July 10, 2018

Session 49 of the Spirituality and Practice Retreat focuses on what the Holy Spirit does for us as we consent to its presence and action in our lives.  As we are more and more open to the Spirit, the Spirit allows us to see who we really are, our good characteristics and the characteristics we struggle with.  As we are allowed to see this information about ourselves, we are healed from our false selves.  This begins when we consent to the transformative process and one of the actions we can take to consent is centering prayer.  

Father Keating uses a model of a spiral that descends at the same time it is connected with a spiral that ascends, like a DNA model that is moving up and down at all times.  He says "So down is up and up is down. You can’t humble yourself without being exalted. And you can’t exalt yourself without being humbled. This diagram becomes a circle in which you arrive at the same place whichever spiral you are emphasizing. You find purity of heart; the emptying of the unconscious junk of a lifetime and the transforming union which is the full development of grace and the supernatural organism (true self), the results of which move us towards the experience of Oneness in varying degrees."

Session 50 and 51 are Pauses in the Retreat.  Session 52 begins the third phase of the Retreat and begins with a lecture by Father Keating on the Dark Night of the Sense.  Keating explains that we all have a false self system and so has everyone except the very few, which he lists as Mary and "maybe" St. Joseph.  What we all have to cope with is "Our experience, then, as we approach full self-reflective self-consciousness, is the experience of an uprooted identity, an identity that is experienced as alienation from ourselves, from other people, from God. And we come to this full existential separate self-sense without the experience of union with God. And this gives rise to all the alternate or substitute or pseudo ways of finding happiness in a heart that is existentially alone and afraid."

Keating notes PROGRESS IN THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY DEPENDS ON DEVELOPING THE PERSONAL LOVE OF CHRIST.   We establish and build this relationship through prayer.  Keating notes we can use Lectio Divina to establish, build and maintain a friendship with our Lord.  He then explains that as our friendship deepens, we begin to be able to let go of our ordinary requirements of safety and security, affection and esteem, power and control, but it doesn't feel good to let go of our usual and depended upon methods of "feeling better".  We begin to know we have to trust in God even though we may not feel His presence as we have in the past and at times, these trials result in some false self system needs that overwhelm us and we do not behave as we would like to.  Keating explains, "Actually, it’s the divine light simply focusing on one area of basic selfishness so that we may experience inwardly and face that particular mixed motivation or that dark side of our personality which prefers our own satisfaction, when the chips are down, to the rights and needs of others. In other words, these energy centers are the sources of personal sin."  For us on the spiritual path, we must keep going.  Next, we undergo the trial of believing, that because we are holy or trying to be holy, that God needs to reward us and we feel betrayed, hurt, and bewildered when this is not what we experience in our daily lived experiences.   

We eventually come to know, as Father Keating acknowledges, that God is going to "TREAT US LIKE AN ORDINARY PERSON One of the great fruits of this Night of Sense is humility in which we begin to assume once again our place as a member of the human family, suffering all the human conditions that anybody else does. And now we allow God to treat us like an ordinary person without expecting special treatment. But now we know, as we accept that situation, that at a deeper level, God is actually giving us even greater protection, because as we go through a few impossible situations, we find that somehow God always provides us with a way out. And little by little, as we accept the disintegration of the false self system which the Night of Sense is gradually, gently, bringing to an end, then the levels of prayer [pointing to the list above Night of Sense on chart] that St. Teresa describes in “The Interior Castle” may begin to unfold. The Night of Sense, then, is designed to bring about the death of the false self, the dismantling of the energy centers, and the enormous freedom of being able to decide what to do with our lives, with everything that happens, without the compulsions, the routines, and the fixations of the false self system."

You may wish to read Chapter 11 - 14 in Invitation to Love (20th anniversary edition), Chapters 10 - 13 in older editions. You also may wish to read The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May.