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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

And, a timely set of reposts....

Dark Night of the Soul Part 37-The Purification of the Memory Revisited

A Carmelite priest wrote some interesting words in connection with St. John of the Cross on the subject of the purification of the memory.

As I have struggled with this concept and with the actual beginnings of this change of memory, which is not really a loss, but a giving over to God the memories of the past, I am revisiting this step of the Dark Night. I have struggled with this, as a poet, writer and historian. When one is using one's memory for art or study or teaching, this purification process seems odd. But, St. John taught and preached and gave spiritual direction using his memory. At his state of holiness, this meant that God to bring to mind the things God wanted to impart, and that St. John was in the Will of God in his thoughts, speech, and deeds.

The goal of the purification of the memory by the Holy Spirit is primarily to create a state of freedom in the soul and mind. Memories can trap people into hatred, bitterness, lust, fantasies.

Father Phelim writes this, "The soul experiences tranquillity and peace of mind, and more importantly it grows in purity of conscience and purity of soul. The soul is free too from the suggestions, temptations and deceptions which the devil can arouse by means of thoughts and memories."

Now, many of us cling to memories of happier days, or past relationships which brought joy, or even loved ones who have passed away. Some use their memories for keeping hatred alive. I met a man here who is my age. He started talking about his family hatred of the British. He was horribly full of hate. I stopped him, and asked him if he thought God would let him take that hate into heaven. He said he would never forgive the past wrongs, never.

I pity him and say a Hail Mary for him, as he will not be able to take that hatred into heaven.

Father Phelim continues, "On the positive side the soul through recollection and forgetfulness of passing things acquires a spirit that is open and docile to the delicate movements of the Holy Spirit. It acquires too, a certain stability amidst difficulties, and a certain equanimity in the face of adversity. It is neither cast down by adversity or unduly elated by prosperity."

Father also cautions, "It is quite easy to confuse virtue with lofty ideas of God, whereas true virtue is always accompanied by deep humility and self-contempt. Indeed one degree of humility is of far greater worth than all manner of visions, revelations, or emotional feeling concerning God."

The purification of the memory takes away imaginings in the memory which may make one think they are holier than they actually are.  Memory cannot create one act of love as much as faith and hope do, writes Father. Deception and vanity prove to be the stumbling blocks to some who think they are on the way to holiness, Father notes.

When one allows God to purify the memory, such fantasies and imaginings of holiness disappear in the cold light of truth and emptiness. Sometimes, one has to grieve away memories holding one back from living in the present, the Presence of God. This is why in the convent, the nuns never talk about their pasts and no one knows about each others past. It may seem strange, but it takes away the living on past successes or even re-thinking past failures. The purified imagination lives totally in the present moment.

There will be more on this subject. Sadly, these comments are in a pamphlet, which is old. But, I shall write more of Father Phelim's insights in the next post as well.

to be continued...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dark Night of the Soul Part 38-The Purification of the Memory Continued...

Father Phelim writes that the purification of the memory allows these steps in the soul to occur: one,  hope grows as memory is cleansed; two, this hope created a longing for God, Who will answer that longing; three, this hope increases as the soul is dispossessed of the past, of sin, of memory; four, once this happens, the soul will attain perfect possession of God in union.

There is a deep mystery here, which Fr. Phelim reminds us of in the reference to Luke 14:33. It is not just things one must give up, but the very part of one's being which one thinks is essential- memories. But, it is not merely the isolated memories one is giving up, but the faculty of memory itself. This is the insight, that the entire ability to remember is given over and God begins to purge that faculty as He chooses. The faculty, like that of understanding and the will gradually belongs to God alone.

Sometime, one must grieve over the giving up of memory. We must let memories go into the darkness of the Dark Night. One must be willing to stop thoughts which take one away from the deep suffering which is the Dark Night. Fr. Phelim reminds one that the devil uses memory and the imagination, especially, to seem like things which are in the light, when in reality, the images are of evil intent, intent on taking one away from faith in the unseen God and the hopeof being one with Him.

So likewise every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple.

This process is very painful. God cannot be held in any ideas one may have of Him or even how He worked in the past. How can one recognize God truly if one is stuffed full of images which take one away from the real moment of the now. 

The less one has, the closer one is getting to union with God...If one especially clings to memories of human love, God cannot enter into the soul. The soul is simply too crowded for His Presence.

Remember, that all of this is the passive purification of the soul, and if one runs about filling up the soul with activities, even those which seem good, the process is severely hindered.

Consumerism, Materialism, Pride and the Theological Virtues-The Dark Night of the Soul, Part 39

Catholics receive the theological virtues directly from God. We all have human virtues, but the theological virtues pave the way to heaven, allowing one to live in and with the Holy Trinity. The theological virtues, as most know, are faith, hope and charity.

Now, one wonders why these virtues do not flourish in the Church, through the lives of the members of the Church. What happens to stop the growth of faith, hope and love? As these are infused virtues, one would expect all Catholics to exhibit faith, hope and love.

Faith, as defined in the CCC, is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God."78 For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."79

To believe in God daily and to believe in Revelation and Tradition are no small feats. A Catholic who is orthodox, that is, obedient to all the Church teaches, and, in addition, gives his life to God totally, is living in and by faith.

One who lives in faith constantly prays and desires to know God, love God and do His Will.

This first theological virtue may be "sinned against", that is, one may turn against this gift and choose not to believe. For some, this is apostasy, the complete denial of faith. For others, the cause could be sloth, not cultivating a prayer life, or not receiving the sacraments frequently.

A habit of sin can destroy faith. One of the greatest enemies of faith is materialism, the belief that the life on earth is the only life, and that there is no eternal, no spiritual life, Materialism denies the soul, and the dignity of the person. This heresy is fast becoming the great heresy of Europe, where many no longer believe in heaven or hell, following the Marxist view of dialectic materialism.

Anarchists are usually materialists, denying a hierarchy of spirituality in the world.

Hope, the second theological virtue, is, according to the CCC, the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."84 "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."85

This virtue is the most misunderstood of all three. Notice the phrase, "relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit". This virtue grows in the Dark Night of the Soul. Father Phelim quotes St. John of the Cross,  that, "the more things we possess the less scope and capacity there is for hoping and consequently, the less hope we have." He notes that the less we have in reality and in memory, the more able we are to possess God and hope in His love.

The great enemy of hope is consumerism. Consumerism, which is the greatest sin of the American people, demands that happiness may be bought. People become obsessed with buying more and more and more things, thereby becoming preoccupied with wealth and the consumption of goods obtained by wealth.

One cannot develop the virtue of hope when one is literally consumed with things. Those who possess things do not have room in their hearts, minds, and souls for God. The dispossession of things allows for the freedom to let God into one's being.  Hope rests on not having, and if one has one does not perfect hope for the love of God. Consumerism feeds selfishness, which stifles hope.

The third theological virtue is love. The CCC notes that Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

Perhaps, most Catholics understand love, or charity, more that faith or hope. But, love cannot enter the soul, the heart or the mind without first faith and hope. Love is the fulfilment of faith and hope. When one is finally purged of selfishness and greed, of doubt and disobedience, love follows.

The great enemy of love is pride, as pride brainwashes the mind, the heart and the soul into denying the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, Who loved us, as the CCC reminds us in the section on charity, while we were still enemies. Strong words. Pride denies that we were ever enemies of God, blaming others for our sins, as Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve.

All of these virtues are free gifts from God, but these can lie dormant for years and years unless one allows God to kill materialism, consumerism and pride in us.

That is one of the reasons for the Dark Night of the Soul, the purification of both the senses and the spirit.

To be continued..

The Dark Night Part 40 and Blaming Satan Three

The devil, as Father Phelim points out, can only"gain a foothold on the soul through the working on its faculties." This is why the Dark Night includes the destruction of images and memories which take one away from God.

Recently, in a drama I was watching, a woman spoke to her lover that she had already sinned against God and her husband by thinking of her lover. The woman and her lover did commit adultery in the play, and they were aware the entire year they were together, that they were sinning. Now, the drama timeline was written in a time, many years ago, when people still knew that adultery was a serious, mortal sin. Interesting to me was the depiction of these lost souls, who verbalized that they were both damned, but chose each other anyway. What is more interesting, is that they become more miserable as the year went on. They began to hate the life of lust that they had chosen freely.

But, notice, the two sinners were very aware that they had chosen mortal sin over God and given in to temptation. Again, although satan watched them and tempted them, they chose to sin. As they were both, in this drama, Christians, they had knowledge, but their wills were weakened by frequent contact, and by speaking of their "love". Free will is a mighty gift. Their wills led them to misery.

This is the nature of sin. It starts in the imagination, in the mind.  In the Dark Night, God pulls us away from any distractions from His grace, so that one can become pure enough for His coming as the Bridegroom.

Father Phelim did not have movies, television dramas, or novels to help him visualize sin, but he understands the roots of sin, as does St. John of the Cross. He notes that vanity and "disquiet" come from the roots of sin. Once one is purged of these roots of self-love, peace and "equanimity", (such a word is rarely used now), become the way of live for the person living in the Dark Night. The Dark Night steadies one to be able to fight satan, even to the point of moving away from venial sin and the desire for sin.

To be continued...

The Doctor of Divine Love and The Dark Night Part 41

Father Phelim lists six categories of goods, as he writes,"which tend to claim the soul's attention and very often fragment and waste its energies. This list follows: temporal goods, natural goods, sensual, moral, supernatural and spiritual.

As Father Phelim states, the soul must transcend all goods in order to focus on God. This first category covers "riches, rank, high offices, titles , status". Father Phelim writes that these are the thorns in the passage of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. To be greedy is the old sin of idolatry.

The person who is free of such goods, has, as Fr. Phelim lists "great liberty of soul, a clarity of reason, tranquillity, and confidence in God. Not a bad list of virtues to have.

Natural goods, notes Father Phelim, are "bodily beauty, good looks, and comeliness of figure." Also, natural discretion, discernment, and understanding. Of course, these are gifts from God, but one must hold these things lightly in one's hands, as it were.

The evils which result in attachment to these gifts are vanity, presumption and "the lack of esteem for others." What is hard to read, is this phrase from Father, "Some even reach a stage where the things of God are tedious, troublesome and abhorrent."

When one gets to this stage of hating the things of God, one has chosen hell over heaven, sadly.

The great need of a person who wants to break away from such sins is that of detachment.

Detachment allows one to ignore praise, esteem and status and only desire doing what pleases God.

The third category includes sensual  goods, those of the five senses.

Any pleasures which come through the senses do not lead us directly to God. I want to stop here and return to this in the next post.

To be continued...

Dark Night of the Soul Part 42

Remember that Judas was chosen to be one of the twelve. He had gifts. He was in the inner circle of Christ's companions. In this ancient drawing, he is in hell with Lucifer, as described by Dante. This is a warning to those of us who might think we are holy, as presumption is one of the sins needed to be purged in the Dark Night.

The goods labelled sensual, moral, supernatural and spiritual need to be examined briefly. Again, Father Phelim's pamphlets help me.

Vanity, or vainglory impede the growth of virtues. But the deep sins of gluttony, drunkenness, luxury, spiritual laziness, sensuality and the lack of penance lead one directly out of the Dark Night. This can happen.

Satan tempts and only vigilance keeps one from falling.

The moral goods also need to be purged. Father Phelim warns against edifying people who do good. He quotes St. John of the Cross,
"Many Christians today accomplish great acts which will profit them nothing for eternal life, because they have not sought in them the glory and honour which belong to God alone."

Harsh words, indeed. One must work entirely out of love for God alone.

If one relies, as Father Phelim notes using John, on the esteem of men and praise or recognition, there will be no recompense in heaven for such good moral works. One must work without praise and in a state of doing one's duty.

The next two categories are the most difficult for many Catholics, especially charismatics. Please note Father Phelim's words here.   The supernatural goods given for the building up of the Body of Christ " not imply holiness in those who exercise them."

God's gifts and charisms are NEVER a sign of holiness or purity of heart.

Frequently, charisms are misused, as Father emphasizes Two things help one in this regard-one, complete detachment from gifts and, two, the reluctance to use them. Father and St. John are clear on these two points.  One need not feel any rejoicing or emotions regarding the use of gifts and most likely, those who are doing so in a showy manner when exhibiting gifts lack holiness.

Lastly, spiritual goods, such as statues, medals, beautiful music and churches, and all manner of Christian art can become idols. One must realize they are there to help our faith and are not substitutes for holiness. I have see much magical thinking with regard to holy things which is dangerous.

The important aspect of spiritual goods is that these build our faith, increase our hope and encourage us in love.

The last warning on the use of goods pertains directly to charismatics and those prone to prayer meetings. St. John of the Cross writes, "We must not be anxious to cling to ceremonial inventions which are not approved by the Church. We must leave the method and manner of saying Mass to the priest whom the Church sets in her place giving him her orders as to how he is to do it."

Father Phelim warns us,  by reminding us that St. John  of the Cross rebukes those who experiment with new methods, "as if they knew more than the Church and the Holy Spirit."  Wow!

To be continued....