John of the Cross: February 2003 Archives

I have my doubts about the display on this one because of the table, but I think it will mostly make sense.

Anyone who would like a relatively readable copy, please e-mail me and I will send a worddoc.

St. John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mt. Carmel

Read pages 132-141, starting at section 5 of Chapter 6 on page 132. St. John of the Cross is describes how appetites produce certain effects in the soul. ďFor the appetites weary, torment, darken, defile, and weaken it [the soul]. The following passages deals with one or more of these effects. Use the chart to summarize information about the effects, symptoms (if any), how God treats it, and suggestions St. John of the Cross may have.

Effect Symptoms (or Signs)---- Godís Response---- St. Johnís Advice
Weary Ch. 6--5-7
Torment-Ch 7--1-4
Darken(Blind) Ch 8--1-7
Defile Ch 9--1-7
Weaken Ch 10--1-4

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Christian Quote of the Day--so Apropos

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Christian Quote of the Day--so Apropos


For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ, "In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God." The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

... from a spiritual canticle by John of the Cross (1542-1591)

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St. John of the Cross

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St. John of the Cross

I have no profound and beautiful insights. I can share with you nothing of wisdom or kindness. And being in such a dragged out state (for whatever reason), it is perhaps better to let St. John of the Cross speak my mind.

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel--Book 1, Chapter 6 St. John of the Cross

4. Wherefore, if the soul rejects and denies that which it can receive through the senses, we can quite well say that it remains, as it were, in darkness and empty; since, as appears from what has been said, no light can enter it, in the course of nature, by any other means of illumination than those aforementioned. For, although it is true that the soul cannot help hearing and seeing and smelling and tasting and touching, this is of no greater import, nor, if the soul denies and rejects the object, is it hindered more than if it saw it not, heard it not, etc. Just so a man who desires to shut his eyes will remain in darkness, like the blind man who has not the faculty of sight. And to this purpose David says these words: Pauper sum ego, et in laboribus a indenture mea. Which signifies: I am poor and in labours from my youth. He calls himself poor, although it is clear that he was rich, because his will was not set upon riches, and thus it was as though he were really poor. But if he had not been really poor and had not been so in his will, he would not have been truly poor, for his soul, as far as its desire was concerned, would have been rich and replete. For that reason we call this detachment night to the soul, for we are not treating here of the lack of things, since this implies no detachment on the part of the soul if it has a desire for them; but we are treating of the detachment from them of the taste and desire, for it is this that leaves the soul free and void of them, although it may have them; for it is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and desire for them, for it is these that dwell within it.

These seem very difficult words indeed. And yet, I do not think they are as hard as we make them. John's way is a way of denial to obtain all. We do not latch onto the smaller pleasures of the senses and appetites, but we release them, deny them, and in so doing move forward to the greater pleasure of walking more closely with God, and then to the ultimate pleasure of union with God.

Now, of what does this denial consist? I do not think that it means that you do not see or hear things, but rather that you exercise a strict custody of what you do see and hear. A thing once seen cannot be unseen, a thing once heard cannot be unheard. Denial is first, denial of entry, and second, denail of a place in our heart. There are some things we should just forego. We know it and sometimes choose to indulge in those things anyhow. Other things are good a meritorious to have seen and heard, but they are not meritorious to linger over and to practice to the point of distraction from God. It is good to have seen the Leonides, it is not so good to spend six or seven hours a day recreating the Leonides in our own minds.

So denial is both about keeping some sensation out and about letting those things that do enter leave no trace upon us. Denial is, in some small part, an exercise of will. But as with all such exercises, they are ineffective without the participation of Divine Grace. (If the Lord does not build the house, then in vain do the builders labor). So we may start by exercising a kind of custody, but we must do this for the right reason--love of God. If we are practicing these things for our own sakes, then we are becoming attached to the very notion of denial. Detachment seems quite a tricky business until we realize that though it is entirely necessary, it is merely a means, not an end in itself. All is Grace and all is gift--if we lean upon the Lord, He will find a way.

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from The Ascent of Mount Carmel--Book 1, Chapter 6 St. John of the Cross

IN order that what we have said may be the more clearly and fully understood, it will be well to set down here and state how these desires are the cause of two serious evils in the soul: the one is that they deprive it of the Spirit of God, and the other is that the soul wherein they dwell is wearied, tormented, darkened, defiled and weakened, according to that which is said in Jeremias, Chapter II: Duo mala fecit Populus meus: dereliquerunt fontem aquoe vivoe, et foderunt sibi cisternas, dissipatas, quoe continere non valent aquas. Which signifies: They have forsaken Me, Who am the fountain of living water, and they have hewed them out broken cisterns, that can hold no water.[117] Those two evils -- namely, the privative and the positive -- may be caused by any disordered act of the desire.

We seperate ourselves to God alone, or we struggle always against the crushing weight of desire and ownership. There is no middle way. God really, really likes the Frank Sinatra song, "All or nothing at All." I often hear Him say, "Half a love never appealed to me."

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This page is a archive of entries in the John of the Cross category from February 2003.

John of the Cross: January 2003 is the previous archive.

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