Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dealing with Spiritual Dryness

Sometimes in our journey of faith, we experience moments of spiritual dryness, lethargy - also known as acedia.

In rare cases, this is also known as the "Dark night of the soul" as coined by St John of the Cross. Many saints have experienced this, one of the more recent examples being St Mother Teresa. This is known as part of the purgative process of purification in the spiritual life. 

In my own case today however, I am suffering  with spiritual dryness caused by my own sins. Often when caught in habitual sins or feeling weighed down by our own weakness in sin we lose the strength or energy to fight and become lethargic. It's during these moments we need to pray the hardest and ask for the Holy Spirit. God is always with us but we don't often see or feel him, or other times we have shut him out through our sinfulness. So we need to turn back to the gaze of Jesus, call on the Father of Mercies and ask for the Comforter to be sent as our Consoler and Advocate. 

But first, something else has to be dealt with, namely, what is called aridity, dryness and desolation in meditation. The one who meditates before a text that is merely printed word and does not open out into any spiritual inner space and perhaps not even to a living presence. "The soul finds itself completely indolent, tepid and sad, as though separated from its Creator and Lord (spiritual exercises 317). Can we speak of a silence of the Word here? In a certain sense yes, since the Word does not seem to want to disclose itself of itself. This condition, as we are taught, can have several causes. It may be out own fault, "because we are tepid, indolent or negligent in our spiritual exercises". Or it may be willed by the Lord in order to see whether we will make the effort to penetrate into his depths even without his perceptible help. Finally, there may be exacted of is the existential experience that we cannot force entrance to these depths by our own efforts, for it "is wholly a gift and grace of God our Lord", and we "may not let our spirit become inflated with some kind of pride or vainglory", thinking we have raised ourselves up to this or that "degree of prayer" by our own power (spiritual exercises 322). We may and should knock, but we may not attribute magical power to our knocking, as though it necessarily demanded the response of an opening. The apparent silence of the Word is in each three aspects an intensive schooling. "Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe" - and believe in an unfelt "unspeakable, radiant joy" (charā anekalētō kai dedoxasmenē, 1 Peter 1:8), whose "radiance", however, rests with the Lord, while we now renounce it... 
Thus what is experienced in meditation as aridity, or even as a dark night, can at the same time in a hidden but true sense be the brightest radiance of love. But this love must hide itself in the nakedness of faith, the only thing that Jesus, deprived of everything exteriorly and interiorly, cannot lose. This definitively confirms the fact that every silence in Christian meditation is meaningful. In other words, where in an earthly sense we experience wordlessness, the sprees of the Word and meaning beyond expression open up 
- Christian Medition Hans urs Von Balthasar 


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