The following text was written by Lucie Christine, the pseudonym of the French mystic, Mathilde Bertrand-Boutlé. It tells of an experience of desolation that is somewhat difficult to notice. While not a state of complete and utter hopelessness, what she describes is a state that could be considered complacency, but it’s deeper than that; it brings into question the foundation upon which we have shaped our lives through the decidedly calm and passive medium of silence.
This week, frequent privation of the sensible presence of the Beloved. When it is given to the soul to feel Jesus present, so long as she can remain recollected, it is like a divine answer which she receives incessantly, or like the glance of a friend whom she has the joy of having near her; but when Jesus is no longer present to the soul she speaks to him, she adores him, she calls him as before, and silence is the only answer. Faith remains, but instead of the Sacred Presence the soul experiences isolation and emptiness. She then acknowledges that this state is all she deserves, having certainly never done anything which merited better treatment, and she thanks our Lord for his past favors.
But the Tempter comes, and tries to make use of the distress of this soul, and at every step, under every pretext, suggests most hideous or discouraging thoughts to her. Then the soul makes acts of faith, of generosity, and of confidence which she can hardly hear in her innermost being amid the noise and disturbance caused there by the evil one. She watches carefully not to omit anything…and to serve her Lord in the time of desolation as in the time of consolation, because at all times he is equally worthy of love…. But she finds no solace in anything, because the evil spirit makes her see evil in all things. She is dissatisfied with everything she does; her confidence in God appears to be presumption, her fixed will to serve him, illusion.
If she prays, she is wearied by hearing the blasphemies of her miserable enemy; if she wants to make an act of love, it seems to her as if a weight heavy as the world were preventing her heart from raising itself to God; if she calls upon Jesus she thinks he turns away from her….
In this state she offers herself to God for his glory and the salvation of souls, and resigns herself to remain thus until it may please the Lord to give her some truce, which, indeed, in his goodness he deigns to do from time to time, uniting the soul to himself during some short moments which lighten up the dark night in which she finds herself.
I, and I think probably other people, fall into this trap laid out for us. I tend to get very intellectually absorbed into matters of the faith, which is objectively good, but the shortcoming with this is that it’s not enough to simply know things about God and about the faith. I can do the things a good Christian should do and truly mean well when I do, but sometimes it’s not because I feel the love of God within me, sometimes it’s not because I hear God speaking to me in my prayers, it’s because I know objectively that they are the correct thing to do. While this may be perceived by others as a positive thing, it’s really not so much. It’s at this point, that I’m operating out of a state of nearly imperceptible desolation; I honestly don’t feel the negative feelings usually associated with the textbook definition of desolation, so I must be fine, right? But at the same time, I don’t feel the same fire inside, the same movement of my soul for the love of God. I desire to feel it, yes, but sometimes, it’s just not there.
There is hope, however; there’s always hope in the Lord. The peace we seek is found in Christ and through the unification of our life with his. On Earth, in this imperfect world, we are tormented by an ebbing lack of peace whether it is inaudible or overbearing. But in Christ, we are bound together as God’s children. We are given an invitation to enter into eternal and everlasting peace, true and perfect accord with God. The way to break the state of temporal desolation is to be united with Christ and the Church through the sacraments. In doing so, we receive a foretaste of the true peace found in Paradise and become part of the mystical body of Christ who unites our souls to himself “during some short moments which lighten up the dark night” in which we find ourselves.