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Saint of Darkness

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta Paperback – by Mother Teresa (Author), Brian Kolodiejchuk (Editor)

The publication of these letters of Mother Teresa led to surprise amongst some at the realisation that she spent nearly the last fifty years of her life without any sensation of God’s presence, to the point of some calling her life hypocritical. This surprise fails to realise that the authentic Christian inner spiritual journey moves from creatures to union with Creator. Feelings, spiritual experiences, our ideas and images of God – these are all creatures.

In what is called the kataphatic tradition (the positive way) God is powerful like us – but more so: all powerful; loving – all loving; present – omnipresent; knowing – all knowing omniscient…

There is another tradition, called the apophatic tradition (the negative way) – more prevalent in the East than in the West, including, within Christianity, within our Eastern approach. The apophatic approach is that God is not like this, God is not like that. We have a well-known (Western) hymn that alludes to this:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting

We need to recover, renew, and spread the word about the apophatic approach.

What do you think?

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As part of my ongoing rebuilding older sections of this site, I have reblogged some earlier posts in the spirit of Throwback Thursday. This is one of those.

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6 Responses to Saint of Darkness

  1. One of the happiest and most affirming days of my spiritual was when this was revealed about Mother Teresa! Honestly and no kidding, do people really believe that everyone is all cozy-chatting with the Almighty ALL the time?!? Spiritual life is just NOT like that and the tyranny of unrealistic spiritual expectations is one reason why I wrote Desperately Seeking Spirituality!

    • Yes, Meredith! Alongside your point about expectations is the dreaded word “experience” – we need a fast from that word. It has even been interpolated into apophatic texts like The Cloud of Unknowing. Blessings.

  2. C. S. Lewis has a line somewhere about believing that the sun has risen, not because he sees the sun, but because by it he sees all things. I’ve found very helpful the insight that God is not an object to be known or experienced, but always a subject of knowing. Those who attain union with God don’t see God so much as they see everything else at He sees it. They move through the same world as we do, but it must look very different. (Again, Lewis: “Pilgrim’s Regress”; and F. D. Maurice, in one of his letters, speculates that in the “future state” we will not so much “recognize” old friends, as see them truly for the first time.) It makes me tremble to consider that Blessed Teresa may have passed very far into that deeper seeing.

    • Great, Claudia. The Cloud of Unknowing is my key into contemplative prayer [other people will have found other keys for themselves]. There are a number of “translations” into contemporary English – one thing to watch is some of these introduce the word “experience”, giving the impression that there is a particular “experience” to work towards. That is quite the opposite of what the Cloud is teaching. And, you’ll realise, the opposite of the point of this post. Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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