Have you ever watched Stephen Curry (NBA All-Star) shoot a long range three-pointer and it just beautifully splash through the net without even touching the rim? Or notice how he dances around his helpless defender and then (effortlessly) pulls back for a 30-foot rainmaker? As a son of a life-long basketball coach who spent hours upon hours in the driveway practicing every day, watching Mr. Curry perfect his trade with such ease is just a beautiful thing to witness. He has already put in the work behind the scenes, investing countless hours refining his craft. At this point in his career, hoisting up a seemingly half-court shot is accomplished with ease and joy. Extreme muscle memory has been acquired through practice, allowing for the distance and precision to become second nature to him.
This analogy isn’t perfect of course but it’s not entirely unlike the spiritual life. The Purgative state can be grueling at times. It’s hard work. A real death in ourselves takes place as we mortify our passions and desires to kill the disorder and selfishness within. We accept the daily crosses that come our way, dealing with the pain, sorrow, loss, sin, consequences of sin, setbacks, loss of friends, hardships and even persecution for our Christian faith. But over time the selfishness begins to die and the light of God brings with it a certain ease and joy about things.
When you do something over and over a habit forms, albeit good or bad. Actions that become habitually bad the Church calls vices; those habitually good we call virtues. Once a habit emerges into a virtue, the soul performs it with ease and joy! It’s no longer tedious and laborious. The grind that we undertake and the mortification that we put ourselves through has an end in mind...freedom and communion with divine love.
“Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love” (CCC 1804).
When a soul begins the spiritual war against the flesh, the world, and the devil it has to work extremely hard to put forth the effort required. There is no way to shortchange the toil we went through along the journey so far. Upon reaching the Illuminative state things start to change and there is a much greater satisfaction and delight in the Spirit.
When you first choose to begin acting with humility in everything you do it may seem difficult, but eventually a joyful, humble soul arises. When you deliberately deny yourself through fasting, moderation starts becoming quite easy. As distractions are removed and replaced with firm resolutions for daily prayer, over time prayer becomes your favorite time of the day. A soul can truly and authentically become charitable, faithful, meek and pure of heart. In a word, a soul can become selfless, capable of being accomplished with great peace, ease and joy. This is a peace and joy the world simply cannot give, the state of grace that only comes from God and freely offered for each and every soul he has created.
“Human virtues [are] acquired...by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them” (CCC 1810).
The human person is drawn to beauty with every experience of beauty pointing to infinity. This compelling power of the beautiful ultimately leads to truth. Therefore, many have said that it’s beauty itself that will transform the world.
Today we end with the following from Fr. Thomas Dubay, “Those who faithfully practice all the virtues, those patient through persecution, with purity of heart in a lust-filled society, those with a selfless and burning love for God and neighbor...A heroically holy man or woman is the pinnacle of visible creation. The saintly reach a splendor and beauty beyond all comparison. Selfless love is a reflection of the divine artist in action” (The Evidential Power of Beauty).
Go...be free and bring beauty into the world. May the light of his grace shine through you and be expressed in grace-filled virtue. Nothing is more beautiful!