We’ve mentioned many times in this series that something is happening in this dark night that we cannot see or comprehend.
We’ve said God is infusing and strengthening us at the level of the spirit. We’ve said that faithfulness to this dark night strengthens us in virtue and grows us in love. We’ve said that the invitation in this season is an invitation to simply sit before God in a season of contemplation without seeking words or thoughts or impulses or images.
John of the Cross says the spirit feasts in this season while the senses lay void and inactive.
But at the beginning of this season, we are so unaware of the spirit’s activity inside of us that we can’t see this feast is happening. Our spirits are yet weak in us. We cannot perceive all that is happening underneath the surface.
“At first, focused as she is on the absence of familiar sweetness, the soul may not notice the spiritual delight. This is because the exchange is still strange to her. Her tastes are accustomed to those old sensory pleasures, and she remains on the lookout for them. The spiritual palate has not yet been purified and attuned to such subtle delight.”
It’s such a subtle sweetness. It’s beyond what we have known and seen.
And yet we will grow in our capacity to notice and be changed by it. Because eventually, he says, love is enkindled in the soul.
“And yet, at times, she will begin to feel a certain yearning for God … She does not know or understand where such love and longing come from.
… She finds herself madly in love, without knowing why. At times, the fire of love burns so hot in the spirit and the soul’s longing mounts to such a passion that she feels as if her very bones were drying up in this thirst. Her nature seems to be shriveling, her natural powers fading, their warmth and strength wiped out by the magnitude of this thirsty love. This thirst is a living thing.”
The great and overwhelming gift on the other end of the night of the senses is a fiery, burning love for God that consumes us.
It seems impossible such a love could exist — much less thrive — when we enter and sit in this night. Everything is dark. We feel nothing. We understand nothing. It feels lonely and barren here.
But know this:
God is enkindling your spirit with love in this dark night, and eventually you will burn bright again — brighter than you’ve ever known or burned before.