Sunday, 22 December 2013

Saint Joseph & One's Interior Cloud of Silence

Recently (2013) Pope Francis said in a Homily: “This cloud in us, in our lives is called silence: the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guarding the mystery with silence! That is the cloud, that is the power of God for us, that is the strength of the Holy Spirit.”



Father Andrew Doze, teacher of theology and chaplain of Lourdes, in his excellent book: 'St. Joseph: 'Shadow of the Father', speaks of this cloud as a mystical symbol of God's Paternity and of St. Joseph.  Countless times throughout the scriptures this cloud appears at ordained periods of time. He goes on to write: "This cloud manifests the secret of the Father's love, a merciful love, a maternal love, as Hosea, Isaiah and other prophets understood so well: "The Most High...will love you more than does your mother" (Si 4:10)."



This relates so well to the hidden depths the Holy Spirit through Pope Francis is alluding to when he speaks of this interior cloud of silence within us. For Saint Joseph, known as the hidden saint, lived a life in the shadows of God the Father's Love, working quietly and humbly, for the betterment of Jesus and Mary whom he so loved. If it were not for Saint Joseph's discretion and 'fiat' to the Will of God, Mary's conception from the Holy Spirit would have been made publicly known, and this indeed, when adultery was punishable by stoning to death, would have been the end of Mary and of Jesus, and of the entire Redemption of all humanity! 


Like Saint Joseph, who is a model of one who lived in the Cloud of Silence, we are called to be hidden in the Merciful and Maternal Love of God the Father; and we can do this by living lives of interior silence; lives of deep prayer grounded in Eucharistic Adoration. For in the Cloud of this love our sins, as Pope Francis mentions, are hidden from God who looks not at ours sins but upon His own Son Jesus Christ who lives in us and us in Him. It is easy to keep busy and preoccupied with the tasks of Martha, yet we must remember that "only one thing is necessary" to Adore in the silence of our heart. It is well and good to pray prayers of dialogue and meditation, yet we should always spend time to "be still" and know that our God is God indeed.

The cloud of God's gentle Fatherly love is not outside of us, it is always present within the sky of our soul. If we run from silence we are running from the maternal love of God the Father; and it is then that we shall begin to form within our hearts little stones of hardness, stones which make us think of God as harsh, severe and legalistic. This error we experience in occasions of scrupulosity, and in the way in which we judge others harshly. 


At the same time, this cloud commands as an exacting and demanding Father would so. It must be obeyed both night and day. As he sums up his thought, the author of Exodus concludes his work by contemplating this wonder one last time..."
"Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward till the day that it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel." (Ex 40:36-38).


Be watchful in the sky of your soul, for countless times throughout the day you will see with the eyes of your soul the interior cloud of silence moving over that secret tabernacle, calling you to adore the Lord in the quiet cell of your heart. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Eucharistic Christmas Preparation


There are many 'Big Days' in our lives, from our first lost tooth (which is not really that important), to our first Holy Communion, to our twenty first birthday (quite insignificant also), to our fiftieth birthday (to which I cannot relate), to our day of death and well, you get the picture. Liturgically speaking however there are many special days marked by special graces for the faithful. Christmas is one of these although often it is easy to get swept up in the superficial aspects of it all; or else we may have grown indifferent or even apathetic towards the event of Christmas, because we have become sick of the commericalised and secuarlised 'Christmas', or because we feel 'the magic of Christmas' to have disappeared.

As children we were happy when the stocking was full of presents and when good old Saint Nick would eat a cookie or two that we left for him the night before. Yet of course as we grow we complicate ourselves and no longer become satisfied with the fluff and bubbles that easily amuse children. There is a grace in this awakened void for something more, a void of dissatisfaction for what we thought Christmas was. For by the Light of Grace we can pursue what Christmas really is, and what it really means. Have we become so cold hearted and shallow in our love for God that we forget that this is the celebration of the birth of the God-Man into our world? I mean honestly, have we ever realised how bizarre and wonderful this mystery is: that the Ineffable God became man; that Love Itself was made flesh? We have reduced our understanding of this profound mystery into a cliche, yet we should be moved to bouts of joy at the mere thought of it!

"But its just a random day that the church chose to celebrate an important event that occurred ages ago" some might say. Well, putting aside historical speculations -whether true or false; do we not celebrate other less important people's birthday's with more zeal than the zeal we invest into the birth of Christ, the most important person to have ever been born? I mean after all, He is the Foundation of the World, the Rock of Salvation, the Meaning of Life itself. Furthermore, on Christmas Day, as the day set forth by the Church to celebrate Christ's Birth, we actually mystically participate in Christ's coming to us, and we have the grace to mystically be present at the birth of Christ. Why? Because the Sacrifice of the Altar, the Celebration of the Eucharist, is the making present of the Paschal Mystery -the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ- here and now. And that includes the actual making present on the Altar, of the newly born Infant in the arms of Mary.

How is this so? The Greek term chronos denotes temporal time, and we as humans abide in chronos time. Christ Jesus however as fully God and fully man, belongs not only fully to chronos time, time as we know and experience it; but as God He belongs fully to kaiors time, eternal time, God's time; and this 'time', so to speak, is really outside and beyond space and time itself. It is through kaiors time therefore that all the events and actions of Christ's Life, Death and Resurrection are made manifest here and now in chronos time, every time the species of Bread and Wine are consecrated. Of course literally speaking Christ lived only once, died once and was Resurrected once; yet each of these same single events of Christ's Humanity are made present through His Divinity here and now, and every time at Holy Mass.

So, how can we prepare for the coming of Christ, who shall spiritually and sacramentally come to us through in the Eucharist? We can do this by keeping in mind that each time we receive Holy Communion, we receive not only the Crucified Lord, or the Resurrected Lord, but also the Infant Lord; and as a sweet little infant he longs to make repose in our hearts. Let us take hold of Mary's Heart as we approach to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; and let us make Her Perfect Heart our own, so that making our heart the perfect manger, lowly and humble the way He likes it, He shall take delight to dwell in us.

Yet do we not know that the Lord Jesus as an Infant already lives inside of us? He doesn't fade away after each Eucharist as we would so think; unless of course we've been committing mortal sins - which is generally speaking less common than supposed for a fairly devout practicing Catholic. Yet indeed many venial sins would most certainly cloud our heart; for "the just man sins seven times a day". This alone should compel us to be contrite and humble in the same way as if we had committed countless mortal sins, for although some sins are worse than others, at the end of the day, is not sin, sin? And does not any sin, no matter how big or small, wound our Lord? Yet we should not focus on our own sinfulness, but on the mercy that we will find in the embrace of the Infant Jesus. Therefore with the confidence of faith we ought to believe the reality that Jesus spiritually lives within our souls as a little infant.

Our aim this Christmas should be to let this Celestial Babe grow and increase inside of us, as we decrease to allow Him to grow. We can imagine therefore, that by praying we feed Jesus inside of us, so that His Presence and Life is nourished within us. The Rosary is the most ideal devotional prayer we can undertake, for Mary Herself will feed the Divine Infant, and after all, a Mother knows best how to feed her child, and what food He most prefers. Interior participation in the Holy Mass is the most effective means of letting the Holy Infant grow inside us. Each Holy Communion we receive will truly work marvels in allowing the Lord to increase inside us; and our listening and reading of the Scriptures shall be a tasty morsel for our Little Lord, who so often is given the most foulest food by countless souls who commit the offense of spiritual child neglect and abuse -which is the failure to pray and the failure to possess the proper dispositions (i..e gratitude, love, trust, humility) in receiving the Sacraments. Lastly Adoration, which "prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration [of the Mass] itself." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 66, Benedict XVI), is an ideal means of letting the Infant Jesus grow inside of us. All we need to do is sit there in confidence and faith in the Power of our Lord, and He shall grow inside us, even if we notice nothing. Yet that peace of heart shall be the sign of His increase within us.

Perhaps a final point that is important to mention is the vital necessity of giving thanks after receiving Holy Communion. We should make a resolve starting from here onward, to spend at least 15 minutes in thanksgiving after Holy Communion. Of course if we have pressing and necessary duties we should attend to them out of obedience. However this is uncommon, and most of the time we rationalise to ourselves so that we think we have things to do; yet in reality it is the Devil who seeks to ensure we do not profit from our thanksgiving. So it is that we should give thanks with a glad and light heart for this Gift of Gifts. If it proves almost impossible to spend this amount of time immediately after Mass in giving thanks, perhaps because of duties or other things, then that's okay, we can just spend some time later on during the day when we are alone. St. Julian Eymard recommends spending those first moments after receiving Communion in silent love, just to allow the Lord to work His wonders in us. We then might simply pray a 'Hail Mary' with the intention of entrusting the baby Jesus whom one has received to Mary's perfect care. We can also give thanks even by just sitting in silence, with one's will fixed on the Ineffable Mystery of God. For by such an act of faith we shall be giving God the time He needs to grow inside us.

Post-Communion thanksgiving is a corner stone of a healthy and thriving relationship with God. After all, when we have finished eating a normal meal do we start running around and engaging ourselves in activities? No, we spend some time relaxing, perhaps by talking to those we are with, and giving ourselves some time to digest. Is this not a lesson we can apply to the spiritual life? Indeed, thus ought we not spend some time in spiritually digesting the Food of Paradise; sitting and speaking with the Lord at the Table of His Cross, and Manger? If we want the Lord to grow in us, and we would like to grow in holiness (the two are the same thing), then we should allow ourselves some time to spiritually digest. If we are going nowhere in the spiritual life as practicing Catholics, and feel interiorly stagnant and tepid, it is most certainly because either: 1) We are not eating the Bread of Life; or 2) we are not digesting the Bread of Life; but rather consuming it and letting it pass right through us as it were.

By the grace of God let us endeavour to allow the Infant Jesus who lives inside us to grow; so that on Christmas Day we may celebrate His Birth which is actually made present at every Mass! In keeping with this logic, to give thanks for each Holy Eucharist that we ourselves and all our neighbours have received, is to give thanks for the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ! O how important it is to not divorce Christ from the Mass, to do so is actually completely contrary to the purpose and meaning of Christ-Mass.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Canticle of Perfect Humility



I Choose Thee My God
12/11/2013

The canticle of the soul who stands upon the mount of imperfect humility and is robed in the garb of imperfect self-knowledge; yet now she longs to cast off this hooded robe so as to cease looking down in self-abasement, and in this way be able to look up in wonder at her Beloved. The Beloved having heard this secret tune that proceeds only from the lips of anointed babes, shall answer her cry, as a mother hen answers the call of her chicks; and so the Beloved like the Rising Sun, shall give unto her the Wings of the Dawn so that in the covers of the night they may meet and be one in the chamber of the eclipse.[i]

……………………………………………………………….

I choose not to wallow in my misery,
But to delight in Thy Splendour.
I choose not to groan in my bitterness,
But to sing of Thy Sweetness.
I choose not to lament in my unfaithfulness,
But to rejoice at Thy Fidelity.
I choose not to mope in my lustfulness,
But to dance in Thy Love.
I choose not to despair in my wretchedness,
But to trust in Thy Mercy.
I choose not to be abandoned in my ugliness,
But to be ravished by Thy Beauty.
I choose not to drown in my foolishness,
But to swim in Thy Wisdom.
I choose not to be imprisoned in my weakness,
But to be free in Thy Might.
I choose not to increase in my virtue,
But to decrease to Thy Virtue.
I choose not to comprehend in my knowledge,
But to marvel at Thy Ineffability.
I choose not to be everything in my zeal,
But to be nothing in Thy Zeal.

I choose not to study upon my sinfulness,
But to contemplate Thy Holiness.
I choose not to choke upon my pride,
But to feast upon Thy Humilty.
I choose not to berate upon my falsity,
But to announce Thy Truth.
I choose not to look upon my evilness,
But to gaze upon Thy Goodness.
I choose not to list upon my lack of merit,
But to harvest Thy Richness.
I choose not to sit idly upon my will,
But to stand boldly in Thy Will.

I choose not the least place at Thy table,
But the floor with the dogs.
I choose not to be as a bride ready,
But as a bride eagerly waiting.
I choose not to be made pure,
But to be blinded by Thy Purity.
I choose not to strain so as to be heard,
But to listen, with ever open ear.
I choose not Eternal Gold nor Silver,
But that which I cannot give label.

I choose not to be as a Host locked up,
But to be as a Host vulnerably exposed.
I choose not to Adore Thee with all the time I have,
But with Thy Eternity to Perpetually Adore.
I choose not to receive upon my tongue,
But upon the Tongue of She Most High.

I choose not to let Thy Light shine in me,
But to let Thy Light consume me.
I choose not to be aflame in Thy Love,
But to be reduced to ash in Thy Furnace.
I choose not to long for Thee O God,
But with Thy Longing to pine for Thee.
I choose not to give Thee equal return,
But with Thy Love to compete with Thee, O Trinity.

I choose not the wealth of Thy Grace,
But Thee O Giver of Grace.
I choose not to avoid purgatory,
But to taste its flame in this land of exile.
I choose not to inherit the earth,
But to inherit Thee O Maker of earth.
I choose not the heavenly homeland,
But Thee O Maker of Heaven.

I choose not with my face to look down,
But with the Face of the Mirror to look up.
I choose not with the volition of my will,
But with the Volition of Thy Will Most High.

I choose not I,
But Thee O God.
I choose not thee,
But Thee my God.

+Heel of Christ+


Poem Commentary:
Imperfect and Perfect Humility
Both paths are good yet one is imperfect the other perfect.

Imperfect Humility
”I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”
In meek humility the soul loves its God as it bows before Him. It is thus that the face of the soul looks down, worshiping God as a living icon.

Perfect Humility:
“…But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
In bold humility the soul loves its God as it takes the lips of the Divinity from within the Human Lips of Christ, as it dares to kiss God’s very Face! It is thus that the face of the soul looks up, not with its own face but with the Virgin Mary’s, worshiping God not as a living icon, but as a living mirror which shines the Brilliance of God back unto God’s-Self.[ii]


Imperfect Humility: The Beginning of Love
The necessity of the Law, that is The Ten Commandments, is to make man aware of his sins so as to lead to his repentance in order that he might live in the light of the Lord. This describes the role of the Law to facilitate and guide man towards the peak of the lesser mount of imperfect-humility. The ascent of this mount is a good and necessary feat which every soul must accomplish, yet it is not the summit of the spiritual life, but in a sense merely the beginning. Knowledge of the Law, or rather knowledge of God through the lens of the tablets of the Law, leads one to possess imperfect self-knowledge. Such self-knowledge leads to imperfect humility because in self-knowledge the soul comes to an understanding of itself as it is in and of itself without the Goodness of God. To use the language of Catherine of Siena: in the mirror of self-knowledge the soul is humbled by its own wretchedness, its countless sins and imperfections that fill the abyss of the soul’s misery.

Yet what do I mean when I speak of ‘knowledge of the Law’ or ‘knowledge of God through the lens of the tablets of the Law’? I refer to a mode of knowing God and relating to Him in the spiritual life within the dimension of morality, of what is good and what is bad, of what is right and what is wrong. Within this moral-mode of knowing God one is focused on ‘being good’, on ‘becoming virtuous’, on ‘being more patient, kind, humble, joyous, obedient, pure and so forth’, in order to be pleasing to God. It is a mode of ‘trying to be better’, of ‘overcoming faults and weaknesses’. In fact this mode can be likened to viewing God through the lens of ascesis or ascetical theology. Now there is nothing wrong with this mode of knowing God, in fact it is necessary and good, except it is an imperfect mode rather than a perfect mode of knowing God. Scripture itself speaks on this when it is said “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it.” (Ps 111:10a). For indeed such fear or wonder and awe at God’s Fullness is the fruit borne in the soul who has come to self-knowledge, and stands in triumph upon the mount of imperfect humility. This self-knowledge is the ‘beginning’ of love and it is necessary that a soul employ itself in self-abasement before the Throne of God, for as St. Paul writes: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).


The Mount of Imperfect Humility
And the Valley of Perfect Humility
Imperfect-humility can rightly be called a mount for though it is a lowly mount, it is a mount nonetheless, because by it one seeks to conquer and be the ruler of oneself through the practice and study of the art of virtue. The aim of one in imperfect-humility is to climb upon the peak within their soul so as to pierce the flag of victory upon themselves of whom they are now master. As master of themselves they fare fairly well at self-control and are now filled with the knowledge that indeed they are nothing, total emptiness without God. Yet the next step, that towards perfect humility, is the beginning of a decent, since once one is master over themselves, to the best possible degree by God’s grace, one is then able to truly offer themselves to God. For who can give what He does not own? Truly indeed a man who is not yet imperfect in humility cannot give himself to God for he himself does not yet grasp within his hands his free will in fullness, since in part at least it grazes upon the fields of the flesh (sarx) and worldliness. When such a man does offer himself to God in an act of surrender he gives himself in part, but not in fullness, for a man can give his will freely to God, but without imperfect humility his will remains enslaved to many countless attractions that are without him; that is the attachments of his will to things in the world and creatures. So without imperfect humility one can give their will to God in part, but not fullness. This can be likened to a shepherd who can give only those sheep which he has in his possession and care; if part of the flock is lost, displaced or beyond his guardianship he cannot give the fullness of his flock but only part of his flock; whereby the flock represents the will and the shepherd the soul. Whilst one is still ascending the mount of imperfect humility they cannot give their whole self; for after all, the climber owns that which stands beneath him, but not that which still remains above and unconquered. Only once he has conquered himself, does he possess imperfect knowledge of self and thus imperfect humility; and all this he has done by his own efforts aided essentially by God’s grace.

Perfect humility can be said to be a valley because by it one comes to descend into the deepest abyss of its valley of wretchedness. By it one shall inherit the fullness of Christ’s promise that “those who humble themselves shall be exalted” (Lk14:11). Indeed it can be said that the mount of imperfect humility like all mounts is prone to frost and chill, more so than the temperate plains beneath where most lukewarm souls dwell. It is thus that the soul in imperfect humility tries to reach God the Sun by conquering itself through self-abasement. Through such a good but imperfect act of ‘trying to reach God’ upon this mount, though the soul may be nearer to God, it is in fact further from the power and effects of His Heat, His Grace that is, because he has come to rely too much upon his own efforts in the spiritual life. It is not that the Lord has withdrawn His grace (actual grace) to such a soul who stands upon the peak of this mount, for rather it is likely that He has increased the outpourings of His grace, since here is a soul that seeks him, though imperfectly, it seeks Him nonetheless. Thus what is meant when it is said that the soul upon this mount is further from the power and effects of God’s Grace, is that God’s Grace, though shining more brightly upon it than ever, is limited by the imperfect humility of the soul which restricts the working of the Divine Hand within it. For God is all powerful, and can do all things, yet He requires the ascent of our free will in order to work within us; yet since in imperfect humility the will is still attached to self, God is to that degree so-restricted. The benefits however of being upon this frosty mount is that the various sins and imperfections within the soul, which are the iniquitous waters of the Nile within it, are frozen and are thus made visible to the eyes of the soul. Such exposition of its sins humbles the soul greatly and disposes it to receive the grace of perfect humility. Now frozen, sin and imperfections are as ice within the soul, and the heat from God’s Love is required to melt it so as to turn it into water that can be eventually turned into wine.

Once the soul has reached the peak of its mount it learns the lesson that its efforts to reach God are but vain attempts though good in and of themselves. It thus learns that it must cease trying to reach God, through its efforts of trying to become holy, virtuous and saintly. Filled with this knowledge, which cannot be gained through abstract learning but only through experience, the soul has come to know that it must not try to ascend to God by ascending itself, since self-mastery with its accompanied imperfect self-knowledge and imperfect humility has only left it a free man, freed from slavery to the devil in pride, and thus nearer to God; yet still with much of the weaknesses and imperfections it had whilst imprisoned. These weaknesses are now clearly manifest to the soul for in imperfect humility the soul used to drawing its strength from the food of Egypt is left starving in the desert of freedom. And such starving is the groan of the soul who after its great slumber in pride is now imperfectly aware of its own hunger, that is its weaknesses, which it noticed not as it slept in the filthy bosom of Satan, represented by Egypt. “I am worse than I ever was or have been” exclaims the soul in despair at its own wretchedness as it reaches the peak of imperfect humility; just as the Israelites complained in their hunger thinking they were better off before when enslaved in Egypt (Ex 16). “At least we had food to eat there” they said, just as the soul can be tempted to exclaim upon this mount: “At least I thought I was good and holy back then in the days of old, when I first begun my spiritual journey, but now look at me, I am worse than I ever was!”. Yet this is to some degree natural for the soul to think, for it has taken time for the slumber of pride to wear off, and now upon the peak of imperfect humility the soul at last has fully awoken to the reality of its wretchedness. 


The Difference Between the
Way of Imperfect and Perfect Humility
The steps one takes in ascending the mount of imperfect humility are steps of ‘trying to decrease’ so that ‘He may increase’. Yet having reached the peak of this mount the soul comes to understand its efforts have been in vain, since upon the peak of that mount it can try to reach the Sun above as much as it wants, but never shall it succeed. Aware of this, after a period of reaching the soul will either camp upon this frosty mountain peak, return to the warmth of the desert, or journey back to its Egypt. If it does none of these the soul shall then proclaim the canticle of perfect humility, whereby it chooses against the ways of imperfect love by choosing for the way of perfect love. This innocent hymn is sung in the silence of the soul’s heart throughout its decent from the mount towards the depths of the valley. The melodic steps taken in this decent are really steps of a perfect ascent. For these steps are steps of ‘allowing God to increase’ rather than steps of ‘trying to decrease’. It is thus that by these steps, taken in the spirit of perfect humility, the soul lets God come to it, rather than it trying to come to God. Furthermore it can be said that each step upon the mount of imperfect humility is a ‘no’ to itself in order to say ‘yes’ or ‘fiat’ to God; and this is the language of the slaves of the Law. Yet each step taken in the decent of perfect humility is a ‘yes’ or ‘fiat’ to God, which automatically results in a ‘no’ to self, but this ‘no’ is unspoken and unthought-of; and this is language of the free Children of God.

The way of imperfection is imperfect precisely because of the slight self-focus, the partial egoism involved, since on this path of ascent to the peak of the mount one is ever-so-slightly relying on them self and concentrating upon ‘their efforts’, and ‘their progress’ in virtue x, y and z. The face of the soul as it climbs this mount looks not up towards God, but down where it walks, upon itself and its actions. At the end of the day the soul goes to sleep mourning the seeds of sin and imperfection that she has sown throughout the day. When she repents she looks down in order to study each of her sins and the unsightliness of her face. On the other hand, the way of perfection is perfect, precisely because of the other-focus upon God, without any focus on self. If the soul who journeys upon this perfect path makes fault or error, it repents ever more deeply than when it had as it climbed the mount, but the difference is that all the while the soul always looks up, never turning its face away from its God, from the Sun far above; for it knows its wretchedness so well that it need not look at itself so as to be reminded. St. Paul proclaims the maxim of such a soul who has shed the hooded robe of imperfect humility and who now walks in the way of perfection when he writes: “Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16a); and by this he speaks of the boldness and confidence obtained by the soul who having descended the mount of imperfect-humility now strides swiftly into the valley of perfect humility.


Why a Mount and Why a Valley?
The question must be asked, why is imperfect humility represented by a mount and perfect humility by a valley? This is because by the souls self-efforts of ‘trying to decrease’ in order to ‘let God increase’ within it, the soul is acting in part like a circus ring master demanding God like a beast to do as the soul so wills; for the soul demands to be made into this, that and everything which is in itself a good thing. This indeed is a harsh example for something which is actually well intentioned, yet such an example illustrates boldly and clearly how imperfect this manner of spirituality is. And so the soul by ‘trying to decrease’, though it ‘decreases’ in pride, can be said to increase because through this mode of relating with God, it thwarts fully what God deigns to work within it; and whilst it gives glory to God, it can be said that it gives imperfect-silver as opposed to perfect-gold. Imperfect humility is also a mount because the soul tries to reach God by climbing or conquering itself through self-denial, through sacrifice. Yet the Good Lord constantly whispers into the ear of the soul who climbs this mount: “'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mat 9:13). He who ‘tries to decrease’, ‘tries to be righteous’ and thus tries to be what he is not, for God alone is righteous, this is why the soul in this state is imperfect in humility. However those who heed this whisper of the Lord and follow it swiftly make their way onto the path of perfection;[iii] and this path of perfect humility is rightly represented by a valley because with the focus of ‘allowing God to increase’ the soul is finally able to perfectly decrease. Since without ‘trying to be righteous’ the soul accepts itself as it really is, a sinner, and presents itself to the Lord as it is, in its raw naked nothingness. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” says the Lord, and thus the soul in perfect humility presents herself as the sinner He has lovingly called, a sinner that does not ‘try to be righteous’ but desires He who is Righteousness itself, and longs for the Lord to be her very own righteousness. Contrarily, the soul upon the mount of imperfect humility seeks to reach God through its sacrifice of itself in fulfillment of the commandments, attainment of the virtues and in the practice of mortifications;[iv] whereas the soul at the base of the valley of perfect humility implores its God to reach it through His Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of the Man-God, which is itself Mercy.


The Valley of Tears
Scripture itself speaks of the decent into the valley of perfect humility as the way of perfect ascent to God, for from the deepest recess of the valley the Lord will come to rescue her, to give her the Wings of the Dawn, of the Spirit, so that she might fly with His wings into the Sun above. “Blessed is the man whose help is from thee” says the Psalmist, “in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.” (Ps 83(84):6-7).[v] Truly this valley is a vale of tears, yet these tears are the melting of the ice of imperfection within it; the ice which manifested itself ever so clearly upon the frosty mount of imperfect humility. Shedding tears in co-redemptive communion with the Lord in Gethsemane, and with the Blessed Mother of Sorrows, the soul’s ills are melted away like ice. For as it reads in Ecclesiasticus (Sirach): “In the day of affliction thou shalt be remembered: and thy sins shall melt away as the ice in the fair warm weather” (3:17). For indeed God’s Love, within the heart of the soul, as ‘fair warm weather’ shall melt away the imperfections of the soul, which shall run forth from the individual’s spiritual and corporeal eyes in the form of tears. “Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4) says Christ to such a fortunate soul. And yet again in regard to those who dwell in the valley of perfect humility the Spirit speaks: “Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.” (Ps 126:6).

Now the tears of the truly blessed are the tears of those who are making their descent into the abyss of the valley of perfect humility. They mourn at their infidelity and wretchedness, yet these bitter tears are intermingled with sweet tears which are the result of weeping at the excess of God’s Love for oneself and for all humanity, who spurns the Crucified Beloved. “When what is perfect comes then that which is imperfect shall disappear” (1 Cor 13:10), and thus the tears of imperfect humility give way to the tears of perfect humility when they come. The tears of the imperfect flow from the eyes as tears of sorrow for sins, sorrow at the lack of love of oneself and all others; and they flow from the eye that looks down at the ghastly ground of sin. The tears of the perfect however, flow from the eyes as tears of love for God and the other, for the sake of this Divine Love; and they flow from the eye that looks up at the Sun which stings it just as an onion so stings the eye that looks upon it. It is thus that the tears of the imperfect are human tears, whereas the tears of the perfect are the overflow of the Divinity within their humanity.


The Soul as Valley, Must be Filled with Water
And Transformed into Wine
Now “Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they [the servants] filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7); and by this the soul is understood to be as an empty vessel, an empty valley, as it were, which our Lord desires to be filled to the brim with water. We must exercise ourselves in love, laboring for God until the point of sweat and tears and beyond. This demands that we fulfill the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. Thus we must pray for the salvation of all with earnest tears, and serve our neighbours in all meekness in joyful friendship. Once we have done all that we can do, until the point of hurting and beyond, then with our sweat and tears as water, shall our soul as a valley be filled to the brim with water. Jesus asked the servants to fill the pots with water yet he did not ask them to turn it into wine. By this we learn that Jesus asks us to do all that we can as human beings, and He as fully Human and Divine shall do the rest. He shall then turn us from a valley filled with water, into a valley filled with wine. How splendid to think! Indeed this describes the Divinization Jesus yearns to complete in us; and just as the water did not cease to exist once it was transformed into wine, so too shall we not cease to exist once we are transformed into perfect Images of God. For wine consists of water, but it is so much more; just as we belong in God, yet He is so much more, and in Him we shall become through grace that which is so much more. It is thus that the soul in the valley of perfect humility has said: “He brought me into the cellar of wine, he set in order charity in me.” For this charity is the Wine of the Divinity, and filled with this drink the Eternal Trinity shall consume us and be merry.


It can be said that each soul is a unique wine and that our God takes delight in each soul in a special and unique manner. The soul that climbs the mount of imperfect humility is a grape maturing as it grows. Once the soul reaches the summit of this mount it is a grape that has ripened. The soul that descends towards the abyss of the valley of perfect humility is a grape being picked by the Divine Harvester; and once it has reached the abyss the soul is a grape that has been crushed in the wine press of the Passion. The process of fermentation describes divinization; and once this is complete, the soul in the Resurrection, as a New Wine, is ready to be consumed. The soul that sings the Canticle of Perfect Humility is the song of the grape that chooses not to abide in the vineyard of the Divinity, but who chooses to abide in the belly of the Divinity itself. Whilst singing this tune all the soul must do is wait to be picked, in order that it might be carried, crushed, fermented and consumed.


Brief Explanation of
The Canticle of Perfect Humility
Within the above poem each line that begins with “I choose not” denotes that which ascribes itself to imperfect humility, with each of these an adornment upon the hooded robe of imperfect humility. The soul by exclaiming “I choose not” is choosing against that which is good but imperfect, in favour of that which is also good yet perfect. Below is a commentary upon three lines from the canticle which aid in understanding it in its entirety.


I choose not to increase in my virtue, but to decrease to Thy Virtue.
In imperfect humility one is focused on their lack of virtue, and in acquiring more virtue by God’s Grace. “Help me to increase in my virtue” says the soul to God, “make me pure, make me humble, make me joyous and obedient”, “help me stop being lustful, proud, glum and disobedient; for I want to please Thee!” This is good, yet the imperfection rests in the partial self-focus, whereby the soul looks at God through the lens of itself; and so it relates with God in relation to its self-knowledge of its wretchedness. In perfect humility however, the soul knows how terrible it is even more so, yet now it looks not through the lens of self, but directly at God by hiding in the gaze of Christ. Such a soul is not concerned with increasing in virtue, but in decreasing to the Divine Virtue’s of God which are always there, present within the very soul itself. She knows this since she is confident in faith that God lives inside her, and that He increases in her each time she fervently receives Him in Holy Communion. She understands that she must decrease to God’s Virtue’s, because it is her ‘self’ which gets in the way of God. With this focus upon the Ineffable Virtues of God, the soul naturally deceases, since the ego is left abandoned as she contents herself with God.                

 Employing this perfect manner, the soul keeps its focus on God with itself in its peripherals. By trying to increase in virtue the soul acts as if it were seeking to acquire something it did not possess, when in fact it already possessed them by its belonging to God who is these countless virtues and beyond. Furthermore, the soul in imperfect humility is inclined to focus on virtues themselves and acquiring them, rather than on God Himself. The soul in perfect humility may still pray “make me pure”, but the spiritual mindset that accompanies this prayer is greatly elevated, and the will is fixed purely on God and not upon a virtue, its acquisition or the self. “I choose not to increase in my virtue” says the soul upon the mount of imperfect humility; as it takes the step to descend towards the valley of Perfect Humility, in order to decrease to God’s Virtue. Such is the beginning of the path of perfection.


I choose not the least place at Thy table, but the floor with the dogs.
Just because imperfect humility is more about dwelling upon self-unworthiness than upon the worthiness of God, this does not mean that perfect humility sheds itself of the knowledge of self-unworthiness as it completely focuses upon the worthiness of God. This would be impossible, because the delight of tasting God’s worthiness is tasted upon the tongue of self-unworthiness. This means that in perfect humility the knowledge of self-unworthiness, the tongue, is kept not in idle hiding within the recesses of the mouth, as it praises God, but in the business of tasting God’s worthiness, as it praises God. John writes: “Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath sin. And he that feareth is not perfected in charity.” (1 Jn 4:18). There is thus an element of reverential fear in imperfect humility, but in perfect humility this reverential fear is transformed into loving boldness; and this boldness leads the soul to be almost daring and extreme in its affections and sentiments.     Now our Lord has instructed us: “When thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee. Because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:10-11). The above line from the canticle: “I choose not the least place at Thy Table, but the floor with the dogs”, is thus representative of the soul who in perfect humility is exceedingly bold, to take God at His word, and to take it so much so that is seems to be taken almost ‘too far’, when in fact it is not. For rather such radical affection is the deepest fulfillment of God’s desires bursting forth from within the soul itself. Since after all, God desires to exalt exceedingly and outrageously, and thus we should seek, in Christ, to be humbled exceedingly and outrageously in order to meet the radical yearnings of God’s Love.

I choose not thee, but Thee my God.
Often in the spiritual life we may not be worshiping God in and of Himself, but rather we may be tainting our worship by Adoring God through the various idols we have of Him; and these idols may especially be narrow conceptions we hold of God. These idols we make of God act as filters which dilute the purity of our worship; yet God in His Unfathomable Mercy, accepts such worship because He knows that as fallen creatures with impaired intellects, we are easily inclined towards mistaking ‘what we think of God’, or ‘who we think God is’ rather than who He actually is. When the soul upon the mount of imperfect humility exclaims “I choose not thee” by referring to God in lower case letters, it chooses against the narrow conceptions and limitations it made of God; and thus it is choosing not against God Himself, but against the god he has been inclined to think of God as. It also involves a radical shift in the way the soul approaches God relationally. For in imperfect humility the soul may fear God and His judgments if it holds false-images of God as harsh and distant, the latter of which is a prominent belief, due to imperfect humilities partial focus upon the unworthiness of the self, and as such deems itself ‘unlovable’, or at least it doubts the extent of God’s Love for it. However in perfect humility, the soul comes to trust in God as a Merciful Father and Mother; as it loves Him with the filial confidence of a child; since it no longer doubts that it is loved by God, for in firm faith it holds to this truth, even if the intellect lays feeble without a reason why during moments of intense darkness. “I choose not thee, but Thee my God” says the soul in perfect humility; and indeed this summarises the entirety of the canticle.
 
Conclusion
The way of perfection is the path of Calvary, and upon this path the soul as it descends further and further towards the abyss of the valley within its soul, walks further and further away from the mount of its thoughts and ideas of who it thought itself was, its neighbour’s were and above all, who it thought God was. For after all, one climbs the the mount of imperfect humility with imperfect self-knowledge and imperfect knowledge of God; whilst on the other hand, one arrives at the valley of perfect humility with perfect self-knowledge and perfect knowledge of God; which is not so much the acquisition of knowing ‘who God is’ but the abandonment of ‘who God is not’ and the total surrender to the Ineffability of ‘who God is’. Perhaps in conclusion it can be said that the following maxim applies to imperfect humility: ‘in knowing oneself one comes to imperfectly know God’; whilst in perfect humility it can be said, that ‘in knowing God one comes to perfectly know oneself’; and this emphasis on God before self is the ideal summary of what perfect humility consists.





[i] This chamber is rightly called the chamber of the eclipse, because the mystical moment of consummative union that occurs in the bedchamber of the soul, occurs in darkness and obscurity, and is the moment where moon (the soul) and sun (God), so to say, become one. The deepest centre of the soul (the valley) has become the ‘chamber of the eclipse’ that is the chamber of this unitive encounter. Though the souls faculties see naught but the darkened face of the moon, in its inner most being it tastes the brightness of the sun like it never has before, in fact that face of the moon is in complete likeness to the sun and can be said to be one.
[ii] Note: The lips of Christ’s humanity are the lips of Mary; and the face of Mary is the face of Christ’s humanity, since the humanity of Christ has proceeded from the Virgin Mary.
[iii] All men, except our Lord and Virgin Mother, had to ascend the mount of imperfect humility; yet some ascend this mount ever so quickly, whilst others proceed slowly and whilst others make camp upon this mount in idleness.
[iv] None of these things are bad, but good, however never should it be said that holiness consists in pious acts of mortification or fasting, because holiness consists in love of God and the abiding of God within. Mortifications ought to be practiced but they should not be considered to constitute what holiness is.

[v] The bible translation mostly utilised is the Douay-Reims for translation accuracy; with the RSV utilised at other times.