John of the Cross, The Interior Mountain & Our Contemplative Prayer (Part 2) / Conclusion

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Part of "St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross and Our Vocation to Contemplative Prayer"

4. John of the Cross, The Interior Mountain & Our Contemplative Prayer (Part 2) / Conclusion

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There's one side of John of the Cross that's very debated, and that's his whole ascetical side. It's so austere, and he just is radical in his wanting to love God only and nothing else. And he's so radical in that that he seems to some to get into a kind of masochistic thing where it's good to suffer, and he seems to get into a Manichean thing where creation is a bad thing and only the Creator is good. The Manichean heresy at its worst even argued that there's two different gods. There's the God of the Old Testament who creates things, and things are bad. Things are there basically to distract us from God. Then there's the God of the New Testament who creates only the exquisitely supernatural realities, and that's the God we go with.


This is a heresy that's been condemned by Holy Mother Church. Some would say that there seems to be something of that in John of the Cross, in his extremely austere asceticism, and then again something of masochism, that it is, what does God want from us? God wants us to suffer. So listen to some of these classic maxims. His maxims and counsels are where he slugs us away in the most ferocious way. This he writes for the Carmelite nuns. So they're radical in their love, and he wants to stir that up. Reflect that it is good to suffer in any way for God who is good. Well, is that the case? Is it good to suffer in any way for God who is good? Let Christ crucified be enough for you, and with him suffer and take your rest, and hence


annihilate yourself in all inward and outward things. So that's what our Christian and religious life is about, annihilating ourselves in all inward and outward things. Is this a kind of spiritual suicide, or what is this? Have great love for trials, and think of them as but a small way of pleasing your spouse, who did not hesitate to die for you. There's some of these cartoons about this big, angry nun who's beating it into the kid who writes a thousand times on the board, Jesus died because of me, or something. Well, is this what it's all about, this God wants us to suffer, and by suffering we please God kind of thing? It's a little... If we stray a little bit, if we like a little the beauty of this tree, or that ocean, or


that mountain, then we really are betraying God and stirring up his anger. He who links his heart to these delights, then, deserves in God's eyes intense suffering, torment, and bitterness. He will not be capable of attaining the delights of the embraces of union with God, since he merits suffering and bitterness. What exactly is happening here? Obviously, this isn't that good for community life. If I'm just to think of God only, where do the brothers and sisters come in there? Well, he has a whole section on community, but it tends to be in terms of the dangers of community. Community can distract you from God only. So, he says some amazing things about community. In order to practice the first counsel concerning resignation, to be truly resigned, you should live in the monastery as though no one else were in it. So, you're just there alone.


And thus, you should never, by word or by thought, meddle in things that happen in the community, nor with individuals in it, desiring not to notice their good or bad qualities or their conduct. Just don't notice it. And, in order to preserve your tranquility of soul, that's the key, even if the whole world crumbles, you should not desire to avert to this or interfere. Remembering Bhat's wife, Bhat's, looking back, Bhat's wife is all concerned about Saruman Guru. Well, she's changed into salt. Well, if you're all concerned about this brother's doing good and that brother's not doing so good, and there are earthquakes in L.A., etc., you can't keep your mind on God, kind of thing. But, is this a little too, this certainly isn't chapter 72 of the Holy Rule, where St. Benedict exhorts to a good zeal, concern for the brethren, wanting to obey each other, wanting to help each other, etc.


So, these are the questions that people ask. To practice the Fourth Council, which concerns solitude, you should deem everything in the world as finished, it's over with. Thus, when, for not being able to avoid it, you have to deal with some matter, do so in as detached a way as you would as if it did not exist. So, I've got a brother there who's in anguish and dying, and maybe I've got to be there with him, you know, but it's better to be there as though he's not even there, kind of thing. So, this causes some problems. What's happening here in terms of just Christian fraternal love? What's happening with the Second Commandment? What's happening to the God who calls us to joy and to celebrate creation, etc.? This isn't Matthew Fox's... So, again, some ask, is this just all basically a Manichean, that creation is somehow bad, and the entire world is not worthy of a man's thought, for this belongs to God alone.


Any thought, therefore, not centered on God is stolen from him. So, interesting, radical, what have we got here? And then we can go on and on. It's certainly not our pleasure, happy, enjoy, enjoy culture. It's, you know, if it feels good, do it. He'd say, if it feels good, for heaven's sakes, don't do it. All the beauty of creatures compared with the infinite beauty of God is supreme ugliness. As Solomon says in Proverbs, All of creation is vain. So, a person attached to the beauty of any creature is extremely ugly in God's sight. If you're struck by the beauty of the ocean or the mountains or the birds or another person, maybe your spouse, you're extreme ugliness in God's sight.


It seems to say, what are we doing here? All the grace and elegance of creatures compared with God's grace is utter coarseness and crudity. Now, there's none of this in Teresa. Should this be here? That's why some people say, what have we got here? Are we completely out of the Christian realm here? Have we got into some kind of pre-Christian thing? Now, the defenders of John of the Cross, who are many, say, Now, let's remember, we've got to read this in the context. He's not talking about creatures in and of themselves. He's talking about creatures insofar as we are inclined to them with a disordered and a kind of addictive personality. That's the thing. It's like a wonderful bottle of Italian Tuscan wine. In and of itself, that's a wonderful thing. But if you push that in the face of a recovering addict, this could be destruction for them.


This could be diabolic for them. So, get that darn bottle out of here. It's a dreadful thing. Again, not in and out of itself, not for someone who's ordered, etc., but for someone who has that addiction. Gerald May says, we are all addicts, every one of us, towards something or other. Now, I think John of the Cross goes quite far than that. And he says, our tendency is for all of us to be addicts towards everything and anything. Anything other than God we'll take if it'll distract us from the one thing necessary. So, that's where he's coming from with this radicalness of a Spaniard and a mad lover, etc. So, it isn't Manichean. He's not saying that creation in and of itself is ugly. He's saying that we, when we get into our addictive mode, our craving mode, having to cling not to the ineffable, infinite God who created us for God's self,


but to this chocolate bar or that glass of wine or that woman or that man or something. That's when things go well. So, John of the Cross, with real radicalness, is calling us to freedom of spirit. So, in our freedom of spirit, we can give ourselves totally to God. He's calling us to purity of heart in its radicalness. And this is the radicalness of at least some parts of Jesus' Gospel. You cannot serve two masters. Give everything up for the pearl of great beauty. So, that's where he's coming from, saviors, defenders. He doesn't want to take some of his phrases in a kind of a literal way. Freedom cannot abide in a heart dominated by the appetites. That is a slave's heart. Freedom dwells in a liberated heart, which is the son's or daughter's heart.


I'm trying to make this inclusive here. We're not slaves. We're now called to be sons and daughters. And that means we can't be enslaved to whatever. But we inevitably will want to be. He's much more rigorous in his analysis of our tendency to desire, crave, want. Whether it be things, whether it be glory and honors. Again, whether in the world or in the church or whatever. He's got this extremely rigorous prophetic vision. The prophet wants to get out there and break every idol. Well, we just make an idol of anything and everything. And so, this is the rigor of his asceticism. He writes, the heart must be purified of all creatures with the fire of divine love. Again, not that all creatures certainly come from God are bad, but because what we do with them in our addictive dimension. So, the soul free and empty of all possessions,


so it can be totally receptive of God only. That's the first and great commandment. There's another side to this also. And that's something that Thomas Merton argues with great eloquence. It's not just that he's clenching his teeth and wanting to wipe all these things out so that you'll create a place for God. But God is already moving in his heart. This man is already impatiently in love with God. He's passionately in love with him and calling him to total union with God. So, there is this mad, crazy radicalness of the lover. And even of the Spanish lover, let us say. Romantic love is a kind of madness. And so, he's just not going to broke any distraction. Not going to broke any obstacle, any substitute, any divided heart. He wants a heart totally for Christ.


So, that's the defense of his asceticism. That doesn't totally satisfy people. But certainly, he's awesome in his single-minded commitment to the spouse only. And his single-minded commitment to that straight and narrow, right up. Narrow is the way that leads to salvation, Jesus says. And John the Cross would say, Amen. And that's just that way of nada, [...] nada. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Not wandering off to the left to all these nice consolations and things. And rest and security and all that. Not wandering off to the right to all the nice things. Whether, again, of the church or of the world. So, that's where he's at. But, because the lover always wanted to go in the most direct, immediate way. And that's pure faith in the lover only. Not in anything else.


So, still, after even the defense in these terms. At very least, it's not the approach of lots of scripture, one can argue. Scripture, for instance, regarding creatures, does insist that creatures are created by God. He says, don't even look at creatures. Don't even consider them. Well, you can argue that God himself, herself, looks at creatures in Genesis. Declares them all good. And then, if we were at all attentive to the Psalms and the Canticles, we were praying this morning at God's well. The heavens glorify God. And the skies and the seas. And all animals, wild and tame. And it's all this canticle of praise to God. Jesus says, consider the lilies of the field. And St. Francis' Canticle of the Creatures. Brother, son, sister, womb. If you move this into the dimension of our ecological awareness today.


Especially deep ecology. I can't isolate myself out from creation. I'm part of this living immense web. And it's the whole that glorifies God. Not just created in God, we believe. But if we take the New Testament seriously, recreated in Christ. Redeemed. Called to an eternal glory. So, we have to take very seriously the possibility of glorifying God in and through creatures. Since we always do. We do in and through our bodies. In and through the language we receive from the community. In and through the love and support of the community, etc. So, at least some of us would argue that the way of St. Benedict seems more evangelical. It's interesting to reflect on just John's name and patron. Is this John, the beloved disciple?


Who is John of the Cross's patron? No. This is John the Baptist. Who, of course, is this rigorous setting. And it's Jesus himself who contrasts himself and his own path with the path of John the Baptist. Remember that John the Baptist comes neither eating or drinking. And the Son of Man comes both eating and drinking. And so, the Son of Man is accused of being glutton and drunkard. And the Son of Man, not just for himself, when he goes into these banquets. He brings all his apostles in with him. Not that they've attained the seventh mansions of the mystical marriage. They're still at the beginning. But this is their journey with their master. And it's not the path of the disciples of John the Baptist and John the Baptist himself. And they know that. And so, the questions that come up in the synoptics, Well, why don't your disciples fast and all this? So, it can be argued that Jesus didn't come preaching and imposing a rigorous kind of asceticism of this sort


for whatever reason. But is it unchristian? I don't think one would argue that. But it's at least, let's say, only one proposal among others. And others want to safeguard more, perhaps, the whole value of the whole of creation as glorifying God and our integral part in that creation and how this creation is being restored, renewed for an eternal glory. It's not just that our spiritual souls will be saved in heaven, but all of creation, etc., etc. But, having said that, I think we have to admit there's something exhilarating, there's something purifying about reading John of the Cross, certainly against our, perhaps, flabby, hedonistic culture, very much supported and encouraged by Madison Avenue and all this stuff, about, sure, just indulge. Get the latest big car, get the latest fancy big computer,


take your latest new retreat and vacation off to wherever, etc. Ours is a society built on indulgence. And the more you indulge, the better. And we need this new John the Baptist to come in and wave his fist at us, etc. And we're all going to have to follow his way and none other at the moment of death. We're going to have to go through the active night of the senses and the active night of the Spirit and the passive night of the senses and the passive night of the Spirit. So, he's John of the Cross. Not of the empty cross, but of the cross with our Lord hanging there. That's where we're going to... So, we're all going to be disciples of John, willing or not, at that decisive moment. And if you take seriously what St. Paul says, that we must die daily, in that moment of dying, I think there's no other way.


And so, daily, we've got to be disciples of John. It's just that. Daily, we don't just die. Daily, we also live. And daily, dying, we then rise from the dead. So, there's this whole picture. But he offers an extremely rigorous cleansing medicine for our time, first of all. And second of all, he directly, I think, guides us into the decisive task and challenge ahead of us, that is, our own dying, in a way that's probably more helpful than anything else. What's the name of that writer who wrote the book? Holiness? Who himself just died. Precisely. We have some of his writings unpublished just in his last time when he was suffering. He knew with total lucidity that he was dying. So, he wrote his reflections.


How do I go through this moment? Well, it's just echoes of John of the Cross. When you're in that place, you don't want maybe Matthew Fox and all the chirping birdies, et cetera. You want Samuel to go through that narrow eye of the needle. And again, this because we're being drawn on to resurrection. That's the whole presupposition by this mysterious presence and touch in our souls of the beloved. And so, we shouldn't get all caught up in the asceticism to the extent that we forget what the asceticism is for. It's not an end in itself. He isn't masochistic in that sense. It's just that we need to make more space for the Lord. We need to be more focused with that clear eye on the Lord because the Lord is acting within us. And the Lord might well be acting within us


in this special, supernatural, contemplative way. Now, how do we discern that? We've seen that with Teresa. Now, he gives three classic signs that spiritual directors regularly come back to. The first is presumably the soul has been journeying on, gotten into active prayer, active meditation, wanting to be more and more filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Gospel, through a commitment to discursive formal prayer, to discursive meditation, etc. Well, at a certain point, this becomes more and more difficult. Indeed, the soul, to use their language, can't do it anymore. That's the first sign. Or can do it only with great effort, with great force. It doesn't come naturally. Very often, at the beginning, it does come. It's a joy to learn, oh, I can meditate on being there with our Lord when he's preaching on the Sermon on the Mount


and being there at this healing, etc., the whole Ignatian method or something. It fills one with an enthusiasm to bring in the senses and the considerations, etc. But time comes, at least for some, that just doesn't work. The second sign is not only doesn't it work, one doesn't want to do it, not only can't one, but one has no desire to. Now, these are two negative signs that aren't there that explicitly in Teresa, but the third is the key one for Teresa, and that's this mysterious being attracted beyond them to something else which one can hardly name. It's a realm of mysterious silence, the ineffable peace, quiet, and one wants to be there in this general loving awareness of God. He brings in, I think, this fascinating term I didn't find in Teresa, a general love. Again, not a love specifically focused


on Jesus there preaching at the Last Supper or Christ on the cross or whatever, but this mysterious just love. And what's that all about? Well, probably not about anything. It's probably just illusion. No, be there. Let that happen. He's saying something very important is happening there. So, the third and surest sign is that a person likes to remain alone in this loving awareness of God without particular considerations, in interior peace and quiet and repose, and without the acts and exercises, at least discursive, those in which one progresses from point to point, of the intellect, memory, and will, and that he prefers to remain only in the general loving awareness and knowledge we mentioned


without any particular knowledge or understanding. So, if there's this in oneself or in someone else that one's journeying with, affirm that. Don't say, oh, that's just illusion, that's just people's laziness. It does take some careful discernment. Certainly if it's drug-induced, it takes some very careful, because you can kind of bliss out with drugs. Is it something like this? Well, those who have been in both places say, no, this is entirely different. This has a lucidity and a deep peace about it. The other, we're aware there's something chemical and artificial about it. So, this is where we want to be. Sometimes, at the very beginning, this third sign isn't even averted to by the person. Why? Because normally our awareness is not at that most subtle summit


of our spirit, of the interior mountain. Normally, we're down there below the senses at the base of the mountain where all the villages and towns are and the crowds and the plazas and all the rest. So, the person might only be aware of those first two. I can't do this other, and I don't even want to do this other. And that is particularly delicate to try to deepen their consciousness of, well, maybe you can and you don't want to because there's something else happening that wants to replace, that wants to go beyond these particular works that are lower down on the mountain to use his kind of... So, we need... Prayer is nothing other than a refining of our awareness, of our consciousness, of these mysterious ways God is speaking to us. In God's language, which, again, is totally different from the languages we're used to, it's not the hard metal, or what is that rock called? It's a quite more subtle...


Heavy metal. Pardon me, heavy metal. Actually, at the beginning of the state of loving... I'm surprised you would know that. I've heard it on the internet. So, regarding that maybe the person is hardly even aware of this last decisive element, John writes, actually, at the beginning of this state, the loving knowledge is almost unnoticeable. There are two reasons for this. He's such a jade, so structured. First, ordinary knowledge Secondly, the incipient loving knowledge is extremely subtle and delicate and almost imperceptible. And second, a person who is habituated to the exercise of meditation, which is wholly sensible, hardly perceives or feels this new, insensible, purely spiritual experience. This is especially so when, through failure to understand it,


he does not permit himself any quietude, but strives after the other, more sensory experience. Although the interior peace is more abundant, the individual allows no room for its experience and enjoyment. So, here we get extremely subtle in our, we call it a phenomenology, in our attentiveness to what is being experienced. And that's what happens in love. Just note these signs of love from the other. Avert to them, and set aside a lot of other noisy stuff that maybe, yeah, isn't necessary. But the key thing is this deep quiet and peace. Here he's in absolute accord with Teresa, however different his language and methodology might be to get at, not get there, because you can't get there, but get at disposing the heart so that the heart truly and solidly receives this gift. But the more habituated he becomes


to this calm, the deeper his experience of the general loving knowledge of God will grow. This knowledge, though more subtle, is more enjoyable than all other things, because without the soul's labor, it affords peace, rest, savor, and delight. Two things to note here. Without the soul's labor, this is clearly that we're somewhere on this side of the fourth mansions. This is this infusion now of this supernatural gift of contemplation. And the other, more enjoyable than all other things. This is why he sounds so wildly disdainful of creation. No, but simply because he has the greater, he has the one thing necessary, and he wants to go for it. He doesn't want to be the unfaithful lover. He doesn't want to flirt around on the sides of this one passionate love affair.


But the whole substance of it, as with Teresa, is love. This is a wildly spousal mysticism, as with her. Here's the whole Bernini statue. Well, this could be John of the Cross also. He's as wildly romantic and passionate as she. And we want to come back to that again to understand the context of all the rest. What God wants especially, and you could almost say the only thing God wants from us, the only thing, is our love. And this is the whole thing. And the way to love, if you want to be wildly loving, if you're called, and also wildly loved, if you're called in this contemplative way, is through contemplative loving. Not, well, immediately rush down to the piazza and start preaching, or rush into, well, I don't know. No, just stay there in silence. He's very much Mary rather than Martha. The soul indeed lost to all things


because won over to love no longer occupies her spirit in anything else. She even withdraws in matters pertinent to the active life and exterior occupations for the sake of fulfilling the one thing the bridegroom said was necessary. Here he quotes Luke with Martha and Mary. Martha, Martha, you're busy about so many things. One only is necessary. What is this one only? He says love. And that is, attentiveness to God, continual love of Him. Not intermittent, not every now and then when I'm in the mood or feeling pious. And this is where, again, with Him as with her, it's linked to the will. The will gently, faithfully, in faith attending to God's presence as love. So this is what it's all about. This, being there in love, is worth more to the person and is worth more to the church,


he insists, than all the active apostolates, than all the active preachings and miracles and healings. Now, you might believe this or not, but this, I think, is at least a healthy counterpoise to all the emphasis in our time on action and doing and workaholic and achievement, etc. He says, just sit there. Just be there in love with God. And is this useless? This is everything. This is truly what is of value to the whole church, to the whole of the human family. It should be noted that until the soul reaches this state of union, of love, she should practice love in both the active and contemplative life. Yet once she arrives, she should not become involved in other works and exterior exercises that might be of the slightest hindrance to the attentiveness of love toward God, even though the work be of great service to God.


For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the entire church, even though it seems that one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together. So this is quite different from the, as I said, the active apostolate kind of drive that's in so many. So he establishes a ladder. God wants only love. God wants nothing else. This love until it totally transforms us. If anything pleases God, it is the exaltation of the soul. God isn't the sadist who wants, God wants to free us up and to exalt us. Exalt us, we would say in Eastern language, to divinize us, to make us entirely equal to God. Since there is no way by which God can exalt her


more than by making her equal to himself, he is pleased only with her love, for the property of love is to make the lover equal to the object loved. Since the soul in this state possesses perfect love, she is called the bride of the Son of God, which signifies equality with him. Fascinating aspects just about his view of relation of woman and man here and full equality in the love. In this equality of friendship, here he shifts not just spousal love, but love of friendship. This is another modality of love, which also has something about equality with it. In this equality of friendship, the possessions of both are held in common. As the bridegroom himself said to his disciples, I have now called you my friends, because all that I have heard from my father I have manifested to you. So then she recites the stanza.


Here he's quoting his own stanza from the spiritual canticle that he's commenting on. Now I occupy my soul and all my energies in his service, nor have I any other work now, and my every act is love. So this is where he wants to take us. And so it's pretty exciting and passionate stuff. So he establishes a ladder of love. That nada-nada-nada-nada becomes a ladder that safely gets us straight up. The ladder is another great archetype that starts with Jacob's ladder, of course, in the Old Testament. Jesus himself assumes that archetype and says he himself is that ladder when he says, you know, you will see the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man, et cetera. Well, the ladder is very much in the rule of Benedict in his basic vision of Romeo. So ladders for us are good.


Benedict sets up a ladder of humility. John of the Cross sets up a ladder of love. We ascend by loving more. We mentioned that there are 10 successive steps on this ladder of love by which the soul ascends to God. This is still in the dark night, so it's not all darkness and gloom in the dark night. This is Book II, Chapter 19. The first step of love makes the soul sick in an advantageous way. The bride speaks of this step of love when she says, I conjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, if you encounter my love, tell him that I am lovesick, Candico 5.8. Yet this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. Here he's quoting John, et cetera. So, yeah, we're no longer normal. We're no longer sane in a kind of a saneness of this world in a practical, calculating way. We're just sick. We've fallen in love. The second step causes a person


to search for God unceasingly, like the bride in the Canticle of Canticles, seeking him night and day. The third step of this loving ladder prompts the soul to the performance of works and gives it fervor that it might not fail. Here echoes I hear of Teresa. Here the point that Gerald May makes that this love is fruitful. It just bears fruit for the community. It doesn't stress the community that much, but that would be therefore. On the fourth step of this ladder of love, a habitual yet unwearisome suffering is engendered on account of the beloved. As St. Augustine says, love makes all burdensome and heavy things as nearly nothing. So there's this pining after God, this nostalgia for full union, and this kind of soft, gentle suffering


for which all the other sufferings aren't that bad and indeed can help detach us from the other stuff that's kind of holding us down. We've got all these, it's like octopuses are trying to hold us down, and we're trying to, what's the plural of octopuses? There you are. We're trying to ascend the ladder. Well, it's this suffering that causes us to ascend. The fifth step of this ladder of love imparts an impatient desire and longing for God. Again, he wants to get there soon. He wants to go by the short way, not wandering around. And done. Sixth. The sixth step makes the soul run swiftly toward God and experience many touches in him. We're getting to the point where these moments of averting to God's being active in the soul, they come with a certain frequency.


They come maybe as surprise. They're not that rare now. And it runs without fainting by reason of its hope. The love that has invigorated it makes it fly swiftly. Remember when Peter and the beloved disciple in the Gospel of John hear that the tomb is empty. They start running. This is this wonderful running. The seventh step of the ladder gives it an ardent boldness. At this stage, love neither profits by the judgments to wait nor makes use of the counsel to retreat. Kind of a worldly reasonableness or caution. No, you just go for it. Common sense doesn't enter here. You just go for it. Neither can it be curbed through shame. Look at that person. Who does he think he is? For the favor God now shows imparts this ardent daring. Biblical scholars note


that this astonishing difference between the apostles after Pentecost and before. Before, they're all terrorized and they're in their room. It's locked and afraid of the Jews, etc. With the descent of the Spirit, there is this boldness. Now, it is bold to love God. It's not boldness to affirm oneself or advance one's, I don't know, stock portfolio or something. So there's an aggressiveness of the world that's entirely different from this. But this is the boldness, again, of the impassioned lover. The eighth step of love impels the soul to lay hold of the beloved without letting him go. As the bride proclaims, I found him whom my heart and soul loves. I held him and did not let him go. Canticle 3, 4. This is the key book that he loves to come back to again and again because it directly describes what he's about. The ninth step of love causes the soul to burn gently. It is the step of the perfect


who burn gently in God. So it's not a wild, crazy love. It's not even the love of ecstasy or rapture. There's very little of that in John the Cross. He's very dubious of any and every vision, any and every locution, prophecy, any of that stuff. So here he's an interesting rigorous, the straight way. If you all get into what these prophecies are and those visions, you're just going to wander away. Go the way of nada, [...] right into God by naked, dark faith. And then you will have this gentle, soft, quiet love. The tenth and last step of this secret ladder of love assimilates the soul to God completely because of the clear vision of God which a person possesses as soon as he reaches it. It's a strong assumption that John the Cross, again, attained to this


and from this level wrote about all the rest. And this, then, is two last wonderful books. The Spiritual Canticle and Living Flame of Love are about that, are about the point where we're yearning to attain to. So this is the other side of John is extremely invigorating. Now he'd say the only way there is through the cross. And so it's not an easy, soft blissing out that he proposes but a full freedom and joy in the Beloved having given up everything else for the Beloved. Having given up everything else, what happens? And he says this on his map and he says it in his portrait. Then you recover everything else


because all is in the Beloved. The Beloved is everything. He falls into a delightful pantheism at the end. He says, my Beloved is the mountains. Not just the mountains remind me of my Beloved or the mountains are like the Beloved or something. My Beloved is the mountains. Suddenly it's all the spouse. So there can be no doubt that he's not Manichean because no Manichean would ever write what he did at the end. That is, all of creation is glorious and somehow all of creation is Christ from that final perspective. Unfortunately, down here, when we're still in our fallen state, all of creation is temptation to deviate, to wander off. Not again because creation is bad in and of itself, but because simply of this sick, warped tendency in us because we've misused our freedom as children of God. But with the healing, it has something of the rigor


of the 12-step program and indeed it goes probably quite beyond it. With the healing, then everything is recovered. And then we can enjoy that bottle of Tuscan wine and all the rest. So why don't we end with just some of these passages from his spiritual canticle. Then we'll turn off the tape and entertain all questions, discussions, objections, etc. In the classic Thomist view of the causalities, there's this principle that the final cause is the cause of causes. That shapes all the others. We don't have to do a lot of Thomism here, but John of the Cross was a classic Thomist. That means that all the other causes, whether it be why of this or wherefore or what it is or who made it, ultimately it's tending


towards that final cause. Well, the final cause is this total spousal friendship union with God. And it's in the light of this that I think we can say John does see all the rest. He sees it extremely soberly and austerely, but it's in this very quiet silence of love that he sees all the rest. So now to conclude from the spiritual canticle passages here and there. It's a very long, sublime canticle, and it's just an echo of the Canticle of Canticles in Scripture. My beloved is the mountains and lonely wooded valleys, strange islands and resounding rivers, the whistling of love-stirring breezes, the tranquil night at the time of the rising dawn, silent music, sounding solitude,


the supper that refreshes and deepens love. Our bed is in flower, bound round with linking dens of lions, hung with purple, built up in peace, and crowned with a thousand shields of gold. There he gave me his breast, there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge, and I gave myself to him, keeping nothing back. There I promise to be his bride. Now I occupy my soul and all my energies in his service. I no longer tend the herd, nor have I any other work, now that my every act is love. Amen.