23
Feb
13

Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 23, 2013

Bk. II, Ch. IX: How, although this night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so in order to illumine it and give it light.

There is in this chapter a sense of “No pain, no gain.” So that the soul has to go through this travail to really be ready to see and experience union with God, and with divine wisdom, that such is not really possible if people retain affections to things they have sensed in the past.
So, St. John brings up the story of the manna in the desert, noting that this was the food of angels, and could take on any taste (sounds like tofu), but that the Israelites could focus only on the fleshpots of Egypt that they missed. So here this fixation on the good food (relatively speaking) they got in Egypt kept them from recognizing and appreciating the miracle that kept them alive.
So the soul, as it experiences the darkness, and is purged of its former affections (in a way, it dies), and it can now enter into union with God, for it loses all those fixation points that it had from long experience. This does feel strange, and the soul feels alienated from itself. “The reason for this is that the soul is now becoming alien and remote from common sense and knowledge of things, in order that, being annihilated in this respect, it may be informed with the Divine – which belongs rather to the next life than to this…” So here the common sense must be closer to the “normal” sense a soul or spirit might have, taking a lot of its cues from the society and the mores of the society.
The sufferings that the soul suffers, according to St. John, do not indicate that this great light is wrong, or the blessings it promises, for they are very great, but that the soul itself is not ready to receive it, and so it all seems a great pain and torment. He quotes Jeremiah and Job on this despair and agony, but he might likewise have brought up the story of Exodus, where the Jews were complaining of their hard road, though it was better than slavery, but slavery had certain sureties and some comforts that, once gone, made the Jews angry and dispirited.

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