Thursday, July 23, 2009
"Under the influence of these virtues [faith, hope and love] the soul lives a truly supernatural life. However, St John of the Cross assigns another role to these virtues in the practice of the contemplative life. By contemplation, the soul tends to union with God. Now there is no proportion between God and His creatures. It follows that no created thing can be a means of union with God; no natural activity of our intellectual powers can unite us to Him. Hence the soul, in order to arrive at union with God, must despoil and empty itself of all created things and must cease all its natural modes of activity in its search for God. It must detach itself from everything that comes to it through the senses, empty itself of all distinct or particular knowledge even though it be clearly supernatural, and establish itself in obscurity and in a complete freedom of these things. This purification of the faculties of the soul is accomplished through the exercise of the theological virtues.
Faith purifies the intellect. By adhering to faith, by replying upon it alone on its journey to God, the soul is purified and enlightened and takes hold of God, as it were. Faith, indeed, 'is the only proximate and proportionate means for union of the soul with God.' 'The Son of God,' says St John of the Cross, 'communicates Himself to the soul only through faith. Between faith and God the resemblance is so great that there is no other difference than that which exists between seeing God and believing in God.' It is therefore 'in the obscurity of faith that God is found hidden, and it is with the aid of darkness that the mind is united with God.' Further, 'the more faith a soul has, the more it is united to God.'
Just as faith purifies the understanding, so hope empties the memory of the remembrance of earthly things to turn the soul towards the things that we hope for. 'To arrive at the union of love,' says St John of the Cross, 'the soul must despoil itself of everything and walk without any other support than hope in God alone.' 'God, indeed, so greatly values the hope of a soul which is always turned towards Him without ever lowering its gaze on anything else, that we can say in truth: it obtains all it hopes for.'
Finally, charity must free the will of all affection or attraction for created things so that it loves God alone. This love of God, St John of the Cross insists, must be absolute and continuous. The soul that desires God to give Himself wholly to it must give itself wholly and unreservedly to Him. It must be content with Him alone and surrender everything to Him. Consequently the soul must keep itself from loving anything as much as it loves God, because to put into the balance with God what is infinitely below Him is really to belittle Him. It must even avoid seeking itself in God. It must live for Him in complete detachment."
-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by François Jamart, ocd