“Sometimes God may send out a ray of divine light, piercing this cloud of unknowing between you and him and letting you see some of his ineffable mysteries”

So work hard for a while and beat on this high cloud of unknowing; then rest. As you do, don’t be surprised how difficult it is—yes, you’ll have a hard time, unless you receive special grace or have done it for so long that it has become a habit.

Let’s step back a minute and look at contemplation. Why does it have to be so hard? After all, that profound love stirring again and again in your will requires no straining on your part. These gentle impulses don’t come from you but from the hand of God, the all-powerful, always ready to start this work in anyone who’s done everything possible to get prepared. Then what makes this work so difficult? I’ll tell you. You must tread down thoughts of every creature that God has ever made and then hold them there, keeping them covered under the cloud of forgetting we discussed earlier. This is the hard work. God’s grace will help you roll your sleeves up for it, but you still have to do it yourself. On the other hand, God alone sets those loving feelings in motion. So do your part, and I can promise you God will do his. He never fails.

Get on with it then. Be faithful. Work hard. I’m watching to see how well you do. Can’t you see him standing there, waiting for you? Shame on you for doubting! Work conscientiously for a stretch and soon you’ll feel the enormity and difficulties of this work ease. Yes, in the beginning it seems demanding and severe, when you’re not yet used to it, but as your devotion grows, contemplation ceases being hard and instead becomes very restful and easy. It will hardly seem like work. God will sometimes do it for you then, all by himself, but not every time and never for long; only when he feels like it and in the way he feels like doing it. When that happens, you’ll be happy to leave him alone to do as he wants.

Sometimes God may send out a ray of divine light, piercing this cloud of unknowing between you and him and letting you see some of his ineffable mysteries. You’ll feel on fire with his love then. I can’t describe this experience. It’s beyond words. My foolish tongue can’t describe God’s grace. Even if I dared, I would refuse, and that’s that. But I’m happy to talk with you about your part in contemplation and how you should respond when you feel stirred and helped by grace, because it’s less dangerous to discuss your role.

Cloud of Unknowing

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