Richard Rohr – Inexplicable Darkness

St. John of the Cross writes, in his prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel:

“A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it.”

You can’t go forward by “knowing” in the usual way, but only by experiencing. At some time in your life, I hope you are so ambushed by God, that God catches you by surprise. If you try to go by what you already know—John of the Cross makes it clear—you will pull God back into your pre-existent categories, and you won’t get very far. That is why most people stay with their childish faith.

When God leads you into a dark night, it is to deepen and mature your faith—which, by its very definition, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The gift of darkness draws you to know God’s presence beyond what thought, imagination, or sensory feeling can comprehend. During the dark night the tried-and-true rituals and creeds of religion no longer satisfy or bring assurances of God’s love. (So you might get bored with church services for very good reasons too, but that is not the same as mere spiritual laziness or a lack of faith.)

God is calling you into deeper and closer intimacy, beyond anything you could achieve with your most sincere attempts, closer than you could even dream.  But you must learn to proceed without any guarantees from your feelings or your intellect. That’s the only real way to grow in faith and divine love.

Adapted from Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 2 (CD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
“Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover.” – John of the Cross

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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