I guess I’ve had this before, but never really thought about it.
I finished re-reading The Way of Perfection tonight. Third time I’ve read it; first time it’s “done anything” for me. It’s really opened up. Amazing.
Somehow, I managed to read–and understand–40 pages in 20 minutes. This left me with 40 minutes and “nothing to do.” So I prayed the “O Blood and Water” prayer for about every intention I could think of, recited a few Psalms from memory, and so on. Then I still had 15 minutes to go, and I tried doing the “just shutting your mind down” thing. I”ve never been good at this. My mind doesn’t shut down. My mind always has something going on, even if it’s the thought, “Stop thinking so Jesus can say something.”
Or pop music playing in the background of my head while I try to wait for Jesus to say something.
Only time God ever really “speaks” to me in prayer is when I read the Scriptures before the Sacrament.
Anyway, I was trying, really, really hard. And something happened.
Dryness is one thing. Get that all the time. Just like dryness in marriage. When you’re not feeling “in love,” you can either neglect your spouse or try all the harder to be romantic. When you’re getting dryness in prayer, you can either give up on prayer or else try harder.
Spiritual attack is another. There are sometimes when I’m praying intensely–usually outside church–and otherwise in a state of grace and all that, and I really feel the Enemy attacking me, spiritually and physically. I literally feel a crown of thorns in my head. My body gets racked with pain (that expression: is it “wracked,” “racked” or “wrecked”?). . . . That’s another thing.
Consolations are great. Usually, I only get them after a really good, hour long prayer experience (in Adoration or some other silent situation) and/or after receiving Communion.
St. Teresa compares consolation to an “internal and external swoon.” I know that feeling very well.
Consolation is the feeling of “being in love” with God, and is comparable the feeling of being in love with God. Consolation after Communion is the one thing that can truly be described as “better than sex.”
I would compare my experience at Adoration tonight to maybe the days before peak during the fertile cycle. My internal feelings were a combination of fatigue, being in love with Jesus, and yet feeling very bound to earth, very dry internally.
Yet I was feeling a very strong *desire* for Jesus. And I could feel the Consolation, as it were, hovering outside me, just out of reach, wanting to break in. Now, if I were in a state of sin, I could understand this, but, as far as I’m aware, I’m OK. I went to Confession a week and a half ago. I’m not conscious of any mortal sins committed since then, although I’ve got a few sins of ommission to confess next time.
But it was like this barrier was keeping Jesus from coming into my soul. And I even invoked the fact that I’d received Communion earlier. So I struggled to empty my mind, to pray that I could empty my mind and let Jesus in. I could feel the grace from the Host, calling to me, the way I can feel my wife’s love calling to me at certain times of the month.
Yet nothing was happening. Instead, the desire to be one with Him was so strong–like the desire that time of the month–that my blood pressure was shooting up. My heart started pounding. My head started pulsating and hurting. I wanted Jesus so badly. I could feel Him there, but there was no consolation, and no sense of peace or well-being. Just the awareness of this barrier that I can’t discern.
I almost wondered if it was some kind of demonic attack, since the headache is involved. But demonic attack usually has a sense of consolation going along with it. On the other hand, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt demonic attack while in Church, so that may have been it.
But I really wanted to just jump up and run out of Church. My body couldn’t take the pain. I kept checking the clock to see if I’d at least made my hour. I did give up–not on making my watch but on trying to actively pray. I just complelely shut down. I did manage to empty my mind of everything, including the desire to “let Jesus in,” and stared at the Monstrance, blankly. I didnt’ get a consolation or a sense of peace, but I did get a sense of relief from the massive pressure I was in a moment before.
So I decided to write this post. Reflecting on it gave me some awareness of the spirituality of NFP, and some other thoughts.
C. S. Lewis’s idea of Purgatory was that the experience of God, in our fallen state, is so painful that, as we try to get closer to Him in the afterlife, we endure great pain until our failings are stripped away and we become completely selfless, at which point being in the direct presence of God ceases to hurt.
Are you ever so overwhelmed by the experience of Jesus that you want to flee from Him?