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essence of practise

 

We are discussing the union and transformation of the soul in God.

As regards this road to union, entering on the road means leaving one’s own road; and turning from one’s own mode implies entry into what has no mode, that is, God.

A man, then, is decidedly hindered from the attainment of this high state of union with God when he is attached to any understanding, feeling, imagining, opinion, desire, or way of his own and knows not how to detach and denude himself of these impediments. His goal transcends all of this.

The preparation for this union is not an understanding, nor the taste, feeling, or imagining of God or any other object, but purity and love, which is the stripping off and perfect renunciation of all experiences for God alone. Perfect transformation is impossible without perfect purity. The illumination of the soul and its union with God corresponds to the measure of its purity.

The faculties must undergo a purification of their respective apprehensions in order to reach union with God.

We annihilate the faculties in their operations. We go to God by not comprehending rather than by comprehending, and we exchange the mutable and comprehensible for the Immutable and Incomprehensible.

All the sensory means and exercises of the faculties must be left behind and in silence so that God himself may effect divine union in the soul. One has to follow this method of disencumbering, emptying and depriving the faculties of their natural occupations to make room for the inflow and illumination of the supernatural.

This sublime knowledge can be received only by a person who has arrived at union with God, for it is itself that very union. It consists in a certain touch of the divinity produced in the soul, and thus it is God himself who is experienced and tasted there. This knowledge tastes of the divine essence and eternal life.

Manifestly, in this high state of union God does not communicate himself to the soul through the disguise of any image or likeness, but directly: the pure and naked essence of God with the pure and naked essence of the soul.

Remain alone in a loving awareness, without particular considerations, in interior peace and quiet and repose, and without the acts and exercises of the faculties. Remain only in general loving awareness, without any particular knowledge or understanding.

The more habituated persons become to this calm, the more their experience of this general loving knowledge of God will increase.

What the soul was gradually acquiring through the labour of meditation is converted into habitual and substantial, general loving knowledge. This knowledge is neither distinct nor particular, as was the previous knowledge. The moment it recollects itself in the presence of God it enters into an act of general, loving, peaceful, and tranquil knowledge, drinking wisdom and love and delight.

The purity and simplicity of this state renders the soul simple, pure and clear of all the apprehensions and forms through which the senses and memory were acting.

We do not work with the faculties. One should not commingle other, more palpable lights of forms, concepts or figures of meditative discourse if one wants to receive this divine light in greater simplicity and abundance, for none of these tangible lights are like that serene, limpid light. If individuals were to desire to consider and understand particular things, however spiritual these things may be, they would hinder the general, limpid and simple light of the spirit.

What clearly follows is that when individuals have finished purifying and voiding themselves of all forms and apprehensible images, they will abide in this pure and simple light and be perfectly transformed in it. This light is never lacking to the soul, but because of creature forms and veils that weigh on it and cover it, the light is never infused. If individuals would eliminate these impediments and live in pure nakedness and poverty of spirit, their soul in its simplicity and purity would then be immediately transformed into simple and pure Wisdom, the Son of God.

*****

Creatures, earthly or heavenly, and all distinct ideas and images, natural and supernatural, that can be the object of a person’s faculties, are inadequate to God’s being. Therefore, anyone encumbering the faculties of the soul with what is comprehensible cannot have a proper esteem of God. For whoever does not renounce all possessions cannot be Christ’s disciple.

To reach satisfaction in all
desire satisfaction in nothing.
To come to possess of 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 knowledge you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not.
To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not.
To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not.

 

As Joseph Ratzinger put it: “it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.”

You still do not know me?

If you know me, you know my Father too.

Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me? 1

The problem, for the disciples, seems to be with Jesus’ experience of self.

To have seen me is to have seen the Father. 1

Jesus does not identify with what they are looking at, Jesus of Nazareth.

I am in the Father and the Father is in me1

“it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.”2

  1. John 14:6-14
  2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. 1969. Introduction to Christianity. pp189-90

I and the Father are One

I and the Father are one.

The Son as Son, and insofar as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the father with nothing belonging only to him, makes no reservation for what is specifically his own, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: If there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is “one” with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay, that the word “Son” aims at expressing. To John, “Son” means being from another; thus, with this word he defines the being of this man as being from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of a mere “I”. When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being “from” and “toward”, which nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity.

(pp 185 -187)

My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me (7:16). What, then, is the teaching of Jesus that is simultaneously his and not his? Jesus is “word”, and thus it becomes clear that his teaching is he himself. If one reads the sentence again with this insight, it then says: I am by no means just I; I am not mine at all; my I is that of another. With this we have moved on out of Christology and arrived at ourselves. The most individual element in us – the only thing that belongs to us in the last analysis – our own “I”, is at the same time the least individual element of all, for it is precisely our “I” that we have neither from ourselves nor for ourselves. The “I” is simultaneously what I have completely and what least of all belongs to me. Thus here again the concept of mere substance (= what stands in itself ! ) is shattered, and it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.        (pp189-190)

  • Joseph Ratzinger. 1969. Introduction to Christianity

Eternal Being

  • Eternal being as the ground of my own being.

Aside from eternal being, nothing exists – that is truly in full possession of being.

My own being, as I know it and as I know myself in it, is null and void;
I am not by myself and by myself I am nothing;
at every moment I find myself face to face with nothingness,
and from moment to moment I must be endowed and re-endowed with being.
And yet this empty existence that I am is being,
and at every moment I am in touch with the fullness of being.

How does the ego learn to see in eternal being also the source or the genuine cause of its own being?

The undeniable fact that my being is limited in its transience from moment to moment and thus exposed to the possibility of nothingness is counterbalanced by the equally undeniable fact that despite this transience, I am, that from moment to moment I am sustained in my being, and that in my fleeting being I share in enduring being. In the knowledge that being holds me, I rest securely. This security, however, is not the self-assurance of one who under her own power stands on firm ground, but rather the sweet and blissful security of a child that is lifted up and carried by a strong arm.

In my own being, then, I encounter another kind of being that is not mine but that is the support and ground of my own unsupported and groundless being.

  • Edith Stein. Finite and Eternal Being.  (pp 55 – 58)

 

Mystical Death

 

Christ possessed the beatific vision precisely because no human “I” separated him from God. Thus Christ directly beheld God’s very being. Conversely, the blessed Virgin Mary did have a human “I”. As a totally human creature, she was a human person. As such, she would say, “I wish, I love or I do”, on the basis of her human personhood, which informed all her actions. However, Mary was so closely conformed to God’s will, that her human “I” dissolved and became bathed in the divine will. Thus, both Christ and Mary attained the pinnacle of prayer. Such prayer is the goal of the entire teaching of Saint John of the Cross. It is the “Living Flame of Love”, which blazes at the summit of the road and crowns the conclusion of the “Canticle”. It is Mt Carmel itself. That flame burns with infinite intensity in Christ and with great brilliance in Mary. Like all others who have come to Carmel, we have come with that same goal in mind.

In Christ and in Mary, the action of God himself slew, so to speak, in a single stroke, the human “I”.

Such a death is equally essential for us. We must die to ourselves. Our “I” must come to know this mystical death in order to attain a life of profound prayer. To the degree that we die to ourselves, to that degree will we come to know the fullness of prayer. There truly is a direct correlation between mystical death and the full
flowering of prayer.

If we hold on to ourselves for fear of mystical death and the surrender of our worldly desires, and if we hold on to our soul with its earthly attitudes, then we will remain just as we are with our own little soul and our own little bit of human happiness. In order to grow rich in God and all that comes from God, we must die to ourselves. We must let our human “I” diminish and ultimately coalesce into the divine will, the very being of God.

This mystical death affects every aspect of our life. Ultimately, the only source of inner peace, and the actual attainment of the heart’s deepest desires, is increased participation in God’s Infinity.

The soul is made to possess infinity, a spiritual infinity, God’s infinity.

We have, by this stripping of self, mortally wounded everything in us that is the human “I”. We no longer exist. We are being entirely submissive to the will of God.

We are literally a new being. This mystical death is thus real, and not merely figurative.

Let us quell within us whatever remains of our old self. Then, we, too, will be able to find complete happiness in the Infinite Being of God. Amen.

  • Pere Jacques.   Listen to The Silence.       Conference 7.

Enveloped in the Divine Being

  • Gaze upon Christ… come to see him with the eyes of your soul.

In analyzing ourselves, each one of us readily realizes our own personhood; this irreducible “me”. This “me” remains despite all the upheavals and changes in our lives. Throughout all our joys and sorrows, in health and in sickness. our human personality presides over every stage of life, from cradle to grave. That personality embraces our memories and our fantasies, as well as our pride and our shame at various times of our lives. That personality enables us to pray, to love, and to act be it basely or bravely. It is the mysterious “me” which imparts all value to our being.

When we scrutinize Christ, we find in him, an authentic human nature composed of both a real body and a real soul with all its faculties. We find in him also a will with a loving heart and a spirit capable of prayerful knowledge of God. That spirit was likewise capable of suffering the intense pain of the dark night of the soul, as when he cried out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lemma sabachthani?” [Mk 15:34].

However, what we do not find in Christ is this overarching human “me”.
Therein, we confront the majestic mystery.

What a rapturous reflection the mother Mary experienced, when she first gazed into the eyes of her infant son and there discovered a glint of God’s infinity!

We must see Christ. I stress this point: we must truly see Christ. We cannot see Christ and remain as we are. We cannot exchange a look with Christ and not be overcome. If we are tepid and still attached to our ease, it is because we have not exchanged glances with Christ; we have not really seen Christ. Exchange that glance with Christ; a true, living, and real contact that is not the fruit of the imagination, but rather reaches the heart of things as they are.

When I speak of seeing Christ, I mean the experience of being ‘swept up’ by Christ himself…. we become enveloped in the divine being… the presence of God himself.

He is the God-man, yet he does not have a human personality. Rather, it is the infinite person of God in whom Christ subsists, and through whom Christ is made incarnate.

  • Pere Jacques. Listen to The Silence. Conference 3.

Be with me where I am

  • Hurry and come down, for I must stay in your house today.

  • The master unceasingly repeats this call to our soul which He once addressed to Zacchaeus. Hurry and come down. But what is this descent that He demands of us except an entering more deeply into our interior abyss?

    Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am. Such is Christ’s last wish, His supreme prayer before returning to His Father. He wills that where He is we should be also, not only for eternity, but already in time. It is important to know where we must live with Him in order to realize His divine dream. The place where the Son of God is hidden is the bosom of the Father, or the divine Essence, invisible to every mortal eye, unattainable by every human intellect, as Isaiah said: Truly You are a hidden God. And yet His will is that we should be established in Him, that we should live where He lives.

    Remain in Me. It is the Word of God who expresses this wish. Remain in Me, not for a few moments, a few hours which must pass away, but remain…  permanently, habitually…
    We must enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection… we must descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God. Abyss calls to abyss. It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love … Blessed are those who die in the Lord !

    You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. St Paul comes to bring us a light to guide us on our pathway of the abyss. You have died ! What does that mean but that the soul that aspires to live close to God in the invincible fortress of holy recollection must be set apart, stripped, and withdrawn from all things in spirit.

    I die daily. I decrease, I renounce self more each day so that Christ may increase in me and be exalted. I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.

    Our God, wrote St Paul, is a consuming fire, that is, a fire of love which destroys, which transforms into itself everything it touches. The delights of the divine enkindling are renewed in our depths by an unremitting activity: the enkindling of love in a mutual and eternal satisfaction. It is a renewal that takes place at every moment in the bond of love. Certain souls have chosen this refuge to rest there eternally, and this is the silence in which, somehow, they have lost themselves. Freed from their prison, they sail on the ocean of Divinity.

    For these souls the mystical death becomes so simple and sweet! They think much less of the work of destruction and detachment that remains for them to do than of plunging into the furnace of love burning within them. They enter into Him by living faith, and there, in simplicity and peace they are carried away by Him beyond all things, beyond the senses, into the sacred darkness and are transformed into the divine image. Now this simple possession is eternal life savoured in the unfathomable abode. It is there, beyond reason, that the profound tranquillity of the divine immutability awaits us.

    • St Elizabeth of the Trinity.  Heaven in Faith