Desolation and Darkness
Presence of God – Come to my aid, O Lord, that I may not be overwhelmed by the storm.
Seeing its wretchedness so clearly, the soul senses the infinite distance separating it from God; and, while desiring even more to be united to Him, it realizes that it is farther from Him than ever, absolutely incapable of bridging the chasm which divides them. This recognition causes pain as well, for the lover ardently desires union with the beloved. The suffering sometimes becomes so intense that it seems to the soul that there no longer exists any hope of holiness, of union with God, or even of eternal salvation for it.
There is nothing exaggerated, much less feigned in this desolation. The Holy Spirit, under whose action the soul finds itself, cannot inspire it with anything not entirely conformable with truth. It is quite true that between us, poor creatures that we are, and God, sovereign and infinite perfection, there is a distance, an incalculable distance; it is quite true that, by our own strength, we are radically incapable of elevating ourselves to God; again it is true that considering our actions—even the best of them—there is nothing in us which merits either union with God or eternal life. If many souls are not convinced of this, thinking that they are able of themselves to do something to advance toward God and holiness, it is because they have not yet been enlightened as to the depths of their own nothingness.
If we are, then, utterly unworthy of God, of His love, of union with Him, of His eternal glory, it is equally true that God Himself, in His merciful love, has desired to bridge the distance that separates Him from us. He has stooped down to us to the point of clothing us with His divine Life and calling us to his intimacy. What is impossible to our misery is entirely possible to the omnipotence and infinite mercy of God. He wills to do this work in us, yet He wants us to realize that it is His work alone.
In those moments when the soul is tempted to despair of attaining to God and eternal salvation, it must remain firm in unshakable hope. However justifiable may be its mistrust of itself and all its efforts, there is even more reason to await all from God, whose love and goodness infinitely surpass both its poverty and its expectation. In this way the desolation of the night of the spirit will achieve its end—that of establishing the soul in a deeper humility, in a purer and more perfect hope, because now the soul trusts only in the merciful love of God.
“O Jesus, King of peace, whose presence heaven and earth long for, how have You gone so far away from me! How are all my riches and strength lacking! O loss more painful than mortal wounds, O truly bitter separation, worse than the anguish of death!
“Why have You hidden Yourself, my gentle Spouse, and by Your absence cast me into this night full of thick shadows and dark desolation? Who will help me in this utter abandonment, in this solitude? Oh! how great are the sufferings of love, how great is the anxiety of the heart which knows not nor can do anything but love, while possessing not Him whom it loves!
“I have no other remedy, O most kind King, than to sigh for You. I cry to You from the bottom of my heart and speak to the tenderness of Your love. Remember me, O my hope; see my desolation at the thought of Your refusal, and the bitter abandonment consuming me.
“Do not abandon me, O gentle Son of the Virgin, because mercy was born, together with You, from the womb of Your Immaculate Mother. See, Lord, how all my strength is failing, and how, bereft of You, I am oppressed by the horror and shadow of death.
“Have pity on me, my Friend, because all my strength being consumed, I have only lips and tongue left to cry to You. O immortal life and fountain of living water, do not deprive me of Your presence with so much rigor, for it is dearer to me than life. I shall not rest, O gentle Son of God, nor ever cease my sighs and supplications until You show me Your Face” (Venerable John of Jesus [and] Mary).
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Art for this post on “Desolation and Darkness”: Mirror of El Venerable Padre Juan de Jesús María (The Venerable Father John of Jesus Mary), artist unknown, date unknown, from non-copyrighted open source material, PD-old. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.