Dark Night of the Soul- Redux



I have been thinking a bit more on the Dark Night of the Soul topic I posted about here and the theme of abandonment by God. My mind was running over some of the ideas presented in the film 'The Grey' which is on Sky at the moment.


Father Barron reviews the film here and gives you a good idea of the context. The film is a pretty bleak portrait of the futility of human life. We struggle against insurmountable odds and, largely regardless of what decisions we make, we are faced with a stream of difficulties, which only come to an end when we die. The Grey translates this bleak philosophy into a film about wolves hunting men who have crashed in a snowy wilderness. Fr. Robert centres on the challenge made by Neeson's character to God at the end of the film: show up and do something or you don't exist. Feeling utterly abandoned by God, he demands proof. 

How familiar is this challenge. It made me really quite sad watching the film, because God really has shown up and done something in my life--and He did it when I needed Him the most. This meant that my first thoughts on watching this scene were, bizarrely, how fictional it seemed to me. Why? Well, because I believe God would turn up and help you if you were in that situation and you asked for His help, I really do! The other feeling was one of almost embarrassment at the arrogance of man who would challenge God, and this fits in well with what Fr. Robert teaches us about Job in the clip above. 

This idea of demanding a sign made me think about two events in the Scriptures about the mighty Prophet Elijah. First, his battle with the priests of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel recounted in 1 Kings 18: 16-39. Here Elijah calls on God to provide a sign so that the people will know that He is real whilst the prophets of Baal and Asharah pray to a false God. Elijah's prayer is answered and the people fall prostrate. I've always loved this passage of Scripture. How much faith must Elijah have had to issue such a challenge? Is faith the issue here? On occasion I have prayed and my prayers have been answered. But on other occasions my prayers are not answered, even when I think I am praying for something really good, like someone to get well. God does not always grant our requests, because, like children, what we ask for is not always what is best for us. Prayer is never about changing God, it is always about changing us.

Elijah's actions on Carmel are in sure faith and knowledge of the LORD. In The Grey, Neeson's character has no faith and is demanding proof.

The other passage I thought of was when Elijah listens for God and hears him in the gentle breeze 1 Kings 19:11-13 Often God is speaking to us and we are just not listening. His way is not always the way we want 
In the words of the hymn 'Holy God We Praise They Name': "Lo, I put my trust in thee, never Lord abandon me."

I also asked the Catholic blogger Paul Priest (On The Side of The Angels) about this and this is his explanation:

supposing I started with the second question of the penny catechism
then went through some apologetics to explain knowing God - the Trinity, our ontology and purpose - the Incarnation, the Fall and Redemption and the Holy Spirit in the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ - Loving and Serving by love, life, commission, vocation, family and charity and the workplace...then the life of prayer and devotion and veneration - the sacraments
then supernatural and actual grace
then move on to explain this through the theological and cardinal virtues supplemented by gifts of the holy spirit with intro to virtue ethics and the common good...
THEN did the BIG issue - what is happiness...
Then went through the Beatitudes and explaining what real happiness means and how an undying, increasing happiness can be derived through virtue, sacrifice and unswerving love and proof of love to others with an ever increasing cost..emulating Christ on His cross and sharing that burden of our personal cross and those of others...
THEN mentioned the dark night of the soul...
..it would all fit into the system..it would be seen as a perfecting grace to intensify the virtues...the removal of actual grace like removing the stabilisers from a bike ...the wiping away of the threats of spiritual pride, the exemplification of hope in hopelessness, faith in almost bottomless doubt, of love while feeling abandoned unloved and unlovable...walking that via dolorosa..joining in with the agony in the garden and the eloi, eloi...that those closer to God are the ones with the greater burden and the willingness to sacrifice graces them with suffering for their neighbour....
it would all make sense...its inherent romantic overtones..its great sacrifice.
To not explain this and relate it as ''ooooh it's a mystical mystery' is nigh on close to as damaging as Ivan's diatribe in karamazov where 'if this is the price you demand God - well you can have my ticket back I don't want to have anything to do with you'
Fr Barron's work is seriously lacking in one crucial way - it doesn't explain God's love for God
...therefore it doesn't explain what the Trinity is
...and doesn't explain what the Mass truly is...and how it's the greatest act beyond any other act and in which we're graced to participate where God's act of Love to God for the sake of us all is made manifest...
Only when you understand that can the dark night of the soul even begin to be contemplated....

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