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Letter IX.—Death of Self-Love.
To Sister Marie-Anne-Thérèse de Rosen. Annihilation and spiritual agony.
My dear Sister,
1st. Such a lively impression of your nothingness in the sight of God is one of the most salutary operations of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I know how much suffering this operation entails. The poor soul feels as if it would become utterly annihilated, but for all that, it is only nearer the true life. In fact the more we realise our nothingness the nearer we are to truth, since we were made from nothing, and drawn out of it by the pure goodness of our Lord. We ought therefore to remember this continually, in order to render by our voluntary annihilation a continual homage to the greatness and infinity of our Creator. Nothing is more pleasing to God than this homage, nothing could make us more certain of His friendship, while at the same time nothing so much wounds our self-love. It is a holocaust in which it is completely consumed by the fire of divine love. You must not then be surprised at the violent resistance it offers, especially when the soul experiences mortal anguish in receiving the death-blow to this self-love. The suffering one feels then is like that of a person in agony, and it is only through this painful agony and by the spiritual death which follows it that one can arrive at the fulness of divine life and an intimate union with God. What else can be done when this painful but blessed hour arrives, but imitate Jesus Christ on the Cross; commend one’s soul to God, abandoning oneself more and more utterly to all that this sovereign Master pleases to do to His poor creature, and to endure this agony for as long as He pleases.
2nd. For the time that these crucifying operations continue, the understanding, the memory and the will are in a fearful void, in nothingness. Love this immense void since God deigns to fill it; love this nothingness since the infinitude of God is there. Take good courage, my dear daughter, and agree to everything with that holy abasement of spirit of Jesus crucified. It is from Him that we should look for all our strength. When these agonies begin, accustom yourself to repeat, “Yes, Lord, I desire to do Your holy will in all things, in union with Jesus Christ.” What is there to fear in such company? In the midst of the strongest temptations, cast yourself simply at the feet of your Saviour-God, and your troubles will cease; He will render you victorious, and aided by His strength your weakness will triumph over all the artifices of the tempter.
3rd. The revolt of the passions without any occasion being given them by you, the interior excitement and involuntary trouble this and a hundred other miseries cause in you, are permitted for two reasons. First, to humble you in an extraordinary degree, to make you realise what a heap of misery, what an abyss of corruption is yours, in allowing you to see what would become of you without the great mercy of God. Secondly, in order that by the interior supervention of fresh operations all these germs of death, hitherto hidden in your own soul, can be uprooted like noxious weeds, which only appear above ground that they may be more easily taken up by the skilled hand of the gardener. It is only after having completely cleared the ground that he can cultivate wholesome plants, sweet smelling flowers, and choice fruits. Let Him do this, give up to Him entirely the task of cultivating this rough ground, which left to itself could bring forth nothing but thistles and thorns. Do not be anxious. Be content to feel yourself greatly humbled and much confounded, remain profoundly abased in this heap of mire, like Job on his dung-hill; it is your right place; wait for God to draw you out of it, and meanwhile allow yourself to be purified by Him. What does it signify so long as you are pleasing to Him? Sometimes princes take pleasure in splashing their favourites with water, then the favourite is happy to be thus treated since it gives his prince pleasure.
4th. When you feel pusillanimous and filled with fears, humble yourself, and say to yourself, “My weakness is so extreme that left to myself I could do nothing, but with the grace of Jesus Christ everything becomes possible and easy. In him alone will I hope, He will give me all that is good for me.”
5th. But what is most trying, but most in conformity with the rules by which privileged souls are guided, is the piercing thought that God rejects you, that He abandons you as for ever unworthy of His favours. Oh! my dear Sister, you would be only too happy now if you could understand as I do what is even in this, the kind conduct of God in your regard. All that I can say to you about it, and I say it without knowing whether in your state of trial, it will please God to make you understand it, is that never have you loved God so purely as now, and that never have you been so much loved by Him. But this love is so hidden away in the midst of your torments and apparent miseries that your director has need of a certain amount of experience to be able to recognise it. But have patience, this fearful darkness will be succeeded by a clear light, the brilliance of which will delight you. Yes, my dear Sister, you can believe me, even though at present you may not be able to understand, because I do not tell you anything of which God has not given me a certitude. The bitterest part of your trials, those ideas of being separated from God, which plunges you into a kind of hell, is the most divine of all the operations of divine love in you; but the operation is completely hidden beneath altogether contrary appearances. It is the fire which seems to destroy the soul while purifying it of all self-love, as gold is refined in the crucible. Oh! how happy you are, without knowing it! how dear you are without understanding it, what great things God effects in your soul in a manner so much the more certain the more it is hidden and unrecognized. It is our weakness, oh my God, it is our wretched self-love, it is our pride that prevent You giving us great graces without hiding them from us, or, in other words, without our knowledge, for fear that we should corrupt Your gifts by appropriating them to ourselves in foolish, secret, and imperceptible self-satisfaction. This, my dear Sister, is the whole mystery of the obscure dealings of God in your regard. In brief, my dear Sister, fear nothing, keep firm, take courage; God is with you and in you, you have nothing to fear even if you were in hell in the midst of unchained devils. Nothing can happen to you save by the permission of God, and He will permit nothing that will not turn to your advantage; therefore you are perfectly safe as long as you confide in the goodness of so faithful a friend, so tender a Father, so powerful a protector, so passionate a lover and spouse. For these tender and loving titles are those which He deigns to give Himself in Holy Scripture, and the significance of which He so perfectly fulfils in your regard.
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