The path to perfection, as St. John of the Cross puts it, is done in darkness. Faith will guide one through it all, but that doesn’t mean it will be comfortable or logical. It is through this darkness that transformation occurs. Transformation to what? Jesus Christ of course. St. John of the Cross describes two transformations: one of the sense, and one of the soul. Whether this a uniform path or not, as we draw closer to God, and as we become more docile to the movements of the spirit, transformation is supposed to occur. We are called to transform beyond what we are; to ultimately be transformed to Christ.
It’s something to ponder deeply for sure. First off, we are called to be like Christ, but what does that even mean, and how do we understand that? We can read about, and understand who Christ is through scripture, but even then, depending on where we are in our journey, we may only get fragments of who He truly is. The saints have helped fill in the gaps greatly, and if you look at the entirety of their lives, there are some specific markers that become apparent in one’s life. Of course, these are spiritual, such as an increase in virtue, a decrease in sin, etc. Even if we are look at the life of Christ, and even if we look at the lives of saints, we are still very limited in our understanding of this transformation. Why? Purely because unless we experience the thing, we have no idea what it really is. All we know is that a transformation can occur, and in varying degrees, but without an experimental knowledge of the thing, it really is difficult to comprehend. As we advance further, this becomes evident, but it is rarely fully evident at the beginning of the journey.
This walking by faith in darkness is very difficult because we have to suspend all comprehension when we the Lord wishes to transform us beyond our current state. This lack of comprehension does make sense. We are finite, and God is infinite. Even if we try to comprehend Him and His ways, we can very easily fall into error. This is because a finite thing cannot contain something infinite. Only the opposite is true. I believe it is for this reason that many do not pursue perfection. Not so much that they do not want to be like Christ, but what is required for them to begin the journey is very difficult. To put it another way, it requires us to be completely powerless and to have no control, something which is very difficult to truly live out.
One challenge we have to deal with today is that the “science” of perfection is poorly understood. Many do not appreciate the idea that we are called to be like Christ. We are called to be His brothers and sisters. This is what a saint is; it is one who is like Christ. The spirit working through us transforms us to be like Christ. Today, we are often called to be something lesser, or something vague. The big buzz word is to be disciples or missionary disciples. What does that mean? The mainstream understanding is someone who simply goes out into the world, and brings the good news of Christ to others. All of this stems from Matthew 28 on the Great Commission. Some equate missionary disciples to saints, but why create another word to describe something that already exists? If that is the intent, it is confusing, but I do not think that is the intent. In some ways, it creates confusion on the ultimate calling of our life.
The teachers of the Church, broadly speaking, also do not understand this ultimate goal. Can you expect the blind to lead others faithfully down the narrow path? People are not given the entirety of truth, the entirety of Christ’s message, and just like the pharisees, these teachers lead most folks quicker to hell than themselves. Striking language, but this is the reality. Does anyone tell you that you have to fight tooth and nail with the world, the flesh, and the devil daily? Everyday is a spiritual battle for our souls, yet do we treat it as such? The understanding between grace and action is also extremely critical. All things are only accomplished by grace, but do we cooperate with that grace? Many people tend to live on either extreme, yet so few appreciate this balance.
It is distressing to think that there are some souls who are ardently trying to walk in the way of Christ, yet perhaps are utterly alone in this journey. I think this will be the new norm for many. All is not lost, of course. The spirit guides us constantly, and is the one working within us to transform us to be like Christ. If we are lost sheep with no shepherd, I think He will fill the void always, but only if we are docile to Him. We can always be docile to Him, even if we don’t have a spiritual director. All things have to be done manfully; we cannot be cowardly. If we truly desire to go down the path of perfection, the Lord will help us.
Blessed Mother, pray for us! You who are so close to Him, pray that we may become more like Him.