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Monday, 21 January 2013

Illumination and the Boast of St. Paul

St. Paul listed his sufferings for a reason.

He was in the Illuminative State, if not the Unitive State. And, he was trying to teach us what this meant for him. 

I use a Protestant version for clarity here as I like the listing.

The Apostle Paul's Sufferings 2 Corinthians 11:21-33

Paul said: "What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool;I also dare to boast about.
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants
of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more.
 - I have worked much harder
 - been in prison more frequently
 - been flogged more severely
 - been exposed to death again and again
 - Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one
 - Three times I was beaten with rods
 - once I was stoned
 - three times I was shipwrecked
 - I spent a night and a day in the open sea
 - I have been constantly on the move
 - I have been in danger from rivers
 - in danger from bandits
 - in danger from my own countrymen
 - in danger from Gentiles
 - in danger in the city
 - in danger in the country
 - in danger at sea
 - in danger from false brothers
 - I have labored and toiled
 - have often gone without sleep
 - I have known hunger
 - I have known thirst
 - I have often gone without food
 - I have been cold
 - I have been naked
 - I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches
Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the
things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not
lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I
was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

I also quote from a Sermon of St. John Chrysostom on this passage:

For this is the brilliant victory, this is the Church's trophy, thus is the Devil overthrown when we suffer injury. For when we suffer, he is taken captive; and himself suffers harm, when he would fain inflict it on us. And this happened in Paul's case also; and the more he plied him with perils, the more was he defeated. Nor did he raise up against him only one kind of trials, but various and diverse. For some involved labor, others sorrow, others fear, others pain, others care, others shame, others all these at once; but yet he was victorious in all. And like as if a single soldier, having the whole world fighting against him, should move through the mid ranks of his enemies, and suffer no harm: even so did Paul, showing himself singly, among barbarians, among Greeks, on every land, on every sea, abide unconquered. And as a spark, falling upon reeds and hay, changes into its own nature the things so kindled; so also did this man setting upon all make things change over unto the truth; like a winter torrent, sweeping over all things and overturning every obstacle. And like some champion who wrestles, runs, and boxes too; or soldier engaged by turns in storming , fighting on foot, on shipboard; so did he try by turns every form of fight, and breathed out fire, and was unapproachable by all; with his single body taking possession of the world, with his single tongue putting all to flight. Not with such force did those many trumpets fall upon the stones of Jericho and throw them down, as did the sound of this man's voice both dash to the earth the devil's strong-holds and bring over to himself those that were against him. And when he had collected a multitude of captives, having armed the same, he made them again his own army, and by their means conquered. Wonderful was David who laid Goliah low with a single stone; but if you will examine Paul's achievements, that is a child's exploit, and great as is the difference between a shepherd and a general, so great the difference you shall see here. For this man brought down no Goliath by the hurling of a stone, but by speaking only he scattered the whole array of the Devil; as a lion roaring and darting out flame from his tongue, so was he found by all irresistible; and bounded everywhere by turns continually; he ran to these, he came to those, he turned about to these, he bounded away to others, swifter in his attack than the wind; governing the whole world, as though a single house or a single ship; rescuing the sinking, steadying the dizzied, cheering the sailors, sitting at the tiller, keeping an eye to the prow, tightening the yards, handling an oar, pulling at the mast, watching the sky; being all things in himself, both sailor, and pilot, and pilot's mate , and sail, and ship; and suffering all things in order to relieve the evils of others. For consider. He endured shipwreck that he might stay the shipwreck of the world; a day and a night he passed in the deep, that he might draw it up from the deep of error; he was in weariness that he might refresh the weary; he endured smiting that he might heal those that had been smitten of the devil; he passed his time in prisons that he might lead forth to the light those that were sitting in prison and in darkness; he was in deaths oft that he might deliver from grievous deaths; five times he received forty stripes save one that he might free those that inflicted them from the scourge of the devil; he was beaten with rods that he might bring them under the rod and the staff of Christ; Psalm 23:4 he was stoned, that he might deliver them from the senseless stones; he was in the wilderness , that he might take them out of the wilderness; in journeying, to stay their wanderings and open the way that leads to heaven; he was in perils in the cities,that he might show the city which is above; in hunger and thirst, to deliver from a more grievous hunger; in nakedness, to clothe their unseemliness with the robe of Christ; set upon by the mob, to extricate them from the besetment of fiends; he burned, that he might quench the burning darts of the devilthrough a window was let down from the wall, to send up from below those that lay prostrate upon the ground. Shall we then talk any more, seeing we do not so much as know what Paul suffered? Shall we make mention any more of goods, or even of wife, or city, or freedom, when we have seen him ten thousand times despising even life itself? The martyr dies once for all: but that blessed saint in his one body and one soul endured so many perils as were enough to disturb even a soul of adamant; and what things all the saints together have suffered in so many bodies, those all he himself endured in one: he entered into the world as if a race-course, and stripped himself of all, and so made a noble stand. For he knew the fiends that were wrestling with him. Wherefore also he shone forth brightly at once from the beginning, from the very starting-post, and even to the end he continued the same; yea, rather he even increased the intensity of his pursuit as he drew nearer to the prize. And what surely is wonderful is that though suffering and doing such great things, he knew how to maintain an exceeding modesty. For when he was driven upon the necessity of relating his own gooddeeds, he ran quickly over them all; although he might have filled books without number, had he wished to unfold in detail every thing he mentioned; if he had specified the Churches he was in care for, if his prisons and his achievements in them, if of the other things one by one, the besetments , the assaults. But he would not. Knowing then these things, let us also learn to be modest and not to glory at any time in wealth or other worldly things, but in the reproaches we suffer for Christ's sake, and in these, only when need compels; for if there be nothing urging it, let us not mention these even, (lest we be puffed up,) but our sins only. For so shall we both easily be released from them and shall have God propitious to us, and shall attain the life to come; where unto may we all attain through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

It is the chain of patient suffering that forms the ring with which Christ espouses a soul to Himself. Louis de Blois

If one thinks that suffering and tribulation end in the illumination state, the answer is a resounding NO.

Although there is a daily awareness of the love of God, suffering becomes more intense, as one endures misunderstanding and separation from friends and even family, as the perspective of life has changed so drastically.

The joy of knowing one is in and with the Trinity and that one is being raised up from nothingness to God provide consolations.

But, such feelings do not necessarily last.

One the contrary, in order for the senses to be completely purified, a new type of redemptive suffering occurs.

One is on Calvary with Christ. There is no escaping this honourable and yet painful state without forsaking all.

That is what so many of the heretics did. They got to this state and departed from Rome, thinking they were holier, or their ideas better than those of the Church.

Dangerous temptation for this stage....

Also what is dangerous, but has to be accepted if one is going to cooperate with grace in the Illuminative state is the intensity of the trials.

No kidding....

Not only are temptations trials, but real physical difficulties, such as fasting, poverty (willingly), misunderstandings, ridicule, even hatred.

The best quotation I have ever found on this state is from the monk Louis de Blois, who echoes the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I  put it at the top of this post and here it is again.

It is the chain of patient suffering that forms the ring with which Christ espouses a soul to Himself.

This is so absolutely true, that I cannot stress it enough.

The espousal of the soul to Christ, as a Bride, cannot happen without such suffering.

Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Illuminative State:

The soul in the illuminative way will have to experience periods of spiritual consolations and desolations. It does not at once enter upon the unitive way when it has passed through the aridities of the first purgation. It must spend some time, perhaps years, after quitting the state of beginners in exercising itself in the state of proficients. St. John of the Cross tells us that in this state the soul, like one released from a rigorous imprisonment, occupies itself in Divine thoughts with a much greater freedom and satisfaction, and its joy is more abundant and interior than it ever experienced before it entered the night of the senses. Its purgation is still somewhat incomplete, and the purification of the senses is not yet finished and perfect. It is not without aridities, darkness, and trials, sometimes more severe than in the past. During the period of desolation it will have to endure much suffering from temptations against the theological virtues and against the moral virtues. It will have to endure sometimes other diabolical attacks upon its imagination and senses. Also, God will permit natural causes to combine in afflicting the soul, such as the persecutions of men, and the ingratitude of friends. Patient suffering and resignation have to be borne during all these trials, and the devout soul should remember the encouraging words of the pious and learned Blosius:
Nothing more valuable can befall a man than tribulation, when it is endured with patience for the love of God; because there is no more certain sign of the divine election. But this should be understood quite as much of internal as of external trials which people of a certain kind of piety forget.
And again he says,...
It is the chain of patient suffering that forms the ring with which Christ espouses a soul to Himself. (Institutio Spiritualis, viii, 3)

To be continued