Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
To be free of habitual mortal and venial sin is a glorious reality. To live within the beautiful rhythm of a rule of life, to dance in step with the heart of God, to have a tangible and near-constant experience of His peace and love is a gift beyond any other. To discover how easily the rhythm of this exquisite dance is broken can devastate a holy heart.
The beautiful ascetical rhythm of the committed pilgrim begins with reliance upon Christ and the sacraments. The soul continues to emerge from sin to holiness by the power of self-awareness, humility, and dependence on God as it wastes precious time in silent prayer with the One who reveals all and heals all.
Then, by Divine kindness, He allows the storm to rise. He is present, but the awareness of His presence and sustaining power slips into the background, obscured by the relentless wind and waves. The rhythm of the holy dance is broken and the heart is brought low as it seems to stand alone, separate and defenseless. Regardless of how much effort the holy heart extends to hold on to the beloved and maintain the ebb and flow of the dance, the eternal melody of peace fades, until all is a storm.
How is this a Divine kindness? It is a kindness because of our blindness. Holy hearts, created hearts, limited hearts, must be ever prepared and purified for deeper intimacy with the Beloved.
What seems to be a broken rhythm is really just an interlude, a purifying pause in the sacred dance. It is a place where God shifts the tempo to force us to see what we would otherwise miss in our comfort, bliss and complacency.
Our wounded hearts always drift from, but long for, the beloved. Our broken nature, no matter how much it shines in the eyes of the world, is always in need of purification through circumstances that cause us to reflect, to ask why, to weep, and to cry out for His help and healing.
It is a Divine kindness to allow us to fail and to fall that we might see our true state, our deepest need. When we cry out, He always steps back into view and with a gentle and heavenly touch calms the storm. If received, His perfect embrace of reunion releases the flow of holy tears and healing. If received…
When faced with this Divine kindness we have a choice. The world, the devil, and the flesh would have us flagellate ourselves into a bloody heap and then violently hurl barbs of condemnation into our battered souls. This self-flagellation is a kind of spiritual pride that only further imprisons the soul, emboldens the evil one, and solidifies the attachments that keep us from the healing He longs to give.
The Holy Spirit, our heavenly Lover and Healer, would have us come to the end of ourselves, weep, sorrow for our sins and imperfections, receive His love and forgiveness in reconciliation, and then return to the dance. When we return in this manner, we do so with a profoundly attentive humility and awareness of our need. Then the Holy one gently looks into our eyes, receives our trembling hand, and leads us ever more deeply into the sacred dance.
This is the dark night. This is the dance of Heaven. This is our redemption.