Invitation to Love

Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 15. The Night of Spirit


The night of spirit purges the emotional programs in our spiritual nature as the night of sense purified the emotional and sense levels. This is another essential period of privation.

Those who receive spiritual gifts are always in danger of becoming puffed up by them. But "in a ministry inspired by God, one receives a particular call and has to exercise it on God's terms." This means it will not be popular but characterized by suffering and rejection. The spiritual journey is a school for humility, which is "the experiential awareness, born of the divine light, that without God's protection we are capable of every sin."

The fruits of the night of spirit include

  1. Freedom from the temptation to be glamorously spiritual. This "allows God to treat us like everyone else and allows us to find his special love in that treatment, rather than in experiences that single us out from the rest of humanity."
  2. Freedom for the domination of any emotion. We are freed from the domination of mood swings not by will power but by integrating our emotions with our rational and intuitive nature.
  3. The purification of our idea of God. Instead of being bound by our childhood concepts or the requirements of mythic membership consciousness, we understand God as infinite, incomprehensible, and ineffable.
  4. The purification of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. Like Jesus and Job, we may feel completely abandoned as we lose our na´ve conception of the way God functions. But "divine love is infused in the seedbed of total submission and self-surrender and brings us through the night of spirit into the transforming union."
  5. The longing to be free of every obstacle that hinders growth in divine union. Our "I" diminishes to "i" before the great "I AM" as we are enabled to live ordinary life with extraordinary love.

While we can outline the stages of the spiritual journey, we must remember that God is most of all Surprise. "Whatever we are expecting to happen will not happen," and the essence of the spiritual journey is that we must be prepared to take the leap of faith into the unknown.