I have read St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul. I have seen the term “dark night” referred to over an over again in spiritual writings. However, I am not sure I have a grasp of it. That fact in itself may confirm its reality. All along my journey, even since grade school, I have heard periods of dryness, barrenness, or terms conjuring the desert used over an over to describe difficult times in one’s prayer life. St. John himself intimates that periods of inability to find God anywhere, in anything, are part of the “dark night.”
What I experience in my prayer life is not so much aridity as it is the painful realization more and more of my own spiritual faults, failings, and shortcomings. The farther along the spiritual path I go, I realize my inability to get beyond certain points. This ever present knowledge is the “dark night” to me. Although I would not cease the climb I find myself saying, along with St. Theresa, “I know I am far from practicing what I should, but the mere desire to do so gives me peace.” It’s that distance, that farness from a point of doing what I could or being what I might and the seeming inability to get there that is my “dark night.”
The night time is what it is because of a lack of light. Darkness impairs our perception. The powers of darkness are those things that keep us from seeing what might be very close to us. In my “dark night” there are times when I feel on the verge of being able to perceive You in some way but fall just short. My “dark night” also manifests itself as the perception of some knowledge that cannot be humanly comprehended thus creating a void over which I am helpless to build a bridge. My “dark night” is the cloud of unknowing in the sense of not knowing. It shades the full brilliance of the light I seek. But if I constantly seek I catch tiny rays now and then and they erode the influence of the “dark night.” Like a flower we need to catch glimpses of the light in order to grow.