Self-Abandonment, Spiritual

views updated


The English term used in referring to abandonment understood in its active sense, that is, the surrender of oneself to divine providence. Self-abandonment, then, signifies a conformity to the divine good pleasure, a conformity that arises from love.

Christ is the supreme model of self-abandonment, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Yet not my will but thine be done" (Lk 22.42); "yet not as I will, but as thou willest" (Mt 26.39). The practice of self-abandonment has been stressed particularly by French spiritual writers. St. Francis de Sales has been called the doctor of self-abandonment. Other French writers noted for their teaching on abandonment are: Bossuet, A. Piny, J. P. de Caussade, J. N. Grou, H. Ramière, C. L. Gay, and V. Lehodey. But St. Thérèse of Lisieux, with her little way of spiritual childhood, has contributed most to the spread of interest in the practice of abandonment.

Self-abandonment requires the practice of the theological virtues and of detachment. In the act of abandonment there is a dynamic mingling of faith, hope, and love that unites the soul to God and to His action. This union in turn involves detachment from oneself, one's own will and interests, as well as concern for nothing but God's will. Abandonment is above all an expression of love that leads to the perfection of love. To love God a person must abandon himself to God; to abandon himself to God he must love. Self-abandonment is thus the most integral expression of perfect love.

Like providence, the practice of abandonment reaches out to all things: to the past, the present, and the future; to the body and its various conditions; to the soul, with all its good and bad qualities; to the malice in men as well as to their good will; to the changes and disturbances of the material world and to the revolts of the moral world; to time and to eternity. However, since abandonment embodies conformity to the divine will, it does not excuse one from any positive duty. The absolute sacrifice of one's salvation would lack an essential element of abandonment, for the will to be damned is not conformable to the divine will. If in the folly of their intense love, some saints seem to have renounced even salvation in order to be more abandoned to God, they did not make this sacrifice absolutely but conditionally, with the realization that God wills their salvation.

Finally, since man's sanctification calls for his free cooperation as well as for the work of grace, self-abandonment does not excuse one from effort, as the quietists maintained, nor does it eliminate repugnances or always free a man from inner struggle.

See Also: abandonment, spiritual; quietism.

Bibliography: j. p. de caussade, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, ed. j. joyce, tr. a. thorold (London 1959). p. pourrat, Christian Spirituality, tr. w. h. mitchell et al., 4 v. (Westminster, MD 195355) v. 4. f. jamart, Complete Spiritual Doctrine of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, tr. v. van de putte (New York 1961). m. viller, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed., m. viller et al. (Paris 1932) 1:225.

[k. kavanaugh]