Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Difficulty of Total Self-Surrender to God

“. . . I see that God is ever ready to give us all the interior and exterior aids necessary for our salvation, and that He observes our deeds solely for our own good . . . on the other hand, I see man continually occupied in useless things, contrary to himself and of no value; and that at the hour of death God will say to him: What is there, O man, that I could have done for thee which I have not done? . . . and I am amazed and cannot understand how man can be so mad as to neglect a thing of such vast and extreme importance."

Source: St. Catherine of Genoa, The Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa, ch. 20.

“ ‘The soul desirous of reaching this high state of union with God is greatly impeded when it clings to any understanding or feeling or imagination or appearance or will or manner of its own, or to any other act or to anything of its own, and is unable to detach and strip itself of all these’ (St. John of the Cross, Ascent, 2.4.4). This profound and radical detachment is effected in the soul by the night of the spirit. If then, we wish to enter this night, which will bring such good to our soul, we must try as far as in us lies, to deny ourselves everything, especially in those things to which we are most attached. We must be disposed to renounce our plans, our projects, and our views, not only regarding material things, but even spiritual ones, for we must go to God, not by a way of our own choosing or taste, but only by the way which He Himself has prepared for us. We must be disposed to renounce divine consolations and to walk in darkness and aridity for as long as Our Lord wills, to renounce our most cherished works, our most legitimate affections, our most holy friendships, even the very support of the one who understands and guides us in the ways of God.

“There are few who enter effectively into the night of the spirit precisely because ‘there are few who can enter, and desire to enter, into this complete detachment and emptiness of spirit’ (ibid., 7.3).

“Even among spiritual persons, few are persuaded that the way which leads to union with God ‘consists only in the one thing that is needful, which is the ability to deny oneself truly, according to that which is without and that which is within, giving oneself up to suffering for Christ’s sake, and to total annihilation’ (ibid., 7.8). We must be convinced of this, and act in all things with the greatest detachment, without detaining ourselves through a spirit of ownership or by vain complacency, either in material or in spiritual goods. We must look at Jesus on the Cross: He was truly despoiled, stripped of all things, and ‘annihilated in everything, that is, with respect to human reputation; since, when men saw Him die, they mocked Him rather than esteemed Him; and also with respect to nature, since His nature was annihilated when He died; and further, with respect to the spiritual consolation and protection of the Father, since at that time, He forsook Him’ (ibid., 7.11). From this we should understand that the more completely we annihilate ourselves for love of Him, the more completely will we be united to Him. […]

“The greater our progress in faith, the more detached we shall be from our shallow ways of thinking, not only in what concerns the divine mysteries and our direct contacts with God, but even with respect to the events of life, which we shall learn to judge only in relation to God. […]

“If we exercise ourselves intensively in the hope of heavenly goods, we shall forget earthly ones; if we hope in God alone, we shall no longer be occupied with the remembrance of creatures. […]

“If we wish to attain to detachment and to total renunciation we must love much. The more we grow in divine love, and the more readily we detach ourselves from earthly things and also from ourselves, the more capable we become of renouncing our own will and annihilating our ego in all things. […]

“These virtues will keep us strongly anchored in God.” 

Source: Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, “Meditation 349: Toward Complete Purification,” Divine Intimacy, trans. Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Boston (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 2005), 1052-1054.

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