15
Feb
13

Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 15, 2013

Ch. XIII: Of other benefits which this night of sense causes in the soul.

What I primarily got from this rather long chapter was the sense that the arid Dark Night quells the sins which disturb the spirit and the soul. We are freed from gluttony, which has nothing on which to feed, and avarice, and envy (though St. John does say that one can have a virtuous envy – which I don’t fully understand, but it is different from the normal envy where we take delight in other’s misery, or wish they didn’t have some joy we feel we are missing) and other sins for they go along with a desire for pleasure. In other words, this practice starves those appetites.
The virtues of patience and longsuffering come to the fore, as does the idea of discipline. Oftentimes one has to keep at practice even when the benefits are not easily seen, and the Dark Night seems very much like those moments in any training. You have to plug away at the task, even when it takes a lot of effort and does not offer much in the way of pleasure.
I can appreciate the ideas of patience and endurance as virtues, and I agree with that idea. I’m not sure I’m fully on board, though, with the idea that denying one’s senses, which St. John seems to equate with the devil, will lead necessarily to enlightenment. I think we often take great pleasure in beauty and other things in the world around us. Consider the statement about noticing the color purple in The Color Purple, that God is always trying to please us, and it upsets God when we don’t notice the efforts. Such good feelings are not reprehensible, and may help us to be patient and to endure. I get the sense some times that the whole matter, as St. John presents it, is all about toughing your way through. But such efforts can leave one pretty battered, and even bitter. At the end of all that effort, it is possible all you may have is your determination, and not union with God.
I do think that one has to get to some level of peace, to some discipline and control in one’s life and practice. But I’m still getting the sense of almost foolish and excessive pride in the tough road, and that itself can be a block.

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