We were discussing the pain and suffering of various mystics during their spiritual journey.
In a letter to her spiritual director, Mother Teresa writes:
“Now Father—since 49-50 this terrible sense of loss---this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continuous longing for God……Darkness is such that I really do not see---neither with my mind nor with my reason. The place of God in my soul is blank; --There is no God in me. When the pain of longing is so great---I just long and long for God…….God does not want me---He is not there………God does not want me.”
(Taken from “Mother Teresa, come be my light”, edited by Kolodiejchuk)
One cannot help being struck by the knowledge and experience of St John regarding the dark night. What he wrote in 16th century, Mother Teresa repeated approximately four hundred years later: he wrote, “The thought that God has abandoned”, she writes ‘God does not want me’. He wrote, “The love for God remains ever strong. The fervor to serve God is undiminished”, she writes ‘I just long and long for God’. He wrote “God turns all this light of theirs into darkness, and shuts against them the door and the source of the sweet spiritual water which they were tasting in God whenever and for as long as they desired”, she means ‘profound interior suffering, lack of sensible consolation, spiritual dryness’.
The great 11th century Muslim saint, Daata Gunj Bakhash, whose shrine in Lahore (Pakistan ) is visited by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of persons each year, writes about his murshid (teacher), Muhammad bin Hassan Khatli, “he spent sixty years completely isolated in mountain caves. He was unknown. Mostly he lived on a hill called ‘lagaam’.” And he adds, “He wore only one dress for fifty-one years which had multiple haphazard patches.” “I, never in my whole life, met anybody with more imposing bearing.”
“In a city in Khurasaan (now in Iran) called ‘Mlund’ I met a man who was famous. He was a man of great piety. He spent twenty years standing, except in certain portions of namaz (see sidebar) when sitting is compulsory. I (Data Gunj Bakhash), asked him the reason of it. He replied that he has not reached the stage in which he can have the courage to sit while witnessing Reality)
Taken from Kashaf-ul- mahjoob by Daata Gunj Bakhash. Translated by this writer)
Why such thorough purification?
St John explains: “For one single affection remaining in the spirit, or one particular thing to which, actually or habitually, it clings, suffices it to hinder it from …….union with that light and become Divine…” Remember the example of log of wood, which was given earlier. How it has to be burnt with fire to acquire the properties of fire.
How much suffering and pain is necessary. The answer is ‘to each one according to his capacity and need’
Once purification is near completion, the love of God becomes more and more and bursts into flames. The desire of every love is union with the object of love, so in this case soul is impatient for union.
The ten steps of progressive love will soon be described, but before that let me mention the formation of other faculties in the traveller. St John elucidates:
“God’s illumination of the understanding of the seeker, with supernatural light, so that it is no more a human understanding but becomes Divine through union with Divine.”
Similarly, will, memory, affections, desires are all changed and converted divinely, according to God.
All these changes are brought, according to St John, “…illumining and enkindling it divinely with yearning for God alone and naught else whatsoever.”
There are several advantages in suffering: (a) During suffering God’s strength is added to that of man, (b) soul becomes purer, wiser and more cautious, (c) one calls God in suffering , and forgets God during luxury,(d) God pays attention to one’s prayer----soul calling God for help!
To be continued