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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

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...