Quote of the day, 10 October: St. John of the Cross

For the sake of further clarity in this matter, we ought to note that this purgative and loving knowledge, or divine light we are speaking of, has the same effect on a soul that fire has on a log of wood. The soul is purged and prepared for union with the divine light just as the wood is prepared for transformation into the fire…

First, we can understand that the very loving light and wisdom into which the soul will be transformed is what in the beginning purges and prepares it, just as the fire that transforms the wood by incorporating it into itself is what first prepares it for this transformation.

Second, we discern that the experience of these sufferings does not derive from this wisdom — for as the Wise Man says: All good things come to the soul together with her [Wis. 7:11] — but from the soul’s own weakness and imperfection. Without this purgation it cannot receive the divine light, sweetness, and delight of wisdom, just as the log of wood until prepared cannot be transformed by the fire that is applied to it…

Third, we can infer the manner in which souls suffer in purgatory. The fire, when applied, would be powerless over them if they did not have imperfections from which to suffer. These imperfections are the fuel that catches on fire, and once they are gone there is nothing left to burn. So it is here on earth; when the imperfections are gone, the soul’s suffering terminates, and joy remains.

Virgin of Carmel Saving the Souls in Purgatory
Circle of Diego Quispe Tito (Peruvian, 1611–1681)
Oil on canvas, late 17th c.
Brooklyn Museum (Public domain)

Fourth, we deduce that as the soul is purged and purified by this fire of love, it is further enkindled in love, just as the wood becomes hotter as the fire prepares it. Individuals, however, do not always feel this enkindling of love…

Fifth, we can also gather from this comparison why, as we mentioned earlier [cf. Dark Night II, ch. 7, 4–6], after this alleviation the soul suffers again, more intensely and inwardly than before. After that manifestation and after a more exterior purification of imperfections, the fire of love returns to act more interiorly on the consumable matter of which the soul must be purified. The suffering of the soul becomes more intimate, subtle, and spiritual in proportion to the inwardness, subtlety, spirituality, and deep-rootedness of the imperfections that are removed…

Sixth, we discover the reason it seems to the soul that all blessings are past and it is full of evil. At this time it is conscious of nothing but its own bitterness, just as in the example of the wood, for neither the air nor anything else gives it more than a consuming fire. Yet, when other manifestations like the previous ones are made, the soul’s joy will be more interior because of the more intimate purification.

Seventh, we deduce that when the purification is soon to return, even though the soul’s joy is ample during these intervals (so much so that it sometimes seems, as we pointed out, that the bitterness will never recur), there is a feeling, if one adverts (and sometimes one cannot help adverting), that some root remains. And this advertence does not allow complete joy, for it seems that the purification is threatening to assail the soul again. And when the soul does have this feeling, the purification soon returns.

Finally, that more inward part still to be purged and illumined cannot be completely concealed by the portion already purified, just as there is a very perceptible difference between the inmost part of the wood still to be illumined and that which is already purged. When this purification returns to attack more interiorly, it is no wonder that once again the soul thinks all its good has come to an end and its blessings are over. Placed in these more interior sufferings, it is blinded as to all exterior good.

Saint John of the Cross

The Dark Night: Book Two, Chapter 10 (excerpts)

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

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