The Gift of Dryness (Aridity, Futility) in Prayer

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"Hope and Despair" - by Evelyn de Morgan

 

We go to Pray, not because we Love Prayer, but because we Love God.
Aridity numbs our Soul while God's Spirit, the Master Sculptor, shapes it into His Image.
Our Darkness, Dryness and Aridity 'equate-with' the time Jesus spent in the Darkness of His Tomb before the coming of the Light of Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We must all follow Our Savior in a similar way through our own Tomb of Darkness if we are to enjoy the same Resurrection of Life.

 

The Gift of Dryness in Prayer

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by Mother Angelica
 

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Every Christian who strives for Holiness of Life experiences Dryness of Soul. It is to most people a Heart-rending experience. It is a Paradox, for the Soul becomes Confused when it Realizes the Harder it Strives, the Further Away Jesus seems to be.

How Strange is a Spiritual Life that draws a Soul to a 'Fire', only to make it feel 'Freezing-Cold'! It is, to all appearances a Contradiction. In the World, the Closer we are to a Friend or Loved One, the more Secure and Unafraid we become. The Deeper the Love, the More Glowing one Feels in the Presence of the Beloved, and so it is as we Grow in the Love of God. He wants us to Love Him "In Spirit and in Truth", and this kind of Love is above Human Love — as much above as is the difference between the Flicker-of-a-Match and the Noonday Sun.

Human Love in all its Beauty and Warmth must be Raised to a Level above itself. The Air at the Foot of a High Mountain is Easier to Breathe, even though it is not as Pure as the Air on the Summit. To Breathe that Pure Air our Bodies would have to Adapt themselves to the Atmosphere of the Mountain Peak. The Peace and Quiet, and the View from that Height are Well Worth the Effort and the Pain of Climbing.

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Lonely Ascent of the Mountain of Holiness

We would, however, encounter One Phenomenon during our Climb, and that is a certain kind of Loneliness. The further up the Mountain we travel, the Fewer Companions we have. There comes a time when all things seem to drop-behind and we find ourselves Alone. When we finally arrive on the Top, the Loneliness is gone for we see things very differently. We see all our former Companions and Possessions as they really are, with no Illusions, no Regrets and no Attachments. In this 'Rare Air' of God's Love we possess Wisdom, which is the Word of GodJesus. We see things as He sees them, because the Breath of His Spirit fills our Souls to Overflowing.

To those who live in the Sunshine of the Valley, our Life atop the Mountain is forever Dull and Lonely, but it is only because they do not Share the View. Sometimes we come down the Mountain and Bask in the Sunshine, but soon we must Ascend again and fill our Souls with the Fresh Air of His Love.

This is but a "Faint Picture" of Dryness of Soul and the Beautiful Work it accomplishes. There are times in life when God seems very close. The Sun of His Love shines Brightly. Our Hearts Exult and our Being is Rapt in the Joy of His Presence. There are other times, however, when His Presence fades away like a Morning Mist and we find ourselves Shivering from the Cold. Though the Whole World were to Love and Applaud us, it would all be as nothing, for the Sunshine of our Life — God — seems gone, and our Soul cannot be Consoled except by Him.

We wander from Place-to-Place looking for Him, we try to Pray, to Meditate on His Life, to Imitate His Virtues, but nothing seems to Alleviate the Emptiness in the Depths of our Being. Our Life goes on and we Work, Eat, Sleep, Laugh and Cry, but none of these Functions fill the Void.

There is a Longing for God that does not seem to be Satisfied by Anything or Anyone. A Darkness descends, but in it we do not Sleep or Feel Refreshed. It is a Darkness that keeps us ever awake ever Looking ever Yearning for the Dawn.

It is a Thirst that is never Quenched, for every drop of " Living Water" makes us Thirst for more. Days, Months and Years can be spent in this State of Dryness. Sometimes Doubts as to the very Existence of God surround the Soul with their Icy Embrace and the Blackest Midnight descends and fills the Soul with Emptiness.

Though our poor Human Nature Rebels at this State of Soul, it realizes that somehow Great Work is being Accomplished. The Silent Hand of God moves on, Purifying the Faculties of our Soul, Detaching us from Possessions, People, and Ourselves, raising us to various Heights of Prayer and Increasing our Capacity for Love.

This Dryness is like a Spiritual Anesthetic. It Numbs our Soul while the Master Sculptor shapes it into His Image. We have no Feeling of anything being accomplished. It is as if we were Suspended between Heaven and Earth. We desire nothing of this World, but we are still not ready for the Pure Air on the Mountain of God. We wait, not always Patiently, while we Roam along Unknown Paths, thinking at times we are Lost, but always finding a New Path to take, a New Cave to hide in, a Dim Light to follow.

God Speaks to our Soul, but we are so busy looking for Him we do not Hear His Voice. We are Desolate and become Aggravated with Ourselves and Others. Not possessing the Humility to Realize we can do Nothing of Ourselves, we become Feverishly Active, perform more Good Works, Read Books, and Distract Ourselves from the Emptiness that fills our Soul.

Without realizing it, we are actually running away from the Fire and into the Cold, Dark Night. Our Souls are Restless for the Warmth of His Love, and we do all we can to bring back Past Consolations. Our Memory serves us well by recalling what used to be and we look back with Great Longing, convinced that somehow we are being Chastised for some Weakness or Frailty.

This is not to say that Dryness is not caused by Lukewarmness, because it often is, but we must Examine Ourselves to Judge the Cause. We cannot Torment our Souls with Scruples and Doubts.

If our Dry-Spell causes us Pain, increases our Thirst for God, makes us Strive for Virtue, and during Prayer, makes every other thought outside of God Distasteful to us, then we can assume the Dryness we experience is of God. God is calling us to a Higher Form of Prayer and a Deeper Union with Himself.

Those who are Lukewarm do not miss His Presence; they do not Imitate His Virtues and their Prayer Time, if any, is spent in Willful Distractions geared towards their own Pleasure and Convenience. For these Souls we Pray. We ask God for the Grace of Perseverance for ourselves so we do not Fall Away from His Love and Mercy.

In order to better understand the Power and Beauty of Spiritual Dryness, we will look at its various aspects and try to Reap the Fruit of this Call to Greater Things.

 

Dryness of the Mind

Definitions
Man does not Think, Reason, Judge, with his Brain; he does these things with the Supra-Organic Faculty of Mind or Intellect, a Faculty of the Soul.
Mind  = Understanding, Intellect, Will, Reason
Brain = Memory, Imagination, Emotions, Feelings

"See where He stands, behind our wall. He looks in at the window, He peers through the lattice". (Songs 2:9)

In the Beginning of our Spiritual Life God floods our Soul with Consolations, but before long His Love Demands that we Rise above the Feeling Level and Adore Him "in Spirit and Truth".

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Body/Inferior Will/
Psychosomatic Powers
Passions/Emotions/
Senses/Feelings/
Memory/Imagination
(Subordinate-Partner)

Soul/Intellect/
Superior Will/
Reason/Grace/
Infused Knowledge/
Heart/Conscience
(Dominant Partner)

The Heart resides in the Soul of a Person
Anger and the other Passions reside in the Body.
Strength is manifested in our Control of the Will of the Soul.
Love and Charity are an Act of the Will.

 

So begins a kind of Hide-and-Seek. As the Sacred Writer records, God stands "behind a Wall" blocked from our view, but He often "peers through the Window" to give us a Glimpse of His Beautiful Face. At other times it is as if a "Lattice" were between the Soul and God; we see Him and yet we do not.

In this State of Finding, yet not Finding, the Soul is Content with at least a little Consolation. It becomes Aware of His Presence, even though that Presence is Obscured by the Things of this World and the Frailties of Human Nature.

In the Past, Meditations were a Sheer Joy and the Soul believed that it had arrived at Perfect Peace. Its Passions were in-Control and Prayer was a Glorious Experience.

It is easy to be Virtuous under these Conditions. God Lifts us out of ourselves and Carries us along with Ease. Our Inner Selves, enjoying the Consolations of God, are so Rapt in the Sweetness of His Presence that there is little-chance of a Permanent Change. The Presence of all Goodness is like a 'Magnet' drawing us to Himself, our Weaknesses and Passions are not Gone, only 'Dormant'. They sleep while we are Free to Roam the Realms of Love in Peace.

This State of Soul cannot Last for Long. We have been given the Grace to Participate in the very Nature of God. To fulfill this God-given Role we must become more-and-more like Him. We cannot do this if we Inordinately Cling to the Emotions of our Human Nature.

In our Daily Life, Human Love rests for the most part on a Sense Level, but since God is Spirit, we must Communicate with Him on a Spirit-to-spirit Level. We must be Detached from the World and Ourselves and seek Him for Himself alone. It is for this Purpose that Jesus tells us "every branch that does bear Fruit the Father prunes to make it bear more Fruit" (John 15:2). It is those who are putting forth Great Effort to become like Jesus, that God Plunges into the Darkness of Dryness and into an Awareness of their Imperfections. So begins the Purification of our FacultiesMemory, Understanding and Will — and the Beginning of our Ascent to the Mountain of Holiness.

The Faculty that is of Great Help in our Meditations is our Memory. It can recall Incidents in the Life of Jesus and Picture them to our Minds and make Meditation a Sheer Delight. It is easy to Recall Jesus in the Agony in the Garden and Imagine ourselves Kneeling beside Him and Consoling Him in His Hour of Need. We may be Content to Lovingly Look at Him in His Fear and Feel His Pain.

Our Memory can serve us in a Beautiful Way during a Meditation by bringing-back the Words of Jesus, His Gestures and His Beautiful Face. This use of Memory and Imagination can be of Tremendous Help by giving us a Strong Motive for following Jesus. It can Fire us with Zeal for His Glory and Inspire us to Work for the Salvation of Souls.

The Memory excites our Emotions and our Senses. Both Virtue and Sin can find a Home in our Memory and Drive us to Sanctity or Damnation. Our Five (5) Senses, prodded-on by our Reason, can lead us to Heroic Deeds of Valor or Black Despair. Our Wills, Strong and Powerful, can become so Weak that we are "Reeds shaken by the Wind".

In a State of Dryness, however, God Purifies all Three (3) of these Faculties in order to Raise them up to the Level of Jesus. When Paul asked us to "Put on the Mind of Christ", he was Speaking of a Purification Initiated by God that raised our Faculties to a Spiritual Plane. This Purification is one we must Accept, Endure and Courageously Persevere-in, as long as God Wills it.

The First Faculty to feel the Pruning of the Father is our Memory. It is as if all things Good and Holy were blanked-out of our Minds. We not only find Meditation impossible, but even Distasteful.

We endure this State for a Few Days thinking it will Pass as all other Trials do, but when the Days pass-on to Weeks and Months, sometimes into Years, our Intellect tells us we are Wasting our Time.

It is at this State of Soul that the Evil Spirits, who Realize the Importance of Dryness, Tempt us to give-up Prayer, or Torture us with the Thought that some Past Sin has Incurred God's Anger upon us and He has left us to our Miserable Selves.

Only the Grace of God keeps us from Despairing for He gives us enough Light and Courage to continue Praying despite the Dryness Inside and the Assaults of the Evil One Outside.

Another Phenomenon occurs in this State of Soul and that is an Exaggerated View of our Weaknesses, Faults and Imperfections that we have Long Accepted and Fought Against; they become so big that they Engulf our Souls like a Huge Monster.

Those with whom we Live or Work become Aggravating and Unbearable. It is as if the Whole World were Determined to Destroy us. Sometimes Sickness besets us and this, too, is borne with Impatience and Fear.

We are so Engulfed in the Pain of Dryness and the Avalanche of Trials, that we are Under the Impression we Fight alone, Unloved by God and Distressed by our Neighbors.

It is at this Point that we "don't do the things we want to do, and do the things we don't want to do" (Romans 7:19). What we Fail to see is God's Loving Hand Guiding us and Leading us gently up the Mountain of Holiness. We feel so Unholy, Wicked and Lonely that God and His Kingdom are far removed from our Hearts. There is such a difference between His Infinite Holiness and our Poor Distressed Souls that all we Feel is Unclean.

Our Intellect, Reasoning on a Human Level, keeps telling us that Sanctity is not for us. It is obviously for those who have Fortitude to accomplish Great Deeds, and possess Great Talents and Gifts.

As if to add Fuel to the Fire, our Wills begin to Vacillate and are Confused as to the Course-to-Take. Our Ability to accomplish anything on a Spiritual Level is Difficult. A "Do nothing" Attitude grips our Souls and Lukewarmness tries to Wrap-its-Arms around us.

It is nearly impossible for the Soul to see how any Good could come from this State of Mind, but if the Soul Perseveres in its Prayers and Acts of Virtue, in spite of how it Feels, it will soon begin to Realize that its Purification is Good, and Freedom of Spirit will be its Reward.

Even though Distractions Plague its Prayer Time, the Soul calmly-returns to its Seeking of the Lord as soon as those Distractions are noticed. The Danger here is for the Soul to Seek Consolations by Deliberate Distractions. Meditative Reading is put-aside and the Soul spends the Whole Time of Prayer Reading a Book that gives it Consolation but little Fervor. The Shortening of Prayer Time is a Real Danger, for the Fear of "Wasting" Time takes-hold of the Soul. It seeks more Action and soon the Good Works that bring Consolation replace Prayer Time, and the Soul Falls Prey to Great Danger.

It is Important to Persevere in Praying, even in Lengthening the Time of Prayer, for the Purification of Dryness far outweighs the Few Consolations the Soul derives from Active Works to Distract it. To refuse to Accept Dryness is to refuse Growth in the Spiritual Life. It is the Vertical Beam of our Daily Cross.

This is not to say that everyone Suffers from Dryness in the same way or Length of Time. Some Souls Suffer Little from this Type of Purification, and God can and often does lead them to Great Sanctity.

Jesus compared the Spirit to a Wind when He spoke to Nicodemus, "Do not be surprised when I say, 'You must be Born from Above'. The Wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are Born of the Spirit" (John 3:7,8). The Sanctifier of our Souls leads each one in a Different Way. It is not our Duty to Question 'How' or 'Why'. We need only to Trust His Guidance of our Souls and if "Dryness" is our Constant Companion, it is Our Way the Way of Faith of Trust of Love.

Dryness 'Sharpens' every Faculty. It forces us to Great Degrees of Hope when our Memory and Imagination are Dulled. It increases our Faith for we must seek Him as He is and believe His Word. It Strengthens our Will by making it Follow His Commandments and Imitate His Virtues.

Our Faculties seek this Lord as a Deer seeks Running Water and they constantly look out for Him in an effort to find Him. "Have you seen Him Whom my Heart Loves?" (Songs 3:3), the Soul repeats over-and-over as it does all in its Power to find what it Feels it has Lost.

As the Soul is not Aware of the Life-Giving Blood flowing through its Body, neither is it Aware of the Life-Giving Grace increasing in itself through the Quiet Flow of Dryness.

Detachment is one of the Greatest Works of Dryness. It is Great because it is Detaching Ourselves from Ourselves and not from Things. Things are comparatively Easy to give-up when we Feel the Loving Arms of God around us. We are strangely very-much-aware of Ourselves at this time. Though we Enjoy the Presence of God, it is the Joy we are experiencing that Occupies our Mind and Heart. So conscious are we of our Sweet Feelings that the Loss of Consolation causes us Great Pain. A Void is Created, but how often that Void is more an Absence of Ourselves from Feelings, rather than an Absence from His Presence.

Our Faith tells us that God is always Present to us, and by Grace He is in our Souls. Dryness then forces us to live by what Faith teaches, rather than what our Feelings make us Desire. Unless God Bestows upon us the Searing Power of Dryness we shall forever be Swayed-by Emotional Feelings designed to Prod us on, but never Capable of Changing us.

How True is the Passage from the Song of Songs, "Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that make Havoc of the Vineyards, for our Vineyards are in flower" (2:15). Truly the Soul is Ready to Bloom in the Presence of it's Creator, but First those Attachments, Imperfections and Weaknesses must be overcome. The Soul must be Free to Live in the Presence of its Lord at all times. Its Memory must be Calmed and Controlled, its Intellect raised above itself in Pure Faith, and its Will Strong enough to follow in the Footsteps of the Master.

How Beautiful is the Cross that brings about such Marvelous Changes in the Soul. How Grateful should we be to God for His Patience with us, even though we Struggle Against His Providence and Guidance. Let us not become Giddy as we climb the Mountain of Holiness, and forget our Goals, our Desires and our Way. If we ask God for Sanctity, we must believe that He has heard our Prayer, and everything in our Moment-to-Moment Existence is designed by Him for that End.

Jesus has Promised that when the Father sees us bearing Fruit He will Prune us so we may Bear more Fruit. It is by Dryness again, that God Purifies our Hearts. Our Love, like His, must be Pure and Unselfish. It is in this Area that Dryness does its most Glorious Work.

 

Dryness Of The Heart

Although our Minds find it Difficult to Pray or Concentrate on Spiritual Things during Aridity, it is Bearable when we have at least some Knowledge of the Love God has for us.

Our striving to Pray and Practice Virtue in the midst of Dryness gives us Some Assurance that we do Love God or we would not Endure this Trial.

And so it is that a Knowledge of God's Love for us and our Love for Him becomes the Strong Rope that we cling to as we Climb the Mountain of Holiness.

But one day this Prop is also taken away and our Hearts are left without the least sign of Love. The Special Assurance is Gone and we Feel the Cold Wind of the Heights. Only the Elements remain to Strengthen and Purify our Hearts of all Self-indulgence and Selfish-love.

We are Offered the Opportunity to Love God for Himself without expecting anything in Return. We are given the Chance of Loving Him when there are no Manifest Gifts and no Consolations to Encourage us. We are Bereft of any Feeling of Love, and the Desire for this Sweet Gift wells-up in our Hearts only to be Disappointed by no Response.

Now we stand Alone before the Majesty of God, and the Brightness of that Light makes us Recoil at the Difference between us. We feel Unloved and Unloving. When Dryness attacked our Minds there was at least a Shred of Love residing in our Hearts, but now that is gone and we are Forced to Love only because we Want to.

We are so accustomed to Love on a Human Level, that we find Loving God for Himself, either Impossible or Beyond our Capabilities. We tend to Love those who Appeal to us, Render us a Service or are Good to us. In the Degree they Perform these various 'Services', we Love them.

We often say that this Particular Person is our Best Friend. Usually this means that Person has the same Goals, Ambitions, Likes and Dislikes as we. This Friend makes us Feel at-ease in his Presence and so we are fond of his company. What we most often like is the Consolation afforded us. This is why in times of Trial, Sickness or Hardship, some Friends drift-apart and find each other Boring.

However, a True Friend Loves us in every possible Circumstance or Trial. In fact, Differences deepen our Friendship because True Love is fed-by Sacrifice.

Because God is Spirit, Invisible and All-Perfect, our Relationship with Him is often built on the "Rich Uncle" Concept that He has everything-to-give and we have only-to-receive. That we have anything to give, Upsets our Theology and Increases our Responsibility. Any Friendship, not based-on a Mutual-Giving will not Last. Selfish-love cannot exist between Friends for very long, and if that love is the Basis of our Relationship to God, it is a Disaster. Yet to Love on a Selfish-level is so basic to our Nature. We tend to Love Him on the same-level as we Love our Neighbor — for what He does, or can Give us.

Dryness of Heart — that Purifying CrossCleanses our Love of all Selfishness and raises it to a Level of Unselfish Love. We begin to Love Freely — because we Want to — because God is All-Lovable. The Wrenching-of-self from our Prayer Time with God, by this Inability to Feel any Love in our Hearts, raises us to the Level of the New Commandment. On this Level of Prayer, we Pray and Love God for Himself alone, not for the Gifts or Consolations He gives us. This new Attitude and Degree of Love extends itself to our Neighbor and we begin to Love him in the same-way God Loves us — Unselfishly.

Only through the Pain of Dryness — where we Decrease and He Increases — can we begin to Love God in the way He wishes us to Love. When we Pray, we are doing so on our Will Power, for our poor Human Nature receives no Compensation for its Efforts.

Faith tells us that God is Present when we Pray, and Hope tells us He Listens, but only Love makes us Continue to Pray when Darkness, Boredom and even Disgust fill our Souls to overflowing. Only a True Love will Persevere in Praying despite Darkness and Confusion.

Must God Try us so? Yes, because He wants us to Love as He Loves, and be Holy as He is Holy. Through His Grace, His Presence and His Love in our Souls, He Cries-out for us to Love Him as He is, and to be so Attuned to His Spirit that the mere Whisper of His Voice enkindles our Hearts with Love.

This is Difficult for our Human Nature to Understand. Human Love is associated with Feelings, such as the Feeling of Benevolence, the Feeling of Confidence, the Feeling of Filial or Paternal Love, the Love born of Friendship and the Love that makes a Man and Woman desire to live together in a State of Marriage. All these Kinds of Love are Connected in various ways to Feelings and so it is Natural for us to think that our Love for God should be on the same Level.

This Conviction is Strengthened by the fact that when we First found the Lord we experienced a Tremendous Emotional Uplift. Our Hearts sang the Praises of God with Great Enthusiasm. We bore Pain with Joy, and if Misfortune overtook us, we accepted it with a Flare of Detachment that was never experienced before.

When God began to Prune that which was so Good in the Beginning, it was Natural to think Consolations would continue. We expected to Work Hard and give-up much but the Fire of His Love, so Sweet to our Taste, would never leave us.

The Knowledge that His Presence never leaves us, adds to the Cross of Dryness, because we think that Presence must be Felt. We are Slow to Understand that God wants us to have both a Yearning and an Assurance of His Presence, but in Faith. His Presence dwelling in our Hearts increases our Capacity for Love. His Grace, ever Gratuitous and Independent of our Good Actions, increases our Degree of Love and Permits us to return Love for Love. His Love in us as we are Emptied of Self becomes our Love for Him. We begin to Love Him with the Love of the Spirit ever Dwelling in our Hearts.

Through the Purification of Dryness of Heart, the Holy Spirit becomes the Greatest Love in our Souls. We begin to Love God with our Will. We Choose to Love Him, to spend some time with Him, to prefer Him to Ourselves. It is a Hard Lesson to learn, but God Slowly Guides our poor Hearts towards Himself and Frees us of all the Attachments that keep us from giving ourselves to Him totally.

Dryness takes-away the Wrong Kind of Love in our Hearts and leaves the Heart 'Empty' and Ready for a Divine Influx of Grace a Greater Participation in the Divine Nature a Purer, Unadulterated Love a Love that is God Himself.

Like all 'Operations', this is Extremely Painful because it 'Strikes' at the very Source of Feelings, Consolations, and the Sense of Well-Being that we call Happiness. It cuts deep into our Selfish Love and Ruthlessly carves it out. It is when we gaze up to the Father in Anguish of Heart, Lonely and Empty, that the Spirit of Love accepts the Ashes of our Human Love and begins His Work of Transformation. It is time for Jesus to bear Fruit in our Souls.

 

Dryness Leads to Detachment

Perhaps one of the First Fruits the Spirit bears in our Souls through the Purification of Dryness is Detachment.

The People and Things we are Attached to are the things we Love Selfishly. We find Comfort and Consolation in them, and in Proportion as our Souls Cling to these Feelings, in that Proportion we are Attached.

Attachments to Spiritual Experiences lead to Spiritual Gluttony. We seek Consolations, become Disconsolate without them, Jealous of those who possess them, and are Never Satisfied with God's Plan in our Lives. We demand from God or bring upon ourselves Consolations, the Fruit of which is a Repugnance for Suffering in any form. We Run-from the Pruning Hand of the Father and in so doing Deprive our Souls of the Consolations at the Heights of Prayer. We are not Willing to give-up the Sweetness of being Aware of the Presence of God, for the Growth of Faith in our Lives.

This Unwanted and Unappreciated Dryness of Soul brings about the Virtue we do not have, the Courage to Exercise — Detachment. It has the Power to Strip-us of the things we Desire and Covet most of all — Feelings. By the Stripping-down of Feelings, Dryness leaves our Souls open to Objective Thinking, Clear Thinking, and an Unselfish Concern for others.

If we are Patient with our Dryness, we will see clearly how it Separates our Personal Feelings from Prayer and various Incidents of Daily Life. The Constant Demand made upon us during Prayer, Habituates us to Unselfish Living.

If we are Strong enough to Love and Commune with God, without Feelings, we shall do the same with our Neighbor. We shall Love that Neighbor with a Detached Love. This means we make Loving more-important than being Loved in-Return.

The Soul Realizes that in this Short Journey of Life, it has the Opportunity to Manifest its Love for Jesus by Comforting Him, being Zealous for His Glory rather than its own, and Growing in that God-like Love whose Seed was Planted in the Soul at Baptism.

This is the Time to Console Jesus by a Perfect Union of our Will with His a Loving Acceptance of the Work of His Spirit in our Souls.

There are so many things in Life to which we become Attached. We are encouraged by the World to Possess as many things as possible. The Concept of Poverty of Spirit is Foreign and Unacceptable to the World and it is Abhorrent to the Demons.

It is necessary then for God to Place us in a Position of Detachment a kind of Involuntary Renunciation that will Prune our Souls and lead them to Freedom. We are slow to Detach ourselves, and when we manage some kind of Voluntary Detachment, we begin by doing without the things we care for the least. Those things Dear to our Hearts we Rationalize into keeping or we Leave them till Last.

The Spirit of God assists us in this Painful Mortification by giving us a Dryness of Soul that does not find Pleasure or Comfort in anything. Even Nature, Beautiful and Majestic as it comes from the Power of God, leaves us Cold and Unimpressed.

The Love of Friends only makes us realize how much we miss His Presence. The thought of past Spiritual Experiences, when we were aware of His Love and Goodness, only creates a Greater Void that nothing can fill.

The more we reach-out to Creatures to fill the Void in our Hearts, the Deeper that Void becomes. Like the Bride in the Song of Songs, we cry out to everyone, "Have you seen Him Whom my Heart Loves?" (Songs 3:3) What a Blessing that God's Pruning does not permit us to find Comfort in Anyone or Anything. Surely, we would Cling to the least Comfort and be willing to Forego our Climb up the Mountain of Holiness, if we could find Solace in Creation.

We are so Caught-up in our own Miseries that our Soul becomes very much aware of itself. Like Bodily Pain, when the Mind focuses itself almost entirely on One small part of the Body, the Soul becomes Painfully aware of its Finiteness and its Total Inability to accomplish any Good Work on its own. Now it is that it becomes Detached from the Desire for Consolation. The Sight of its Limitations forces the Soul to depend entirely upon God and His Grace to bear Fruit. It has begun to realize that without Him it "can do nothing" (John 15:5).

It is important at this Stage, for the Soul to possess a Healthy Self-Love. If it does not, the Consciousness of its Imperfections, Weaknesses and Frailties, plus the Dryness, will bring the Soul to near Despair. By Healthy Self-Love is meant a Realization of the Soul's Value and Uniqueness before God. So much is the Individual Soul Loved by the Father, that He gave His only Son for its Salvation and Eternal Happiness. It must understand and make a distinction then between Who-it-is and What-it-does.

The Weaknesses it is Guilty-of can be Changed and Transformed by the Love of Jesus and the Grace of His Spirit. The Realization of the Dignity of the Soul after Baptism must never be Smothered under the Frailties of its Nature. The Individual is a Child of God, an Heir to the Kingdom, and the Thought of God's Infinite Mercy, in its regard, must ever keep the Soul Elevated above itself.

If we cannot Love ourselves as a Masterpiece of God's Power and at the same time Hate the Sins we Commit, we shall be unable to Relate to our Neighbor in Love. When we find Sin we shall Hate the Sinner and Fail to make the Distinction between our Neighbor and his Weaknesses. It will be Difficult to Love that Neighbor in the way God Loves Him because that Neighbor must be near-Perfect before he is the Recipient of our Love. The Commandment will be merely an Ideal that is not Realistic in Modern Day Living

When we are Detached from ourselves we suddenly find that Loving our Neighbor is easy. We no longer make distinctions between those we Like and those we Love. The Selfish Motives that Attracted us to some and Repelled us from others, have been swallowed-up in the Chasm of our own nothingness. Jesus has filled the Void Created and Sustained by Dryness. His Love in our Hearts reaches out to Love everyone, while it sees Material Possessions as Passing Trinkets in Time.

 

Dryness Leads To Humility

 
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"Humility"

One of the most Painful Lessons that Dryness Teaches is the Spirit of Humility. Our Total Helplessness in the Face of our Inability to Pray can almost Annihilate our Pride. We may Rebel against this Feeling of Inadequacy, but if we Accept it we can make a Giant Stride towards a Spirit of Humility.

The Humility that is the Fruit of Dryness is not Self-imposed, so the Soul is Guarded-against a False Humility which says it can do nothing of itself, but does not really believe it. Neither is this Humility the Fruit of Persecution or Misunderstanding. It is, therefore, a Safeguard against the Resentment that often accompanies the Clashes of Personality Traits in our Relationship with others.

It is a Crushing Blow to our Pride to realize we must wait upon the Lord to Pray Well or to Pray at all. We often Read and Reread Jesus' Statement that without Him we can do nothing, but this hardly reaches an Experimental Stage in our Lives. When we Kneel before Him Helpless, Dry and in a State of Confusion, we begin to Feel our Finite Condition. A Reality of Life becomes an Experience for us — it becomes a Startling Fact that without Him we can do Nothing — not even Pray.

It is Good to have an Intellectual Awareness of our Dependence upon God — to Understand how Great He is and how very Small we are in His Sight. But when our very bones Feel the Crushing Weight of His Holiness upon us and we are Conscious of our Sinner Condition, we pass-on from Knowing about God, to Knowing God, for the Former is Knowledge and the Latter, Experience.

Though the Essence of Dryness is a Lack of Feeling, the Consciousness of one's Unworthiness, with all the Weaknesses of Human Nature Strong and Operative, is very much a Feeling, but one not to our Liking. We try to Run-away from the Feeling of our Nothingness that Overwhelms us, but we cannot. It is one of the many Phenomena of the Spiritual Life that no Feeling produces a Feeling. The Soul's Awareness of its Wretched Condition can do more to its Pride in Five minutes than a Thousand Humiliations in a Lifetime.

Not only does the Soul possess a new Sense of its Dependence upon God, but its Self-Knowledge is Increased to an Alarming Degree. Every Fault is Magnified and the Soul sees Weaknesses within it that never before Came to the Surface.

This Self-Knowledge is the very Root of Humility and when the Soul sees itself as it Really is and then gazes at the Infinite God Who Loves it, the Reality of the Vast Difference between them engenders Humility, provided this Knowledge is Accepted with a Deep Sense of Gratitude.

This Gratitude is not only for the Light given, but for the Gratuitous Love bestowed upon the Lowly Soul by the Infinite God. The Reality of God's Personal Love for a Poor Weak Human Being, sends the Soul into Transports of Joy, even though the Feeling of Dryness fills it with Consternation and its Weaknesses overwhelm it. In its very Depths there begins a Quiet Acceptance of itself and of God, and a Determined Effort evolves that Drives the Soul on to a Deeper Love in a Spirit of Sacrifice.

The Soul slowly Understands what Humility of Heart means. It does not Feel Crushed or Broken, but is Overwhelmed by a Sense of its Sinner Condition, of its Capacity for Evil, and the Thin Thread that separates it from God Whose "Power is at its best in Weakness" (2Corinthians 12:9).

It is no longer Discouraged by its Tendencies towards Sin; it is more Surprised at what it does not do, and Implores the Grace of God to ever-stay in His Favor. Its Striving for Perfection becomes more Interior, and with the Effort to Overcome Exterior Faults it tries to Improve its Motives. It Strives to be Gentle, not only in Action, but in Heart.

There comes to the Soul a Realization that, but for the Grace of God, it is Capable of any Sin. It therefore is more Humble in its Attitude towards the Weak and more Gentle, if-and-when Correction is necessary.

The Inner Conviction of the Soul's Capacity for Evil, though it ever Strives for Holiness, prevents that Arrogance that finds Fault with others. Only the Soul that Feels it is Nothing, but keeps its eyes on Jesus, can Begin the Climb up the Mountain of Perfection. The Soul at this Stage does not expect much of itself, since its Self-Knowledge has been increased. It does expect much from God, however, because it Realizes the Real Source of its Power. And so the Soul learns to Harmonize Self-knowledge that expects Little Good from itself, and Hope in God from Whom it expects Everything.

Dryness again becomes the Pivot Point for a Balance of Opposite Emotions deep Repentance and great Love, Fear of the Lord and Confidence, Distrust of one's own Strength and Hope in His Power, Fear of one's own Weaknesses and Trust in His Grace.

Though Failure, Pain and Suffering Humble our Minds, it is the Power of Dryness that God uses to Humble our Hearts. Jesus warned us that it was from Men's Hearts that Evil arose, and so it is our Hearts that God Purifies and Humbles so that the Seed of Evil, sown by the Enemy, may not Take-Root.

 

Dryness Leads to Patience

One of the most Difficult Virtues for our Human Nature to Acquire is Patience.

Patience is that Ability to Wait in Peace.

There are few of us who possess Patience on a Natural Level, for our Modern Day World has conditioned us to Perform every Duty in Record Time. We purchase whatever Food is Instant, and whatever Mode of Travel is the Faster. Though we Complain of Boredom, we are in a Hurry to get anywhere we are going, and then we Rush when we arrive so we can Return in the Shortest Possible Time.

We are Victims of a Hurried Society part of a Perpetual Merry-go-round that is Constantly in Motion, but never leaves its place. Our feet run on an Invisible Treadmill that keeps us Out of Breath while we Rush from One Activity to Another.

Loud Music and Clashing Sounds keep our Nerves Frayed and our Emotions at a High Pitch. Like the Voice of a Circus Barker crying "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry", the World keeps us all in some kind of Motion so we do not have time to Think, Pray or otherwise get our Wits-together.

The Holy Spirit cannot work in this Din and Clamor. As Elias realized the Spirit is like a Gentle Breeze, Quietly Inspiring, and Speaking Softly in the Silence of our Hearts. Rushing, Noise, Uneasiness, Lack of Self-control, and the Constant Move towards more-and-more Action, drowns His Voice and nullifies His Inspirations.

Though we Feel Impelled to Run Run Run, the Spirit moves Slowly and Quietly and we end up further and further away from our only Source of Peace and Contentment. As we insist on moving Faster and Faster, His Pace seems Slower and Slower to our Whirling Minds.

Our Souls become like a Bucket with a little Water in the Bottom being spun-around at Great Speed. There is no Opportunity to Fill the Bucket. The Effort to keep that small amount of Water in its place necessitates a Faster and Faster Motion.

We have not Lost God or Religion we only Possess such a Small Amount of both that in a Hurried Society of Survival of the Fittest, we cannot stop long enough to see what we Possess. Perhaps we are afraid that if we stop we will be forced to take inventory and Face the Truth we possess very little Living Water.

When we begin to Realize there is a Vacuum in our Lives, a Vacuum only God can fill we find Jesus in a New Way. We are Aware of our Tremendous Need of Him in our Daily Lives. The Joy of finding Him is accompanied by a Desire for Holiness. It is in this Desire for Holiness that we carry some of our Worldly Concepts and Demands for Instant Results.

We are so Accustomed to the Rush of Modern-day Living and so Inebriated with the Desire for Holiness that there seems to be some Reason for our becoming Holy Instantly. The World is in Great Need, and much of our Lives have been Wasted in Dissipation, so the Logical Conclusion is that our Holiness must be not only Different from the Past, but also be Accomplished in the Fastest Possible Way.

We can Repent in a Split-second, but the Changing of our Lives and the Conquering of Human Frailties is the Job of a Lifetime. This is where Patience Matures into Peaceful Serenity.

It is the Work of Dryness to bring about these Spiritual Wonders. Dryness Teaches the Soul to Wait on the Lord and to Learn that if it Waits with Impatience, the Dryness becomes Unbearable.

Inner Patience is necessary to Persevere in our Quest for Humility of Heart. If we cannot Possess our Soul in Patience, we shall find it Difficult to endure the Time it takes to Change, Empty Ourselves, become Generous and Detached.

Without Patience, Holiness will take on Impossible Dimensions and, like the Seed sown on a Layer of Thin Soil, our Desires will Sprout, but never Grow and Take Root. It is necessary then that we appreciate the Beauty of God's Pruning in our Spiritual Lives. We must Wait and Grow during our Time of Dryness Grow in Patience so we may bear another Necessary Fruit Perseverance.

 

Dryness Helps us to Persevere

In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells us that we "Will be Hated by all Men on account of His Name". He then adds a Statement that makes it clear we must Persevere in our Seeking of God. Isolated Acts of Goodness are not enough to become Holy. He said, "The Man who stands firm to the End will be Saved" (Matthew 10:21; Mark 13:13).

The words "to the end" and "will be" indicate a Future Event. Now, all Men are Saved by the Precious Blood of Jesus, but all Men do not Accept the Call to be a Son of God. There are those who Reject God totally at the Hour of Death and Refuse God's Forgiveness. This is the Sin Jesus mentioned would not be Forgiven.

No Sin is Greater than God's Mercy, and God extends that Mercy to Everyone, up to his Last Breath. It is the Soul then who Rejects God: God never Rejects the Soul.

Man does not Reach that State of Total Rejection Overnight or by the Act of One (1) Sin. Rejection of God is something Gradual and is made up of Little Acts of Lukewarmness, Selfishness, Nurtured Resentments, Cherished Hatreds and Egotistical Pride the kind of Pride that never admits a Weakness, never acknowledges a Fault, and is never Sorry for Past Sins. A Constant Diet of these little and big Faults leads the Soul further-and-further from a Dependence upon God as the Giver of all Good Things.

To continue Rejecting these Tendencies we need the Virtue of Perseverance. We need that Strong Determination that makes us Forge Ahead no matter what Obstacles and Failures we face.

Dryness of Soul makes us Strong in Perseverance because we must Exercise this Virtue if we are to Continue in our Prayer Life. Perseverance places our Love, Virtues, and Good Deeds on a Will Level as Opposed to the Emotional Level on which we usually live.

Most of us become Lax in our Resolutions because we do not Feel the Enthusiasm of a newborn Christian one who has just received the Good News. But unless the Gospel Message always remains Fresh, Good and New to our Souls, our Perseverance will be Short-lived, our Conversion Insincere, and our Resolutions Weak.

We know that it is Difficult to continue on a Course of Action that is not Approved of by the World, or to live by an Invisible Reality that is Opposed to the Greed and Permissiveness of the World.

Saint Paul realized how important it was to Stand and Persevere in our Good Resolutions. Repeatedly he encourages the Christians to keep doing Good and Praying much, in-spite-of Persecutions. They could not Rest on the fact that they had Heard the Good News and Accepted it.

He tried to give the Hebrews motives for Persevering and said, "You and I are not the sort of people who draw back and are lost by it (suffering); we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved" (Hebrews 10:39).

When Paul told the Romans to be Careful and to Remember their Glorious Destiny, he reminded them that, "We must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet it is something we must wait for with Patience" (Romans 8:25).

But lest they become Discouraged, he told them that the Spirit would help them in their Weakness. It was then that Paul gave a most Beautiful Description of the Value of Dryness in Prayer: "When we cannot choose words in order to Pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our Plea in a way that could never be put into words" (Romans 8:26).

Paul realized by the Past Experience with Men and the World, and a Deep Realization of his own Weaknesses, that Man had to Persevere in Praying and in doing Good, and had to do this to the very End of his Life.

Paul assured us that if we keep Praying, no matter how Difficult it is, or how Dry we Feel, "God Who knows everything in our Hearts knows Perfectly Well what the Spirit means and the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the Mind of God" (Romans 8:27).

Yes, if we Persevere and Remember with Saint Peter that we must be "Calm and Vigilant, because the Enemy, the Devil, is prowling round like a Roaring Lion looking for someone to devour" (Peter 5:8), and if we recall with Paul that God turns everything to Good for those who Love Him, then we shall Stand Firm to the End. (Romans 8:28)

Dryness is a Great Aid towards the Strengthening of our Will, Determination and Effort towards Holiness of Life. It is that Purifying Instrument in the Hand of God that appears Cold, Dark and Painful, but in Reality is Warm, Bright and Healing to our Imperfect Spirits.

 

Dryness Prepares us for Higher Degrees of Prayer

In the Lives of the Saints we read of Various Degrees of Prayer and in each of them, these Types of Prayer Radiate in Different Ways. Some were Versed in Contemplative Prayer at the Age of Seven and others were Converted only at Forty-Seven. Some were so Immersed in God that they were Raised to the Third Heaven like Saint Paul. There were others, however, who seemed never to have any Extraordinary Degree of Prayer and yet the Fruit they bore, Manifested a Deep Interior Life with God.

God is Glorified in all His Saints and their variety of Spiritualities gives God Great Glory and Praise. He delights in using the Weak and sometimes the Scum of the Earth to show forth His Omnipotence.

His Infinite Mercy extends itself and Manifests His Attributes in the Lives of His Saints. Each Saint showed-forth some Attribute of the Father, or a Facet of the Life of Jesus, or the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Though their varieties of Holiness were many, we find some Common Denominators among them. They all Loved much, and to do this they Emptied themselves of themselves. They were all Humble and they all Suffered more or less according to their Mission and Witness. And, most of all, they all Prayed Often and Fervently.

It is interesting to observe that all of them Suffered from Dryness and Desolation of Spirit as they made Progress in their Prayer-life. It is also Noteworthy to see that this Dryness was a Kind of Lift from One (1) Degree of Prayer to Another. It was almost like going into a Dark Elevator periodically to Rise from One floor to Another. As these Holy Men and Women were Purified of all Selfishness, and Loved God more-and-more for Himself alone, they went through the Dark Tunnel of Dryness as a Preparation for New Heights of Prayer.

If we look at some of the Various Degrees of Prayer in the Light of the First Commandment, we find there are basically Four (4):

The Prayer of Strength
The Prayer of the Heart
The Prayer of the Mind
And the Prayer of the Soul.

Though the Holy Spirit Breathes where He Wills, and follows no Format, it is none-the-less True, that the Majority of us seem to follow a Particular Pattern. This is not so much the Lord's Will as our own Lack of Cooperation with His Grace that sets us in a way that is often Long and Tedious. Though it is Humbling to realize we are not what we should be, it is Consoling to know that God takes our Mistakes and Vacillating Wills and turns them all to our Good and His Glory.

 

Prayer of Strength

The Majority of People begin on this Level of Contact with God. In the Prayer of Strength the Sinner Repents and Accepts God's Forgiveness. He makes an Effort towards Relinquishing his Weaknesses and spends his Prayer Time Petitioning God for the Courage and Strength to overcome his Faults.

He becomes Conscious of his Need of God, and although he is not Convinced of his Total Need, he does have a Conviction that in order to Avoid Sin he must Depend upon God.

On this Level the Soul seeks the Protection of God and Petitions Him for His Providential Care in every Facet of his Daily Life. He is Faithful to Morning and Evening Prayers, attends Services on Sunday and is Faithful to the Commandments and the Precepts of the Church. He is a Good Christian, but somehow God is not a Part of his Total Life. God is always Creator and he, always Creature. This Man says that God is somewhere "up there", and he lifts his head as he Points to the Sky.

The Relationship between God and one in the Prayer of Strength is Servile rather than Childlike. His Reverence for the Majesty of God is Great, and though he often Recites the "Our Father", the name "Father" is not a Real Term, but only a Prayer to the Father of Jesus, Who is God and Lord.

This Soul is on an "Acquaintance" Relationship with God and has not realized his Divine Sonship. The Reality of being an Adopted Son is not Strong in the Soul at this time. He is too busy with the Business of Living and Rendering fit Homage to His Creator to even think of a Relationship that is more Loving and Personal.

The Father, Who sees the Sincerity of this Soul, and Desiring a Deeper Relationship, begins to Prune it as Jesus promised. He told us, "Every Branch that Bears Fruit, He prunes to make it Bear more Fruit" (John 15:2).

It is now that Dryness begins its Work. The Father Creates within the Soul a Vacuum. There is a Void that Gnaws at the Soul Day and Night. The Soul seeks to Satisfy itself by more Work, Pleasure, and Friends, but the Vacuum only becomes Greater, and the Void a Black-Hole that brings Fear and Disillusionment.

It tries to Pray and finds that all the Vocal Prayers which formerly brought so much Comfort, now leave it Dry and without Help. It becomes Desperate and reaches-up to God for Love and Comfort. It is not Interested in Asking-for-Things; it is Seeking God as a Child in Need as one who has Roamed the World for Comfort and found None as one who Realizes that only One (1) Person can fill this Void and that One (1) is God.

The Soul looks to the Invisible Reality as the only Fulfillment of its Desires. Here again Dryness does its Work well, for God does not always give the Soul a Prompt Reply. Sometimes it seems the more the Soul reaches-out for God, the further God goes away from the Soul.

There is a kind of Battle between the Soul and God. Like Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, the Soul Pleads, Petitions, and Tenaciously Cries Out for Help. It is the Soul's First actual Encounter with the All-Holy God, although God's Holiness is still Hidden. The Soul, realizing there is no Happiness outside of God, Desires to be Possessed by this Holy Lord, not because it Deserves anything, but because it has a Great Need.

This State of Interior Struggle may go on for Days or Years, but one thing is sure the Soul begins to Know its God better than ever before. It realizes that God Loves it Loved it First when it was a Sinner.

Here is where Man learns Detachment and begins to give-up all those Possessions that keep him from giving All to his Lord. He is not only Repentant for his Sins, he stays away from those People and Occasions that lead him into Sin. His Discernment is Greater and not only does he Repent of his Sins, he desires to Give Up even those Pleasures that make Life Easier to Live.

Then it is that God begins to Manifest Himself in various ways. Peace of Mind and Joy of Heart enter the Temple of this Soul and many Virtues are Exercised. The Fruits of the Spirit, mentioned in Chapter 5 of Galatians, begin to Take-Root. This State may last for a Short or Long Time, but Dryness has done its Work and the Soul enters the Prayer of the Heart.

 

Prayer of the Heart

The Period of Dryness has given the Soul a Sense of Yearning for God. It no longer uses Him as a Provider One Who Satisfies all its Needs. Now, the Soul Feels in both an Emotional and Intellectual Way, the Love of God. It is very aware of the Need to Love God and to Manifest that Love by Bearing the Fruits of the Spirit.

The Remembrance of Past Sins brings Deep Yearnings for Greater Love. The Love this Soul now Possesses is slowly being Purified. Its Attitude becomes more Positive and it seeks to tell others of its Good Fortune.

The Soul is Surprised to Realize Suddenly that God is so-Close and so-Good. It is a Real Revelation to Understand a Truth one has always Known and Believed, but never Experienced.

Everything takes on a New Dimension. Nature is not only Trees, Mountains, Hills, Insects and Animals, it is a Manifestation of the Power of God, the Beauty of God, and the Goodness of God. There is in all of God's Creation a Personal Relationship with the Soul. It is as if the Whole World were Created just for itself.

People, too, take on a New Look. They are more than Fellow Travelers, they are Brothers who share the same Father. There is an Awareness of His Spirit in each Soul, and the Soul in the Prayer of the Heart Reaches-out to his Neighbor, not to be Loved, but to Love.

Jesus is Someone very Personal to those in this State of Prayer. In the Prayer of Strength, God was a Name used for the Creator; Jesus' Redemption was a Past Historical Event; and the Spirit, Who came at Pentecost, guided the Church in a General Way and that summed-up the Soul's Concept of God.

Now God is Father, Jesus is Savior, and the Holy Spirit is Friend and Sanctifier. Though the Soul has much to Learn about the Trinity, it now Possesses a New Concept of God, a Loving God, a Personal God. The Realization that God is his Father and Forgives him, Jesus is his Lord and Loves him, and the Spirit Pours that very Love into his Heart to make him a Son of God, fills the Soul with an Exuberance never before Experienced.

Joy is an Experience, too, that makes the most Humdrum Day a day of Glory. Difficult Tasks become easy and the Soul is Eager to share his Lord with Friend, Foe, and Neighbor.

God's Love is a Deep Reality to the Soul and this Thought carries him through many Trials with a Spirit of Detachment. Though this Stage gives the Soul a True Feeling of Love, there are times the Feeling is Gone, but he is not Experiencing Dryness of Soul his Soul Rests in Peace, knowing that God's Love sustains him.

The Virtue of Hope begins to Blossom and bear Fruit, for the Promises of Jesus become Personal and something to Look Forward to. The Soul possesses enough Self-Knowledge to keep it from Presumption and enough Experience of the Mercy of God to keep it from Despair.

The Soul in this State begins to forget itself and has a Sense of Mission. He is no longer a Pebble on the Beach, One (1) of God's Millions of Creatures; he is a Son and Destined for the Kingdom.

In this Prayer of the Heart the Soul has a deeper Knowledge of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil. It becomes more Aware of Temptation and Dangerous Occasions of Sin. It also sees God's Work in its Life, His Love and Providence guiding small events to a Fruitful Ending. There is in his Life an Awareness of the Invisible Reality as something Real and to be Lived-in, as much as the Visible World. Somehow, the Two (2) Worlds begin to Harmonize.

The Soul understands what Paul meant when he said, "Ever since God Created the World, His Everlasting Power and Deity, however Invisible, have been there for the Mind to see in the things He has made" (Romans 1:20). When the Soul earnestly seeks God, as it does in this kind of Prayer, it finds Him everywhere and Responds with Greater Love. Everything gives the Soul a Lift, because all God's Creation becomes a Personal Gift from God to the Soul. Even the Redemption is Personal, and with Paul the Soul cries out, "I live in Faith; Faith in the Son of God Who Loved me and Who Sacrificed Himself for my sake" (Galatians 2:20).

There Develops a very Personal Relationship between the Soul and God. The Gospel is "Good News" in a Personal Way, and Reading the Word is a Delight. The Soul begins to be fed with Spiritual Food, and the Love in its Depths makes it desire more-and-more to give a Return of Love to its Bountiful Lord.

There is an Exchange of Love at this Stage, with the Soul seeking ways to Sacrifice itself for the Sake of Love. Then, at a time the Soul least expects, Dryness covers it again like a Mantle. A deep Feeling of Loss Pervades the Soul, making it seek God in a New Way, making it Pray to God in a Higher Form the Prayer of the Mind.

 

Prayer of the Mind

As the Soul makes more Progress in its Spiritual Life, the Dryness that is necessary to Lift it to Other Degrees of Prayer becomes more Painful. This is True because the more we Love someone, the Deeper is our Grief when they are gone.

In the Prayer of the Heart the Soul began to Experience God's Presence, but now God seems to the Soul to be Absent. The Soul Feels an Agony unlike anything it has ever Experienced.

It tries to Meditate and cannot, it does more Exterior Works and finds more Emptiness. It gives of its Possessions, thinking that the less one has of Worldly Things the more of God will it possess.

However, nothing it does gives the Soul any Comfort or Consolation. It is then, in the Darkness of its Inner Self, the Soul is Free to see a Light it has never before seen.

In its Previous Stages of Prayer, the Soul saw Clearly that it must stay away from Sin and become more Humble and Detached, but most of this Spiritual Activity was on the Outside of the Soul. The Blinding Light in which it now Lives shows the Soul its Inner Self. It sees clearly that it must not only stay away from Sin, it must Cleanse its Memory of all Resentments, Regrets, Guilt and Weaknesses. It sees the Importance of Controlling the Faculty of Imagination in order to Possess that "Purity of Heart that will enable it to see God". The Soul now practices Hope in a Higher Degree for it must Trust both its Past and Future to God's Mercy and Providence.

Dryness shows the Soul that its Faith is Weak. Faith assures the Soul that God is always present and cannot Absent Himself from it unless it Rejects Him. Even then, it is God Who Pursues the Soul and leads it to Repentance. The Soul is now led to live on a Faith Level instead of an Emotional Level as in Times Past.

It begins to seek God "in Spirit and in Truth" (John 4:24). The Humility it began to Acquire grows by leaps-and-bounds, for now the Soul compares itself to God and not to its Neighbor. It no longer sees the Splinter in its Neighbor's Eye, only the Beam in its Own.

It reaches out to God in Pure Faith and often calls to Mind the Presence of God within it and around it. Though there is little Consolation in this Spiritual Effort, the Soul slowly becomes more-and-more Aware of the Divine Presence. This Presence is an all-embracing Awareness that becomes Part of the Soul's Life. The Soul is no longer Dependent upon the Fleeting Consolations that come and go. It becomes Strong in the Truth of His Revelations through that Faculty of Understanding by which it Reasons and Decides.

The Faculty of Understanding that previously caused the Soul so much Doubt is being Elevated above itself through the Power of Dryness. It now sees God through a Faith Vision. It becomes more Humble as it realizes its Vast Limitations in the Spiritual Realm. It acquires a Childlike Dependence upon Jesus for Help, Realizing more-and-more that Jesus alone is the Bridge that keeps the way open between the Soul and its Father.

The Faculty of the Will is Strengthened at this Stage, in a Great Degree. In order to keep close-to God in this Period of Dryness, the Soul must Exercise its Will Power and Mortify its Desire for Consolations. It rises above the Human Level which Desires only Satisfaction. The Will is now turned-towards doing what does not Satisfy the Soul; it is moved to go-against the World and its own Emotions.

The Soul's Will is Strengthened by the fact that it continues to Pray without Consolations, and to be Virtuous without a Feeling of Accomplishment. It goes against everything that its own Human Nature dictates, and, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, it determines to Accomplish the Will of God rather than its own.

When the Soul First began to Feel Dryness it accepted it as something to Endure, but now it begins to Understand the Pruning Value of Dryness. Dryness does something for the Soul that it cannot do of itself namely, Love God with a Pure Love.

In this Stage then, the Soul grows in Hope by Trusting, in Faith by Believing, and in Love by Loving. The Soul must press forward in its Quest for God and never Tire of the Hardships of the Journey Home. It begins to Understand the Ways of God and realizes, in a way it never realized before, that the Wisdom of God is not the Wisdom of Man.

 

Dryness Leads to Unceasing Prayer

In the Depths of the Human Soul is a Yearning for God that will never be Satisfied in this Life. It is because of this Yearning that Jesus has given us the Command to "Pray without ceasing" (Luke 18:1).

We Yearn to be United to God, to Live in His Company, to speak to Him as a friend speaks to a Friend. We desire to Think as He Thinks and to Love as He Loves. These Desires and Yearnings, constantly living side-by-side with our Weak Sinful Nature, create Contradictions, Dilemmas and Anxieties too complex for us to solve.

It is like Holiness and Corruption living together as an Uneven Team, each Pulling and Tugging at our Soul in order to sway it to their Respective Paths.

We spend much time Planning a Course-of-Action, not unlike those in Worldly Pursuits. We sit down and devise various means to overcome ourselves, Categorize our Virtues and Faults, read the Lives-of-the-Saints, and then determine upon a Course-of-Action and a Way-of-Life that will transform us into Images of Jesus.

All this is Good and Admirable, but we soon realize that a Period of Dryness Shatters our Plans and Guides us on a Course we would not Choose for Ourselves.

Looking at our Virtues suddenly seems Futile, for Dryness has taught us that we can do nothing by ourselves. Our Weaknesses seem Multiplied, and the Lives-of-the-Saints, so Edifying in the Past, make us realize that by comparison, we are like Ants looking at Giants. Our best-laid Plans have come to Naught and we Gaze at God with a Clogged Mind and an Empty Heart.

At this time, only One Thing rises above Everything Else in our Lives, and that is a Burning Thirst for God. It is both Sweet and Bitter-Sweet because the very Thought of God fills us with Love, and Bitter because the more we Love, the more we Thirst, and the more we Thirst the more Empty we Feel. It is a Sweet Contradiction and a Happy Dilemma.

This State is Sweet yet Bitter, Peaceful yet Confused, Happy yet Sad, Restful yet Yearning, Tranquil yet Painful. It is the State of a Pilgrim, Content with the Difficult Journey because he anticipates the End in View.

Without realizing it, we begin to Pray without Ceasing. Thirst for God and Emptiness of Heart slowly Condition the Soul to seek God every Moment. This seeking puts the Soul in a State of Prayer that sets no Time Limits. Because the Dryness within is Constant, the Effort to Alleviate it must be Continuous, and it is this Persevering Effort that Prepares the Soul for unceasing Prayer.

Detachment, Humility, a Thirst for God, and Great Determination give the Soul that Thrust Forward so necessary to arrive at a State of Prayer that is Constant, rather than Intermittent.

We must realize that only One Thing is necessary a Companionship with God that is Reverent, Filled, Deep, and Burning with Love a Love that is Enhanced every Moment by the Nearness of His Presence, His Action in our Lives, His Mercy in our Souls, His Tenderness in our Sorrows, His Strength in our Pain.

Dryness dispels the Cobwebs covering our Minds and the Superfluities that keep us Entangled in a Maze-of-Nothingness. We are Free to Roam the Limitless Realms of His Love, which are ever there to be grasped in a New Way.

This Seeking, Grasping, Possessing, and then seemingly Losing His Presence, keeps us Striving towards Him in a Peaceful Attitude of Prayer. It is here that we realize the Necessity and the Possibility of Continuous Prayer.

In all the other Stages that Dryness thrust us into, we learned Forms of Prayer. We called out to God for Mercy, Meditated on His Life, Gazed at Him in an Act of Silent Love, and said many short Prayers that were Darts-of-Love to remind Him of our Desire to be all His.

These many kinds of Prayer become a Habit and, coupled with the Freedom that Dryness brings to our Souls, we find ourselves able to use One and then Another with Great Freedom. We are suddenly Detached from Forms of Prayer Free in His Spirit Free to use Wordy or Wordless Prayers, ready to Silently Gaze or Joyously Proclaim our Love for Him, ready for Consolation or Desolation, ready for Sickness or Health, ready to see Jesus in our Neighbor, unhampered by his Faults, ready to do His Will and prefer Him to All Things.

We finally realize that Saying Prayers is only a Means a necessary Means to Continuous Prayer. Prayer in itself is a Constant Companionship with God as Father, Savior, and Lord an Uninterrupted Awareness of His Presence Consciously when we Think or Speak of Him, and Unconsciously when we do everything for Love of Him.

Unceasing Prayer is to Love God so much that when we are not Speaking to Him, we speak of Him, and when we can do Neither, our Heart Rests in an Awareness of His Presence, doing whatever we do for Him.

Jesus told us that not all those who say "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom. We begin to Understand what this Means, for we realize now that we are Praying when we Love Him, but we do not necessarily Love Him when we are saying Prayers.

The Intensity of our Life of Continuous Prayer will vary as our Love is Deep, our Hope is Sure, and our Faith is Living. It takes Faith to see Jesus in order to Speak to Him; it takes Hope to Speak to Others of Him; and it takes Great Love to Desire nothing but Him.

The One Thing necessary has become the Prayer without Ceasing. The Soul has Shed its Complexities and wrapped itself in the Simple Cloak of Unity with the Trinity in Love and Peace. It is Truly Free.

 

In Praise Of Dryness

Dryness/Aridity:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Makes us seek God for Himself,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Strengthens our Faith, Hope and Love,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Purifies our Soul so we can reach for God,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Creates a Vacuum only God can fill,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Increases our Thirst for God,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Increases our Desire for Holiness,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Helps us Practice the Beatitudes,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Gives us an Appreciation of Suffering, and

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Leads us to Pray without Ceasing.

jesus_head4.jpg (18355 bytes)

 

Dryness leads us Gently from Vocal Prayer, where we learn to Speak to God; to Meditation, where we Think of God; to Contemplation, where our Heart merely gazes upon Him with a Love too-deep for words.

This is not all Dryness of Soul Accomplishes for us as we Rise, Fall and Stumble towards Living a Holy Life. Neither are the Degrees of Prayer mentioned here the only Degrees to which Dryness leads. What is written here is written for the Purpose of Lighting-up our Path on the Dark Road which Empties us of Ourselves.

Our Journey Home will be less Tedious and more filled with Joy when we catch a Faint Glimpse of the Beauty, Purpose and Power of Dryness, and how in the Father's Hand this Rough Tool Carves a most Beautiful Image of Jesus in our Souls.

Our Minds gradually begin to Think like Jesus and be ever at Peace in the Midst of Pain and Turmoil. Our Souls reach a Serenity that is close to that Perfect Peace of the Blessed, for our Will and His become joined as One (1) Will.

The Mystery of Pain is solved because our One Desire is to Imitate Jesus in every facet of His Suffering Life.

The Ability to Love our Neighbor, previously so Difficult, now Overflows from that Burning Love of God in our Hearts. We begin to experience in the Depths of our Being a change so Sublime and Hidden that we know for certain "Nothing will ever separate us from the Love of Christ" (Romans 8:35).

Our Thoughts are in Heaven, though our Service Unselfish and Faithful extends to all Men. There is instant Forgiveness in our Hearts and Gentle Speech on our Lips.

Compassion for Sinners is fed by a Deep Awareness of our own Weaknesses and the Humility which is Truth.

God's Grace gives us all of these Qualities because He is Good. Along with other Trials and Sufferings, the Tool of Dryness in the Hands of this Master Craftsman, chisels away those Inner Failings too-hidden for us to see.

Let us go forward, therefore, with great Trust, knowing that when Dryness comes upon us and our Hearts Yearn for God as our only Joy, He is Truly Present. Indeed, He is so-close that the Brightness of His Light Darkens our Soul as the Fire of His Love possesses Our Being.

"Pray Constantly: and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects of you" (1Thessalonians 5:18).

"You have shown your Faith in action, worked for Love and persevered through Hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 1:3)

"Be Persevering in your Prayers and be thankful as you stay awake to Pray" (Colossians 4:2).

"Do not give up if Trials come; and keep on Praying" (Romans 12:12).

"The Heartfelt Prayer of a Good Man works very Powerfully" (James 5:15).

"Pray not to be put to the Test" (Luke 22:40).

"Everything will soon come to an End, so, to Pray better, keep a Calm and Sober Mind" (1Peter 4:7)

"Pray for those who Persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)

"When you Pray, go to your private room and when you have shut your door, Pray to your Father in Secret". (Matthew 6:6)

"Then He told them a Parable about the need to Pray Continually and never lose Heart". (Luke 18:1)

 

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.

Amen

Nota Bene: 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.