Faith and the Dark Night: Part II

St Teresa Of Calcutta
September 23, 2014

...this is continued from Faith and the Dark Night: Part I

Let us now look at salvific faith, that is faith in Jesus Christ and His Church; a Church which brings us into a saving relationship with Him.  In Christian faith, Christ’s disciples are the witnesses to Jesus Christ.  The propositions to be considered are not only about who Jesus is, but also about the trustworthiness and credibility of the disciple.  Yet, in Christian faith there is more at work than simply the human invitation of the disciple to faith in Christ.  While he may be the instrument, the invitation ultimately is God’s initiative, and it is the movement of the Holy Spirit who initiates this initial offer of faith. 

It is then up to the hearer to respond through a human act of faith following the pattern we mentioned above.  When the hearer says yes, that is, he fully commits Himself to a relationship with Jesus Christ; he is accepting a gift of a divine Person. The fruit of this relationship is the theological virtue of faith; this faith is grace that elevates and perfects the natural faith of the hearer.  This theological virtue is that which deepens and broadens the understanding of the proposition in addition to enabling one to hold the conviction with unshakable certainty.  It is this gift of supernatural faith which gives one deeper and more profound insights into the propositions which convey the mystery of faith, which we call “light of faith.”  Therefore, we can see that trust and faith do not require one to suspend one’s reason, far from it.  In fact, in order to mature in faith, it demands active engagement of the intellect.

This brings us back to the question of Mother Teresa’s faith.  Recall that faith begins with a divine invitation; it is followed by a human act of the will, and then God reciprocates with the theological gift of faith, a faith that now saves.  What Mother Teresa was describing does not fall within what we have described as faith.  What she was describing was the fact that she did not “feel” anything any longer.  The natural consolations of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (joy, love, comfort, fulfillment, etc.) were suspended from her experiences. 

However, it would appear from her letters that she never once surrendered to her feelings; she never chose to abandon a relationship with Her Savior even as she no longer felt the relationship.  She understood that feelings are not always reliable; we also know this from our experiences.  It does not so much matter what we feel, we are judged by how we act.  Our merit or culpability is based upon our choices and our actions arising from them, not on how we may initially feel.  From all outward appearances, her choices and actions continued to conformed to her ongoing, rational act of a complete commitment to her Bridegroom.

So Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did not “lose” her faith.  In fact, faith cannot be lost; it can only be willfully abandoned.  The only thing she lost was the experience of consolation, the affective confirmation of a faith that was in truth, always there. This lack of affective consolation is a universal experience of those heroic lovers of Jesus Christ who come to experience the dark night of the soul. One might ask why would God ask people to go through such an experience?  In order to answer that, we first should look at the relationship among faith, hope and love, and so we will over two succeeding posts:

Hope and the Dark Night, and

Love and the Dark Night.

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