1. As for the other two vices, spiritual envy and sloth, these beginners also
have many imperfections.
In regard to envy, many of them feel sad about the
spiritual good of others and experience sensible grief in noting that their neighbor is ahead of them on the road to perfection, and they do not want to
hear others praised. Learning of the virtues of others makes them sad. They
cannot bear to hear others being praised without contradicting and undoing these
compliments as much as possible. Their annoyance grows because they themselves
do not receive these plaudits and because they long for preference in
All of this is contrary to charity, which, as St. Paul says,
rejoices in the truth [1 Cor. 13:6]. If any envy accompanies charity, it is a
holy envy by which they become sad at not having the virtues of others, rejoice
that others have them, and are happy that all others are ahead of them in the
service of God, since they themselves are so wanting in his service.
2. Also, regarding spiritual sloth, these beginners usually become weary in
exercises that are more spiritual and flee from them since these exercises are
contrary to sensory satisfaction. Since they are so used to finding delight in
spiritual practices, they become bored when they do not find it. If they do not
receive in prayer the satisfaction they crave - for after all it is fit that God
withdraw this so as to try them - they do not want to return to it, or at times
they either give up prayer or go to it begrudgingly. Because of their sloth,
they subordinate the way of perfection (which requires denying one's own will
and satisfaction for God) to the pleasure and delight of their own will. As a
result they strive to satisfy their own will rather than God's.
3. Many of these beginners want God to desire what they want, and they become
sad if they have to desire God's will. They feel an aversion toward adapting
their will to God's. Hence they frequently believe that what is not their will,
or brings them no satisfaction, is not God's will, and, on the other hand, that
if they are satisfied, God is too. They measure God by themselves and not
themselves by God, which is in opposition to his teaching in the Gospel that
those who lose their life for his sake will gain it and those who desire to gain
it will lose it [Mt. 16:25].
4. Beginners also become bored when told to do something unpleasant. Because
they look for spiritual gratifications and delights, they are extremely lax in
the fortitude and labor perfection demands. Like those who are reared in luxury,
they run sadly from everything rough, and they are scandalized by the cross, in
which spiritual delights are found. And in the more spiritual exercises their
boredom is greater. Since they expect to go about in spiritual matters according
to the whims and satisfactions of their own will, entering by the narrow way of
life, about which Christ speaks, is saddening and repugnant to them [Mt. 7:14].1
5. It is enough to have referred to the many imperfections of those who live in
this beginner's state to see their need for God to put them into the state of
proficients. He does this by introducing them into the dark night, of which we
will now speak. There, through pure dryness and interior darkness, he weans them
from the breasts of these gratifications and delights, takes away all these
trivialities and childish ways, and makes them acquire the virtues by very
different means. No matter how earnestly beginners in all their actions and
passions practice the mortification of self, they will never be able to do so
entirely - far from it - until God accomplishes it in them passively by means of
the purgation of this night.
May God be pleased to give me his divine light that
I may say something worthwhile about this subject, for in a night so dark and a
matter so difficult to treat and expound, his enlightenment is very necessary.
The verse, then, is:
One dark night.