Do you know what it means to be restored by Christ? Christ is always offering us a newness of life. However, what does that look like? Mike “Gomer” Gormley continues his discussion on the essential elements of Catholic Discipleship moving from the Purgative Way to the Illuminative Way.
Snippet from the Show
“If the soul is to make progress, there must be a gradual reclothing of her with the graces in which Christ desires to see her.”
Christ strips away from the soul all those things that are not of Christ- the gifts, the adornments- in the purgative way. The soul passes through 3 principle disillusionments to be fully stripped of falsehood concerning our relationship with Christ. First is the disillusionment with external things, with the human side of the Church. Second is the disillusionment with internal things, especially ones misconceptions of grace, Christ, and prayer. Third is the disillusionment with oneself, finally seeing clearly our own unworthiness so that we may cast ourselves upon Christ wholly.
This Week’s Question
How does Christ restore within us a newness of life?
Join Gomer as he walks with Anglican convert to Catholicism, Robert Hugh Benson and his amazing book, The Friendship of Christ: Exploring the Humanity of Jesus. Gomer’s goal is to better understand what our relationship with Christ looks like as his disciples. Using the spiritual theology of the Catholic Church, we now turn from the purgative way to the illuminative way, where the soul, once stripped of her false garments, now resides.
Part One: External Things
The first step of the Illuminative Way, then, may be said to lie, by a paradox, in the instruction which the soul receives as regards their value… In the Purgative Way the soul learns that external things cannot, in themselves, bear her weight that they are worth nothing. In the Illuminative Way she learns how to use them correctly and that they are worth a great deal.
Example of a person who annoys us and we have to ditch them to keep our cool in the purgative way, or an occasion of sin, or an “untiring temptation” we suffer, becomes illuminated and we need these very things to grow in holiness.
The Lord gives light to see the real value in these external things.
Some virtues cannot be attained, some victories over vices cannot be attained, without this illumination and contention. This is the meaning of Saint Paul in 2 Cor 12 when he talks about Christ’s grace is “sufficient” for Paul, for “my power is made perfect in weakness”. This conflict between my weakness and Christ’s power makes Divine Grace most effective in our souls.
We all struggle with things, people, temptations, but in the Illuminative Way, we perceive their value intellectually and interiorly, so clearly and unmistakably that it becomes almost impossible for the soul to resent or rebel. The soul will accept these things and use them as God wills.
The soul is no longer bewildered by pain, but answers it “in the only way which it is possible, by grasping Pain, or at any rate acquiescing in it.
Part Two: Internal Things
The second step of the Illuminative Way corresponding to that of the Purgative consists in light being gained from God as to the reality of interior things, for instance, of the Truths of Religion.
- The initial step into faith, we hold an enormous number of dogmas and teachings of which we have no interior experience. We receive it as a child, but without true understanding. We may know definitions of the doctrines, but they have “no glimmer of light within her… She holds the dogmas of faith, but cannot compare them in any sense to natural facts or see those numbers points at which they fit into other facts of her experience.”
- When Illumination comes, the mysteries don’t cease to be mysteries, but now there begins to shine to her spiritual sense, point after point in those jewels of truth which up now have been opaque and colorless. …there is no longer an impenetrable darkness within them.
- This soul finds those things she always took as true are now true to her as well as in themselves. She walked in security, but also in darkness. Now she begins to see, dimly.
Part Three: The Relations between the Soul and Christ
The third stage of Illumination, corresponding to the Purgative Way, deals with those actual relations between Christ and the soul. The last step of the purgative was the abandonment of the soul into Christ’s arms once self-reliance is given up. Now there is the accession of light which the soul receives as the abiding Presence of Christ within her, or rather of her abiding presence within Christ.
- Divine Friendship becomes the object of actual intelligence and contemplation. Christ is not only enjoyed, but perceived and understood. This is what the spiritual writers call Ordinary Contemplation.
- Extraordinary Contemplation with all of its attendant miraculous manifestations, is not to be prayed for and is a state that is always to be regarded with supreme self-distrust.
- Ordinary Contemplation is the opposite. It is what we should all pray for and strive for and aspire to. This is within the reach of ordinary graces. Every Christian should be here.
- Ordinary Contemplation is consciousness of God that God is never wholly absent from one’s thoughts, even subconsciously. When first initiated into Friendship with Christ, we had “extreme, though fitful, intensity… Ordinary Contemplation, then, is the fixing of this state by effort as well as by grace.”
- Until your soul has been purged of that which is not of Christ and then illuminated to the exterior, then interior things, the consciousness of Christ’s interior presence cannot be continuous. When taken place, the soul is trained for the life of friendship with Christ, divine companionship. Such Ordinary Contemplation is the attention the soul gives to Christ.
- Sins, however, become far more grave, subjectively speaking. And Virtues become far easier to practice. For “it is difficult for any soul to sin very outrageously so long as she feels the pressure of Christ’s hand in hers.”
Part Four: The Supreme Danger is Individualism
Every stage has its own dangers. This is because every advancement towards God increases the depths of the gulf we can fall into. This Illuminative Way gives us what the soul has wanted from the beginning of her conversion: consummation with Christ Jesus. The supreme danger is Individualism.
Individualism in this case is the reality that the soul has advanced beyond the temptations of ordinary pride. Now, that subtler satanic form of spiritual pride is not just possible, but encountered. Through this spiritual pride, emotional and intellectual pride seeps in.
Every heretic and sect that rents the unity of Christ’s Body has taken rise primarily in the Illuminated Soul! This is the chosen Friends of Christ that are the chief heretics in history. Such heretics enjoyed a high degree of interior knowledge.
What is the solution to not end in destruction? Coupled with this increase in the interior spiritual life, there must be the devotion and submission to the exterior Voice of God. “Nothing is so difficult to discern as the differences between the inspirations of the Holy Ghost and the aspirations or imaginations of self.”
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Meet Your Hosts
Michael “Gomer” Gormley
Michael has been leading evangelization and ministry efforts for the past ten years, both as a full-time parish staff member and as a speaker and consultant for parishes, dioceses, and Catholic campus ministries.
Mike is also the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and the producer and cohost of a Catholic young adult podcast Catching Foxes, which discusses the collision of Faith and Culture.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and they have about 1,000 children and get about 3 hours of sleep a night, which is alright by him.
Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.
He is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.
Dave resides in Pittsburgh with his wife Amber and their five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.