Love in Carmelite Writings Mr.


Love in Carmelite Writings

Mr. González (my deepest thanks to him for introducing this point), in the comment box below, posts the following excerpt from St. John of the Cross letter 13:

from Letter 13 St. John of the Cross

"For if in any way the will can comprehend God and be united with him, it is through love and not through any gratification of the appetite. And since the delight, sweetness, and satisfaction that can come to the will is not love, none of the delightful feelings can be an adequate means for union of the will with God; it is the operation of the will that is the proportionate means for this union. The will's operation is quite distinct from the will's feeling: By its operation, which is love, the will is united with God and terminates in him, and not by the feeling and gratification of its appetite that remains in the soul and goes no further. The feelings only serve as stimulants to love, if the will desires to pass beyond them; and they serve for no more. Thus the delightful feelings do not of themselves lead the soul to God, but rather cause it to become attached to delightful feelings. But the operation of the will, which is the love of God, concentrates the affection, joy, plea sure, satisfaction, and love of the soul only on God, leaving aside all things and loving him above them all.

In isolation, this is a singularly difficult passage. It compresses into a very small space much of the teaching of St. John of the Cross about prayer, consolation, and love. But there is an interesting addendum that must be considered. St. John of the Cross insists (rightfully so) on love as an action of will, not merely a feeling. Such an act may be accompanied by a feeling, but the feeling is not the fullness of love, nor in any true sense love at all (John above, refers to it as "stimulants to love.) Skip ahead three centuries to St. Thérèse. There we find that love is indeed an act of will that must be manifested in exterior actions. That is, St. Thérèse, in a sense, provides what I term "The Letter of James" corrective to the notion of love. If love remains only an action of will and is not manifested in how we treat those about us, it, like faith, is dead. Not all actions of love will have these exterior actions immediately, but every motion of love in the will is transformative and will lead to actions toward the beloved, in the person of those people who surround us. This is implied in John's letters, spelled out in some of the other writings, but made magnificently clear in the writings of St. Thérèse. This is, in part, why "The Little Flower," despite a relatively limited body of work was made a Doctor of the Church. Her vocation, "To become love at the heart of the Church," demands that love be taught clearly, resoundingly, and without compromise. The action of love can be as small as a gentle smile, or simply sitting still when what you really want to do is smack the person who is running on endlessly. (Kind of like this post--please, keep all soft vegetation for the soliloquy later.)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 16, 2002 4:50 PM.

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