Sayings of Light and Love


Sayings of Light and Love

John of the Cross wrote a series of very short aphorisms meant to instruct the Carmelite Religious of his time. These short sayings are very much like the sayings of the desert fathers in that they pack a lot of meaning or intent into a very small space. They are great for meditation starters, or in series for an intense lectio.

20. God is more pleased by one work, however small, done secretly, without desire that it be known, than a thousand done with the desire that people know of them. Those who work for God with purest love not only care nothing about whether others see their works, but do not even seek that God himself know of them. Such persons would not cease to render God the same services, with the same joy and purity of love, even if God were never to know of these.

This demonstrates one of the primary themes of St. John of the Cross--seeking nothing, letting go of all desire and of all attachments. This detachment is a necessary stage in growth toward unity with God. After detachment comes purification (the variously described "Dark Nights"). But detachment is the first rule. In order to achieve union with God one must be detached from everything less than God. The other day a person interested in becoming a Carmelite asked me, "Does that include your children?" And my answer, immediately, was, "Of course."

But you need to understand what detachment is and what it is not. Many people confuse detachment with indifference. They are not the same. An person who is detached is able to calmly and carefully care for a child or another person who has just fallen and may have broken a limb. An indifferent person looks upon the same spectacle with the attitude that it is all part of the rich pageant of life, and then goes inside to pour him- or herself a beer.

Detachment is the ability to let everything go into the good that God has prepared for His entire creation. Detachment from one's children means loving them, guiding them, bringing them up in the way they should go, lavishing care and concern on them, but not seeking to control every action of their lives; you need to be there as guardian, guide, and advisor, and then you need to trust them confidently to God's loving care when it comes time for them to make their own choices.

True detachment delivers the object to the infinite care of Almighty God, understanding that we are incapable of even a microscopic fraction of the care and love God lavishes upon each of His Children. In the parlance of one group, detachment is "Letting go and letting God." But it really is--rather than just being a cute slogan. Detachment is a source of enormous peace, because you are no longer burdened with the need to control everyone and everything around you. Detachment is not cold, it is passionate, loving, caring, and deeply intimate. It shows far greater love than any other action we can take, because we turn the object of our concern over to the Infinite source of Love and all concern. We trust our most loved people and things to the One who can most love them--God.

More on John of the Cross as we go along.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 5, 2002 6:58 PM.

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