Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul

The Catholic Company's review program is a wonderful opportunity to read good books like St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul.

Have you ever felt lonely, so lonely that even God is too far away to hear your cries, much less your prayers?  Have you ever felt truly abandoned by God; left to your own resources?  Weren’t we promised that we would never be alone?  Weren’t we?  Believe this or not, this feeling is a good thing and no you are not alone, Our Heavenly Father has your back.

This feeling is called the dark night of the soul and it is as real as the morning sunlight through your bedroom window.  With the sunlight, you have two options to change the situation, close the curtains or leave them as they are and allow the rays to penetrate your soul.  Closing the curtains is the easy way to shut out the light so you can be lazy and go back to sleep, but not the perfect route.  The sunlight is there for you to get up, read a passage in the Bible, pray about it, and get closer to God.  For some it takes a process called purgation, but as noted in a poem of St. John of the Cross the fruits are very rewarding.

 

My soul is detached

From everything created,

And raised above itself

Into a life delicious,

Of God alone supported.

And therefore I will say,

That what I most esteem

Is that my soul is now

Without support, and with support.

 

The Dark Night of the Soul is divided into two books, Book 1, Of the Night of Sense and Book 11, Of the night of the Spirit.  In Book 1, St. John describes the soul entering the dark night of the sense as God leads them to a purgation that will bring them closer to God and farther away from worldly dependencies.  The process has three states; the beginners pass through the first night of sense, then become proficient and may go onto the next night or remain in the night of sense depending upon their strength and will. The proficient soul journeys through both processes successfully will come out spiritually perfect.  God gently moves these souls beyond selfishness and dependencies of worldly comforts, thus bringing about a state of dependency only on God and life eternal.  This is not any easy ‘night’ but necessary for perfection of spirituality and devotion to God.  There are pitfalls and temptations by Satan along the way, but this book shows where they are and to be watchful.  The first book covers fourteen chapters, full of love and care for the soul reading these words.

The second book takes one through a more defined dark time, or purgation, in which the soul experiences pain and torment, purifying and enlightening the soul for union with God in pure love.  This book goes through the dark night sufferings, the sense of being without God, of being abandoned.  The many pains of abandonment, past memories of happiness, the inability to fix the attention on God or divine things, loss of mental power are just a few purifying stages of this dark night.  A deeper, darker time indeed, but the outcome is serenity.  As I read this book, it became clear that I wanted to experience these things for to go through this dark abandonment is to get closer and wiser to God.  Truly, this book is not for beginners as the descriptions of these two nights are severe, various in purgations and hard to understand how necessary they are.  It is, however, a true testament to St. John of the Cross’ total surrender to perfect love for our Heavenly Father.  To be a rest is to be in perfect love and faith in God.

 

 

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