John of the Cross: October 2004 Archives

It's about that time again. Actually, it's well past that time again. Here's the next installment.

Study Guide for The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Read chapters 18-19, p. 210-219 in the Collected Works

Chapter 18--Describes also how these visions may cause deception even though they be of God.

1-2. What is St. John's chief reason for writing at such length about visions?

5-7. These paragraphs discuss what a spiritual guide or spiritual director should do and often does not do in the face of such visions. What is St. John's main theme throughout this section? Why does he consider this so important?

8-9. What is one of the chief dangers of entertaining visions? Why might this occur?

Chapter 19--Wherein is expounded and proved how, although visions and locutions which come from God are true, we may be deceived about them. This is proved by quotations from Divine Scripture.

Choose one of the examples that St. John lists , and "make it your own." Read the passages he refer to in the Bible, look at what God says and how people interpret it. Be ready to explain how God's word is true even though people are looking for something else.

How does this relate to the danger of visions and locutions? Why does it provide further evidence of what we should not do?

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. . . and their proper interpretation

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel
St. John of the Cross

[from Book II, Chapter 19]

For two reasons we have said that, although visions and locutions which come from God are true, and in themselves are always certain, they are not always so with respect to ourselves. One reason is the defective way in which we understand them; and the other, the variety of their causes. In the first place, it is clear that they are not always as they seem, nor do they turn out as they appear to our manner of thinking. The reason for this is that, since God is vast and boundless, He is wont, in His prophecies, locutions and revelations, to employ ways, concepts and methods of seeing things which differ greatly from such purpose and method as can normally be understood by ourselves; and these are the truer and the more certain the less they seem so to us. This we constantly see in the Scriptures. To many of the ancients many prophecies and locutions of God came not to pass as they expected, because they understood them after their own manner, in the wrong way, and quite literally. This will be clearly seen in these passages.

Guess this leaves the "Left Behinders" with rather short shrift. And well done, too. Literal reading of Biblical test is a never-ending morass of confusion and misunderstanding in many cases. One must, of course, understand the literal meaning of the words, but that does not mean that what is expressed on the face of it it what ultimately is intended by it. A simple example is when Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." We look neither for a wick, nor for a switch. We understand this to be said metaphorically. We all know this, but there are some pockets of Protestantism in particularly that insist on literal readings, most particularly of texts that were never written to be read literally. (The Apocalypse comes to mind.)

One must never attempt to understand what is being said in the Bible by leaping over the literal meaning to some cracked figurative meaning. But then neither should one stop at the literal meaning thinking that is all that is present. The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword.

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This page is a archive of entries in the John of the Cross category from October 2004.

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