Responding to Disillusionment With Divine Things

Commenting on the Way of Purgation, Father Benson remarks: “Now this stage [disillusionment with divine things] is an infinitely more dangerous one than the preceding [disillusionment with human things]; for while it is comparatively easy to distinguish between Christ and, let us say, ecclesiastical music, it is not so easy to distinguish between Christ and grace—or rather between Christ and our own imaginative conceptions of what grace should be and do.”

“There is first the danger of gradually losing hold on religion altogether, during a long lapse of discouragement. . . . A soul such as this passes often, in a burst of resentment and disappointment, either to some other religion—some modern fad that promises quick and verifiable returns in spiritual things—or to that same state in which she had been before she ever knew Christ.”

“Or there remains one further state more outrageous and unnatural than any—the state of a cynical and ‘disillusioned’ Christian. ‘Yes, I too,’ she tells some ardent soul, ‘I too was once as you are. I too, in my youthful enthusiasm, once thought I had found the secret.'”

“Yet, if all goes well; if the soul is yet strong enough still to cleave to what seems now a mere memory; if she is confident that an initiation so bewilderingly beautiful as was hers when the Friendship of Christ first came to her, cannot, in the long run, lead to barrenness and cynicism and desolation; if she can but cry in her sincerity that it is better to kneel eternally at the grave of the buried Jesus than to go back and mix again in the ways of the world; then she learns at least one lesson when Jesus rises again (as He always does)—that she cannot hold Him in the old way, because He is ‘not yet ascended to His Father,’ and that, in one word, the object of religion is that the soul should serve God, not that God should serve the soul.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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