Although this purgative way seems puerile to some, especially in regard to the subsequent two ways, nevertheless unless the mind passes through this way, being careful and attentive in its approach to engaging in divine matters, it will never in the present life be able to ascend, in practice, unto a knowledge of divine matters or of God;

nor will it be able to ascend unto the fervor of unitive love, nor will it be able to be separated from those lower objects that consume those who possess them.

Therefore, the soul ought to humble itself in such a way that, first, it recalls its sins in some private and very hidden place  (especially in the secret silence of the night).

Let the soul recall its greater sins succinctly, lest the devil expose it to delighting in that thing for which it was supposed to obtain medicine.

Raising its face toward Heaven, let it, as best it can, enumerate before God (as if speaking to Him) its greater sins (up to ten or twelve); and, in enumerating, let the soul sigh, exalting God in every respect and disparaging itself in every respect, and saying as best it can:

“Lord Jesus Christ,” (or phrasing it in whatever manner it prefers) “I am the most worthless, most miserable sinner, more wretched and more abominable than all others.

Although this purgative way seems puerile to some, especially in regard to the subsequent two ways, nevertheless unless the mind passes through this way, being careful and attentive in its approach to engaging in divine matters, it will never in the present life be able to ascend, in practice, unto a knowledge of divine matters or of God;

nor will it be able to ascend unto the fervor of unitive love, nor will it be able to be separated from those lower objects that consume those who possess them.

Therefore, the soul ought to humble itself in such a way that, first, it recalls its sins in some private and very hidden place  (especially in the secret silence of the night).

Let the soul recall its greater sins succinctly, lest the devil expose it to delighting in that thing for which it was supposed to obtain medicine.

Raising its face toward Heaven, let it, as best it can, enumerate before God (as if speaking to Him) its greater sins (up to ten or twelve); and, in enumerating, let the soul sigh, exalting God in every respect and disparaging itself in every respect, and saying as best it can:

“Lord Jesus Christ,” (or phrasing it in whatever manner it prefers) “I am the most worthless, most miserable sinner, more wretched and more abominable than all others.

“I have offended against Your majesty and mercy by means of so many and so grave wrongdoings that I am unable to count them – even as the sands of the seashore, because of their multitude, cannot be counted.”

And let the soul sigh and groan as effectively as it can. For just as a file brings it about, in the case of a piece of iron, that with each single rubbing some rust is removed, so each sigh and groan removes some of the rust of sin – the rust which remains even after the outpouring of grace.

And in this way the soul, purifying itself more and more, is elevated more and more by divine assistance – elevated unto perceiving things that reason does not investigate and that intellect does not behold.

Hugh of Balma (13th-14th Century): Mystical Theology, Via Purgativa, 3 (translated by Jasper Hopkins).