritual life. According to St. Teresa there is yet no mystical life in this soul. In connection with the intervention of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of the soul, St. Thomas Aquinas asserts that it is not in the power of reason, even enlightened by faith and infused prudence, to know all things; and “consequently, it is unable to avoid folly…God however, to Whose knowledge and power all things are subject, by His motion safeguards us from all folly, ignorance, dullness of mind and hardness of heart and the rest. Consequently, the Holy Ghost which make us amendable to His promptings, are said to be given as remedies to these defects.” From this one may conclude that the direct intervention of the Holy Ghost through the gifts is necessary for any supernatural act. To move further there must be activity through these gifts over the presence of the virtues.
St. Teresa stated that the growth of the soul is not like the body where there is steady progress of growth. The soul is known to move up and down in progress. To increase in progress, a prudent counsel of a wise director might be the only way to enlighten the soul as to the value of a gift received, and prepare it discreetly for the more elevated and frequent ones the God intends it to have in the future. (Again, as stated in previous chapters, do not get discouraged by a lack of good directors – God will provide through your prayers. Refer to Fr. Dubay’s Spiritual Direction book for guidance during these deficient days of directors)
Souls in the Second Phase
The second phase is considered the Fourth through Seventh Mansions. These are the mansions that are considered to have mystical life. Are there many who make it this far? St. Teresa states that “the Christians are numerous who remain in the outer court of the castle.” These souls are not in the state of grace. Numerous also – and a great multitude – are those who inhabit the first Mansions, leading a Christian life which is poorly sustained with a few exterior practices and rarely concerned with interior acts of love or with the thought of God. In the second and third mansions are persons solicitous about piety; and according to St. Teresa they are many who do not go beyond the third mansions.
St. John of the Cross states: “Not all those who consciously walk in the way of the spirit are brought by God to contemplation, nor even the half of them –why, He best knows.” (Dark Night, Peers, pg. 378)
It is then concluded that the large majority of Christians do not enter into the mystical life.
Those who do enter the mystical life hunger and thirst for God, manifest a great faithfulness to prayer, love silence and retreat, are eager for knowledge of the spiritual life and have real fruits of virtue.
Why so few souls? Both St. Teresa and St. John conclude it is a lack of generosity on the part of many. It is also lack of light. So few directors who themselves practice contemplation. If there were only more sermons to spur the people on. More examples for others to follow – the fire would ignite.
These statements of St. Teresa and St. John confirm the complaints of Love Who is not enough loved. Yet, He calls us ALL to the Fountain of the Living Water of intimate union with Him, and His will is that we all should be saints! How very very sad and what a calling for all of us who are reading this.
May Our Lady pray for us and guide us!
Chapter VII – Contemplation
When a soul offers the gift of self, humility, silence: these not only surrender the soul to the direct action of God, but exercise an almost irresistible pressure on the divine liberty, forcing God as it were to intervene in the spiritual life of the soul through the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Father Marie-Eugene uses the teachings of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross to guide us in this mystical theology by giving us the solid principles and firm bases to understand the inner workings of the Holy Ghost in contemplation.
A. Contemplation in General
The intervention of God in the spiritual life will usually first occur in the direct relations of the soul with God in prayer. It will transform prayer into contemplation.
St. Thomas defines contemplation as “a simple gaze on truth”. The Carmelites add: “A simple gaze on truth, under the influence of love.” It is love that moves the mind to gaze upon truth; love simplifies that gaze and fixes it on its object. In supernatural contemplation, it is through love that the soul knows, and not by the clearness of the light. The fruit of contemplation is an increase of love.
Its First Forms
St. Teresa begins to speak of this in the Fourth Mansions of the Interior Castle. She states that genuine contemplation is an act of knowledge and simple gaze on truth under the influence of love.
This contemplation bears on sensible realities and is made through the senses which produces an aesthetic emotion. It is a lower form of contemplation. An example given by Father Marie Eugene is contemplation occurring at an oceanside. As the senses are filled with the awe of God’s majesty, the soul is enriched with impressions which may have a profound intellectual and moral influence on the soul’s development.
Intellectual contemplation comes after persevering work in which a solution may be given. Fr. Marie-Eugene uses the example of a philosopher and a scientist where principle and/or law shine out before them. They analyze it, fathom its meaning, marvel at it, love it for all the efforts it represents, for all the light they receive from it, and also for all the promise it has for the future. The philosopher and the scientist take delight in “their” discovery made by God’s grace. Their gaze is synthetic, affective, and simple.
Theological contemplation is a higher form of contemplation. Every Christian whose faith is animated with love can contemplate a dogma of revealed truth or a Gospel scene. Fr. Marie Eugene uses an example of meditating upon the Passion of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Upon meditating on the minute by minute recreation of this scene in our minds with our hearts full of love and compassion; the soul may be given the grace to understand a supernatural truth that faith makes known. Theological contemplation is supernatural by its object.
B. Supernatural Contemplation
What it is
Supernatural or infused contemplation is the highest form of contemplation. The truth to which this contemplation attains is not the revealed truth of faith which theological contemplation seeks to penetrate, but the divine Truth itself which contains mystery – making it deeper. St. John of the Cross stresses that revealed dogma or dogmatic formulas adapted to the human intellect contain under its silvered surfaces the gold of divine Truth itself for those who believe.
Into this divine Truth – life, light, essence of God – faith, penetrates, as into its proper object, each time that it posits an act. Love is essential to it. Love is at the beginning of the movement of faith towards divine Truth. It is through love that God intervenes to hold faith to its divine object; and it is through the gifts of the Holy Ghost that those “capacities engendered in the soul by the love of charity,” that the divine intervention takes place. It is from the contact of love that contemplative knowledge proceeds. Love not only simplifies the gaze of the soul; it engenders knowledge. Love attains to contact with God; and in this contact it is enriched with the experience of God Himself!
Contemplation is the science of love, the “secret wisdom which is communicated and infused into the soul through love.” (Dark Night, p. 456) It proceeds from love, progresses by steps of love, and reaches its perfection in the perfection of union, realized by love.
Effects of Supernatural Contemplation
The effects of supernatural contemplation are very deep and extremely varied. They differ for each degree of union and each grace. Fr. Marie Eugene points out that it is indeed true that contemplation brings precious lights, but that these effects are not what St. John of the Cross was seeking. He was only seeking true union with God. He stresses that we must be detached from them or they will make our progress delayed. (I will add here outside of what is in this chapter that the new “Charismatic Renewal” with all of its gifts and experiences tend to go contrary to what is being taught here. To want to speak in tongues; to experience mystical gifts; is to seek delays in ones progress of true union with God. We are not in it for the gifts -- but the Giver.) St. John of the Cross has only one desire and asks for one thing of supernatural contemplation; that it may lead him to perfect union, to transforming union by a co-naturality of love. Supernatural contemplation penetrates even to divine Truth, has contact with God Himself, the uncreated Light, the all-consuming Fire, the limitless Ocean, the Sun with burning rays. It keeps the soul united with Him, and submits it to the enriching and transforming action of the Infinite. In supernatural contemplation the soul, like a mirror exposed to the rays of the sun, is all aglow with the light of the divine Sun that shines upon souls; like a sponge immersed in the ocean, it is permeated with pure waters from the Fountain of living water; like the log thrown into a fire, it too is transformed into fire by the all-consuming Fire which is God.
Fr. Marie Eugene points out that the signs of supernatural contemplation are found in St. John of the Cross’s books: Ascent of Mount Carmel and in the Book of the Nights. Also, St. Teresa mentions them in her Fourth Mansions of the Interior Castle. He breaks them down as follows:
Utility of Signs
Supernatural contemplation imposes new duties on the soul which are 1) being docile and 2) being silent in submitting its actions to God’s. To return to former ways of prayer and step backwards would be detrimental to the soul’s progress. It may bring about disquietude and/or discouragement. To abandon too soon would be foolish. We need to turn to St. John and St. Teresa for guidance at this stage.
Explanation of the signs
In the Ascent of Mt. Carmel, St. John gives the signs which the spiritual person will find in himself and whereby he may know at what season it behooves him to leave meditation and reasoning. In the Dark Night, he gives the signs by which it will be known that the spiritual person is walking along the way of this night and purgation of sense. These sign are almost identical characterizing moreover from the viewpoint of the senses, the same moment of the spiritual life. He makes it explicit that the failure of the soul to find pleasure in anything whatsoever created is a sign that the aridity does not come from recently committed sins and imperfections; for in that case the soul would feel some desire to taste other things than those of God. It is the nature of lukewarmness NOT to care greatly or to have any inward solicitude for the things of God. The soul must take pleasure in being alone to rule out a natural problem such as melancholy. St. Teresa of Jesus states in the fourth mansions that it is the quality of the spiritual delight and the way in which it comes to the soul that makes one certain of supernatural contemplation.
She states: “Apparently as this heavenly water begins to flow from this source of which I am speaking – that is, from the very depths it proceeds to spread within us and cause an interior dilation and produce ineffable blessings, so that the soul itself cannot understand all that it receives there… It is not a thing that we can fancy, nor, however hard we strive, can we acquire it, and from that very fact it is clear that it is a thing made, not of human metal, but of the purest gold of Divine wisdom.” (IV Mansions, Ch 2)
In conclusion, the first two negative signs, inability and aridity, given by St. John point to the disorder of the senses and intellectual faculties in the presence of the supernatural which transcends them, and the activity of divine Wisdom, for which they are not fitted. The third sign, positive, is drawn from the very experience of love in the regions of the soul which have become capable of receiving it.
In spite of the clearness of the signs, it is difficult to be sure that there is infused contemplation in individual cases.
C. Complexity of Individual Cases
St. John of the Cross states in the Ascent of Mt. Carmel, “Here it must be made clear that this general knowledge whereof we are speaking is at times so subtle and delicate, particularly when it is most pure and simple and perfect, most spiritual and most interior that, although the soul be occupied therein, it can neither realize it nor perceive it.”
Souls are very diverse and have varying degrees of grace. Personal and particular are individual responses to God’s action in them and the expressions of their interior states. Nothing is so varied as the graces of the saints, the ways by which God leads them and their experiences of the supernatural. The signs of the divine intervention described by St. John and St. Teresa are certain and constant; but we will have to know how to discover them under forms and in spiritual climates that differ widely. It is difficult to assert that under certain manifestations that seem quite unhealthy and partially are so, that there exists a contemplative action of God? Yet the progress of the soul is at stake. If God is truly intervening, prudent submission to His action can alone assure both the spiritual progress of that soul and the purification of the pathological tendency. We can see that these needs can only be served by an experienced spiritual director in order to make them take cognizance of the action of God in their souls and to point the way surely at this important crossroads of the spiritual life.
Father Marie Eugene points out at the end of this chapter that there is much suffering and anguish on this road to contemplation but that like Christ we must suffer before entering into glory. He quotes St. Teresa: “If God gives a soul such pledges, it is a sign that He has great things in store for it.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 31 p. 133)
May Our Blessed Mother guide us – our true model and teacher!
Solitude and Contemplation
This chapter is on the importance of solitude for our contemplation. In today’s world – this is a challenge but we must find time before or after the chaos of the day to be alone – be alone with God in whatever capacity works for us. The contemplative who has experienced the graces of prayer, or the touches of God Himself, derives from them a taste for silence and a great need for solitude.
We all know of the great souls found in the Bible and how they were in solitude before they set out to do the work of God. Father Marie Eugene speaks of them in this chapter. He also mentions St Ignatius of Loyola and how he received during his year of solitude at Manresa, the lights that permitted him to write the book of Spiritual Exercises and to organize the Society of Jesus. Also, St. Teresa with the Order of Carmel. All the saints who ever started an apostolate or Order for God – spent time with Him in solitude FIRST. Silence and solitude are necessary for God to utter His word in the soul.
The soul that is disciplined and committed will be able to make the necessary detachments from life in order to be in this solitude. This desert withdraws the senses and passions from manifold satisfactions that stain the soul. Silence demands isolation from the exterior world – at least for some time. But this poverty and silence are not a barren void; they are purity and simplicity. We must venture into this desert knowing that it is filled with the presence of God. The example of St. Elias is used to explain this. It is after forty days in the desert, that Elias, on the desolate Mount of Horeb, hears the gentle whisper that reveals the divine Presence. These truths of silence and solitude rest on experience and their value cannot be denied but we as laity cannot always find the solitude that we yearn for. We can and should be offering our daily duties and good works to God as well -
St. Teresa states: “Believe me, it is not the length of time spent in prayer that brings a soul benefit: when we spend our time in good works, it is a great help to us and a better and quicker preparation for the enkindling of our love than many hours of meditation. Everything must come from the hand of God.” May we not use this as an excuse for prayer but may we not be discouraged that our day was filled with good works either.
2. Impossibility or Dangers
Very numerous are the spiritual persons for whom life in solitude can be only an unrealizable dream – married with children, absorbing daily tasks in the midst of a busy world. They are taken up with obligations from which they cannot withdraw, and that God requires them to fulfil faithfully. We must remember that it is the same God Who imposes on these souls their external duties and Who calls every one to the Source of living water.
Also, there is the danger of temptations from evil spirits. They lay their snares to keep souls from advancing closer to God – this is guaranteed and can only be remedied with Spiritual Direction and mortifications and prayer to Our Lady. The desert demands valiant souls and well-balanced temperaments. It is truly for the strong and persistent.
This is difficult for some temperaments. It is not easy for those struggling with restlessness, laziness or melancholy. It is not easy for those who are highly sensitive, weaklings, or those who experience failure or even the prospect of making an effort become discouraged.
Each case seems to be a new case on which experience alone can throw light. St. Teresa gives much guidance in her Interior Castle. She explains the pitfalls for each of the seven stages of prayer. Of course, we can do all things in Christ and He will surely answer our prayer. We must be faithful in our time with God which is truly His time. We have many examples of persistent saints who had difficulty getting started but ended up saints. Again, God can make good of all things. Not everyone will have to endure the same trials to get to the same stage of prayer.
Father Marie Eugene explains:” If the solitude of the desert were absolutely necessary for the development of contemplation, we would have to conclude that all those who cannot have access to it, or were not able to stand it, or who support it so poorly, are forever barred from arriving at contemplation, which would then be the rare privilege of a few. “
Again, the lives of the saints are so varied. We have so many examples of different temperaments achieving different apostolates with a variety of lives of solitude and activity yet they all reached the summit. Faithfulness and trust are crucial.
3. Life of the Prophet
Father Marie Eugene includes this section on prophets to explain their role and their spiritual advances in order for them to be chosen as prophets. He states that a prophet in the Old Testament is a man chosen by God to defend the divine rights over Israel against the authoritarianism and impiety of the kings and against the infidelity of the people. The prophets response that springs from faith and complete surrender to God produced an attitude eminently contemplative. In solitude, marvelous exchanges were established between God and the soul of the prophet of God.
He uses the example of the prophet Elias and recounts the following:
The Lord asks, “What does thou here, Elias?” And the prophet answers: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Thy Covenant. They have destroyed Thy altars; they have slain Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.” The interests of God are the interest of the prophet. The flame of divine justice consumes him, and its fires are almost too burning.
The prophet is a great seer of eternal things, and a familiar friend of God. He is a docile instrument in the hand of God to do His Will. An order from God and the prophet sets out at once to execute his perilous mission – to take a message of chastisement to the king, to assemble the people on Mt. Carmel, to immolate the priest of Baal, or to lay the prophetic mantle upon Eliseus. The power of God is in all the deeds and words of the prophet. The prophet is constantly in search of God, and constantly surrendered to the movements of the Holy Spirit within him and without. He gives himself up, and that is his whole occupation. Thus harmony between contemplation and action is realized by divine Wisdom.
Elias had formed a school. Disciples had gathered round him. Later, hermits came to establish themselves on Mount Carmel and in the Palestinian solitudes, to live by his spirit and his grace. The Order of Carmel claims noble lineage. St. Teresa, in her turn, leads souls to the summits of transforming union by indicating the laws of divine rapture and of cooperation with God’s action. The Mansions of the interior castle are only stages on the way to union.
The prophet, like the just man, has no laws other than those of Holy Wisdom, who sustains and inspires him. His state is a state of perfection, the one described in the last Mansions by St. Teresa.
4. Father Thomas of Jesus
In the last section of this chapter, Fr. Marie Eugene, gives us an example of a soul that lived at the time of St. Teresa and St. John in the 1500’s. A sort of modern prophet. He was an intellectual of great learning who became a Carmelite and a professor and combined a life of contemplation and activity. He wrote a memoir. In this memoir, he recommends at the center of the Teresian Reform of the Discalced Carmelites, the creation of monasteries that would be veritable Carthusian solitudes. In these solitudes, called “holy deserts”, austerities would be greater and silence continual. There would be moreover isolated hermitages to which the religious would withdraw during Advent, Lent or other times. The purpose of this sojourn in the desert is to maintain the contemplative spirit, to preserve the subjects and the Order against the invasion of activity.
Father Marie Eugene explains the life of Father Thomas of Jesus of being very active in starting new monasteries and having a great yearning for their benefits and solitude. He is then spoken of to the Pope and the Pope asks Father Thomas of Jesus to go to Italy to help them in their quest for monasteries. He reluctantly goes but realizes that this is God’s Will and is filled with zeal to do it.
In the midst of his foundations and administrations, he still finds time to finish his great treatises on the spiritual life: on the Practice of Living the Faith, on Prayer, and on Divine Contemplation. Father Thomas dies in Rome as General Definitor in 1627 and leaves an example and a teaching of the highest spiritual interest.
Father Marie Eugene leaves for us some points taken from the writings of Father Thomas of Jesus and they are as follows:
May Our Lady of Mt. Carmel pray for us! Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene pray for us. St. Teresa and St. John pray for us. Father Thomas of Jesus – pray for us!
We are now at the very difficult aspect of prayer (and especially today) – silence. In this chapter, we will see how necessary it is to be silent. It is giving God our undivided attention.
The gift of self attracts in return the mercy of God, humility increases the soul’s capacity for grace; silence protects the efficacy of God’s action in the soul.
In the First Mansions, St. Teresa stressed the necessity of recollection if we would discover the presence of God in the soul and the treasures He has hidden there. Now in this second phase of the soul’s progress, the need for silence becomes imperative.
This will be broken into two sections. The first will explain the necessity and the forms of silence; the second will study the relations between silence and solitude.
In contemplation, divine wisdom not only enlightens the intellect; it acts on the whole soul. And so it demands of it a complete orientation of its being towards God, a recollection and tranquility of what is deepest within, in order to receive the action of Love’s transforming rays.
St. John of the Cross writes, “The heavenly Father has uttered only one word: it is His Son, He says it eternally and in an eternal silence. It is in the silence of the soul that it makes itself heard.” St. John of the Cross adds: “God works His divine operations in silence. Silence is a law of the highest divine operations: the eternal generation of the Word, and the production in time of grace, which is a participation of the Word…. It is in silence that the divine Word, which in us is grace, makes Himself heard and is received.”
“But Thou, O my God, art always the selfsame, while the world is ceaselessly changing.” Psalm 101:18
For the spiritual person who has known the touch of God, silence and God seem to be identified. And so, to find God again, where would he go, if not to the most silent depth of his soul, into those regions that are so hidden that nothing can any longer disturb them.
St. John of the Cross says that the “deepest center” of the soul, where the joy of the Holy Ghost “gently and lovingly awakens” the limit to which the soul can attain, is God within it. (Living Flame, Peers, III, P 251)
Jesus Christ, as our example, felt a constant need of taking refuge in silence which permitted Him to give Himself up exclusively to the rapture of the Word and the sweet floods of divine unction, poured out on Him silently. The retreat for nearly thirty years at Nazareth, the sojourn in the desert for forty days before beginning the public life as if to store up reserves of silence, the frequent return into solitude in the calm of the night in order to renew them.
In imitation of Jesus, St. Teresa wanted to recover the primitive ideal of Carmel and the perfect observance of her Rule. Carmel had its origin in the desert and always retains it in order to live and to bloom. St. Teresa was of the race of those hermits who dwelt on the holy mountain, and for whom St. Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, codified the monastic customs into a Rule which insists at length on silence.
St. Teresa’s convents were to be paradise of divine intimacy where Christ would come to rest a while in silence with His own. She always maintained a care to instill silence.
Today, we live in a fervor of movement and activity. The evil is not simply in the organization of modern life, in the haste that it imposes on what we do, or the rapidity and facility that it affords our changing of place. There is a more profound evil in the feverish nervousness of temperaments. People no longer know how to wait and be silent. We must remember that NO MATTER WHAT CHANGES TIME MAY BRING, GOD REMAINS THE SAME.
2. Forms of Silence
a. Silence of the Tongue
To be silent means not to talk. This indicates the importance of the mortification of the tongue for the practice of silence.
St. James says: “In many things we all offend. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body. For if we put bits into horses’ mouths that they may obey us, we control their whole body also. Behold, even the ships, great as they are, and driven by boisterous winds, are steered by a small rudder wherever the touch of the steersman pleases. So the tongue also is a little member, but it boasts mightily. Behold, how small a fire – how great a forest it kindles! And the tongue is a fire… Every kind of beast and bird, and of serpents and the rest, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind; but the tongue no man can tame…with it we bless God the Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made after the likeness of God.” James 3:2-9
These exchanges through the word are at the basis of social life, of all education, of progress in every domain, including the developments of the faith. Faith comes through hearing, remarks the apostle St. Paul, and how could one believe if there were no preaching? But excess is injurious. Mortification of the tongue must keep a right measure in these exchanges. When the harm is done by conversations, the soul is sometimes warned by an uneasiness.
And so talkativeness – that tendency to exteriorize all the treasures of the soul by expressing them – is extremely harmful to the spiritual life. Its movement is in reverse direction from that of the soul which becomes increasingly interior in order to be nearer to God. The soul becomes impoverished and hinders fruitful work and recollection in ourselves and in others. A superficial and vain talker is a dangerous person. One wastes and squanders grace. Pride and spiritual gluttony may set in.
Silence is both a fruit of sanctity and a requirement for it. Silence is so important that monastic Rules have fixed the precise ways to practice it, adapted to each Religious Order.
Of course we must confide in our confessors and spiritual guides, we need to tell of one’s inner dispositions and of graces received; it is ordinarily the only means of submitting them to direction and receiving light and help concerning them. Writing them down in a notebook helps to define them; sometimes it discloses their riches and makes it possible to draw upon them in less luminous hours.
b. Mortification of Natural Activity
Natural activity can, like talkativeness, disturb the silence in which God speaks to the soul. Natural activity dissipates the soul, destroys recollection, multiplies obstacles to the return to prayer, and invades prayer itself, making it very difficult if not impossible. We must always allow for a notable part of the day to be reserved for silent prayer.
But we can take it to the other extreme in not thinking that activity will draw us closer to God. Charity which is a participation in the life of God is, like God, contemplative and active. In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, our charity done toward neighbor for the glory of God, says St. John of the Cross.
St. Thomas considers the mixed life in which contemplation overflows in fruitful works, as the most perfect form of life and hence superior, considered in itself, to the purely contemplative life. Therefore, it is a matter of prudence in how we conduct our day with silence and work.
Father Marie Eugene states: If the priest does not preach, does not consecrate, does not work, souls die of starvation. Where he is absent, faith disappears. Let a parish remain twenty years without a priest, said the Cure of Ars, and its people will be adoring beasts. One the other hand, where the priest is active, zealous and holy, the Christian life develops and sanctity appears.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus used to recommend turning to works of charity when it was getting too dark in the soul.
The work that is the will of God permits us to commune with God through our will and charity as efficaciously as prayer itself permits us to grasp God through the intellect and faith. These two communings through faith and through charity complete one another and harmonize to create sanctity. We must remember that it is always harmful if it becomes feverish and done in haste. We must do all work with a calm disposition or it will agitate the soul and disturb and upset everything. Experienced direction can indicate to each one according to his temperament and grace, how he is to respond by a wise mixture of passive silence, exterior activity, and intellectual work.
St. Teresa writes: “We must needs be careful, in doing good works, even those of obedience and charity, not to fail to have frequent inward recourse to our God. And, believe me, it is not length of time spent in prayer that brings a soul benefit: when we spend our time in good works, it is a great help to us and a better and quicker preparation for the enkindling of our love than many hours of meditation. Everything must come from the hand of God. May He be blessed forever and ever.” (Foundations, Peers, III, p. 26)
3. Interior Silence
It is in the deep center of the soul, in its most spiritual depth that God dwells and carries on the mysterious operations of His union with us. Interior silence is the most important. Exterior silence has value only in the measure that it helps the interior.
Interior silence is more difficult to understand and can easily be afflicted with psychological problems.
There are two phases of Interior Silence –
The first phase includes the first three Mansions, God intervenes only with general help; the soul keeps the initiative in prayer and directs the activity of the faculties. In this phase the will can exercise direct control over the imagination and the understanding – but it may not be constant. St. Teresa says, “And when we begin to pray we shall realize that the bees are coming to the hive and entering it to make the honey.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 28, p. 116)
The second phase begins at the fourth Mansions, God intervenes with that particular help which progressively establishes the predominance of the divine activity over the activity of the powers of the soul. Complete rapture or suspension of all the faculties is produced only in the graces of mystical union of the fifth Mansions and in the ecstasy of the sixth and lasts a very short time. On the other hand, the captivation of the will may be prolonged considerably in a sweet prayer of quiet or of passive recollection which also affects the senses.
It appears then, that contemplative graces, producing different and sometimes contrary effects in the lower and higher faculties, divide them rather than unite them, establishing zones of profound peace and zones of disordered commotion.
St. Teresa speaks of these different zones and how one cannot expect a constant tranquility and the more purified souls experience interior restlessness more painfully.
How to react to this interior restlessness – One must laugh at oneself and realize what a miserable creature it is and to not fight the superior forces. If the devil is the culprit – we are to be sure to ignore him. The more attention – the worse it will get. Just go forward confidently and faithfully to God. Most importantly - seek the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She wants our perfection. She will aid us always. We can turn to Her and say a Hail Mary, gaze on the tabernacle, return our thoughts to our reading or open to a Scripture verse. This will also help us in our physical mortifications. We fail often and when we do – turn back to God. Go to Our Lady and beg Her for help. She will never refuse you. It is by humiliation and patience more than by perfection of the art of prayer that the soul will succeed in finding God and obtaining His Love that purifies, heals and brings tranquility.
Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Ghost - pray for us!
Finally – we are at one of the most important virtues to obtaining the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Humility! Pride is something we are all stricken with and in today’s world – it is exalted! Humility seems to be frowned upon as weakness or timidity – when in reality it is strength and boldness which comes from God and God alone to achieve His Holy Will! We just need to look to our Master Who is meek and humble of Heart. Look to the saints and to Our Dear Blessed Mother – all filled with true humility and achieved God's Will in their lives. What is humility and how do we obtain it? St. Teresa of Avila simply puts it – Humility is Truth. What is Truth? Truth is – God is the Creator and we are His creatures – plain and simple. It strips us of all that we think is ours and gives it to God – the Creator. All things are possible through Him and Him alone. We are just the pencil in His hand. Can a pencil write a novel on its own? Can a paint brush paint a masterpiece on its own? Can a surgical tool succeed in a successful surgery on its own? No – it needs an operator. We are just the tools with which God uses to achieve His Divine Will. Once we realize that we cannot make our own hearts beat – we will gain humility. God is everything and we are nothing – easy lesson right? Not quite – we have many obstacles and this chapter talks about them. Let us begin –
Father Marie-Eugene begins with the first Mansions and how St. Teresa emphasizes the need for self-knowledge in order to advance in the spiritual life. He points out that only by being transformed in humility can knowledge of self be affective. He points out that St Teresa emphasized that there is no poison in the world which is so fatal to perfection like vainglory and pride. This is the main reason for lack of spiritual progress and I would like to add that it is also the reason many are not filled with happiness. It is a great freedom to give all to God and keep nothing for ourselves. He can then do with us as He wills and we will be at peace. St. Teresa says in the Fourth Mansions that it is by humility that the Lord allows Himself to be conquered so that He will do all we ask of Him. (IV Mansions, ii, p. 239) This means that He can trust that whatever He does through us – we will give Him the glory because we know that He is the giver of all that we ask.
A. Necessity of Humility
Father Marie Eugene gives examples from the Gospels of the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus and how through humiliations – they came to the knowledge that God wanted to reveal to them. The gaping wounds of humiliations opens the way to receive the healing light. He also recounts the experience of Saul as he becomes Paul. It was by the door of humiliation that Paul the great apostle entered into Christianity and into the light of the marvelous mystery of which he was to be the preacher and minister. God gives His treasures to the humble, but hides them from the proud and self-sufficient.
Jesus Christ continues His action in the Church according to the same law. All the masters of the spiritual life assert this, and most specially those who have experienced the overflowing abundance of His grace. St. Teresa says: “I do not remember that He has ever granted me any of the outstanding favors of which I shall speak later save when I have been consumed with shame by realizing my own wickedness.” (Life, ch. 22, p. 141)
“To know the all-ness of God and the nothingness of man”, proclaims St Angela of Foligno, “that is perfection”.
St John of the Cross affirms in all of his teaching that the ‘nothing’, a complete realization of poverty, equates with obtaining the ‘all’ which is God.
A little Carmelite from the Middle East named Sr. Marie of Jesus Crucified stated: “Without humility, we are blind, in darkness; while with humility, the soul walks in the night as in the day. The proud man is like a grain of wheat thrown into water; it swells up, it gets big. Expose this grain to the sun; it dries out, it is burnt up. The humble man is like a grain buried in the earth: it goes down, it is hidden, it disappears, it dies, but in order to live again.
Imitate the bees, she says – gather everywhere the essence of humility. Honey is sweet; humility has the taste of God; it makes one taste God.” (The Life of Sr. Marie of Jesus Crucified by R. P. Buzy)
B. Degrees and Forms of Humility
St. Benedict wrote of twelve degrees of humility which corresponded to his twelve degrees of the spiritual life but Fr. Marie Eugene does not list them. He felt a need to mention this to show its seriousness and then he continues on with the writings of St. Teresa. He states that St. Teresa gives us an enlightening definition: “I was wondering once why Our Lord so dearly loved this virtue of humility; and all of a sudden – without, I believe, my having previously thought of it – the following reason came into my mind; that it is because God is Sovereign Truth and to be humble is to walk in Truth, for it is absolutely true to say that we have no good thing in ourselves, but only misery and nothingness; and anyone who fails to understand this is walking in falsehood. He who best understands this is most pleasing to Sovereign Truth because he is walking in truth.” (VI Mansions, Peers, II, page 323)
1. Reasonable Humility
Clear and reasonable humility is illumined by the light of reason and is grounded in a work of self-examination and of meditation on supernatural truths and examples from the life of our Lord.
2. Fervent Humility Opposed to Forms of Pride
Fervent humility shows the soul its place in the perspective of the Infinite or in comparison with Christ. “I am He Who is,” God said to Moses. And to St Catherine of Siena, our Lord also said, “Do you know, my daughter, who you are and who I am? You are she who is not and I am He who is.”
In all cases of fervent humility, the soul is more or less consciously aware of the Being of God who, with His Majesty and power, confronts the soul in darkness, discovering to it what it really is.
Fervent humility, a fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit, is the one that attracts His new outpourings of love. It is the virtue that brings the soul into the Fourth Mansions, and makes it progress towards the summits of the spiritual life.
3. Pride in External Goods
The external goods in which one takes pride is the most foolish of prides but the least dangerous because it is exterior. It is ordinarily the first to give way before the light of humility.
In the Life of St. Teresa, she states, “A day will come when the soul will enjoy a quiet laugh when it sees “men of prayer making a fuss about the niceties concerning their honor; for it will know very well that if they subordinated the authority due to their positions to the love of God they would do more good in a day than they are likely to do as it is in ten years.” (Life, Ch 21, pg. 134)
4. Pride of Will
The pride that resides in the will is fed by the goods that the will finds in itself: its independence, its power to command, and its strength of which it has become aware. It refuses submission to God, or makes this difficult. It believes in the power and efficacy of its own efforts, even in the domain of the supernatural, it does not understand the words of Jesus: “without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) nor that of St. Paul: “It is God who of His good pleasure works in you both the will and the performance.” (Phil, 2:13) Thus pride of will is opposed to the reign of God and to the dominion of His grace.
5. Pride of Intellect
Pride of will ordinarily springs from pride of intellect. The Non serviam of the rebel angels proceeded from a proud complacence in their own light. Fascinated by their personal splendor, those spirits would not turn their gaze to the eternal light of God.
Pride of intellect finds a remedy, however, in contact with revealed truth and its mysteries, and in meeting with wise men and great minds. Acts of faith and the study of revealed truth provide some purification for it. But it will be thoroughly purified in its depths only when light itself breaks in upon it, painful at first and dim, until it produces the semi-brightness of dawn.
The highest knowledge that we can have of God is to understand that He is above all our knowledge and intelligence. Respectful and loving before the divine Reality, it no longer dares to set up as an idol the brilliance of reason; it rejoices in knowing nothing, in being capable of nothing, in understanding nothing, in order that trusting in a faith that is now pure and strong, it may penetrate farther into the trans-luminous darkness of the mysteries that are proposed to it.
6. Spiritual Pride
A man of spiritual pride boasts not only of his works as if they were uniquely his, but also of his spiritual privileges. Spiritual gifts too can serve as pasture ground for pride. The graces of prayer enrich the contemplative, leave their profound mark in the soul, give a precious experience, strengthen the will, refine the intellect, increase the power of action, secure to the spiritual person a powerful radiation. These graces are always received with humility and gratitude, a disposition which they in turn deepen. Then temptation can come – subtle and unawares. The soul then uses these spiritual riches to exalt self and to attract notice, to serve a need for affection or for domination, or simply to make its personal ideas triumph.
Father Marie Eugene uses the example of Martin Luther and others who came before and after him. He says that they have used the privileges of their intimacy with the Master, if not to betray Him like Judas with a kiss but feed their pride and make their own personality triumph.
The Pharisee who proudly displays his good works, goes away with empty hands. The same Pharisee, who boasts of the privilege that made him a son of Abraham, is totally blind in the light of the Word. The prophet who took pleasure in his charism goes into eternal fire.
May we learn these lessons and imitate the saints who have turned to Jesus and said like St. John of the Cross, “No other thing, Lord, than to suffer and be despised”. This sounds over the top and harsh but it is only just – we cannot be treated differently than our Master was when He walked the earth!
Spiritual pride has put a stop to the progress of many and has been the cause of a loss of fervor. May we pray to Our Lady to protect us from these dangers.
C. Means for Acquiring Humility
St. Teresa has stressed that the soul must establish the foundations of humility on a knowledge of self. The examination of conscience furnishes data for that knowledge. This is not acquired by a direct introspection, but by a consideration of the perfection of God. We are to ask for the protection from Our Lady from the false humilities kept alive by the devil which prolong useless reflection on self, produce constraint in action, and finally give way to discouragement.
Fervent humility is the fruit of the light of God on the soul. It would be vain to hope to acquire it by one’s own efforts alone. We must depend on God’s grace and the help of the saints and Our Lady. Prayer is the means recommended by our Lord for the obtaining of divine favors. Humility is the foundation and condition of all spiritual progress and therefore should be sought daily in prayer.
Humiliations bring before us our defects. To accept them is a duty; to thank God for them indicates that one has understood their value; to ask for them with St. John of the Cross is to have already advanced far into the depths of Divine Wisdom. “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart,” Jesus proclaims. Humility and meekness are His characteristic virtues, the personal perfume of His soul, which He leaves wherever He goes and which mark the places where He reigns.
May Our Queen and Mother guide us closer to Her Son and pray for us to always be hungry for humiliations in order to obtain the humility that pleases God and allows Him to use us as His instruments. All for the Glory of God – all for the salvation of souls!
As we are at Laetare Sunday, this is a beautiful chapter to read. It is what all humans are called to. As Jesus gave Himself up for us at Calvary in union with the Father's Will, so we too are called to surrender to the Will of the Father. This is a beautiful chapter and I hope it will shed light and give confidence to this path which we are all called to! Blessed Laetare Sunday to all of you!
According to St. Teresa, all the asceticism that she proposes in the Way of Perfection can be summed up in the perfect realization of the GIFT OF SELF! Without this – intimacy with God is impossible --- St. Teresa states in her autobiography ---
“The aim of all my advice to you in this book is that we should surrender ourselves wholly to the Creator, place our will in His hands and detach ourselves from the creatures…
We are preparing ourselves for the time, which will come very soon when we shall find ourselves at the end of our journey and shall be drinking of living water from the fountain I have described. Unless we make a total surrender of our will to the Lord, and put ourselves into His hands so that He may do in all things what is best for us in accordance with His will, He will never allow us to drink of it.” (Life, p. 63)
The close relation between contemplation and the gift of self is many times over affirmed by the Saint.
Necessity and Excellence
The first motive in the giving of self – she says:
“As He refuses to force our will, He takes what we give Him but does not give Himself wholly until He sees that we are giving ourselves wholly to Him. This is certain, and as it is of such importance, I often remind you of it. Nor does He work within the soul as He does when it is wholly His and keep nothing back. I do not see how He can do so, since He likes everything to be done in order.” (Life, p. 64)
God does not force our will says St. Teresa of Jesus. The free cooperation of man is truly a necessary condition for the fulfillment of the eternal decrees of the divine mercy. Heaven thrills with joy at the ‘Fiat’ of Mary which may also be call the ‘Fiat’ of human nature to its assumption by the Divinity in the hypostatic union. It makes of Mary a cooperator with God. Thereafter, she is to be effectually and actively Mother, wherever God will be Father in His relations with men.
“God takes only what we give: but He does not give Himself completely as long as we have not given ourselves to Him absolutely. God takes possession of us only in the measure that we give ourselves up to Him. Perfect union requires as its first condition the complete gift of self.
The gift of self is a deep need of love, and its most perfect act. Every complete giving of self, made with the same fervor of love, purifies the soul in the same way. We are sometimes tempted to seek in poetry or sublime language the expression of perfect love; but this love is best expressed in the complete and earnest gift of self. The gift of ourselves is the most perfect sacrifice we can offer to God. The oblation surrenders the victim to God, makes it His and permits Him to dispose of it as He desires, either to immolate it or to use it for other ends.
On coming into this world, the sacred humanity of Christ saw at once, because of His intuitive vision of God, all the divine riches that were His. He discovered God’s plan for Him: by the sacrifice of Calvary, He was called to unite all that sin had divided, and He was to be an inexhaustible source of grace for regenerated humanity. Christ in this first act of His humanity, offers Himself as an oblation to His Father. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4 verses 31-4: “I have food to eat of which you do not know….My food is to do the will of Him Who sent me, to accomplish His work.”
The offering is sincere and complete; the realization of the will of God is perfect. Jesus lets Himself be directed by the Divine Will. The gift of self, which makes perfect the obedience of Jesus Christ, also achieves our redemption and becomes the principle of His glory. The apostle stresses this:
“He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Therefore, God also has exalted Him and has bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth.”(Phil. 2:8-10)
We must place our gift of self in the light of the oblation of Christ to understand its necessity and fecundity. An essential disposition of Christ, the complete gift of self is an essential disposition of every Christian. It identifies one profoundly with Christ; without it, any imitation of Him could not but be superficial, and perhaps empty external formalism. In order to belong to Christ, one must surrender to Him as He surrender to God Our Father, for we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
The gift we make of ourselves surrenders us to the grace of Christ which is in us; it is a call to be more completely possessed by Christ.
In the “Way of Perfection” by St. Teresa we find:
“The more resolute we are in soul and the more we show Him by our actions that the words we use to Him are not words of mere politeness, the more and more does Our Lord draw us to Himself and raise us above all petty earthly things, and above ourselves, in order to prepare us to receive great favors from Him, for His rewards for our service will not end with this life! So much does He value this service of ours that we do not know for what more we can ask, while His Majesty never wearies of giving…
He begins to make such a friend of the soul that not only does He restore its will to it but He gives it His own also. For, now that He is making a friend of it, He is glad to allow it to rule with Him, as we say, turn and turn about.” (Way of Perfection, p. 138-9)
But she also sadly states:
“So niggardly and so slow are we in giving ourselves wholly to God that we do not prepare ourselves as we should to receive that precious thing… (Life p. 63)
“So being unable to make a full surrender of ourselves, we are never given a full supply of this treasure.” (Life, p. 64)
Qualities of the Gift of Self - Absolute
That our gift of self may obtain such high favors, St. Teresa requires only that it be absolutely COMPLETE. The renunciation will be felt very painfully on one or another point, according to the attachments of the soul, but it must be complete.
In reality, the aspect of indetermination is not a new quality of the gift of self; its purpose is uniquely to protect the plenitude of the gift against all reservations more or less conscious. He attracts us to Him and to self-surrender by enticing perspectives, or by particular lights that harmonize well with our natural tastes or our graces.
Notions and tastes as to what sanctity is are as varied as individuals. Generous souls will attach great importance to sufferings, often undertaking penances of their own choice with the approval of a spiritual director. Or a soul will want to make a daily itinerary detailing all its sacrifices which the imagination plays a part.
Meanwhile, God’s real designs in our regard declare themselves, upsetting our own preconceived ones. The result, at least momentarily, is discouragement and disillusionment, unless we begin to reconstruct one in our own fashion.
The summary of this is that our generosity is sometimes spent for ourself and our own projects; it missed the plan of God because it did not make an undetermined gift. One must make a renunciation of all personal projects, and thus reserve all the energies of the soul for the accomplishment of those duties and tasks which Providence each day assigns us. It surrenders the soul to the action of the Holy Spirit.
Thus the soul becomes attentive to God’s voice and docile; and these dispositions make the best instruments of the Holy Spirit.
For the gift of self to produce all the effects we have indicated, it must be not just a transitory act, but a constant disposition of soul. It is critical to frequently renew our gift of self. By such renewals, the soul creates within itself what we might call a psychological disposition of self-giving, a disposition which acts like a reflex. No matter what disturbs or excites the soul – it immediately turns to God to offer this.
“The chalice is full to the brim”, says St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, “but I am in an astonishing peace…I would not want to suffer less…..I do not regret having been a victim soul.”
Father Marie Eugene ends this chapter with the reflection that if we but glance and meditate on the ‘Fiat’ of Our Blessed Mother on the day of the Annunciation that this will help us more effectively in discovering the supernatural and profound truths in the gift of self. The Virgin Mary, filled with grace as She was by the Holy Spirit and consumed in the light of God, had all Her energies peacefully intent on the realization of the Divine Will. Facing the perspectives that were facing Her, She had only one question – she was concerned about Her virginity (which She already solemnly offered to God). When it was reassured to Her that this would not be lost, that the Holy Spirit would come down upon Her, She gave Her immediate YES – Her Fiat! She gave consent to the most sublime and terrifying of contracts; to the union of Her virginal womb of humanity and divinity, to Calvary, and to the mystery of the Church.
He ends with the fact that we too should have complete confidence in the Divine Providence of God and quotes St. Teresa of Jesus with this:
“ O, my sisters, what power this gift has! If it be made with due resolutions, it cannot fail to draw the Almighty to become one with our lowliness and to transform us into Himself and to effect a union between the Creator and the creature.” (Way of Perfection, p. 138)
We are born for only one thing --- to live to imitate Our Dear Lord, Our Blessed Mother and all the saints. May we surrender ourselves and get rid of all that keeps us from this surrender. It must enter into our whole life, take possession of our soul, creating in it an abiding disposition, keeping us ever in an attitude of profound humility because this is ALL THE WORK OF GOD – we only give our YES!
The next chapter is on this Humility – until then – God bless and have a self-giving Lent!
It is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Wisdom directly intervenes in the life of the soul and establishes complete dominion over it. The role of these gifts is therefore of capital importance in the spiritual life. Both St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross talk of these in their writing but they do not name them. This chapter will talk about God’s action in giving these gifts of the Holy Spirit and their role in the spiritual life. These little study guides are written as an overview. This chapter is packed with a lot of detail and it is therefore advised that one read it in its entirety. Also, if one would like more information on this subject, a book that would help in better understanding the role of the Holy Spirit is, “The Sanctifier” by Archbishop Luis Martinez. This book is available on Amazon.
A. Nature and Role of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The gifts to the soul are compared to the sail of a boat in guiding it. These gifts are better described in Scripture as “spirits”. These “spirits” render the soul more passive under the hand of God, and at the same time more active in following Him and accomplishing His works.
2. Virtues and Gifts
Virtues and gifts are different and distinct, but are closely related.
Their mode of operation differentiates them. The supernatural virtue is controlled by the reason which directs them all. Virtue acts as a free secondary cause receiving from God its active power and an impulse which leaves it however its independence. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the intervention of God in the activity of the soul becomes direct and more complete. God substitutes His light for that of reason. The soul’s activity is taken over by God, and the faculties become His instruments.
b. Relations between the virtues and the gifts
Their different ways of acting do not set virtues and gifts in opposition but permit them to complete one another and to unite harmoniously for the perfection of the spiritual life.
The consequences of sin which are evil tendencies and imperfections increase the disproportion between the divine end to be attained and the help that supernatural virtue can count on from human powers. The intervention of God through the gifts of the Holy Spirit remedies these deficiencies and provides the appropriate help.
Example: The virtue of faith, receiving a higher light as to God through the gift of understanding, assents perfectly to its divine object and rests peacefully in the darkness that becomes its delight.
The intervention of God through the gifts of the Holy Spirit can become so frequent and so interior that they establish the soul in an almost continual dependence on the Holy Spirit. “Whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14
The touches of the Holy Spirit on the soul can therefore be perceptible to the senses (virtues) or altogether spiritual (gifts). They may be powerful or delicate. In studying these interventions of the Holy Spirit through the gifts, we have sometimes the impression of a lifting of the veil of mystery which hides God’s action in the soul and in the Church.
3. Distinction of the Gifts from One Another
The spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness and the fear of the Lord are based upon the distinction of their proper objects.
The gift of wisdom penetrates divine Truths.
The gift of understanding renders clear the divine Truths regardless of the objections and obstacles.
The gift of knowledge clarifies the relations of created things with divine Truth and judges them in the light of that Truth.
The gift of counsel intervenes in the deliberations of prudence, giving light as to decisions to be made.
The gift of piety makes one render to God the duties that are due Him as to a loving Father.
The gift of fortitude secures strength to triumph over the difficulties in the way to the accomplishment of good.
The gift of fear creates in the soul the respectful and filial attitude toward God, demanded by His transcendence and quality of Father.
Four of these gifts are of the intellect: wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel.
Three of these gifts are of the will: fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord
Three are contemplative: wisdom, understanding, knowledge
Four are active: counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord
Theology has explored the relations of the gifts with the virtues, with the beatitudes, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is united with charity; understanding and knowledge with faith; fear of the Lord, with hope; piety, with justice; fortitude with the virtue of fortitude; counsel with prudence.
St. John of the Cross states that God communicates to the soul a real participation in His nature and His life-- grace. Although we are inferior to God because created, nevertheless grace makes us true children of God; the participation in the divine nature that it gives is entire although created. The communication that the soul receives bears also a created participation in the whole being of God and in all the divine riches of the other attributes. It is a participation in His whole richness that He communicates through each one of the gifts.
Fr. Marie Eugene uses the example of St. John Bosco and St. Teresa of Avila and the gifts that each seems to possess at the hand of God to do His will. Obviously, each has a different task at hand to do but each seems to share in the same virtues and even at times the same gifts. They are both participating in the life of God’s grace but accomplishing different tasks.
B. Experience of the Gifts
St. John of the Cross explains that when divine communications come to a purified soul, they do not produce in it any perceptible effect, just as a ray of sunlight entering a room with perfectly pure air and going out by an opposite window, would not be seen at all because it encountered no material particles to reflect its light. God can infuse into a soul His sublimest favors without the soul’s being experimentally conscious of receiving them. The direct communications of God are not, then, always accompanied by awareness of them. Consequently, one could not affirm that there is no mystical life without mystical experience.
Although, Fr. Marie Eugene points out that St. John of the Cross states in the “Living Flame” that the experiences of God are usually preceded by a thirst or hunger from the emptying or cleaning of self that is so necessary for the workings of the Holy Spirit. This feeling of pain ordinarily precedes divine communications and prepares the soul for them by inciting it to acts of humility and of confidence that draw upon it the outpourings of mercy.
The mystical experience of God’s communication usually imposes profound respect, His dazzling light produces darkness in the intellect not adapted to receive it; His strength overwhelms human weakness. The very sweetness that comes with the gift of wisdom makes the soul rejoice in its littleness. God thus puts the soul in an attitude of Truth by creating in it humility. Hence, this “negative” experience is the most constant and most authentic sign of the divine action. The positive experience of the gift may be lacking but if this “negative” experience is wanting --- one may legitimately doubt the reality of God’s action in the soul. Here is the paradox: the littleness of the creature and the transcendence of God; man’s sin and God’s mercy, must become more and more manifest in the proportion that God reveals His action and His Truth in the soul. Apart from the gift of wisdom and its subtle influence on all the others, the positive experience of the gifts is extremely variable.
Father Marie Eugene points out that we can escape from these uncertainties and obscurities by going to the surest and most visible sign of God’s action through the gifts – that is -- You shall know them by their fruits! This is the standard given by Our Lord Himself. The Spirit of God will Himself provide for this and will make Himself recognized when the time comes, by that humble patience that will have known how to wait and to pray.
C. Utility and Utilization of the Gifts
The Spirit is infinitely wise and infinitely powerful. To serve His design, He uses all the resources of His wisdom and His strength. It is the Holy Spirit of infinite mercy who preserved the soul of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary from the consequences of original sin and made her all pure and full of grace. Thus, by the gifts of the Spirit, those passive powers that the soul receives by its adaptability and openness, God takes possession of the soul and there gives it grace to accomplish His Will, perfecting its virtues.
The Church provides us teachers of loving knowledge and guides in the mystical mysteries. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross are the doctors on prayer. St. Therese of the Child Jesus is also a doctor on prayer but is a spiritual daughter and a great example for us to go the “Little Way” which brings simplicity and surrender to God.
We know from the lives of the saints that certain dispositions of soul have a seemingly irresistible attraction for Him; and there are dispositions that He demands for active cooperation with His actions. In the next three chapters, Fr. Marie Eugene will go over these fundamental dispositions of the gift of self, humility and silence. Until then, let us call upon our Queen and Mother Mary. May She guide us to perfect prayer. May we truly live out our Consecration to Jesus through Mary in depending on Her to guide us every step of the way toward Her Divine Son and to union with God.
This chapter gives a glimpse into the life of the Fourth Mansions, which is at the realm of Holy Wisdom. From now on, there will be a particular help which will reveal that presence of God in the soul of which St. Teresa speaks. In the inner parts of the center of the crystal globe, the Fountain ever springing up whose living waters flow into all the apartments, the Holy Trinity of whom the soul is the temple. Wisdom that is Love, reigns there and orders all things with light and with love.
A. What is the Wisdom of Love?
Wisdom is as eternal as God because she is God. Wisdom is “the worker of all things”; (Wis. 7:22) she reaches therefore from end to end mightily and orders all things sweetly.” (Wis. 8:1) In her is the spirit of understanding; holy, one, manifold, eloquent, active, undefiled, sure, sweet, loving that which is good, quick, which nothing hinders, beneficent, gentle, kind, steadfast, assured, secure, having all power, overseeing all things, and containing all spirits, ineligible, pure, subtle. For wisdom is more active than all active things: and reaches everywhere by reason of her purity. She is a gift from God.
Wisdom was given to Solomon, bringing him every good. He saw that she was always very near to him and that to obtain her, it was sufficient to desire her. Wisdom is glorious, and never fades away, and is easily seen by them that love her, and is found by them that seek her.
In order to designate Wisdom as worker of love, we call her “Loving Wisdom”. Loving or Holy Wisdom unites the Old and the New Testaments. It is the divine name that expresses all that is worked by God in man and for man from the beginning of creation to the end of time.
B. What does Holy Wisdom do?
In saying that Wisdom gives light while causing darkness, we seem to be involved in a contradiction. Yet every spiritual experience attests to the co-existence of both. The work to be done in the soul is of so high and delicate a nature, that Wisdom must apply herself to it and direct it with her own lights and movements. The regions to which the reign of Wisdom extends are dark regions because the brilliance of her light and action shines forth upon them. The transcendence of the divine light it is that creates the darkness, not as a passing accident, but as an effect that is normal for our weak spiritual sight.
2. She Orders All With Love
This Wisdom is of love. She is at the service of God who is Love. Because she is entirely at the service of God, Wisdom uses all her resources to communicate love. If love ceases for one instant to communicate itself, it would be no longer love; for love that becomes static degenerates into egoism. God ceaselessly engenders His Son; from the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost constantly proceeds; that is why God is eternal Love. The love which has been poured out on us cannot remain static in our souls. The Wisdom of Love introduces us into the inner current of the divine life in the bosom of the Trinity, making us channels of grace and instruments of her action. To think only of intimate union with God is to be ignorant of the nature of love, to arrest its movement. For it would be the destruction or at least the diminution of love to confine it within any kind of selfishness no matter how spiritual this might seem.
Holy Wisdom is concerned with souls less for themselves than for her own divine purpose. And this only purpose is the Church. We have to recall this frequently, so prompt is our egoism and our pride – encouraged by the feeling of our personal intimacy with God – to persuade us that we are an end in ourselves, the last end in the sanctifying work of divine Wisdom in our soul. An example of this divine purpose is found in the creation of the Blessed Virgin, with all her privileges, finds its justification in the divine maternity and the maternity of grace. Like Christ Jesus and His divine Mother, all the saints are for the Church. Holy Wisdom sanctifies them to bring them into unity with the Church and uses them for her works. This permanent union does not vow her to intimacy in solitude, but to action for Christ. The single end is the Church.
The masterpiece of Divine Wisdom is incontestably the sacred humanity of Christ. And this humanity, united to the Word by the bonds of the hypostatic union, marvelously adorned with all the gifts, in possession of the beatific vision even here below – Holy Wisdom delivers it up to suffer the Agony of Gethsemane, to die the death of the cross, and to be the bread of life for those she has made her own. The Incarnation, Calvary, the Eucharist: these are the most beautiful triumphs of the Wisdom that is Love. Christ on the cross is a model that she lifts up before us as the perfect exemplar of all her works here. She wants to immolate us too, to make us beautiful that we may become purified and magnificent temples. She wants to prepare an altar in us, to offer us up to the glory of God and cause to spring from our wounds, floods of light and of life for souls.
Wisdom built herself a dwelling and adorned it with seven pillars; there she has prepared an altar, she immolates her victims, and calls everyone to the feast that follows the sacrifice. This abode of Wisdom is Christ Jesus; it is the Virgin Mary… it is ourselves.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel - Pray for us!
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene