Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:13-18
I have been thinking a lot about the path to spiritual maturity that the church fathers spoke of, the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive way and reflecting on the above passage from Saint Paul.
This passage tells us that Jesus abolished enmity, something that was established as a curse in Genesis.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15
You may remember if you have been following my blog I wrote a post about this enmity called, Holy Hatred.
But after reading the above passage from Saint Paul, it left me wondering about the enmity Jesus abolished. And it seems to me that we ultimately should end up in a place where we know no hatred. But it is a place we have to travel too, by passing through enmity. Passing through enmity is a walk to crucifixion where by your human will is nailed to the cross so God can divinize you. It is the unitive way.
Through the cross, putting enmity to death by it. Ephesians 2:16
The problem with our world though is we want to skip to not hating without going through the cross. Never having learned to hate sin and the devil we end up hating what is good, following a path of universalism, accepting all sin. The spiritually immature person who wants to love, ends up with a twisted sense of what love is floating in a universal cosmos of undefined nebulous chaos that actually invites destruction. One that says all paths of spirituality are equal and denies that Jesus is the Way.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
The church fathers knew better. Would that we would only listen.
A soul that truly loves God must learn first to hate sin, hate the devil – which is where our enmity is placed, so that we can continue on the path to union. It is part of the process. And by this hatred we must think of hatred as an emphatic rejection of all things unGodly, which the devil is.
When one tries to skip that part, the part where we hate sin and the devil, the devil convinces you that you are your sin and that you cannot be separated from your sin. There are only two places this train of thought from the devil can take you. One is to a place of pride whereby we proclaim that God loves all, even our sin, and we defy what was revealed to us by God Himself about sin. We march in the streets telling God He is wrong and we tell those who disagree that they are the ones who are hateful, forcing acceptance of sin at all costs. The other place the devil takes you is to hatred of yourself. The enmity was placed on earth by God, it has to go somewhere. When we don’t know how to properly walk the path, it ends up eating us alive interiorly and the result is despair. It is the pendulum swing of pride and despair.
But the soul who is open to God and his revelation will first learn to hate properly. This soul will experience Holy Hatred and can separate who God made them to be from the sin that they have committed. This soul will have a realization, and illumination, that sin is evil, the devil is flinging temptation at them, and they will make an effort to stop. To hate, to reject, that which keeps them from loving God to the fullest. They will go to confession and they will receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. They will have enmity towards sin and the devil. Thus, Jesus and His Mother, crush the head of Satan who has been, from the beginning, trying to steal, kill and destroy that soul. This is part of the purgative way.
This experience will be a cross that they carry, rooting out sin after sin. Along the way it will hurt. Letting go of things we loved more than God, it is a suffering. Letting go of fear. Trusting that God has our best interests at heart, it takes an act of the will. It takes moving beyond the things that make us feel good.
There are two personifications of evil. One is the devil himself who rejected all that God made good. The other is Christ on the Cross, who was put there not of his own doing, but because of our evil. One is twisted and defiled, the other is actually beautiful. Every time we choose not to sin, we go to confession, we receive communion in a state of grace, we gravitate more towards the beauty of the cross and away from the darkness.
Since enmity was originally a curse, it wasn’t part of what actively God willed for us. But because of the free will of fallen angels, God took what they turned dark and brought into the world and He made it Holy. This is because God works all things for the good of those who love Him. When we properly order our holy hatred towards the powers and principalities that tempt us to fall, we journey on a path to the cross of letting go of our earthly desires, so that, in the end we can be filled with heavenly desire.
Along this journey we learn to hate the evil we commit, the devil who tempts us to it, and ultimately, hopefully, we ourselves get crucified, rooting out all evil from within us. This means then that love is the ultimate desire and we have moved to where we love Christ on the Cross more than we hate the devil. It isn’t enough to hate evil, we must love good. In the end the devil is God’s creation and we can see what could have been. True Love is a higher calling. Love really does overcome all, as long as the path towards it is properly understood. God can only lift up those who are willing to walk this Way.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
This is where resurrection happens. A soul becomes a Saint and enters the unitive way. It is here that love grows stronger than hatred. A soul is lifted to no knowledge of evil and loves the way that God loves. Here we desire the bloodied Christ on the Cross for ourselves and our own soul, more than we hate the devil because we have passed through and stared at that which separated us from God. We have stared at our own sin and we chose to leave it and to love. We totally embrace the cross. And God’s healing grace pours into us, repairing all that was done. It is why a crucifix should be hanging in every church. It shows us the path to true love that God works within our own soul. Having learned to hate properly, God can elevate us to a higher love. Our human will gets crucified and we get filled with the love of the Divine Will.
I had a moment in the chapel the other day where I had this realization. I was praying for my dad. I had all kinds of feelings. My dad’s suffering was so much, his care so hard. It was then that I thought Jesus felt all these things. He let me know he felt, anger, sorrow, despair, isolation, loneliness. He felt it all on the cross.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
He sat in those feelings and faced them, all that he experienced in His human will. Because He was God, all He experienced was because of us and our sin. It is what we did to Him. And He chose to stay on this path anyway. He chose to stay on the cross. Thereby handing his human will over to the Father, leaving nothing but the Divine Will. He chose to love anyway despite all of that.
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
What would the world look like if we all chose to love like that? If we let God take our sin to the cross and fill us with the Divine Will. Thus we can understand now what Saint Paul meant when he said;
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two…Ephesians 2:15
No longer is the human will tempted to fight the Divine. Nothing is left but the Divine Will, which is all goodness and perfection and knows no evil in it.
The Saints who walked this path often speak of the devil as an annoyance, a gnat, think Saint Catherine of Siena. This is because they have been lifted past hatred into the heavenly realm. But they all walked the path of crucifixion. They denied the “feelings” of their human will, and chose the cross willingly, thereby choosing God first. It is the unitive way.
These Saints understand that everything God created was out of love. All the angels, even those who fell, were made from God’s love. Hell exists because of Gods love. Hell will be for eternity because God doesn’t know how to stop loving. That there are those who chose to reject the love doesn’t make God stop loving. These Saints know this and love like God loves. It is almost incomprehensible, but for the mystery of faith and of the Trinity, we can know it to be true.
One thing to know about this path, especially in todays world, is that it feels like persecution. Many run away, many deny Jesus, but those who make it to the crucifixion and stand at the cross, will be raised by His glory.
There are many things happening in the church these days, many things that may make a soul feel despair or disheartened. Stick to the Way, the things you have been taught.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-16
Embrace the cross and move past what feels good. And remember, if you do this;
The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:20