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Chapter 36

From Old to New

 

The prayer which humbles the soul,
inflames her with love (for God),
and leads her to the practice of virtue,
is not susceptible of illusion.
—St. Paul of the Cross

 

 

With the beginning of contemplation comes the practice of self-forgetfulness.  Now is the time to increasingly let go of that intense self-examination which was necessary at the beginning of the spiritual life.  Although we never completely lose sight of ourselves until the final transformation of our soul in God, we begin to look more and more at Him and less and less at ourselves.  This is how we now grow in grace and humility, in charity and virtue, whereas before we did so by actively seeking out our sinfulness and vice while praying for and practicing the opposite virtues to the best of our ability.  We may still need to do that work of active purgation at times but, insofar as we experience the grace of contemplation, “to acquire true humility (grace and charity) we raise our eyes to behold God, for in looking upon His greatness, the soul better sees her own littleness.” (St. Teresa of Avila)  In divine contemplation, we directly experience and receive the purity, power, mercy and love of God which reveals, over time, our own impurity, pride and selfish attachments.  The sin within us is burned up and melted down by the Living Flame of Love, more or less painfully, but really and truly.  We are able to see reality more fully, and this reveals our limited or false ideas about everything spiritual.  Who is God and who are we?  Our Lord declared, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)  We begin to see far more clearly that the phony “old man,” the “house” built on sand, has to go. (Matt. 7:26)  The true “New Man,” the Life of Christ and His divine grace, must take its place.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the early Christians were taught by their spiritual leaders “to abstain from the pollution of idols and from unchastity.” (Acts 15:20)  They were freed from the Old Law of Love with its many specific rules and detailed regulations, to follow the New Law of Love in liberty of spirit.  They were freed from following the exterior letter of the law, the word of God, through human reason aided by grace, to follow the interior Spirit of the law, the Word of God, through faith and inspiration—a deeper and greater grace.

To abstain from the pollution of idols” relates to the first part of the Universal Law of Love—“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.  You shall have no other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:2)  In other words, “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

To abstain from unchastity” corresponds to the second part of the Universal Law of Love—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39)

Simply put, they were to love God and avoid sexual immorality.  Not easy, but not complicated, and doing so leads one from slavery to freedom.

Here is the joy of the New Covenant.  We are free and able to follow the Holy Spirit, Who is the “New Law of Love,” instead of our fallen human nature or the world of sin we live in.  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2)  We are free to do whatever God wants us to, to be whatever God wants us to be, to say whatever God wants us to say, and to think whatever God wants us to think, or to contemplate instead of meditate if God calls us and draws us to that.  Following Jesus leads us to spiritual freedom, joy, love and life, and “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) 

 

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