Saint's Lives and Writing: January 2003 Archives

Ascent of Mount Carmel II


In all humility, I offer these guiding questions for anyone for the benefit of any who can use them.

St John of the Cross
Study Guide for Ascent of Mount Carmel II

Read pages 123-122 Chapters 4-6. Be sure to annotate with your own heads. Numbers below refer to numbered sections of the text.

Chapter 4—Why you need to pass through a dark night of the senses to come to union with God.

1-2. Why are people attached to creatures unable to achieve union?
3 What does attachment to a creature cause to happen to a person?
4 John talks about being, beauty, grace and elegance, goodness, and wisdom and ability. What is his point in each case?
5 Compare and contrast the two paragraphs of this section. What must one do with human wisdom?
6-7 John continues his comparisons. Make a list of all the items John has compared and then note which of these is the cause of your greatest attachments. Which of these do you most prize?
8 What happens to souls in love with things of the world? Reflect for a while on the passages from Proverbs. Read it several times and write down what it says to you about people trying to grow close to God. Then read John’s explanation—how does it compare with yours?

Chapter 5—John offers biblical examples and further evidence for the necessity of the dark night of the senses..
1-2 John says over and over again, “Love produces equality and likeness.” Restate this in your own words. What do your attachments make you like?
3-4 What does the episode of manna in the desert mean in our lives? How are we like the Israelites? What do we need to do about it?
5-6 What is the chief lesson we are to gather from Moses on the Mount? What does it call us to do?
7 What is the purpose of ascending the mount? What must be accomplished for it to happen?
8 What happens to anything base that tries to dwell with God (for example the idol John mentions). What might be the effect in a soul of this? Would God do this to a soul? What implications does that have for us?

Chapter 6—The types of harm caused by attachments
1 What are the two forms of harm caused by attachments? (The word privative is an adjective meaning “depriving” or “causing one to lack.” What is the nature of this privative harm?
2 How can one add to an already full vessel? If something is filled to the very top, what must be done in order to add anything? If the substance being added is likely to destroy the vessel if it touches any of the previous substance, what must be done? What does this call us to?
3 How do appetites get in the way of the Lord?
4 What is more difficult for God creation or purgation? Why?
5-6 How is the soul wearing and tired by attachments and appetites? Name an example in your own life. What does this call us to?

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A Form of Confession


This resonated when I read it:

from Before the Altar Venerable Concepcion Carera de Armida

There are immense areas of neglect in my life: I have not always done my duty to my neighbor, or to the members of my family, nor have I fulfilled the most holy obligations of religion.

Instead of seeking God, I have sought myself, I have desired comforts, I have been vainglorious and obstinate in defending my own opinion, I have taken pleasure in worldly friendhsips, and have sought my own gratification even in my special prayer time with you!

How often have I yielded to a desire to have others approve of me, to being too easily hurt, to culpuable weaknesses!

How much self-indulgence, what excuses, what idleness, pleasure seeking, and sluggishness in the service of God; what imprudence, what vainglory, touchiness, cowardice and uncharitableness! O my Jesus, it makes me tremble when I consider that it is the end of the day a, that night is coming on, and that my heart, alas, remains full of vices, stains, and iniquities.

Have not envy, jealousy, and pride invaded even my life in religion, which should have been a life of sanctity; and angelic life, on one of self-immolation?

Where are the humility, the patience, the obedience, the gentleness, the costly victories; where the sacrifice, which was to be the very essence of my life in this community?

All of this from a mother of nine who had written approximately 148 books in her life. All of the saints record these feelings. And they record them not from a masochistic desire to chastise self, but from the true realization of all the opportunities they have missed for loving God completely. Each chance to serve, while often an exercise in humility, is also an exercise in being IN God, of living within Him and His Kingdom.

When we reflect on our omissions and sins, the reflection should be primarily one of how much we have lost by not being available to God. Certainly there are other considerations--heaven, hell, death, and judgment--but all of these seem to pale in the face of the tremendous crime of not living life as it was meant to be lived--in the joy of union with God.

These last things swing like the sword of Damocles over us--impending with threat, but they are considerations that force the sullen flesh into action. We who claim to be of Christ, who do have some vague sort of religious life (at least), do not need them to inspire us to action or to keep us on the right path--though they are always there. What we need to be more in mind of is the infinitely sad missed opportunities to be present to God and to be One with God in His service.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Saint's Lives and Writing category from January 2003.

Saint's Lives and Writing: November 2002 is the previous archive.

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