25
Feb
13

Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 25, 2013

Bk. II, Ch. XI: Begins to explain the second line of the first stanza. Describes how, as the fruit of these rigorous constraints, the soul finds itself with the vehement passion of Divine love.”
I’m not sure I fully get this chapter. I understand the injunctions to love God with one’s whole heart and the like, and the suggestion that there is a kinship (apparently even in the worst of souls) with the divine, and this can be recognized and we see in that a desire for union with God, but at the end, there is another suggestion, which is that, the soul has gotten used to the burden of the burning away of the imperfections, that, when that fire ceases (as the imperfections are burned away (or largely burned away), the soul is a bit lost or confused.
The particular section is at the end of this chapter: “But in the midst of these dark and loving afflictions the soul feels within itself a certain companionship and strength, which bears it company and greatly strengthens it that, if this burden of grievous darkness be taken away, it often feels itself to be alone, empty and weak. The cause of this is that, as the strength and efficacy of the soul were derived and communicated passively from the dark fire of love which assailed it, it follows that, when that fire ceases to assail it, the darkness and power and heat of love cease in the soul.”
I get some idea of what St. John seems to be talking about in one’s getting used to the trouble and the pain. As the soul endures difficulties, the fact that it does sustain them suggests both its own strength (which must be mighty to endure) and some idea of something beyond that helps it endure. But I don’t get why the soul, having endured such troubles, and, presumably, having a lot of the imperfections burned away, can’t then see some joy at the end. It would be tired, no doubt, but just as someone in any contest gives it his/her all, and there is a certain joy during the actual competition, and an emptiness and lassitude afterwards, still one takes joy in the memory of that struggle and having seen it through. So I don’t quite get the sense that the “heat of love” ceases in the soul, even if I get the idea that the “darkness and power” have lost their grip. Maybe some further chapters will help here.

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