How wretched this world! Full of sufferings and woes. So often, we hold hidden bitterness and unresolved hatreds. We tell ourselves, I am happy and content and we go out of way to appear in good cheer, but if you we were to take an honest account of ourselves, we would soon find all manner of ugliness within. As our Lord says, true happiness is only found in hating this world.
The man who thinks highly of himself is greatly deceived. Does not the tradition say that we should apply to our sweet Lord the bitterness of the psalm where self-knowledge leads the psalmist to say, “I am a worm and no man”? If this is to be applied to our Lord, how much more to us? And some might ask, but how can the Lord himself take on such ugliness? The supreme genius is that he came to dwell among us and to embrace the fallenness of this world. He who knew no sin, became sin so that by joining our miserable state to his glory, he might purify our wickedness from within. This is the grandeur of his mercy! Tremble before such a gift. By doing so, we are able to overcome the bonds of this world and experience the renewal of our minds and bodies.
The reason that many people fail to enter the narrow way of contemplation is that they are unwilling to face the darkness within. Religion becomes to them a means of avoiding their demons and their hurt and pain. They hide behind a plurality of pious thinking so as to avoid seeing their own wretchedness.
Some might object, this seems like bad mental health and depression! Not so! Depression is a prison of anxiety and fear. A person sees this world, but is trapped by the enemy. This path of renunciation is a work of courage and great strength. The mature disciple willingly embraces and boldly faces the enemy and conquers him by means of this self knowledge.
The believer who can properly understand and apply this teaching will soon discover great peace and stillness and boundless love. He will develop a font of mercy within because he will not think himself better than his enemy. He will understand that he is capable of great evil and that his salvation and any amount of virtue he possesses is a gift of God’s grace. He will understand that the true nature of mercy and salvation is that it is not earned but freely given.
The proud man is ultimately living in an illusion. He holds himself as better than others. He excuses his own faults and accuses others of their’s. How much better for us to excuse the faults of others and accuse ourselves! But you say, what about the abusive husband, the criminal, the sociopath? If you wish to find the path of justice in this world, you must calm your disordered emotions and allow reason to illuminate you from within. While you our bound by your hatred for your neighbor and disordered self-love, you will never find the Father’s will. Find spiritual freedom, and then you will know what to do.
The wise man understands what is meant when the scripture proclaims, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” And likewise, he understands that the house of mirth and good cheer is the abode of fools. The sweetness of contemplation is only found when one learns to understand the delight found in mourning this fallen world. Of such peace, the psalm says, Deep is calling on deep, and elsewhere, a broken, humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn. When the psalmist talks about the deep, they mean the inner self, the heart, the metaphysical journey within. When the psalmist talks about the humble contrite heart, he describes the saint who has discovered the depths of God’s mercy and has tasted it’s richness.
The man who does not acknowledge his hatred for his neighbor will never be able to love. Until we can understand our wickedness, our delusions will continue to fill us with pride. Happy the man who understands his misery and opens his heart to God’s mercy! What patience flows from such self-knowledge.
All things in the spiritual life have their counterfeit. So it is with this most delightful hatred of the world. If you understand these teachings according to the flesh, you will be deceived. But if you understand them according to the Spirit, you will be set free. How do you know if your understanding is according to the Spirit? Look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If your meditation leads to great gentleness and patience and stillness, then it is of God.
By hating this world and renouncing your wickedness, you will make room to love your neighbor. By using your anger to fight against the demons within, you will learn to stop quarreling with your neighbor.