As we progress toward union with God, we must go through a deep purification of both our senses and our spirit. God raised up St. John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila to explain these realities, but then simplified them significantly through St. Therese of Liesiux, Elizabeth Kindelmann and other Exemplars of the New and Divine Holiness. Our guide Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene in “Divine Intimacy” quotes St. John of the Cross to explain: “The soul desirous of reaching this high state of union with God is greatly impeded when it clings to any understanding, feeling, imagination, appearance, 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 of these.” He then goes on to elucidate in his own words: “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 possible), to deny ourselves in everything, especially in those things 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 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 support of the one who understands and guides us in the ways of God (including any other spiritual aids we have found helpful). There are few who enter effectively into the night of the spirit precisely because as St. John of the Cross teaches: ‘there are few who can enter, and desire to enter into this complete detachment and emptiness of spirit.’
“If our Lord finds you strong and faithful, humble and patient in accepting exterior trials, He will go on little by little to others that are more inward and spiritual to ‘purge and cleanse you more inwardly…to give you more interior blessings.’
“St. John of the Cross explains at length how this work of purification is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who invading the soul with the living Flame of His Love, destroys and consumes all its imperfections…Although the soul finds itself under the direct action of the Holy Spirit, this action is not agreeable but painful, because its first fruit is precisely to show the soul all its weaknesses and miseries that it may conceive a horror for them, detest them, humble itself for them and be sorry for them…If the Holy Spirit did not make you understand and experience your wretchedness, you could not be delivered from it, for in your ignorance you could not further the work of purification, which He wills to accomplish in you….you must…recognize and confess your weaknesses without excusing them, without blaming adverse circumstances…Therefore, despite all the suffering that you may experience at the sight of your misery, you must remain confident and certain that God will never abandon you…God loves you and far from rejecting you, He desires to unite Himself to you, but first He wants to make you perfectly aware that you are wholly undeserving of this great Grace.
“God communicates Himself only to humble souls, and only the humble are filled with His Gifts; that is the reason for the purifying night of the spirit: it is impossible to be entirely humble without passing through the bitter anguish of this night (of the spirit) in which God Himself undertakes to humble the soul. But when He will have reduced it to the center of its nothingness, then He will exalt it, drawing it to Himself in the perfect union of Love.”
So, let us be at complete peace knowing that God is now asking and drawing all of us, not just the religious or pious, to this deep state of perfect union with Himself. It is indeed painful, when we are suddenly stripped and even embarrassed as spiritual things we rely upon are quickly taken away from us. However, the more unworthy and completely incapable we believe ourselves to be in order to start and endure this process of purification, the greater the work God will actually do in us to cause it to happen!! This is the great paradox, the Divine genius, the Work of Eternal and Infinite Love, but we must recognize it and seek to respond as best we can with new effort and more time for God each day! Simply give your Fiat…beg the Holy Spirit to do it…and then give him 15 more minutes tomorrow by taking it from time wasted on television, phone and the internet. Start with desire for a worthy Holy Communion and then use the Grace He will pour out on you in order to correspond to the new inspirations the Holy Spirit will give you each day! God is pouring out this Extraordinary Grace of the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary precisely to make this process of purification easier and more secure than ever before, simply because His Divine Love must give of Itself and it is beyond our understanding to fathom…so we simply return this Divine Love by accepting it!