Summary: Spirituality is never equivalent to an advancement in willpower....Yet a great deal does depend on a strong will.
Spirituality is never equivalent to an advancement in willpower....Yet a great deal does depend on a strong will. The quality of will in a person often divides those who settle for less from those who give themselves more fully to God...how does this passion for God take hold except in learning to deny our weaker needs and inclinations?
...Asceticism is not measure of a soul. Nonetheless people who acquire a taste for mortification are less likely to halt when difficult interior purifications commence. Practices of self-denial and sacrifice develop a strong will. Renunciations also carve a deeper sincerity into the soul, a determination to seek God at all cost.
Self-renunciation can be an imposing demand. We can tire of what seems to be its persistent bidding. Those like Saint John of the Cross who insist on it, however, were also sensitive to how adept God is at hiding himself. implicit in this saints‘ ascetical proposals is a question whether our desire for a God who hides himself the more he is sought can survive long while keeping company with unworthy rivals to his love.—page. 130
No one perceives the value of a spirit of mortification in prayer who has not learned to deny common pleasures to the physical senses. This too, is a clear teaching of Saint John of the Cross. The link between indulgent tendencies in one’s bodily life and those in the interior realm of spiritual gratification is a parallel demand for mortification. It may be foreign to our ears today on both counts. But Saint John of the Cross is sharp in his warnings: no soul is given deeper graces in prayer while disdaining exterior or interior austerity.—page 130
...A release from a shallow self takes place in every act of self-denial—a new manner of self-possession. A desire for God can fill the space where an unnecessary satisfaction might have been sought.
....There is a release from proprietary interests and possessive needs. The result is lightness of an unburdened soul....The soul of every saint was selfless and generous because the pursuit of God had conquered its inmost desire.
A certain disregard for self is a condition for advancing in a passion for God as the dominate desire of one’s life. The extent to which we object to this statement as fanatical and extreme, or argue its unhealthy psychological implications, or simply dismiss it as a pious exaggeration, may reflect how little we have pondered the actual lives of the saints.—page 133
In facing temptation there is no reliable defense other than prayer and our capacity for renunciation.
What God asks of us is often found in the small hour, the small gesture, the small gift. It may be the most trivial mortifications we refuse that keep a greater awareness of his hidden presence from lighting up within our soul. God’s concealed presence requires an alertness to those subtle promptings to sacrifice. If we do not deny ourselves in smaller ways, we may soon prefer a God who blesses our own biases an propensities. Unfortunately, this God is not real. God is close to us when we make ourselves accessible to his requests. This means to expect small testings in which our own preference has often to be denied. If we avoid this and find ways around it, the God who hides may be more concealed and unreachable when we do pray.—page 135
Source: Contemplative Provocations by the Rev. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press, 2013.