MOSAIC Spring 2017 | Page 9

JO Y F UL MI S S IONA RY DI S C I PL E S man not to be deceived in many of them unless he strive to reject them, such an ap- pearance of truth and security does the devil give them” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, II.27.6). The saint also cautions, “In order to deceive the soul and to instill falsehoods into it, the devil first feeds it with truths and things that are probable in order to give it assurance and afterwards to deceive it” (II.27.4). That we “get something” out of such an encounter or that it “works” for us, there- fore, is not an argument for its safety. Settle for More than “Crumbs” When emotions run low, we think God is absent. We then attempt to recycle previ- ous emotional encounters. The song, the chapel, the book that stirred us, the prayer meeting, listening to so-and-so’s talks: these we return to, hoping to squeeze from them another benefit. But since emotions are passive—they just “happen” to us—it is impossible to “stir them up.” St. John of the Cross refers to this dis- content as “spiritual gluttony,” and it is a roller coaster. We voraciously eat the “crumbs” under the table (created things) instead of the bread—the Creator himself. Desire for these “crumbs” binds the soul “to the mill of concupiscence,” since crumbs never truly satisfy (Ascent, Book I, Ch. 7.2). We are mired in animalism, not exalted in mysticism. Searching for this kind of encounter, or promising it, can lead to despair, self-deception, and spiri- tual showmanship. When a “felt” encounter is experienced, it is likely God’s only way of reaching us be- cause of our “tender and weak” souls. He often meets us in the midst of situations that are undesirable, sinful, or imperfect in themselves, not to affirm where we are at but in order not to lose us completely “TRUE ENCOUNTER IS A DESERT, NOT A TROPICAL RESORT, THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN.” (Ascent II.21.2-3). He wants to lure us out, to a true personal encounter. God is indeed our “friend,” but we need to learn that He is also God—to appreciate his transcendence. The “Spiritual” Encounter Truly to encounter God, we must break out of the exhausting and dangerous cycle of spiritual thrill-seeking; when we feel desolation, we must not recoil but em- brace it. Like the Blessed Mother, we may “know not” how God can communicate himself to our souls in any other way, but we give our fiat anyway. We determine to focus on the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, because we believe God is truly present in them. By our choice to commit ourselves to God regardless of feelings, we show him how much we love and honor him, that we are truly his friend! We cannot be fooled by his apparent absence or disfavor. Relying on faith, the assurance of things “not seen,” we are content to let God work secretly within us, “holding still” with our thoughts and desires so that God the art- ist can “paint” us (Dark Night of the Soul, 10.5.2). We choose to remain in a simple state of loving attention to God. Our prayer and sacramental life is characterized “MYSTERIOUSLY, AS WE ENDURE ARIDITY, OUR LONGING FOR GOD INCREASES.” by regularity, acceptance of aridity, soli- tude, patience, gradual growth and humil- ity. Instead of becoming upset if there is no “result,” we pray and receive the sacra- ments with patience, knowing that we do not “waste time.” When Darkness is Light In 1959, after ten years of torturous spir- itual desolation, St. Mother Teresa of Cal- cutta prays: “Do with me as you wish—as long as You wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain . . . Your happiness is all that I want . . . please do not take the trouble to return soon.—I am ready to wait for you for all eternity.” When we approach God more closely as he is, the darker that encounter will be for us. True encounter is a desert, not a tropi- cal resort, this side of heaven. But in the midst of it, St. John of the Cross describes an awareness of God’s presence that is truly about God, not us. Mysteriously, as we endure aridity, our longing for God increases, and our emo- tions gradually take on a new character. As St. John Paul II suggests, “A love which has matured . . . frees itself from . . . anxiety by its choice of [the] person. The emotion becomes serene and confident, because it ceases to be absorbed entirely in itself and attaches itself instead . . . to the beloved person . . . [it] becomes simpler and soberer” (Love and Responsibility). A true, loving encounter with the tran- scendent God requires commitment, not fervor. However, in his time, that commit- ment will also brighten our hearts. Dr. Elizabeth Salas is assistant professor of philosophy at Sacred Heart. 7