04
Mar
13

Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 32, 2013

Bk. II, Ch. XIX: Begins to explain the ten steps of the mystic ladder of Divine love, according to Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas. The first five are here treated.
First step “causes the soul to languish,” to swoon. At this point, the soul is aware of the distance of the Beloved, and it causes anguish.
Second Step: Here, from the bed where it swoons, the Soul gets up to find the Beloved in the world, and it looks to find Him everywhere. There is a directive here from the Psalms, “Seek ye ever the face of God, and seek ye Him in all things, tarrying not until ye find Him…”
Third Step: Here the soul is driven to work hard and it gains such fervor that it wants to work hard and fail not. St. John here equates this with the Fear of the Lord, that if Fear, which is a stepson of Love, can make one so diligent, what will Love itself do? Here the soul learns to endure and to be patient. And it learns not to condemn others – so it grows in humility.
Fourth Step: The fourth step enkindles a great passion in the heart for the Lord. Citing St. Augustine, St. John notes that “love makes all things that are great, grievous and burdensome, to be almost naught.” The soul here is willing to undergo all manner of trials, ‘for love …. is strong as death, and emulation and importunity last as long as hell.’ On this step, the soul does not find rest or quietness in the world about, but looks for the Beloved.
Fifth Step: This is a step of hunger, and the soul longs mightily for the Lord, but is continually frustrated. It is a time of swooning and yearning. Citation is made of Rachel who demands of Jacob that she have children or she shall die.
This 10-step program has a quality about it that seems a bit artificial. I understand that we have here an analogy, a metaphor, but it still seems a bit contrived. On the steps, it sounds a lot like what happens in a romance, and certainly in a romance in a fictional context. The formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy sets out to find girl (and vice versa). We have that meeting and awareness in the first step, and then the frenzied attempts to find the Beloved and bring the matter to fruition, and a gradual wearing down of the seeker, who is frustrated and must learn patience.

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