Lent with St Edith Stein Day 21: The Inadequacy of Knowledge/Spiritual Communications

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 21: The Inadequacy of Knowledge/Spiritual Communications

“Whatever of the supernatural world is accessible to the intellect here cannot help it attain any certain knowledge of God. The intellect, therefore, in its own insights cannot create a form or picture that could portray God.”

St Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross

               As we know, man is made in the image and likeness of God, but we reflect God imperfectly due to our sinful nature. No one bears an exact likeness of God and God does not bear the image of any created people or things. So the memory and imagination are unable to conjure an image of God. We rely on faith, a dark knowledge. We can only grasp the totality of God at the end of our lives. Until then, we must rely on faith as our chief guide.

               We can and do receive spiritual communications, but these should always be secondary to faith. Theses include visions, revelations, locutions, and spiritual feelings. These can be useful in strengthening our faith and pointing us to God, however, there are inherent dangers in each of these. Since communications are sensory in nature, they can be easily manipulated by the devil. They can also pose a distraction to us and cause us to shift our attention to the visible, rather than the invisible. Furthermore, they can lead to pride and vainglory

               First, let’s discuss visions. The first type of vision is apprehensions of the interior senses (imagination and fantasy); things you see in your mind. Allowing God to guide our imagination is useful in meditations, such as praying the rosary or Stations of the Cross. However, they are not a means unto themselves. They should serve to point us to God and enflame our emotions for Him.

               The second type of vision are physical in that the eyes perceive them. Of course, these types of visions or apparitions are very rare. In the Old Testament, they were sought by the prophets as that is how God revealed Himself to man, bit by bit. They are no longer a necessary part of the faith since the complete word of God has been revealed to us in Christ.

               The Catechism of the Catholic Church #67 notes that private revelations are intended to aid believers in a particular point in time. They should never assume to correct or add to the Gospel. The Gospel is complete. We can certainly benefit from the study and reflection on these apparitions, such as Lourdes or Fatima, but we should not center ourselves on them. They are signposts pointing the way to union with God.

               The second type of spiritual communication is revelations. These concern articles of faith. Of course, if a personal revelation is contrary to the Gospels, one cannot accept it. However, it is good to be cautious around any revelations that are additions to previous revelations. Everything we need to know about God to get us through this lifetime has been given to us.

               The third type of spiritual communication is locutions. This is knowledge perceived by the intellect without aid of any corporeal senses. Successive locutions are when the spirit proceeds from one thought to the next, speaking with itself, asking questions and answering them, with the Holy Spirit as a guide. This type of communication is, again, prone to deception as we can follow our own intellect down the wrong path, especially when our emotions get involved.

               Another type of locutions is formal locutions. These come to the spirit without being sought after. They may be a command or a thought and often come with readiness to comply. It is important to discuss with a confessor or spiritual director before taking action.

               A final type of locutions is substantial locutions. Once again, they come on their own, all at once, but the action is already done. For example, you hear “Fear not!” and your fear is already gone. Not a lot to worry about with these.

               The fourth and final type of spiritual communication is spiritual feelings. This comes as an affection of the will or substance of the soul. You may feel a sort of understanding that is not within your own capacity. A peace about a situation you can’t wrap your head around on your own. These spiritual feelings aid in our union with God and are granted to humble souls when God wills it.


               As a matter of course, we should not seek great spiritual communications or grand visions. If we chase after them, we may deceive ourselves. It is more important to practice faith, the hope for all that is unseen, rather than hoping to see.

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