How should the person behave during this purification of senses?
You saw that nothing is helpful during this period until Divine help comes. Not reasoning, not meditation, not anxiety, not anger at God. Therefore, one should have patience and loving trust in God. Remember, faith carried Brother Lawrence through his ten years ordeal (see 19. Brother Lawrence). Let me quote:
“It seemed to me that creatures, reason, and even God himself were against me, and that faith alone was on my side.”
One should also continue his practice of prayer.
What are the benefits accrued by the traveler during the first night? At least nine major and several minor.
1. The first major benefit is the knowledge of oneself and how lowly he is. Beforehand one was happy and contented. He becomes miserable and helpless now which causes him to realize his own lowliness. He starts to commune with God with more respect and courtesy.
2. He learns the majesty and greatness of God. He realizes that he cannot do anything without God’s help. The period of aridity has shown him the impotence of his efforts.
Thus God gives the soul knowledge, during this dark and dry period, of his own wretchedness and imperfections and God’s splendor and eminence.
3. His senses (sensual desires) are dampened. This increases his understanding because sensual desires (even for spiritual things) impede understanding of the truth.
4. Spiritual humility replaces spiritual pride.
5. He develops love of other human beings. Beforehand he was exalted and felt better than others. Now he remembers his own misery. He is more tolerant of others and sees good in others.
6. Spiritual greed, spiritual gluttony and spiritual luxury are removed or greatly diminished. Remember these were three of the seven imperfections. The soul is freed from them because it does not get any sweetness and inebriation from his spiritual practices. There are several other imperfections which get better.
7. Lust and desire are quenched. Once they are quenched, tranquility sets in.
8. A great benefit results from loss of desires and passions and ever increasing love for God, and that is the constant remembrance of God. These passions and desires were previously clouding the soul
9. There is another great benefit of this purging, and that is the practicing of several virtues by the soul, such as patience, steadfastness, and equanimity during sorrows.
In short, the above mentioned benefits can be summarized into, constant remembrance of God, purity of soul, peace, and practice of several virtues. He also becomes humble. Humble towards himself, others, and God. On top of all these benefits, God gives him knowledge and sweetness in secret ways which he is unaware of.
In St John’s words:
“these time of aridity then cause the soul to journey in all purity in the love of God, since it is no longer influenced in its actions by the pureness and sweetness of the actions themselves, as perchance it was when he experienced sweetness, but now he only journeys by a desire to please God …………..”
To be continued