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DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
General term in mystical theology to identify every form of purification through which God leads persons whom he is calling to a high degree of sanctity. It is called "night" to distinguish a person's normal spiritual condition of seeing, although dimly, by the light of faith; whereas in mystical purification a person is deprived of much of this light. There is a "groping in the night." It is called a "dark" night to emphasize the intensity of withdrawal of God's illuminating grace. The purpose of such purification is to cleanse the soul of every vestige of self-love and unite a person more and more closely with God. As the intellect is thus mortified, the will becomes more firmly attracted to God and more securely attached to his divine will. This purification, however, is only a means to an end, namely, 1. to give greater glory to God, who is thereby loved for himself and not for the benefits he confers; 2. to lead the one thus purified to infused contemplation and even ecstatic union with God; 3. to enable the mystic to be used more effectively by God for the spiritual welfare of others, since the more holy a person is the more meritorious are that person's prayers and sacrifices for the human race.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.