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“…night of the senses” …consolations are no longer felt, there is a notable longing for God, and an increase of love, humility, patience…
Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., in “Mother Teresa: Come be my light”:
Interior darkness is nothing new in the tradition of Catholic mysticism. In fact, it has been a common phenomenon among the numerous saints throughout Church history who have experienced what the Spanish Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night.”
The spiritual master aptly employed this term to designate the painful purifications one undergoes before reaching union with God. They are accomplished in two phases: the “night of the senses” and the “night of the spirit.”
In the first night [of the senses] one is freed from attachment to sensory satisfactions and drawn into the prayer of contemplation. While God communicates His light and love, the soul, imperfect as it is, is incapable of receiving them, and experiences them as darkness, pain, dryness, and emptiness.
Although the emptiness and absence of God are only apparent, they are a great source of suffering. Yet, if this state is the “night of the senses” and not the result of mediocrity, laziness, or illness, one continues performing one’s duties faithfully and generously, without despondency, self-concern, or emotional disturbance. Though consolations are no longer felt, there is a notable longing for God, and an increase of love, humility, patience, and other virtues.
Having passed through the first night, one may then be led by God into the “night of the spirit,” to be purged from the deepest roots of one’s imperfections. A state of extreme aridity accompanies this purification, and one feels rejected and abandoned by God. The experience can become so intense that one feels as if heading toward eternal perdition. It is even more excruciating because one wants only God and loves Him greatly but is unable to recognize one’s love for Him. The virtues of faith, hope, and charity are severely tried. Prayer is difficult, almost impossible; spiritual counsel practically of no avail; and various exterior trials may add to this pain.
By means of this painful purification, the disciple is led to total detachment from all created things and to a lofty degree of union with Christ, becoming a fit instrument in His hands and serving Him purely and disinterestedly.
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Neil D. 2020-05-13