Mortification is to die to this false self by deliberate actions and choices that kills the false self, and subjects the body to the spirit, but that can be misinterpreted; mortification subjects the ego to the Gospel and so there are certain voluntary choices and mortifications that a person adopts in order to cling to a definitive decision, and say to all those temptations and spiritual enemies, ‘No, no, no. I am not going backwards. You will not have me back. It’s over. The divorce has been signed, sealed, and delivered!’
Part of this asceticism is disciplining, laboring, ordering, and cultivating virtues in our lower faculties. When the scholastic writers of the Classic tradition talk about lower faculties, it seems that they are talking about the psyche – the immediate inclinations of the emotions and the immediate surface reactions of the will and the desires – the soul as distinct from the spirit, as Saint Paul refers to.
In this process, we need to accept the growing pains of what it means to die to our false selves. If we don’t accept the growing pains, we’ll never experience the new creation. We’ll never experience a new birth on a deeper level. The growing pains are inevitable in what it means to be in Christ. Jesus says, ‘If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross and follow me.’ That means that there are going to be growing pains; it’s unavoidable.
The action of God here are sensible consolations, which are based on what can be perceived by the senses and what comes to the soul through the senses On the surface level of the soul, a person experiences for the first time, this real sense of God’s presence. The person experiences God’s presence in what seems to be a palpable way.
On the other side is a new type of trial that one goes through. This vigorous and at times painful effort is to be sustained by spiritual reading, which is really important in the Second Mansion. As the Rule of St. Albert of the Carmelite family says, ‘Holy meditation will save you.’
You’ve all probably had that experience where you are going through to this valley of obscurity, not knowing exactly whether you are up or down, or what was going on, or you weren’t able to pray. Then all a sudden, almost as if it fell into your lap, but somehow you opened up to some particular passage and it just totally encouraged you. It was just what the doctor ordered; it spoke straight to your heart and only God knew how perfect of a match and a fit this was.
‘These were just the words that I needed to hear and it was a proof that when I thought that I was walking by myself, it was all in vain, and God did not know my name, He forgot all about me – now this is showing very clearly God knows me thoroughly and He’s right here beside me because these words speak so strongly to exactly what I needed to hear. There’s no way that person knew or there’s no way that I just stumbled across this; it’s perfectly prescribed by the Divine Physician to bring courage to my soul.’
Spiritual reading, holy meditation will save you.
In the Second Mansion it is also important to get some spiritual direction, by someone – he doesn’t necessarily have to be a priest – just somebody that you trust who you know has been on the road longer than you, and has a some decent sense of discernment, someone who doesn’t think in worldly terms to make sense of your experience, but in Godly terms based on what they themselves have experienced and have been through.
He doesn’t have to be a priest – just someone who has been walking with the Lord. Spiritual friendships are important to keep us on track, and to keep us going.
In the First Mansion, the Gift of the Spirit was the Fear of the Lord. In the Second Mansion the primary Gift of the Spirit that’s growing in us is Piety – reverence, a personal love for the things of God.
We’ve gone from the first stage, the state of basic friendship, just trying to avoid hell, we have a fear of the Lord, and we do good so that we can get a reward. The second stage is an active life of friendship, and a personal relationship with God is developed. We have reverence and love for the things of God. Easter will bring about our discussion of the Third Mansion.