Baptism cleanses us from all our past failings and marks a break with a life of sin. We are born in the spirit (Jn 3:5). We are made children of God (Eph 1:5).
However as adults come forth from this spiritual birth, we still carry all our past human baggage: accumulated bad habits, scars from sins committed. We are alive, yet we are still spiritually cold, wet and naked.
Baptism is like the first necessary step – from the quarry into the sculptor's workshop.
Then comes the process of blasting away; about separating ourselves from mortal sins.
[Crash course on Sin: 1. FREELY chosen actions or omissions that are 2. KNOWN to be 3. GRAVELY EVIL are considered “mortal sins.” That is, if I know that it’s seriously wrong, and I am free to choose, and I choose it anyway. If it’s not seriously wrong, or if I am not really free or if I don’t know that it’s gravely wrong, then it’s considered a venial sin. Further reading here.]
The next step is to cut our attachment to venial sins. Even the just man sins 7 times a day, says Proverbs 24:16. Our work of chiseling away excess stone gets finer and finer.
Then comes the task of changing even our deep-rooted negative interior attitudes which lead us towards sin. It’s like the softer chisel blows that get in-between the cracks.
The task of separation from sin becomes more and more detailed. However that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
By nature we love STUFF (people/places/things) we hear, taste, smell, touch and see. In order to grow in the SPIRIT, we need to cut all undo attachment to sense pleasures.
Here are 3 quick steps for examining whether we remain attached: 1. Using stuff in any way that does not bring me closer to God: alcohol, addictions, friends etc. 2. Using anything in excess: food, drink, television etc. 3. Using created things for themselves, without taking God into consideration: vacations, pastimes, exercise, etc. This is like the buffing machine which now makes us glean.
Without getting into details there arrives a point in the spiritual life where WE cannot purify OURSELVES any further. We need God’s help to continue our spiritual polishing.
The first stage of passive purification is God’s action in us, which purifies us of our sense pleasures. This happens especially by 1. dryness and inability to pray, and 2. distaste for the things of God. 3. However these two things are allowed by God despite our good efforts, and we continue to have a great longing for God. It’s almost as if the entire work of purification has been done in the dark, and suddenly someone turns on a purifying spotlight.
The second stage of passive purification happens on the level of the spirit. This is much more complicated, and happens to advanced souls. A good example is Blessed Mother Teresa. She felt a lack of faith at the end of her life, a true dark night of the soul, which purified her deep within. This is like the rays of the sun, which penetrate and make the statue itself glow from within.
We will be getting into more detail later. For now it is enough to comprehend that the normal path for any soul growing closer to God is slow and steady change in spiritual purification.
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