Carmelite: May 2003 Archives

Drink of the Stream--A Review


Drink of the Stream--A Review

A book compiled by Penny Hickey O.C.D.S.

I've spoken of it frequently, and now it is a constant companion--a companion I would recommend for all Carmelites and indeed for all seriously interested in the interior life. The subtitle, "Prayers of Carmelites" gives the general thrust of the spirituality--it is strongly Carmelite with the via negativa (St. John of the Cross's famous "Nada, nada, nada, nada. . .) and references to the dark night.

The book presents prayers derived from the work of some 25 Carmelite Saints, Blesseds, and Servants of God, from Elijah and Elisha to the relatively unknown St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes. (Another 20th century Saint who, like Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and St. Thérèse of Lisieux died at a very young age). These prayers are derived from the writings of St. Mary Magdalene da Pazzi, St Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and others. As such, they have the character of mediations and meditation starters. They encourage one to peer deeply into the heart of God and one's own connection with God. They demand that one face certain truths in one's own life. In short, they are preparation for the Ascent, or companions on the climb who continually urge us to the difficult path, noting that when we stop thinking of it as difficult, it becomes God's own work and path and the climb is mysteriously easier.

Each set of prayers and mediations is prefaced by a very brief biography that "sets the stage." The prayers themselves are usually quite brief, a matter of a minute or so reading, but they are incredibly powerful, sticking with you throughout the day.

As I have said, this book is now my nearly constant companion, from it I derive tremendous strength and hope in what has been and continues to be a very trying time.

For additional information about the book visit Ignatius Press.

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With some remarkable words of St. Raphael Kalinowski. St. Raphael Kalinowski spent many years in Siberia for participation in a rebellion. He joined Carmel after returning from Siberia. He was certain that unity of the Orthodox and Catholic churches could be attained through the devotion to Our Lady that the churches held in common.

from Drink of the Stream A Prayer of St. Raphael Kalinowski

Jesus, hope of suffering humanity, our refuge and our strength, whose light pierces the black clouds that hang over our stormy sea, enlighten our eyes so that we can direct ourselves toward You Who are our harbor. Guide our bar[que] with the rudder of the nails of Your cross, lest we drown in the storm. With the arms of this cross rescue us from the turbulent waters and draw us to Yourself, our only repose, Morning Star, Sun of Justice, for with our eyes obscured by tears, we can catch a glimpse of You there, on the shores of our heavenly homeland. Redeemed by You, we pray: Salvos nos fac propter nomen tuum--"Save us for the sake of Your holy name." And all this through Mary.

I am stunned by the remarkable consistency of the metaphor. Had John Donne composed this prayer, I would call it a metaphysical conceit (although that may be taking the matter a bit too far.) The elements all appeal, and the truth is stunningly brought home with the line "we catch a glimpse of You ther, on the shores of our heavenly homeland." Sometimes we need to be vouchsafed a glimpse of that homeland, if only to know what we steer toward. And even if only vicariously.

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A Real Treasure for Carmelites and Others

I've excerpted prayers from Drink from the Stream. I cannot say how wonderful I am finding it. Although it is ostensibly a book of prayers, they are more than words to be recited. They are powerful words to make our own through personalization and meditation. The following excerpt from the Foreward makes the intent clear.

from Drink from the Stream "Foreward"
Kiernan Kavanaugh O.C.D.

As you take this book and begin to read, you soon become aware that the content requires much more than a mere quick reading. These prayers of Carmelite saints do not favor those of us who like to skim; rather they take hold and plunge us into deep abysses, enabling us to catch glimpses of the jewels of God's mysteries. They overwhelm with their power and theological depth. How true it is that God who is Love is only attained through love. In the words of Joh, "Love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has had knowledge of God.." (1 Jn 4:7)

These poems are a school of love. They provide insights and byways. They provide perspectives and places from which to look at our own meager accomplishments. They provide a launching pad for meditation and for growing in love. In a word, they are a "School of Love," and as such the book comes with highest recommendations. There are a great many things here that have touched my heart deeply.

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The Next Installment of the Study Guide

Ascent of Mount Carmel V

Read pages 149-153 (Book 1, Chapters 13-15). Chapter 13 is the key chapter of the entire first book.

Chapter 13
What does the first sentence tell you about the purpose of this chapter. What is the “active way”? Why is it important? What is the “passive way”? Who initiates it? Why does John want to set our advice here?

What is the first critical element of the active night of the sense? Why is this so? Read the last sentence of section 3 again—what does this seem to require of us?

What motive is most likely to help us in the imitation of Christ? Why? Look at John’s two examples and write down two similar examples from you own experience that you can begin to act on right now.

What is the purpose of the maxims that follow?

*(6) (Key Section 1)
Choose one of the statement that being “not to” and explain it in your own words. Name two ways that you could begin to put this maxim into effect. How might you begin to put all of them into action? Pray about it and discern a reasonable plan of action.

(7) What is likely to be a major obstacle to your success in entering this first dark night and beginning the Ascent?

How does the advice here help with the advice in section 6. What is John truly saying here?

What is the path of the Ascent. (Look back at the diagram on page 110-111) Is it possible to fail in the Ascent? How? Is the most direct route the easiest? the most sure?

*(12-13) (Key Section 2)
Summarize the teaching of these sections in a sentence or two that you can write down and carry with you. What is St. John of the Cross telling us about the conduct of the spiritual life here? Jesus tells us “He who sets hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of God.” How are these statements similar?

Chapters 14-15
What is St. John’s point in these sections? How do they support the critical information in chapter 13?

How can we mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves to enter the Dark Night and thus begin our Ascent? Pray, consult with your spiritual director, and make you own plan for preparing yourself to carry out St. John’s teaching. Or perhaps you are already well along this road, what can you do to perfect your practice of it? Perhaps you are in a dry place waiting for God to take control. What practices might you implement that will sustain you through the dryness?

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Don't Feed the Animals!


I actually received an e-mail that asked me a question about which I can blather endlessly, in theory. One must understand that I have not reached these exalted heights and so all that I say is a synthesis of others.

The question:

"I've heard of two dark nights--dark night of the soul and dark night of the senses. The latter I take to be a kind of depression or unhappiness, the former the true unitive dark night. Any clarification?" (This is a gross paraphrase.)

Okay--let me talk about St. John of the Cross's scheme of spiritual growth in the via negativa. The way he sees development in prayer is through two DIFFERENT dark nights. The first of these two is called "the dark night of the senses." It consists of two parts, as does the latter. The first of these parts is the active, the second passive. In the dark night of the senses we enter into a deliberate attempt not to gratify the appetites. In olden days we would say that we would practice "custody of the eyes." But in the case of this dark night, we do not seek to gratify the senses--we deprive ourselves, as a matter of discipline and out of love of the Lord of those things we strongly desire. This is more than asceticism--it is a deliberate attempt to break the chains of desire that hold us away from God. If we love any creature inordinately, we cannot love God as He deserves. With this practice we enter into the dark night. In God's good time, as He sees fit, we may enter the passive night of the senses, in which God completes the purgation begun by our own effort and perfects it.

The second dark night is called the dark night of the spirit, and it too has a passive and an active phase. The second night focuses more on the spiritual faculties--intellect, memory, and the will, not the senses. I have yet to fully understand this, as I am slowly moving through the Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul. If you'd care to read more about this from someone far more knowledgeable than I, look here. Mr. Doohan does a wonderful job of explaining what may seem like abstruse doctrine in very comprehensible terms.

I'm still working--largely unsuccessfully--on the active night of the senses. But I have great hope that God will see fit to aid me in His time and in His way.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Carmelite category from May 2003.

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