The human soul undergoes three hierarchical actions:
- Purgation: cleansing, which leads to peace
- Illumination: enlightenment, which leads to truth
- Union: perfection, which leads to charity
The soul attains bliss when it has mastered these three hierarchical (ordered) actions. Therefore, a true understanding of Scripture and the merit of eternal life depend on our mastering of these actions. Thus, the triple way (purgative, illuminative, unitive) extends to the following:
The success of your mediation is dependent upon the fruitful use of three powers:
- The sting of conscience, which corresponds with purgation
This is what we studied in chapter 1.1. Our life of meditation must be cleansed as follows: we must recall our sins, then we must assess our present state, and then (finally) we must redirect our meditation to focus on goodness rather than evil.
- The light of reason, which corresponds with enlightenment
- The spark of wisdom, which corresponds with perfection
The perfective way of meditation
“Lastly comes instruction about how you ought to exercise in order to enkindle the embers of wisdom.” (Note the terminology applied to wisdom has more to do with heat than with light. Reason provides clarity, but holy wisdom burns from within.)
The embers must be:
- Stirred up — by detaching your affection from any love of creatures. (1.3.15)
- For “the love of a creature for its own sake does not fulfill...”
- “...and if it fulfills,fresh...”
- “...and if it refreshes, it does not suffice...”
- Enkindled — by turning your affections to love of the Groom. This is accomplished by pondering His love in relation either:
- To yourself – for he loves you so immensely that he supplies for every need.
- To the affections of the citizens of heaven – for in his love the blessed enjoy his love in overabundance.
- To the Groom himself – for “by his love, you are in the presence of your God, desirable, above all else.” (1.3.16)
- Fanned on high — by recognizing God is beyond anything which can be sensed, imagined, and understood. Meditate on the mysteries of God:
- Say of him that he cannot be sensed (because God is not visible, audible, cannot be smelled, tasted, or touched) yet he is still totally desirable.
- Reflect on the fact that he cannot be imagined, because God is “without limits, has no figure, quantity, circumscription, [and] cannot change”, yet remains wholly desirable.
- Reflect on the fact that God is beyond our understanding, because “he cannot be demonstrated or defined; is beyond opinion, critical evaluation and investigation; yet is nonetheless wholly desirable.” (1.3.17)
Corollary of the purgative, illuminative, and perfective ways of Scriptural meditation
“From the foregoing (all of Chapter 1), it becomes clear how the wisdom of Sacred Scripture is attained by meditating in the purgative, illuminative and perfective ways. Your every meditation must not only treat of the contents of Sacred Scripture, but also on these three.” For your every meditation in search of wisdom either concerns:
- Human works
- What you have done
- What you ought to do
- And what is your primary motivation
- Divine works
- What God has entrusted to you
- How much he has forgiven
- And how much he has promised
- The agency of both God and Man for we are linked together
To attain holy wisdom in our meditation, our entire soul must take an active part through its powers of:
- Reason: The ability to critically assess a subject
- Synderesis: The tendency to seek that which is good and restrain from that which is evil – a power of the soul which allows us to entertain a conviction
- Conscience: The force within us that testifies to truth and compels us to determine a practical application from our convictions
- Will: Our ability to actually choose to accomplish the application