Carmelite: January 2004 Archives

Barbara Dent's book My Only Friend Is Darkness is an exposition of the teaching of St. John of the Cross from an experiential viewpoint. Ms. Dent makes some remarkable and critically important points about our relationship with God in the following passage:

from My Only Friend is Darkness Barbara Dent

When faced with the summons to reckless self-giving, we make endless qualifications, excuses and rationalizations. John will have none of them.

Our hearts must be purged of all unruly affections and desires arising from the four traditional passions of joy, hope, fear and grief. When we calmly consider what and who does actually arouse in us the extremes of these passions, we shall not often find that it is our personal relationship with God. . . .

The aim of this purging of desires for the not-God is to transform our human will into one fully united with the divine will. The more we are emotionally dependent on created things and on people, the more our will is tugging to get free of God, or is in conflict, or is merely ignoring the directives of his will for us.

If we succeed in fully controlling only one of the four passions, the others will also become subdued and redirected to God as a result. Until we achieve this control, we remain captive and incapable of full union and deep contemplation. . . .

Anyone who thinks this is easy is either (1)severely emotionally inhibited and repressed; (2) naturally unresponsive and cold-hearted; (3) ignorant of what it is to love with all the too, too human heart; (4) a psychopath; or (5) already a saint!

John pushes home his point relentlessly. "There is another very great and important benefit in this detachment of the rejoicing from creatures--namely, that it leaves the heart free for God. This is the dispositive foundation of all the favours which God will grant to the soul, and without this disposition he grants them not (Ascent III, XX, 4, italics added). (pgs. 89-90)

In the end the service of God is all the really matters. While we must take heed of present circumstances, we need not be dominated by them. Love of God stirred by activation of the will in opposing our besetting sin is a step toward sanctity and wholeness. Outside of this all work is futile, all accomplishment only ash and dust. We are transformed in God and in the transformation we become new people and every part of the old man resists this death. Every part of us seeks God and flees Him simultaneously. And grace alone determines the outcome. Do we seek grace? Do we know the fullness of what can be accomplished in us? If we spend a single moment in the Bible we do. In a moment we become Paul when we were Saul. Or we become Ananias and Sapphira. The choice is ours--to seek grace and God's will or to seek our own.

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Staying at a neat hotel in Tampa that allows access to computers hooked to the internet for free. It's got great accommodations and is the kind of thing that might actually make me change my mind about Tampa in general.

Anyway, a long exhausting day of conferences by some of the major names in Carmelite studies. But more importantly than that they are by major scholars, they are by people who are committed to directing and to helping those who pursue the Carmelite path.

Started with morning prayer and a magnificent Votive Mass of St. John of the Cross--the homily of which alone was worth the entire price of the conference. This was followed by the first conference--Father Kiernan Kavanaugh--yes, the main translator of Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus talking about "The Kingdom of God in St. Teresa of Jesus." Well planned, well considered and inspiring. I hope when I get back home and I can synch my palm I can post a better summary of what went on. It seems so long ago.

But suffice to say the essence of nearly every talk here is that prayer is not judged on how much we know but on how much we love. But I will try to get back tomorrow if possible. Sorry things are so sketchy, but I'm sure you all understand. I just wanted to share some of the excitement and the true movement of the Holy Spirit that appear to be going on here. (And I have committed the promised intentions to the care of my Carmelite Brothers and sisters here.)

Hope to write more tomorrow.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Carmelite category from January 2004.

Carmelite: December 2003 is the previous archive.

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