Aridity and Progress – Divine Intimacy
Presence of God – O Lord, help me to seek for You and to unite myself to You, even through the aridity and powerlessness of my spirit.
1. Even without the presence of the physical or moral causes which we have mentioned before, it is possible to pass from a state of sensible fervor to one of absolute aridity. This happens by the direct work of God which makes it impossible for the soul to pray with the help of the imagination or to practice acts of sensible love as before. The fact is that, whereas meditation or affectionate converse with God was formerly made with ease and comfort, the soul now finds it impossible to connect two ideas. Thoughts or reading which once moved the soul now leave it indifferent—the heart remains cold and hard as a stone. Even though watching over itself carefully in order to be faithful in mortification and generosity; even though intensifying its preparation for prayer and fervently beseeching the Lord for help, it no longer succeeds in wringing one drop of devotion from its heart. Then the poor soul worries and is afraid, thinking that the Lord has abandoned it because of some fault or other. What she does not realize is that this kind of aridity conceals a great grace—the grace of purification and of progress in the ways of prayer. In fact, by means of aridity, the Lord intends to free it from childish feelings and to raise it to the purer, firmer level of the will. When it was experiencing so much comfort in prayer, the soul, unknown to itself, was becoming somewhat attached to these sensible consolations. Hence it loved and sought prayer not purely for God, but also a little for itself. Now, deprived of all attraction for prayer, the soul will henceforth learn to apply itself to it solely to give pleasure to the Lord. Furthermore, finding no help in beautiful thoughts and sweet emotions, it will learn to walk by strength of will alone, exercising itself in acts of faith and love Which, it is true, are wholly arid, but are all the more meritorious because they are more voluntary. In this way, its love for God, will become purer, because it is more disinterested; and stronger, because it is more voluntary.
2. Through aridity, the soul also makes progress in humility. The inability to meditate, to fix its attention, to awaken good sentiments in its heart – all these convince the soul more and more of its nothingness. This state makes it realize, without effort or reasoning that, apart from God’s help, it can really do nothing. Thus, little by little, that high opinion of self, that feeling of confidence in its own strength, which had more or less secretly insinuated itself into the soul when all was easy and pleasant in prayer, now vanishes
At the same time, seeing how poor and wretched it is in the presence of God, there is born in the soul a feeling of more profound respect and greater reverence before the infinite majesty of God. When it could speak heart to heart with Him in prayer the soul may have forgotten somewhat the infinite distance which always separates God from His creatures. It is true that God wants us to act toward Him with great confidence and He invites us in thousand of ways to His intimacy; however, He always remains the inaccessible one, and we, nothingness and misery. It is very precious this feeling of greater reverence which ripens in the soul through the experience of its own nothingness, and which always even in moments of the greatest loving intimacy, will permit it to approach God with true humility of heart. If, therefore, during the time of prayer we can do nothing but humble ourselves before God, by recognizing our own nothingness and showing Him our impotence, our incapacity yes even offering God this very nothingness in adoration of His infinite majesty, we will have made very good use of our time. Certainly in this state of aridity, especially when suffering greatly from distractions, we will often feel that we have done nothing during prayer. Let us not be disturbed, however, because as St. Peter of Alcantara says: “He who does the little he can, does much before God. It is not difficult to persevere in prayer when we find consolation in it, but there is great merit in doing so when sensible devotion is reduced to a minimum. Yet it is precisely then that prayer becomes more meritorious and humility is increased, as well as patience and perseverance.”
“O Lord, blessed be Your Name forever, because You willed me to suffer this tribulation. I cannot escape it, so I have recourse to You, that You may help me to profit by it. O Lord, I am deeply afflicted, my heart can find no rest , and it suffers much on account of this hard trial. What can I say to You, O beloved Father? I am in anguish; Lord, save me! This happens to me in order to glorify You by my very humiliation, but later, You will deliver me. May it please You to deliver me, O Lord, for alone and wretched, what can I do or where can I go without You?
“Give me once more the grace of patience! Help me. O God, and I shall fear nothing, even if the burden is heavy. And now, what shall I say in all these misfortunes? Lord, Your will be done. I well deserve the tribulation which is crushing me. I must bear it. May I do so patiently, until the storm is past and calm reestablished” (Imit. III, 29,1.2).
“O my Jesus, nothing from You but dryness. But I am very happy to suffer that which You want me to suffer. I am happy to see that You show me that I am not a stranger by treating me like this.
“O Lord, make my darkness serve to enlighten souls. I consent, if such is Your will, to continue walking all my life in the darkness of faith, provided that one day I arrive at the goal of the mountain of love.
“I am very happy to have no consolation, for thus my love is not like that of the worlds brides who are always looking at their bridegroom’s hands to see if they bear a gift, or at his face in the hope of glimpsing a smile of love to enchant them… 0 Jesus, I want to love You for Yourself alone… I do not desire love that I feel, but only love that You feel” (T.C.J. L, 5I,90,93,89).
Adapted from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
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