Prayer and Praying: May 2003 Archives

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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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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Prayer and Praying category from May 2003.

Prayer and Praying: February 2003 is the previous archive.

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