Coping with Dryness or Spiritual Aridity
by Father Matta El-Maskeen of the Coptic Church
"For the Enemy has pursued me; he has Crushed my Life to the ground; he has made me
Sit in Darkness like those long dead". (Psalm 143:3)
In times of Spiritual Aridity, Prayer does not
stop. There is nothing to demand that it stop, since the entire Soul is still inclined toward
God and Righteousness. It is not as if it has lost its
Power or Will to Strive or to Pray,
for Spiritual Aridity has no Effect except the Absence of
the Solace, Pleasure, and Loving
Encouragements that are the Companions and Fruits of
Spiritual Languor, on the other hand, affects the Will.
Here, the Attack is aimed even at our attempt to Pray and to
Persevere in Prayer. A Man may stand to
Pray, but he finds neither Words to say nor Power to carry on. He may sit down to read, but the book in his hands turns,
as Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "into lead". It may remain open for a Whole Day, while the
Mind Fails to Grasp a single-line. The
Mind is Distracted, unable to Concentrate on or follow the meaning of the words passing before
it. The Will, which Controls all Activity, is Impotent.
Although the Desire to Pray is present, the Power and Will
to do so are Absent. In the end, even the Desire to Pray may fade. Man becomes Unable and Unwilling to
Pray, adding to his Suffering and Sorrow.
His Problems seem entirely Insolvable.
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
attacks the Soul through the Psychosomatic Powers
already weakened by Original Sin.
If Man tries to Plumb the Depths of his Soul, he finds himself at a
Loss, for its Depths are Beyond his Reach. It is as if his Spiritual Footing has been Lost, Alienating
him from the Essence of his Life. If he tries to examine his Faith and secretly measure it in his
Heart, he finds that it has Died, Gone. If he knocks at the Door
of Hope, if he clings to the Promises of God he had once Cherished and Lived by,
he finds in what he used to find Hope has now turned to Ice.
Hope is stuck in the Cold-Present and not willing to move beyond it.
The Enemy seizes this opportunity, striking with all His Firepower.
He launches an Offensive to convince Man of his
Failure, of the Ruin of all his Struggle and
Effort. The Enemy tries to persuade Man that his whole Spiritual Life was not True or Real, that
it was Nothing but Fanciful Illusions and Emotions. He clamps down on Man's
Mind that Man might once and for all Deny the
Yet, amidst all these Crushing Inner Battles, the Soul somehow
has an Intuition that all these Doubts are Untrue and that something must
exist on the other-side of the Darkness. The Soul also feels that, in spite of
itself, it is still United to the God Who has Forsaken it. The
Soul continues to Worship God without Realizing or even Wanting to! Deep within,
far away from the Mind's Eye or Discernment, the Heart continues to
Pray, albeit it is a Prayer that gives him no Comfort or Assurance.
When the Enemy seeks to deal his Fatal Blow, trying to Force
the Soul to Renounce its Faith and
Hope, he encounters no Response. The
Soul may give-in to the Enemy in the Battle of the
Mind in Complete Surrender and to the farthest limits of Error. But it is
Absolutely Impossible for the Soul to take Action, for at the point where
Imagination and Thought turn into Action, the Will springs-forth like a Lion out of his Den to
Terrify all the Foxes of Corruption.
Hence, behind Spiritual Languor there exists a Relationship with
God that, though Inactive, is Real and still very Strong, Stronger than all the
Whispers of the Devil. Yet until the Decisive-Moment of Danger, this Relationship Sleeps. This
Relationship remains Hidden from the Soul. It is Vain to try to convince a
Soul of its existence, that the Soul might Rely on this or Reassure itself
of its presence. For in this Tribulation, the Soul is called to
The Soul remains within the Sphere of God's Dominion.
Although unaware, it is still making Progress and on the Right Path. The Soul
is still Led by an Invisible Hand and Carried by an Unfelt Power. The
Tangible Proof for all this is the Extreme, Constant Grief of the
Soul over its Fall from its Former Activity, Zeal, and Prominent Effort
into its Present State.
The Movement of Faith was born one day within the Heart of the
Pilgrim, now on the Trek whose Final Destination is God. Faith was lit like a
Lamp with the Light of God. It was Kindled by Love and
Zeal, and has pushed the Soul forward on its March. The Pilgrim must not Believe that this Movement
can be Abruptly Withdrawn from the Depths of his Heart, that he can be left in such
It cannot be Assumed that a Man will constantly See or
Feel the Light or Warmth of God.
Yet both are Constant and Active, both in the Light of this Life as well as in its
Darkness, its Coldness as well as its Warmth, its
Happiness as well as its Grief. The Way of
the Spirit is not to be measured exclusively by Periods of Light,
Warmth, Joy, or Fruitful Activity. Periods of
Impasse, of Darkness engulfing the Soul, of
Grief which Oppresses the Heart, Periods of Coldness Paralyzing
all Spiritual Emotion are Inseparable Parts of the Narrow Spiritual Way. Such conditions seem
Adverse, Painful, and Deadly. What matters
is how we face them. This is what determines our Worthiness to Proceed Further, completing the Blessed
Struggle until we receive our Crowns.
. . . . . . No Gain
. . . . . No Glory
. . . . No Crown
This Debilitating Languor of the Spirit is by far the
Direst Tribulation of the Soul, indeed the Climax of its
Purging Experience. It is similar only to Death. Only under the Wing of
the Almighty's Perfect Providence can Man withstand such a Trial, for
during this Ordeal the Soul in its Grief,
like Job, reaches the point in which it Yearns for Death.
During all these Torments, the Afflicted Person is not
Totally Deprived of the Hope of God's Mercy. He never stops looking up toward
God, even on the Verge of Despair; rather, he Waits for a Great and
Wonderful Salvation. Inasmuch as the Tribulation presses Hard, his
Soul becomes Clearer and Purer. The Vision
of the Almighty's Majesty is Unveiled, together with the Intensity of His Love
and Faithfulness toward the Human Soul. Previous Sufferings seem to Fall-like-Scales
from the Eyes-of-the-Soul. It is here that the Soul builds up its
Faith in God. It is not on the basis of
Blessings that Pass-Away, on Protection and Visible Care, nor on Tangible
Evidence or Reasonable Proof, but on "the Assurance of things Hoped for, the Conviction of things not
seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
In the same way, every Soul that Loves Christ will be,
without exception, Vindicated at the End. No matter how Bitter the
Spiritual Experience, it still knows its Final Share. It crawls-forward, Injured, but looking toward
Christ. The Soul, the 'Forsaken
Beloved', calls to Him Who has bought
Her with His Blood, never once swerving from Her Trust in
Trust may fade-from-view, but is never Lost. Faith
may sometimes come-to a Halt, but never comes to an End. Feelings of
Love may sink-out-of-sight, yet they are still Preserved in the Depths of the Soul to
spring-forth at the End of the Trial with an Invincible Power.
Prayer of Saint Padre Pio
Lord Jesus, sometimes, when I am in the State of Spiritual Aridity, I don't even feel like
Praying, and I certainly do not feel Your Presence. I wonder how You, the Bread of Life, could ever Love me, a Miserable Sinner.
Help me to Accept my Weak Humanity, and to bow always Humbly before You and Accept the "Medicine" of Your Holy Spirit
Who longs to Heal my Heart and Soul.
Padre Pio was Graced by God with the Stigmata. His Shield depicts the Pelican,
a Symbol of Christ, who strikes her own breast to draw blood in order to feed her young chicks.