Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Spiritual Reading, Spiritual Progress, Suffering

 "It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (from Hebrews, Chapter 1). 

This Scripture, from one of this hermit's favorite books of the Bible, spoke sensible reminder this morning, regarding suffering.  Am in such pain!  And while Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation through His sufferings, we bear our sufferings through, with, and in His Real Presence--the Trinity in us, deep in our souls.

Must have stood too long in one spot, rolling the dozens of St. Bernard Love of God Bourbon Balls the other day, despite breaking the efforts into three segments of time, including one segment the night before.  Then yesterday made a first and second batch of Fortitude Fudge and for the first time used the new stove.

Too tired to drive the distance to the post office, but figured out how to schedule a pick up here at the hermitage.  At first, when trying to schedule on line, kept getting a message that the address did not match their records.   Called the post office, and a kindly postal worker took the information, said this has never happened before, would research and call back.

When she called a short time later, she informed that this nothing Catholic hermit (did not refer to me as such, of course) had its own address wrong!  So, explaining the chronic pain was wrestling for top spot in the brain, she took pity and repeated the address so this nothing could write it down.  Have been here nearly two years.  Ah, the ravages of pain.

Today am resting, obviously.  But am reflecting upon the phone book discussion with the young spiritual friend, thousands of miles away.  She has come to the recognition that what the author writes is ultra-intellectual and wordy, and the extended quotes of St. Teresa are more understandable than all the words and explanations of the late author.  Nothing hermit chuckled and admitted it had felt that way, too.  

But we agreed that for those who perhaps had no background at all in the spiritual life nor in the lives of two great saints, the book might be helpful and all the explanations--those of the saints and those of the late author trying to better explain what the saints explain--might be just what those readers need.  The young, married woman and mother did add that her spiritual director said last time they met, that reading St. Teresa's Way of Perfection is next.

Yes.  Why is it that some priests or ourselves (and perhaps mostly us) think we cannot make sense of what the saints write, and thus turn to books that interfere with the one-on-one relationship we could have directly with the saint and his or her own thoughts, put down in writing and available centuries after their earthly passings?

When trying to locate what the late great Adolphe Tanquerey wrote about fortitude, in his section on virtues, in his excellent book The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology--came upon a section had forgotten.  He writes specifically on spiritual direction as well as why have a rule of life, and what ought be included.  Plus, he advises that we select only the best of the books to read, written by the saints themselves, as well as the Scriptures, of course.

There is always good to be found in books written by others trying to explain what the saints wrote and meant and taught.  And so the young friend and the nothing Catholic hermit, discussed what stood out from St. Teresa's "mansions" metaphor to describe aspects of the soul's progression through prayer, through the purgative (senses), illuminative (mind), and into the unitive (soul united with God) way.

She was uncertain how a person in the 7th mansion--having experienced not only the betrothal but ultimately the mystical marriage, union with the Divine, could still have temptations to despair, struggles, ups and downs.  St. Teresa's excellent description proved useful in answering.  She explains it is like a king who is in his palace, on his throne, secure in his position as king of the kingdom.  

Yet out in the kingdom there can be battles raging, and chaos and despair, hardships and trials swirling about.  (The king might even be called to leave his palace to help fight the foes.)  But all the while, the king is either physically in his palace or otherwise secure in knowing he is the king, and that his chair and seat of power remains secure, as depicted by his throne in the palace.

It is for souls, as well, when the various phases are passed, and the soul has experienced much, including betrothal and some form of raptures and then mystical marriage or union.  Even in the mystical marriage and union, there will be struggles.  One week could be great temptations to despair; the next week there could be blissful peace.  

However, the soul when in this "mansion" or phase of the spiritual life, has arrived at the great and firm awareness that His Real Presence, the Trinity, has made His abode in the soul and remains there, no matter what.  The soul knows this despite battles raging in its daily life, or even battering right up to the "walls" of the soul itself.  Yet, the Trinity, His Real Presence, remains constant and fills the inner sanctum of the soul.

For this nothing Catholic hermit, the reminder has proven encouraging and powerful.  We can judge ourselves (beyond what others may enjoy judging of us) for backsliding or not progressing spiritually.  Shouldn't we have blissful existences, all be a bed of roses, have constantly beaming faces--when we come to union with His Real Presence while yet on earth?

Not so, at least not all the time or even often.  Maybe people think that would be the case, and judge others (or we castigate ourselves) if we do not come to such existence.  In fact, Teresa reminds that if we have what she calls raptures, eventually they can subside.  She explains they occur when the mind fears the unknown, and when His Real Presence takes the soul away with Him for periods of time, in a unitive bliss, yes, it stems from protecting the soul in a way, from such ecstatic love experience with the Divine.  When the soul gradually loses that fear and is more accustomed to His Real Presence in direct embraces of the soul, the raptures may dwindle and sometimes cease altogether.

This, too, is reassuring to nothing Catholic hermit.  There is renewed courage.  And as for salvation being perfected through sufferings--the pioneer of perfecting our salvation through sufferings--we know that all we suffer on this earth is purifying fire, perfecting, when united with His sufferings.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Little children, let us love one another, for God Is Love!

[Not sure why sometimes the text is on white background rather than the blog post background.  Kind of visually annoying, but what is that little outer battle compared to His Real Presence having His Abode in us?]

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