Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12/14/10 - St. John of the Cross

I clicked on today's readings and found that today is the Memorial of St. John of the Cross.  I've been studying St. John a fair amount lately, so I'll make today a tribute to his teaching.
According to the Catechism, spiritual union with Christ is the ultimate end of spiritual growth: 
2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.
St. John of the Cross -- along with his contemporary / co-worker / friend St. Teresa of Avila -- is one of those to whom these special graces were granted for the sake of teaching the rest of us.  Between them, they wrote several masterpieces of Christian literature that describe exactly HOW a person grows from spiritual infancy to spiritual union with Christ, how you can tell "where you are" along this path, and how God moves you from one point to the next.  Both have been named Doctors of the Church.  Pope John Paul II was fond of St. John of the Cross, and wrote his theological doctoral dissertation on St. John's spirituality.
I'm currently reading St. John's "Ascent of Mount Carmel", which along with "Dark Night of the Soul" and "Spiritual Canticle" put the story together.  One basic tenet of St. John is that if one is truly serious about advancing spiritually, the person must become "detached" from things that stand between the person and God.  If that doesn't happen, the person spends his life chasing the created, rather than the CREATOR. 
Those who know me well know that I can go on for quite a while on St. John.  Short of that ... here are a couple of quotes to give you a taste of his teaching, from various works of his.  You might recognize these as a common thread through many of my messages from the last year or so. 
  • “If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.”
  • "The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly."
  • "He who interrupts the course of his spiritual exercises and prayer is like a man who allows a bird to escape from his hand; he can hardly catch it again."