Lent with St Edith Stein Day 22: Purgation Through Hope

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 22: Purgation Through Hope

“If one allows the memory to occupy itself with what has been perceived through the senses, one falls ‘into imperfections step by step. For some emotion will cling to these sensory objects, now of sorrow and fear, soon of hate and vain hopes or vainglory, which will remain in the soul…all things that hinder the perfect purity of the soul and perfect union with God.”

St Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross


               Never fear, we are not being asked to have our memories entirely erased. We are, however, surrounded in our lives by very much of what God is not and very little of what God is. Our memory and imagination are full of temporal things, but our hope should be in eternal things, which do not lie in our memories. In our meditations, we must learn to empty ourselves out once more so that we can focus our hope on God.

               There are various dangers with holding on to memory. Sensory objects very often have emotions attached to them. Anger, envy, sorrow, romance; the older we get, the more likely we are to find an emotion bound up in a particular place or thing. And where we lack emotional attachments, the devil can always make up the difference to distract us.

               The natural content of our memories can be an impediment to goodness. Memories can stir up all sorts of disturbances in our souls, good or bad. We may become absorbed in a memory that seems harmless enough, that then dredges up some old sin that was long ago forgiven but now fills us with shame. Or some old grievance we thought we left behind that now feels fresh. Perhaps a passion from our youth that we let go of a long time ago that now we long to pursue once again.

When we get lost in our memories, we are focusing on corporal things, things we can grasp. Not only that, we are looking backward rather than forward, to Heaven. We have to let go of these things to take hold of the eternal.

Even holding on to memories of supernatural communications (which we discussed in the last session) can increase pride and vanity in our hearts. This can be easy to do when we have had moments when we hear the voice of God so clearly, telling us which way to go. Those moments can make us feel seen and loved, but they are not the source of our virtue. Virtue is found in humility and putting others before ourselves.

Our meditations should focus on perfect renunciation to the divine will, self-denial, and spiritual poverty. Focus on love of God and God’s love for us. We may recall some object or past event that increased love in us, but once we feel that love inflame in our heart once more, let go of the object or the memory and rest in love of God alone. We cannot place our hope in the unseen if we place our focus on that which we’ve seen.

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