1. In this arid and obscure night the soul undergoes a thorough reform in its
imperfections of avarice, in which it craved various spiritual objects and was
never content with many of its spiritual exercises because of the covetousness
of its appetite and the gratification it found in spiritual things. Since it
does not obtain the delight it formerly did in its spiritual practices, but
rather finds them distasteful and laborious, it uses them so moderately that now
perhaps it might fail through defect rather than excess. Nevertheless, God
usually imparts to those whom he brings into this night the humility and the
readiness, even though they feel displeasure, to do what is commanded of them
for his sake alone, and they become detached from many things because of this
lack of gratification.
2. It is also evident regarding spiritual lust that through the sensory dryness
and distaste experienced in its spiritual exercises, the soul is freed of those
impurities we noted.1 For we said that they ordinarily proceed from the delight
of the spirit redounding in the senses.
3. The imperfections of the fourth vice, spiritual gluttony, from which a person
is freed in this dark night, are listed above,2 although not all of them since
they are innumerable. Thus I will not refer to them here, since I am eager to
conclude this dark night in order to pass on to the important doctrine we have
concerning the other night.
To understand the countless benefits gained in this
night in regard to the vice of spiritual gluttony, let it suffice to say that
the soul is liberated from all the imperfections we mentioned and from many
other greater evils and foul abominations not listed, into which many have
fallen, as we know from experience, because they did not reform their desire for
this spiritual sweetness.
God so curbs concupiscence and bridles the appetite
through this arid and dark night that the soul cannot feast on any sensory
delight from earthly or heavenly things, and he continues this purgation in such
a way that the concupiscence and the appetites are brought into subjection,
reformed, and mortified. The passions, as a result, lose their strength and
become sterile from not receiving any satisfaction, just as the courses of the
udder dry up when milk is not drawn through them daily.
Once the soul's
appetites have withered, and it lives in spiritual sobriety, admirable benefits
besides those mentioned result. For when the appetites and concupiscences are
quenched, the soul dwells in spiritual peace and tranquility. Where neither the
appetites nor concupiscence reign, there is no disturbance but only God's peace
4. A second benefit following on this one is that the soul bears a habitual
remembrance of God, accompanied by a fear and dread of turning back on the
spiritual road. This is a notable benefit and by no means one of the least in
this dryness and purgation of the appetite, because the soul is purified of the
imperfections that of themselves make it dull and dark, and cling to it by means
of appetites and affections.
5. Another very great benefit for the soul in this night is that it exercises
all the virtues together. In the patience and forbearance practiced in these
voids and aridities, and through perseverance in its spiritual exercises without
consolation or satisfaction, the soul practices the love of God, since it is no
longer motivated by the attractive and savory gratification it finds in its
work, but only by God. It also practices the virtue of fortitude, because it
draws strength from weakness in the difficulties and aversions experienced in
its work, and thus becomes strong. Finally, in these aridities the soul
practices corporeally and spiritually all the virtues, theological as well as
cardinal and moral.
6. David affirms that a person obtains in this night these four benefits: the
delight of peace; a habitual remembrance of God and solicitude concerning him;
cleanness and purity of soul; and the practice of virtue. For David himself had
such experience by being in this night: My soul refused consolations, I
remembered God and found consolation, and exercised myself, and my soul swooned
away; and then he adds: I meditated at night in my heart, and I exercised
myself, and swept and purified my spirit (of all its imperfections) [Ps.
7. In relation to the imperfections of the other three vices (anger, envy, and
sloth), the soul is also purged in this dryness of appetite, and it acquires the
virtues to which these vices are opposed. Softened and humbled by aridities and
hardships and by other temptations and trials in which God exercises the soul in
the course of this night, individuals become meek toward God and themselves and
also toward their neighbor. As a result they no longer become impatiently angry
with themselves and their faults or with their neighbor's; neither are they
displeased or disrespectfully querulous with God for not making them perfect
8. As for envy, these individuals also become charitable toward others. For if
they do have envy, it will not be vicious as before, when they were distressed
that others were preferred to them and more advanced. Now, aware of how
miserable they are, they are willing to concede this about others. The envy they
have - if they do have any - is a holy envy that desires to imitate others,
which indicates solid virtue.
9. The sloth and tedium they feel in spiritual things is not vicious as before.
Previously this sloth was the outcome of the spiritual gratification they either
enjoyed or tried to obtain when not experienced. Yet this wearisomeness does not
flow from any weakness relative to sensory gratification, for in this purgation
of the appetite God takes from the soul all its satisfaction.
10. Besides these benefits, innumerable others flow from this dry contemplation.
In the midst of these aridities and straits, God frequently communicates to the
soul, when it least expects, spiritual sweetness, a very pure love, and a
spiritual knowledge that is sometimes most delicate. Each of these
communications is more valuable than all the soul previously sought. Yet in the
beginning one will not think so because the spiritual inflow is very delicate
and the senses do not perceive it.
11. Finally, insofar as these persons are purged of their sensory affections and
appetites, they obtain freedom of spirit in which they acquire the twelve fruits
of the Holy Spirit.
They are also wondrously liberated from the hands of their
enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh. For when the sensory delight and
gratification regarding things is quenched, neither the devil, nor the world,
nor sensuality has arms or power against the spirit.
12. These aridities, then, make people walk with purity in the love of God. No
longer are they moved to act by the delight and satisfaction they find in a
work, as perhaps they were when they derived this from their deeds, but by the
desire of pleasing God. They are neither presumptuous nor self-satisfied, as was
their custom in the time of their prosperity, but fearful and disquieted about
themselves and lacking in any self-satisfaction. This is the holy fear that
preserves and gives increase to the virtues.
This dryness also quenches the
natural concupiscences and vigor, as we also said. Were it not for the
satisfaction God himself sometimes infuses, it would be a wonder if the soul
through its own diligence could get any sensible gratification or consolation
out of its spiritual works and exercises.
13. In this arid night solicitude for God and longings about serving him
increase. Since the sensory breasts (through which the appetites pursued by
these souls were sustained and nurtured) gradually dry up, only the anxiety
about serving God remains, in dryness and nakedness. These yearnings are very
pleasing to God, since as David proclaims: The afflicted spirit is a sacrifice
to God [Ps. 51:17].
14. Since the soul knows that, from this dry purgation through which it passed,
it procured so many and such precious benefits, as are referred to here, the
verse of this stanza is no exaggeration: " - Ah, the sheer grace! - I went out
unseen." That is, I went forth from subjection to my sensory appetites and
affections unseen, so that the three enemies were unable to stop me. These three
enemies entrap the soul - as with snares - in its appetites and gratifications
and keep it from going forth to the freedom of the love of God. But without
these satisfactions and appetites the enemies cannot fight against the soul.
15. Having calmed the four passions (joy, sorrow, hope, and fear) through
constant mortification, and lulled to sleep the natural sensory appetites, and
having achieved harmony in the interior senses by discontinuing discursive
operations (all of which pertains to the household or dwelling of the lower part
of the soul, here referred to as its house), the soul says: My house being now