May 5, 2010

When the honey from the honeymoon is gone - in spiritual romance and any other relationships.

(pic from Crescat )

Even in religious life, the romance (spiritual) can disappear.  Prayer becomes dry and hard.  The inspirations don't flow.  There are no feelings of devotion.  The path is no longer scenic with flowers blooming and birds and butterflies on every branch.  It is more like the dessert or the inner city skid row.

This is actually a good thing.  It's yucky but it is a sign of progress in the prayer life.  It is counter-intuitive but all the masters of spiritual life e.g. St. Ignatius of Loyola or St. Theresa of Avila write about this stage of prayer beyond the beginnings.  It is not time to pack it up but to go at it no matter how boring.  When St. Theresa was at this stage, she used to shake the hour glass to make the time go faster and be done with the prescribed hour of mental prayer.  That's not how to go at it;  that's how it feels though.  Afterwards, one graduates into contemplative prayer.  That's better than Nirvana or any kind of "high" because one "sees" God.  Words fail to describe the experience; it's ineffable.  People go into ecstasy.  But before we start levitating, we need to go through the yucky and boring stage - generally.  Some saints, like Bl. Teresa of Calcutta appears to have gotten stuck in this stage.  Bummer.  Imagine that, no spiritual consolations at all, just drudgery.  It happens.  But it is not a bad thing.

The measure of holiness is not how luscious, awesome or gratifying our prayer lives have become.  Sanctity is measured by our love for God and that is even greater when we persist through the hard times.  It is like loving a spouse with cancer - balding, skin and bones, blood-shot eyes.  Love is love if one remains after the honey from the honeymoon is gone.  That is holiness.

Cartoon from Fr. Z's blog entry.

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