Lent with St Edith Stein Day 23: Purgation through Love

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 23: Purgation through Love

“We would achieve nothing by purifying the intellect in order to base it in faith, and the memory for the sake of hope, if we did not purify the will for the sake of the third virtue, love.”

St Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross


               There are four passions of the soul: fear, hope, joy, and sorrow. These passions tend to follow each other. If you fear death, you will likely find hope and joy in a healthy lifestyle. If you hope for the joy of marriage, you will feel great sorrow at being alone. Passions are not evil by any means, but depending on where they lie, they will create imperfections in the soul or lead it to perfection. Through the will, we must train our appetites and passions to turn toward God.

               There are four degrees of harm from the inclination of the will, and are summed up in Deuteronomy 32:15, “The darling grew fat and frisky; he…grew fat and spread out; he forsook God his Maker, and departed from God his Savior.”

  • Blunting the mind in relation to God (grew fat and frisky): When the soul centers itself on temporal delights, its relationship with God is set aside. God does not maintain our attention.
  • Enlargement of the will (he grew fat and spread out): We become more free with our submission to temporal goods. Our self-control wanes.
  • Abandonment of God (He forsook God his Maker): Our delight in corporal things causes us to fall into sin and we forget spiritual matters for earthly matters.
  • Forgetfulness of God (he departed from God his Savior): Complete turning from God toward the temporal as if there were no God.

               Freeing ourselves from attachment to temporal goods requires an act of the will. But it gives us peaceful confidence in God, spiritual liberty, clarity of reason, and helps us to submit our will to God. When we detach ourselves, we can see more clearly the true supernatural and natural value of temporal things and their best use..

               We may also find ourselves attached to natural things. Beauty, physical and bodily grace, our own judgement or abilities. We need to temper our joy and delight in these things at the beginning. We can do this by recalling that it is vanity to rejoice in anything other than the service of God. Remember the misery of the angels who fell into vanity. St Edith notes that doing so will give our soul the “freedom and clarity to be able to love all in a rational and spiritual manner as God requires.”

               Once we have directed our will to seek joy in God alone, we can attain freedom of the spirit and will be able to shake off temptations more easily. We can also endure trials more readily and grow in true virtue, which is grounded in humility.

               Some of the harms of inordinate joys include:

  • Joy in visible objects: envy, indecency, vanity, mental distraction, lack of composure, covetousness
  • Joy in hearing useless things: judgement, gossip, envy, wandering thoughts
  • Joy in sweet fragrances: disgust for the poor, aversion to acts of service, spiritual insensitivity
  • Joy in delicious foods: overindulgence, anger, conflict, lack of love for neighbors, bodily disorders, and lack of taste for spiritual things
  • Joy in touch of pleasant things: lustful excess, timidity and fearfulness in the soul, uncontrolled use of the eyes, spiritual stupidity, darkness in the soul and weakness in the heart

               Denial of temporal joys gives us sublime transformation. We are strengthened in battle against distractions. Virtues gained continue to increase. Our nature changes from animalistic to rational, from sensory to spiritual, from human to angelic.

               1 Corinthians 4: 16-17: So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

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