Presence of God – O Lord, help me to open my heart wide to the outpouring of Your purifying love.
One of the greatest graces God can give a soul is that of introducing it into the painful desolation of the night of the spirit, for it is in this way that He prepares and disposes it for union. Although to the soul who experiences its distressing pains, this night seems to be a chastisement from God, it is, on the contrary, a gift of His merciful love, by means of which, He wills to disentangle the soul from the last snares of its imperfections. St. John of the Cross declares expressly that this night is the work of “the loving wisdom of God,” which purifying the soul “prepares it for the union of love” (Dark Night of the Soul II 5:1). But if this is the work of love, why is it is so painful? The soul has become like a piece of green wood placed in the fire; material fire, acting upon wood, first of all begins to dry it by driving out its moisture, and “to make it black, dark, and unsightly, and even to make it give forth a bad odor; and, as it dries it little by little, it brings out and drives away all the dark and unsightly accidents which are contrary to the nature of fire. Finally, it begins to kindle it externally, to give it heat, and at last transforms it into itself, making it as beautiful as fire.” Likewise divine Love, “before it unites and transforms the soul into itself, first purges it of all its contrary accidents. It drives out its unsightliness, and makes it black and dark, so that the soul seems worse than before, and more unsightly and abominable than it was wont to be” (Dark Night of the Soul 10, 1.2). One easily understands that under the weight of such purifications the soul must suffer; nevertheless, all this is the work of Love. The loving Wisdom of God invading the yet imperfect soul must necessarily begin in it a work of destruction, of purification, and only after having freed it from everything contrary to divine love, will He unite it to Himself and transform it in Himself. Then the work of Love will no longer be grievous to the soul, but very sweet and delightful; however, as long as it is not completely purified, this work of purgation cannot fail to be afflictive. O blessed affliction which disposes the soul for so great a good! St. John of the Cross cries out: “O souls that seek to walk in security and comfort in spiritual things! If ye did but know how necessary it is to suffer and endure in order to reach this lofty state of security and consolation … ye would in no way seek consolation, either from God or from creatures, but would rather bear the cross, and having embraced it, would desire to drink pure vinegar and gall, and would count this a great happiness” (John of the Cross Living Flame of Love 2:28).
“O Lord, be mindful of me, who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, and quicken Your creature with Your love, which is the very breath of my life. Make the divine fire of Your love consume in me every desire for earthly affection, and may there remain in my heart but one love alone, entirely directed to Your infinite beauty and goodness.
“O Jesus, Your immense love, drawing me to union with Yourself, awakens in me a great longing to love You in return. Therefore, from the very depths of my heart I cry to You, and beg You, by the flames of the boundless charity with which You loved me and became incarnate for me, to send me the Holy Spirit, that divine Fire which inflames the Church, my Mother and Your Spouse, that He may enlighten and convert me and thus revivify my soul.
“O sweetest Son of God, let that divine Spirit come. I open wide my heart to Him so that, disfigured as I am by sin, He may transform me according to Your beautiful form and grace.
“This, O Lord, is my request, and to obtain it I surrender myself to the fire and water of tribulations, and to all the pains of this life. For this I rise early to forestall You with prayer and to sacrifice myself to You in the morning watches. For this I supplicate You in the silence of the night and knock at the door of Your mercy. By their tears my eyes speak to You, and I shall not take any rest until You have satisfied my desire.
“If You condescend to hearken to me by sending me Your Fire, I will sacrifice to You the firstfruits of my affections, and I will never serve strange gods. I will praise You in public and in secret. I will sing Your mercies eternally and acclaim the victories of Your love” (Ven. John of Jesus Mary).
Note from Dan: This post on purifying love is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art for this post on purifying love: Detalle del grabado de San Juan de la Cruz (Detail of Engraving of Saint John of the Cross [1542-1591]), Francisco Pacheco, circa 1599, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.