The Necessity for Interior Purification
Presence of God – Purify my soul, O Lord, so that it may be filled completely with Your light and Your love.
St. John of the Cross compares the soul to a glass window with a ray of sunlight shining on it. If the glass is dirty, “the ray cannot illuminate it, nor transform it completely into its light; its illumination will be in proportion to its clearness. If, on the other hand, it is absolutely clean and spotless, it will be illuminated and transformed in such a way as to appear to be the luminous ray itself, and to give the same light” (Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 5,6). God is the divine Sun shining upon our souls, desiring to invade them and penetrate them, completely transforming them into His light and love. Before He does this, however, He waits until the soul resolves to free itself from every “creature stain,” that is, the stains of sin and inordinate attachments. As soon as God finds that a soul is free from mortal sin, He immediately fills it with His grace. This precious gift is the first step in the great transformation which the Lord desires to bring about in us. The more we become purified of all sin and imperfection, and of even the slightest attachment; that is, in proportion as we conform our will to the will of God, not only in serious matters of obligation but even in the least details of perfection, the more capable we become of being entirely penetrated and transformed by divine Grace.
Grace, the gift of God which makes the soul a participant in the divine nature, is poured forth into the soul in proportion to its degree of interior purity, which always corresponds to its degree of conformity with God’s will. Therefore, the soul that wishes to be totally possessed and transformed by divine Grace, must in practice strive to conform fully to the will of God, according to the teaching of St. John of the Cross, “so that there may be nothing in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that in all and through all its movement may be that of the will of God alone” (Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,2).
O my God, for what great things have You created me! You have created me to know You, to love You, to serve You—and not as a slave, but as Your child, Your friend, living in intimacy with You, sitting at Your table, enjoying Your presence. O Jesus, You have said, “I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends because all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you” (John 15:15)
You have revealed to me the great mystery of a God who deigns to love me as His child, to establish His dwelling in my soul, to invite me to a more intimate friendship and union with Him. You Yourself asked for this union for me at the Last Supper: “As Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us” (John 17:21). To be one with God, to be consumed in the Unity of the Most Holy Trinity! O Jesus, how sublime is the ideal You propose to me, how wonderful the invitation you offer me! Yes, Your words apply also to me, a creature of sin and misery. Why should I delay, remaining among the base things and vanities of this earthly life? Why should I, like a reptile, be content to crawl on the ground, when You invite me to soar like an eagle and give me wings with which to do so? Alone I can do nothing and would struggle in vain to free myself from the bonds of sin, to detach myself from creatures and from myself; all my efforts would be useless because my natural weakness constantly tends to drag me down. But Your grace and love are the wings on which I can fly to perfect union with You. With such an ideal, how could I think it hard to undertake and carry out a work of profound purification and total detachment?
O God, make me understand clearly that “real love consists in detaching oneself from everything that is not You” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 5,7). From everything, not only from this thing or that, but from everything, for love is by nature totalitarian, and perfect union demands perfect harmony of wills, desires, and affections.
My God, what profound purification I must undergo in order that You may be able to unite me to Yourself, who art infinite perfection!
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Art for this post on interior purification: Gandzasar cathedral [of St. John the Baptist, in Gandzasar Monastery], in Kararbakh [Azerbaijan], 5 August 2007, Vladimer Shioshvili, CC, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.