Author Topic: The Three Ages of The Interior Life: The Obligation to Strive for Perfection.  (Read 434 times)

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Offline XavierSem

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Rev. Father Garrigou Lagrange, in line with the mystical teaching of St. John of the Cross, gives us important teaching on the Three Ages of The Interior Life. Hope it is helpful for all of us during examinations of conscience and in our daily duty to strive toward sanctity. Many Saints say all Christians receive sufficient grace to be saints, if only we really wish to maximize God's Glory and become so. Fr. G-L also mentions some of the daily means to be used by all who strive for perfection. A brief excerpt from:

PART 3—The Illuminative Way of Proficients
Chapter 1: The Object of the Third Part and the language of Spiritual Writers Compared with That of Theologians

In Part One of this work, we discussed the principles or the sources of the interior life, the organism of the virtues and the gifts, the nature of Christian perfection, its elevation, and the general obligation of every Christian and the special obligation of priests and religious to tend to perfection.
In Part Two we treated of the purification of the soul in beginners, of sins to be avoided, of the predominant fault, of the active purification of the senses and the spirit, especially of the active purification of the memory, the understanding, the will, and finally of I the mental prayer of beginners.
We shall now, logically, proceed to the consideration of the illuminative way of proficients ...To discuss the illuminative way in a methodical manner, we shall treat of it in the following order:
(1) the entrance to this way; several writers have called it a second conversion and, more precisely, speaking, the passive purification of the senses;
(2) the principal characteristics of the spiritual age of proficients;
(3) the progress of the Christian moral virtues, especially of humility, a fundamental virtue, and of meekness in its relations with charity;
(4) the progress of the theological virtues, of the spirit of faith and confidence in God, of conformity to the signified divine will, of fraternal charity, the great sign of progress in the love of God;
(5) the gifts of the Holy Ghost in proficients, their docility to the Holy Ghost, their more continual recollection in the course of the day;
(6) the progressive illumination of the soul by the Sacrifice of the Mass and Communion; why each Communion should be substantially more fervent than the preceding one; devotion to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and to Mary Mediatrix, in this period of the interior life;
(7) the contemplative prayer of proficients and its degrees; the error of the quietists on this subject; the passage from acquired prayer to infused prayer. Is infused prayer in the normal way of sanctity, or is it, on the contrary, an extraordinary grace, like visions, revelations, the stigmata? Is infused prayer ordinarily granted to generous, interior souls, who persevere in prayer and docility to the Holy Ghost, and who daily bear the cross with patience and love?
(8) the defects of proficients; the pride which mingles in their acts; the discernment of spirits; retarded proficients; the necessity of a passive purification of the spirit which, according to St. John of the Cross, marks the entrance into the unitive way.

Why do we propose to follow this order? Because it is fitting to consider the growth of the virtues and of the gifts before the progress of their acts, in order to show more clearly to what already elevated acts this growth of the virtues and of the gifts, which is a trustworthy sign of progress, is ordained. We are, in fact, already certain through faith and theology that the acquired virtues and the infused virtues, as well as the seven gifts, should always grow in us here on earth, particularly in the illuminative way or that of proficients. In this stage there should even be an acceleration in this progress, for the soul ought to advance more rapidly toward God as it approaches Him more closely and is more drawn by Him, just as the stone falls more rapidly as it draws near the earth which attracts it.1The traveler toward eternity should advance more rapidly as he approaches the end which captivates him more. We have already shown these principles to be certain; there should, consequently, be a very notable increase in the virtues and the gifts in the illuminative way of proficients. Profound consideration of this fact will make us understand better what the elevation of the acts of these virtues and gifts should normally be in this period of the spiritual life.

Moreover, that we may proceed with order, it is fitting that we follow an ascending course, considering first of all the increase of the Christian moral virtues, next that of the theological virtues, then that of the gifts which perfect the virtues, and finally the graces of light, love, and strength which are given us daily by Mass and Communion. If we follow this plan, we shall see more clearly that the prayer of proficients is normally a contemplative prayer. If, on the contrary, we discuss this prayer at the very beginning, we might describe it as it actually is in those who appear to be proficients without perhaps really being so, and not such as it should normally be in this already advanced age of the spiritual life. These are the reasons for the order we shall follow."
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Offline Your Friend Colin

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Xavier, can you please link where I can find the volume on the purgative way please

Offline XavierSem

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Hi Colin. I searched for it and found it on the same site:

Hope it is helpful to you. Excerpts also were on earlier but I think that site is down of late.

The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life on Our Lady's Warriors, is also useful.

It is by the same author, saintly Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou Lagrange, someone Archbishop Lefebvre often praised.

I'll just post a brief excerpt from the first and last chapter of the second work; the Interior Life is the One Thing Necessary. God bless.


THE interior life is for all the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence -- the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. How deeply important our subject is may be seen in the very words we have used: Intellectuality and Spirituality. And it is important to us not only as individuals, but also in our social relations, for it is evident that we can exert no real or profound influence upon our fellow-men unless we live a truly interior life ourselves.

The necessity of the interior life.

The pressing need of devoting ourselves to the consideration of the one thing necessary is especially manifest in these days of general chaos and unrest, when so many men and nations, neglecting their true destiny, give themselves up entirely to acquiring earthly possessions, failing to realize how inferior these are to the everlasting riches of the spirit.

And yet St. Augustine's saying is so clearly true, that ' material goods, unlike those of the spirit, cannot belong wholly and simultaneously to more than one person. ' [1] The same house, the same land, cannot belong completely to several people at once, nor the same territory to several nations. And herein lies the reason of that unhappy conflict of interests which arises from the feverish quest of these earthly possessions.

On the other hand, as St. Augustine often reminds us, the same spiritual treasure can belong in its entirety to all men, and at the same time to each, without any disturbance of peace between them. Indeed, the more there are to enjoy them in common the more completely do we possess them. The same truth, the same virtue, the same God, can belong to us all in like manner, and yet none of us embarrasses his fellow-possessors. Such are the inexhaustible riches of the spirit that they can be the property of all and yet satisfy the desires of each. Indeed, only then do we possess a truth completely when we teach it to others, when we make others share our contemplation; only then do we truly love a virtue when we wish others to love it also; only then do we wholly love God when we desire to make Him loved by all. Give money away, or spend it, and it is no longer yours. But give God to others, and you possess Him more fully for yourself. We may go even further and say that, if we desired only one soul to be deprived of Him, if we excluded only one soul -- even the soul of one who persecutes and calumniates us -- from our own love, then God Himself would be lost to us.

This truth, so simple and yet so sublime, gives rise to an illuminating principle: it is that whereas material goods, the more they are sought for their own sake, tend to cause disunion among men, spiritual goods unite men more closely in proportion as they are more greatly loved. This principle helps us to appreciate how necessary is the interior life; and, incidentally, it virtually contains the solution of the social question and of the economic crisis which afflicts the world to-day. The Gospel puts it very simply: ' Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. ' If the world to-day is on its death-bed, it is because it has lost sight of a fundamental truth which for every Christian is elementary.

The profoundest truths of all, and the most vital, are in fact those elementary verities which, through long meditation and deep thought, have become the norm of our lives; those truths, in other words, which are the object of our habitual contemplation.

God is now showing men what a great mistake they make when they try to do without Him, when they regard earthly enjoyment as their highest good ... The present state of the world is called a crisis. But in fact it is more than a crisis; it is a condition of affairs which, if men only had eyes to see, ought to be revealing, it ought to show men that they have sought their last end where it is not to be found, in earthly enjoyment -- instead of God. They are seeking happiness in an abundance of material possessions which are incapable of giving it; possessions which sow discord among those that seek them, and a greater discord according as they are sought with greater avidity.

Do what you will with these material goods: share them out equally, make them the common property of all. It will be no remedy for the evil; for, so long as earthly possessions retain their nature and man retains the nature which is his, he will never find his happiness in them. The remedy is this, and this only: to consider the one thing necessary, and to ask God to give us saints who live only on this thought, saints who will give the world the spirit that it needs. God has always sent us saints in troubled times. We need them especially to-day ... 

 It suffices to read in the Dark Night [186] the description of those faults of beginners which render the purgation of the senses necessary. Here are, not faults opposed to the sort of psychological purity of which our author speaks, but faults which are contrary to the moral purity of the sensibility and of the will. They are, in fact, as St. John of the Cross tells us, the seven capital sins translated into the order of the spiritual life, such as spiritual greed, spiritual sloth, spiritual pride.

The same remark may be made of the faults [187] of proficients which render necessary the passive purgation of the spirit; they are ' stains of the old man which still remain in the spirit, like a rust which will disappear only under the action of an intense fire. ' These proficients, says St. John of the Cross, are really subject to natural affections; they have moments of roughness, of impatience; there is still in them a secret spiritual pride, and an egoism which causes some of them to make use of spiritual goods in a manner not sufficiently detached, and so they are led into the path of illusions. In a word, the depth of the soul is lacking, not only in psychological purity, but in the moral purity that is required. Tauler has spoken in the same sense, solicitous especially to purify the depth of the soul of all self-love, of all more or less conscious egoism. Hence it is our opinion that the passive purgations are necessary for this profound moral purity. But these purgations are of the mystical order. They do not always appear under so definitely contemplative a form as that described by St. John of the Cross; but in the lives of the saints, even of the most active among them, like a Vincent de Paul, the chapters which treat of their interior sufferings prove that they all have a common basis, which none has described better than St. John of the Cross.

A final and very important concession has been made to us in connection with the famous passage of the Living Flame, ST. II, 23:
' It behooves us to note why it is that there are so few that attain to this lofty stale. It must be known that this is not because God is pleased that there should be few raised to this high spiritual state-on the contrary it would please Him if all were so raised -- but rather because He finds few vessels in whom He can perform so high and lofty a work. For, when He proves them in small things and finds them weak and sees that they at once flee from labor, and desire not to submit to the least discomfort or mollification... He finds that they are not strong enough to bear the favor which He was granting them when He began to purge them, and goes no farther with their purification.... '" May we all strive to be saints, as God wishes for each of us.
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