Catholic Lessons on Prayer: St. John of the Cross (II of II)

The great mystical writer St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) in his book Ascent to Mount Carmel, invites us to reach the mountaintop where God dwells and where the soul is united with Him.  

The only way to get there is self-denial. He calls it “dark night” of the soul. After renouncing every material good in the dark night of the senses, we face another path that could be equally deceiving, that of heavenly goods: glory, security, joy, consolation, and wisdom. One may think that there is no problem with desiring good things. However, St. John invites us to desire nothing that is not the Good Himself, through the dark night of the spirit.  

In this path of spiritual goods, we have to say also: neither this, nor this, nor this, nor this… in so doing, the perfect path to God opens before us: nothing, nothing, nothing…  

In St. John’s words:  

To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in nothing.  

To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing.  

To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing.  

To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge of nothing.  

To come to enjoy what you have not,  

you must go by a way in which you enjoy not.  

To come to the possession you have not,  

you must go by a way in which you possess not.  

To come to what you are not,  

you must go by a way in which you are not. 

Only then we will be living Jesus’ words: Everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33). When we have no other desire but God in our hearts, we can find Him and be united with Him in a union of divine love: 

I abandoned and forgot myself, 

laying my face on my Beloved; 

all things ceased; I went out from myself, 

leaving my cares 

forgotten among the lilies. 

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