The White and the Black Veils

1 September 2021

There are times when, inexplicably, we feel euphoric, as if our hearts are full. Everything seems wonderful, what’s difficult is easy, problems are overcome. There may be specific reasons that encourage these experiences, such as being outside in nature, an encounter with people who have beautiful souls, people who transfuse peace and love, a visit or pilgrimage to a monastery or chapel. And sometimes, not necessarily always, after we’ve had confession or holy communion.

There are other times when, equally inexplicably, we feel sad and out of sorts. We see everything as being black, there’s no good to be found, our minor problems become an unbearable burden. Here, too, there may be certain specific reasons which encourage these feelings, such as being with a difficult person, a disappointment, or a painful recollection.

All of these fluctuations in the soul are the result of the universal human fall into sin, brought about by the first Adam, as our representative. It’s important to understand our nature, so that we can manage the situations with which we’re faced as they arise. In the first place, in euphoria, we should stand before God in gratitude for granting us the experience. In the second, in sorrow, we should bear it humbly, waiting for it to pass.

Our self, our life remains the same. When we’re feeling euphoric, it’s as if a white veil has settled on us and covered us, so that we don’t see our passions and errors. At the time of disappointment, it’s as if a black veil has descended, covering all the wonderful, positive things we have. So, how we see life depends on what’s before us.

As people, we’re in danger from two extremes: pride and despair. Being extremes, they’re both demonic states. The ‘white veil’ protects us from despair; and the ‘black veil’ from pride. So the fluctuations that occur in our soul aren’t accidental. Our God, who as Father is truly interested in each of us, works at our maturity and spiritual development in this way.

If, in times of the ‘white veil’ we need people who by their word or manner bring us down to earth, to the reality of our self, so that the ‘evil one doesn’t steal’ the joy that’s been given us, it’s obvious that we’ll need a shoulder to lean on in times of the ‘black veil’ so that we don’t take a bleak view of things and that ‘the evil one doesn’t bring us down into Hell’.

And if there’s no-one around to provide this important assistance, either because of our own prickly independence or because God has allowed it to be so, then there’s always the prayer of the heart, through which we can ask for his mercy. And, as the Prophet David confirms in psalm 50- the repentance psalm- ‘a broken and contrite heart God will not despise’.