We meet Jesus’ Passion and His Cross two times
It is important to understand that in our life time, we are supposed to meet the Lord’s Passion, Crucifixion and Death (and Resurrection, it goes without saying) twice. Of course, this is in case we fulfil all our call to follow Jesus, if we realise the whole journey. (Otherwise, some steps are “aborted”.) The two moments are quite different. The first time is – we may say – an “ascending moment”, toward the union with Jesus-God. So when we meet the Passion, it is a fundamental purification time for us. The deepest purification that prepares us for the Spiritual Betrothal and the Spiritual Marriage. This purification is what S. John of the Cross calls: “Dark night of the spirit”.
Note: Let us remember the deep meaning of the “Spiritual Marriage”. It is a deep and real “union with Jesus” who is God. It is something that one has to really study, in order to understand the new synergy that emerges from it, and constitutes it. Saint Paul says something about it when he says: “it is not me who lives but Jesus who lives in me”. Do we really understand what is to have Jesus living in us? Do we know the exact proportion between “Jesus’ Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) and “us” in this synergy? Do we grasp “how it works”? These are fundamental questions each Christian should know, should study. Because this is the meaning of Baptism, and it’s first realisation (the Union with Jesus), this is the meaning of our life on earth.
Jesus lives in us, acts with us, through us. The merits of our acts are His’. It is only by understanding the greatness of this spiritual state that we can address the second part of the Spiritual Journey. To my eyes it is a condition, otherwise we will make a very un pleasant psychological projection.
While the second time (that will usually come much after) we meet the Passion of the Lord happens when we start to understand the “weight of love” (as saint Augustine calls it), how it brings us down toward the earth, toward our brothers, toward the “lower parts of the earth” (see Isaiah 9:2), the people who are walking in the darkness, waiting for their deliverance. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, in her Manuscript C mentions as well the “weight of Love”.
The power of the Holy Spirit in us, starts to make us hear in a much greater strength the voice of “those living in the land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2). So we “roll up our sleeves” and start to lay down our life (see John 15:13), in the Hands of the Holy Spirit who offers us (as a “lab” or “womb”) for our brothers and sisters, where salvation can happen: “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Ga 4:19) says a man, saint Paul.
Here is one of the best descriptions of the work of the Holy Spirit in this crucial period of descent, when we meet again Jesus’ Passion: “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and Someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18).
It deserves a commentary. “stretching out our hands”… becoming, because of spiritual marriage, so humble, and in total synergy, docile under the Action of the Holy Spirit. “Someone else”: the Holy Spirit.
Or if you prefer, there is a more “symbolic” description: you get up “from the meal” of the Wedding (its joys, celebrations, enjoyment), like Jesus (see Philippians 2) you “take off your outer clothing”, you empty yourself like Jesus, in Jesus (see Philippians 2), you “wrap a towel around your waist” (purified, and transformed, the Power of the Holy Spirit has much greater grip over you), “After that” you “pour water into a basin and begin to wash your friends’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around you” (See John 13:4-5) Great and deep description of what is offered to the bride of the Lord. He truly made of her a “mother” for others.
The two periods (I- ascent and II- descent) will probably be separated by a “resting” time, an enjoyable time. We may call it a “honey moon”. Right after the “spiritual marriage”, the soul needs to rest a bit, after the deep radical toughness of the purification. Spiritual growth continues, always, there are no limits in Love, in the Action of the Holy Spirit.
So, as we see, in a synthetical way, we have two journeys that end with the Passion (see the Cross on the diagram). One ascending: the purification, always deeper and deeper, and the other, descending: the participation to the Passion of Jesus, for the sake of our brothers.
“Dark night” or “Participation to the Passion”
The two are very different. The description made by the saints of each spiritual stage might look the same (same words, same darkness, same toughness, …), and the bad trend today is to call anything that is a bit tough a “dark night”. “Dark night” is an expression taken from Saint John of the Cross (see his book called: “The dark night”). It is a bad trend/fashion to do that because he is the one who shaped that expression, and in his writings it has one main meaning: purification (and not just any suffering).
You can’t then use that expression and apply it to what happens to the soul when it is invited to “sit at the table of the sinners” (see the Gospel when it is said that Jesus is sitting amongst the sinner for a meal. It is an expression of saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Manuscript C). You can’t help in the purification process of your brothers if you are not even in the Light yourself!! Totally absurd! But the “spiritual literature” today is full of these absurdities that some still call: spiritual theology.
Of course, some small purifications will always continue to happen after the Union with Jesus (Thérèse speaks about them, see Manuscript B, the little bird), but the state of a human being is totally different before the “great trial” of the great purification (end of the ascending curve, meeting the Passion) and after it. By the “great purification”, the soul joins the group of the anawim, the poors of spirit, lead by Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
So, again: we meet the Cross, the Passion, in at least two main moments, ascending and descending. But not in the same way, and not for the same purposes.
One should read the deep and correct analysis Father Louis Guillet ocd made of Thérèse’s so called “trial of faith”, in the end of her life: “Gethsémani ou l’amour crucifié”. He obviously reaches the “conclusion” that what she is going through can only be a participation to the Passion of Jesus, and not the “dark night of the spirit” as many still say.
The “dark night of the spirit” happened much before in Thérèse’s life, just check her letters before early 1893. The years before, she goes through something very tough: it is “the dark night of the spirit”. We’ll come back to that another day.
Just enjoy the vision of the total shape of the spiritual journey.
For the Dark night: please have a look at this post.