I take comfort in the fact that even the greatest mystics experienced periods of dryness and alienation from God. Nevertheless, their advice is to hang on to prayer like a drowning person would hang on to a rope. God’s grace eventually, somehow, dispels the darkness, and sunshine returns.
Paris Blues, what “St. Benedict” is describing here, and what you describe, is what St. John of the Cross calls the “The Dark Night of the Soul.”
The great mystic, St. Terese of Avila also describes in her metaphor of the spiritual mansions a stage of dryness that is the equivalent of St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” If you are experiencing dryness, it means you’ve actually advanced quite far in the spiritual life. St. Therese of Avila describes in her book, The Interior Castle, seven stages to the spritual life in this world, the highest being the Seventh Mansion of Spritual Marriage (the sixth is, by the way, is locutions, raptures and ecstacy). Aridity or spiritual dryiness lies within St. Terese of Avila’s Third Mansion. I say congratulations, Paris Blues, for Aridity is a sign that you’re actually advancing spiritually.
Now, Paris, this Aridity is an OPPORTUNITY for merit. You can react to this aridity in a number of ways: despair, anger, frustration, (negativity) or you can simply endure it as a form of moral suffering. And … you can offer this suffering up to God, uniting your moral suffering with the suffering of Christ at Calvary when he cried “Father, Why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Think of the Path toward God as being a country road. Sometimes the road is straight, the weather great, the sun shining. The road is easy to navigate. At other times it is night time, the weather is bad, and the road has rain-filled potholes.
Judging by your posts, I’d say you are driving in a dark, dirt road in freezing rain and fog. You can pull over on the side of the road and cry, fret, and be angry over it, or you can keep driving. And as you drive, PRAY that you stay on the road. Also, drive more slowly than you normally would. Take care in severe weather.
I’ve been through Aridity. It does come and go. It lessens with time though. It is a period of testing, strengthing of your virtues and character. Aridity makes you tough. It gives you a thicker skin.
Here’s another metaphor: God wants to keep us in shape. Aridity is like suddenly being forced to embrace an intense exercise and diet program for a certain period of time. Exercise, especially the beginning, hurts! The body hurts when it is getting in shape. Once you start an exercise program, the best way to prevent sore muscles is, ironically, to keep exercising. The exercise feeds the muscles with Oxygen, which eats up the excess Lactic Acid (the anerobic byproduct responsible for soreness in muscles). The more oxygen your sore muscles get, the less sore you feel. I’m sure you’ve noticed this if you’ve ever taken up an exercise program. Anyway, the continued exercise in this strange metaphor represents continuuing to receive the Sacraments and continuuing to persevere in prayer, despite the moral suffering, despite the pain. If you presevere in all these things, you’ll find a reward at the end: a healthier and more invigorated spirit.
My advice is, basically, to keep praying, go to Mass MORE than you normally do, and to try your best not to give in to negativity. Just keep driving, and sooner or later, the fog will lift, the freezing rain will stop, and the Sun will shine again.
Take the advice of Dorrie, the blue fish in Finding Nemo, when she says, “Just keep swimming!” Sorry for quoting a kid’s movie. It’s late and I couldn’t think of anything else. HA!
You might also consider reading: Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross and The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila.
God Bless you!