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...
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...
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 "...do 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."
To be continued....