Minutes d’amour avec Marie
– Courrier spirituel –
The Dark Night of the Soul
I am presently going through an agonizing experience. After having lived the past few years in intimacy with the Lord, after having tasted the most profound and heavenly joys, after having been treated with such generosity by the Lord (through no merit of mine), now, all of a sudden, I find myself in the darkest night… and this because of some minor infidelities to grace. As a consequence I have experienced the withdrawal of God, His absence, and a change has come over my soul, as if a tornado had passed through it. The spirituality I had built up over the years seems to have been utterly devastated. I have known other “nights of the soul” but nothing as harrowing as this. It is a veritable tragedy! From one day to the next, to feel rejected, cut off from God, beset by hell! If God seems to have disappeared, the devil is very much present and is employing all his power to paralyze and blind the faculties of my soul. The intelligence seems incapable of reasoning. The “whys” and “hows” uttered by the distraught soul go without answers. The demon seems determined to wrench my soul away from God at any price.
His diabolical clutch is so strong that all seems lost; there is nothing to be done; it is as if hell were to be my lot for eternity. The past seems to have been utterly futile and unreal; my spiritual life has tumbled down like a house of cards. Despair has been so strong in me that I have been tempted to suicide. But the sharpest and most terrible suffering is the feeling of being rejected by God. Oh, if at this moment at least my faith were strong enough to believe in His love!
But this is the dark night… How to pray in these hours of anguish? It seems rather that there is a multiplication of temptations to turn to material goods, to vanity, to the world as a compensation since all my past life made up of sufferings willingly embraced seems to me to have been but one great falsehood. It is a battle between wanting to do what is good and the incessant urgings to do what is evil. My will is paralyzed; I understand nothing.
Moreover, there is a rancour, even a hatred, which constantly surges up in me against those dearest to me. This rending of the heart and this imprisonment of the will are something frightful. Why does the Lord permit this? Where is His divine will?
All is utter impotence, deceptions, setbacks; I am overwhelmed. Everything is an intolerable burden. My weakness and misery are there before me and yet I dared ask Jesus to strip me of “self”, to root out of my soul whatever displeases Him so that He may accomplish in my soul His plan of love, of purification, of sanctification, of redemption for the glory of the Father and for the salvation of the world.
Two things must be made clear at the outset: 1. “Rare” are the souls which undergo such dark nights, for “rare” are the souls that go all the way in accepting the work of purification. 2. The reply which follows is intended for you personally, for you will be able to understand the nuances as well as the amplitude of the demands, and for others who also experienced such a night. For many others, the answer will simply be outside their knowledge or experience.
Because you have been guilty of minor infidelities to grace, it is important that you make the necessary acts of humility which alone can restore peace to your soul in spite of the process of purification to which you are being subjected. In its ascent towards God, the soul undergoes various periods of light and darkness. The more a soul consents to be purified, the sweeter and more consoling are the phases in the light, and the more arid, rough and disturbing they become in the dark period. You have known the pain of the various “nights”, it is true, but you have, on the other hand, experienced deeply the sweet and almost heavenly joys of that wonderful intimacy with the Lord. You have been replenished, gratuitously, with graces, those divine jewels, and you have thus been prepared for that crucial period which was to follow, for in His actions God always works more and more profoundly. Hence the darkness becomes thicker and blacker to the point where the soul has the impression of having been plunged into hell itself. This is the purification which only those souls that have experienced it can understand. And this is the reason why, in the fifth phase of the “night of the soul” which you are undergoing, your thoughts are shot through with feelings of hatred, revolt, contempt, rancour, made worse by pernicious inclinations to let everything go. Plunged into the abyss in this fashion the soul feels cut off from God, rejected by Him, and this is the most terrible suffering especially after the experience of such deep consolations. To purify and beautify a soul, God wounds it deeply, just as the artist, in sculpting, cuts the wood to produce a work of art.
At such a time the soul must submit to this painful operation. Who can see anything in the night? Who can understand anything when everything is crumbling down about him?… As the plough, digging down into the earth, tears up and drags away the weeds with their roots, so is it in the depths of your soul; the evil tendencies are torn up and destroyed, and the soul is made humble in being torn away from the tyrannical hold of the pride of “self”, purifying it so that it becomes more pleasing in God’s sight.
The powers of your soul are wounded… it is precisely through these wounds that you receive a more abundant infusion of love which in turn will give you new strength and redouble your zeal for the salvation of souls. Your request to God that “He realize in you His plan of love”, is thus answered in spite of the intense pain, the anguish and the confusion which beset you.
The more a soul is open to purification, the more God possesses and divinizes it so that when the work is finished nothing impure remains in it. “Nothing impure shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” These words provoke thought, and place before our freedom of choice the decision to accept or reject this divine work of purification. It is not sufficient merely to live in harmony with the divine laws. We must also consent to be stripped of ourselves so that Christ may truly dwell within us. So it happens that many people who lead good lives and are highly respected, but who balk at this work of divine purification, see themselves surpassed in holiness by souls which will have fallen but then will have accepted, in all humility and abandonment, to be liberated from “self”. Of such were Saint Augustine and Mary Magdalen.
Of course, there is always an ideal in a life lived in conformity with the will and the laws of God, in the loving“fiats” to the invitations of the Master, in the imitation of the lives of the Savior and of Mary our Mother. This is why Saint Gerard Majella said: “When we arrive in heaven, we shall have three surprises: the first, to see souls there we never expected to see there; the second, not to see the persons we fully expected would be there; and the third, to find ourselves there.” Heaven is not easy to win. Christ the Savior opened to us the gates of heaven, but, after having shown us the road to follow, He awaits our participation in the Co-Redemption. So it is far better to submit, here below, to the progressive stages of purification even to the very depths of the soul in all of its faculties, for “nothing impure will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
(Review, “L’Armée de Marie”, vol. II, no. 1)