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Three Sources of Spiritual Aridity from St. Teresa of Avila

Aridity, which may be defined as the withdrawal of consolation and enthusiasm in loving Christ, is best combatted by attacking its causes. There are three principal sources of aridity: a lack of full development in the spiritual life; inculpable circumstances; the purifying action of God. 

The first main source of aridity—lack of full development in the spiritual life—is combatted by strengthening and developing our love for Christ. If one is seriously attached to sin or things of this world, he will, naturally, derive less satisfaction from companionship with Christ. It is a fundamental psychological law that we enjoy the presence of that which we love: if we love Christ, we will enjoy His presence, but if we are not fully enamored of Christ, we will experience some degree of weariness in praying to Him. Our Lord Himself com mented on this basic rule of human nature: “. . . where thy treasure is, there thy heart also will be.”Accordingly, if we are still involved in venial sin, or tepidity, or mediocrity, we will suffer aridity in meditation. The solution to the problem lies in extirpating this tepidity from our life. 

The second source of aridity—involuntary circumstances—is less easily handled. This source includes: illness, physical fatigue, drowsiness, worries, absorbing preoccupations, misunderstandings, and temptations. These again are to be eradicated or lessened insofar as it lies in our power. Most often there is not much that can be done to combat aridities from this source; but we do what we can, and then patiently endure the aridities which remain.

The third cause of arid meditation—the purifying action of God—represents a phenomena encountered by those whom God is leading to the higher stages of prayer. To prepare some for a life of closer union with him, God purifies their souls by a period devoid of sense consolation. This will be discussed more fully in a later chapter. We prefer to abstract completely from this species of aridity in the present discussion, for our consideration of meditation up to this point has embraced only the ordinary ways of prayer. 

The attitude of mind St. Teresa would have us bring to the problem of aridity is mainly one of generous acceptance of this trial. She would remind us that the mark of a true follower of Christ is willingness to serve without recompense—or in this case, consolation at prayer. She writes:

Once we have made a habit of thinking of Him in this way, it becomes very easy to find Him at our side, though there will come times when it is impossible to do either the one thing or the other. For that reason it is advisable to do as I have already said: we must not show ourselves to be striving after spiritual consolations; come what may, the great thing for us to do is to embrace the cross. The Lord was deprived of all consolations; they left Him alone in His trials. Let us not leave Him.

This article is taken from a chapter in Conversation with Christ by Fr. Peter Thomas Rohrbach, which is available from TAN Books.

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