“What time is it?”

From sunrise to sunset, the sky presents us with aspects of divine action in souls: flashes of light and shadows, in a succession that demands perseverance of man.

Nature has always been a means of communicating with the Creator; like a mirror, it allows man to glimpse something of the uncreated beauty. Taking the firmament as an example, with the varying nuances we contemplate from dawn to dusk, we note that it offers enchanting scenes: the seriousness of the dawn, full of power and majesty in its hues, attains glorious plenitude in the radiance of noon, and then slowly dwindles in the sadness of twilight.

Thus, throughout the day, there is a harmonious succession of aspects, from prelude to apogee and from apogee to decline, in a process of development and regression. It is a spectacle granted to us daily by the goodness of the One who loves us with infinite delight: God!

For a Catholic spirit – one of admiration and restitution – this cycle of multiple configurations that the sky displays is something like a clock, which offers elements to understand the human soul in its various dispositions. Indeed, when analysed through the prism of its relationship with the Creator, the human soul has its own particular phases.

At high noon, love dominates!

There is a “time” in the spiritual life when everything is clear, analogous to what we see in the firmament when the sun reaches its zenith. Innocence is resplendent and the person radiates to others the divine love of which he has tasted, with the upright intention of doing good, as befits the innocent. The divine light gleams in such a way that “the soul then appears more like God than itself, and becomes God by participation….”1

Meeting souls “darkened” by the effects of sin, his charity enlightens them and his warmth infuses them with new vigour, reminding them that because we human beings are contingent creatures, we cannot admire the “day” without external help. In this hour dominated by love, “the light of God and that of the soul become one,”2 working wonders of virtue and holiness: it is the “high noon” of the interior life!

But the sun does not shine eternally… The day continues its course, the hands of the clock continually move and time passes. Man’s interior life also has sunsets of undeniable beauty.

Afternoon, the time of nostalgia…

Early evening is approaching. Let’s imagine it is 6 p.m. The sun bids farewell in a magical presentation in which colour, light and the movement of the heavenly vault invites man to recall, with nostalgia, the “cherished childhood that the years no longer bring…3 These are fond memories of the conviviality marked by the springtime joy of the spiritual life which every man once had the wonder and the happiness to enjoy, like Adam in the Garden of Eden before staining his soul with sin.

It is very probable that in this “hour” of life, the golden glow of innocence has given way to the silver lustre of restoration, leaving the sun to hide itself behind heavy clouds… Even if it is not possible to see it on the horizon, the soul must believe that divine love remains unchanged: “God is, as it were, behind the clouds, watching over and so to speak, mercifully measuring out the fear that that soul must have in order to be restored.”4 Sometimes, it will only be able to see His light again after being reconciled with Him through the Sacrament of forgiveness.

Nightfall is the time for confidences between Creator and creature, of the sweet sadness that the memory of the morning brings to the soul. It is the time of silent delight, of farewells enveloped in the suavity of sunset. Far from obliging the soul to abandon the struggle, twilight prepares it for future battles, for he who aspires to union with God “cannot lie down to sleep.”5 The heart asks to be tested by the One from whom it has received everything… It is just!

In the darkness of the night, the proof of fidelity

Thus the noble hues of the evening give way to the regal splendour of the night, which carefully covers the firmament with its black veil replete with diamonds. In this gesture of respectful submission, the sun reveals to us how renunciations and difficulties make love more precious, inviting innocence to greater sacrifice in order to preserve in the soul the charms of spiritual childhood. God immerses in the dark night “those whom He wants to purify of all those imperfections and carry forward.”6 He withdraws His admirable light while He enlightens the soul, “making known to it not only its own misery and vileness, but also its divine greatness and excellence.”7

With no other light or guide but the one that burns in the heart,8 the soul matures and acquires a stable relationship with God, because the trial prepares it for the meeting to come. “All that we can do and suffer in His service is very little, to prepare us for such sublime graces.”9 That is why St. John of the Cross exclaims, full of fervour: “Suffering darkness brings great light”!10

The soul seeks its Lord but does not find Him and, refusing all consolation, the memory of Him makes the heart groan (cf. Ps 77:3)… It turns inwardly to Him, it seeks Him where the hopes of the dawn are kept and distinguishes His footsteps in the twinkling stars, for it is indispensable also to admire the action of divine grace in others.

At times, man falls into despair, feeling abandoned in the midst of the dense darkness of trial, characteristic of this spiritual phase. However, he must not forget that the “darker” the night, the closer the dawn will be!

At the break of dawn, the reward of perseverance

After the hard struggle of interior desolation, the light of the faithful soul will rise in the darkness and its night will shine like the noonday (cf. Is 58:10). Detached from earthly affections, it is ready to receive once more the light of divine union,11 which will come at dawn. Then it will see that, if it has persevered, it is because God loved it first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19)!

Let us therefore ask Mary Most Holy, Mother of Fair Love, to teach us to return the love we have received, even when our feelings cry out the contrary… And let us await with hope the break of a glorious dawn, the beginning of the historical era in which She will be fully known and loved “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps 113:3): the Reign of Mary! 



1 ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Subida do Monte Carmelo. L.II, c.5, n.7. In: Obras Completas. 7.ed. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2002, p.198.

2 ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Chama viva de amor. Canção III, n.71. In: Obras Completas, op. cit., p.914.

3 ABREU, Casimiro de. Meus oito anos. In: As primaveras. 2.ed. São Paulo: Martin Claret, 2018, p.44.

4 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. “Salva-me, Senhor, pela tua misericórdia” [“Save me, Lord, in Thy mercy”]. In: Dr. Plinio. São Paulo. Year VIII. N.88 (July, 2005); p.13.

5 ST. TERESA OF AVILA. Castelo Interior ou Moradas. Quintas Moradas, c.4, n.10. São Paulo: Paulus, 1981, p.129.

6 ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Noite escura. L.I, c.2, n.8. In: Obras Completas, op. cit., p.446.

7 Idem, c.12, n.4, p.475.

8 Cf. Idem, L.II, c.25, p.571.

9 ST. TERESA OF AVILA, op. cit., p.129.

10 ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Epistola a Catarina de Jesus, carmelita descalça, 6/7/1581. In: Obras Completas, op. cit., p.938.

11 Cf. ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Subida do Monte Carmelo. L.I, c.4, n.2, op. cit., p.148.



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