Mortification and Pennance


Chapter XIII of the Ascent of Mount Carmel details extreme detachment guidelines for entering the dark night for preparing for communion or union with God.  Complete detachment is impossible, however, God’s mercy and love can bypass the gap. I must do what I can, however, and not abuse my status as guest in God’s house.  “In this detachment the spiritual soul finds its quiet and repose; for, since it covets nothing, nothing wearies it when it is lifted up (by God’s grace), and nothing oppresses it when it is cast down, because it is in the centre of its humility; but when it covets anything, at that very moment it becomes weakened.”

This is a mortification of desires. In this chapter it deals with natural and unnatural desires as well as levels of desires (mortal sin, venial sin, habits that are lawful) that may take us away from spirit or are contrary to spirit. Even spiritual pursuit, if not conducted with humility and true intention can fall into trivial desires and folly. St. John says “The world is the enemy least difficult to conquer, the devil is the hardest to understand, but the flesh is the most tenacious, and its attacks continue as long as the old self last.”

Hence, many saints and religious have taken to, in addition to defeating internal desires, performing external mortification of the flesh.  The safest and most effective form of this is fasting. For any pursuit, however, we most guard against seeking glory and martyrdom by public demonstration of such sacrifices. The articles below though council take care of your interior desires and prayer first!  For most of us, that will take a life-time.




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