This is a venture in which God alone is sought and gained.
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.
Our Lord, for our instruction and guidance along this road, imparted that wonderful teaching – I think it is possible to affirm that the more necessary the doctrine the less it is practiced – Take up your Cross…lose yourself…abandon self daily.
In search of Love I’ll go
beyond the mountains, lowlands, far away
No fear of wild beasts know,
to gather flowers not stay;
no fortress or frontier will bar my way!
Such is the method the soul, in this stanza, claims she must follow in order to seek her beloved on this road. The method, in sum, is spiritual nakedness.
She points out here that for the attainment of God it is not enough to pray with the heart and the tongue, but together with this a soul must through her own efforts do everything possible. And mindful of the words of the Beloved, Seek and you will find, the soul decides to go out searching for Him that she may not be left without finding Him.
When the soul has departed from the house of her own will and the bed of her own satisfaction, she will find outside divine Wisdom, the Son of God, her Spouse.
One has to follow this method
this method of emptying
the faculties of their natural occupations
to make room for illumination.
Remain alone in a loving awareness,
without particular considerations,
in interior quiet,
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.
The preparation for this union
is not an understanding,
nor the taste, feeling, or imagining of God or any other object,
but the stripping off
of all experiences
for God alone.
If individuals would eliminate these impediments
and live in pure nakedness,
their soul in its simplicity and purity
would then be immediately transformed
into simple and pure Wisdom.
Few there are with the knowledge and desire for entering upon this supreme nakedness and emptiness of spirit.
Preserve the spirit of poverty and disregard for all things, with the desire to be content with God alone. And keep in mind you will neither have nor feel any more needs than those to which you desire to submit your heart. For she who is poor in spirit is happier and more constant in the midst of want, because she has placed her all in nothingness, and in all things she thus finds freedom of heart. O happy nothingness, and happy hiding place of the heart ! For the heart has such power that it subjects all things to itself; this it does by desiring to be subject to nothing and losing all care so as to burn the more in love.
It should be known that if a person is seeking God, her beloved is seeking her much more.
The soul, then, should advert that God is the principal agent in this matter, and that He acts as the blind man’s guide who must lead it by the hand to the place beyond the reach of the mind and senses.
Since the soul cannot function naturally except by means of the senses, it is God who in this state is the agent, and the soul is the receiver. The soul conducts itself only as the receiver and as one in whom something is being done; God is the giver and the one Who works in it, without the soul’s natural acts and discursive reflections.
Since God, then, as the giver communes with her through simple, loving knowledge, the individual also, as the receiver, communes with God, through a simple and loving knowledge or attention, so that knowledge is thus joined with knowledge and love with love. The receiver should act according to the mode of what is received, and not otherwise, in order to receive and keep it in the way it is given.
If as I say – and it is true – this loving knowledge is received passively in the soul according to the supernatural mode of God, and not according to the natural mode of the soul, a person, if she wants to receive it should be quite annihilated in her natural operations. A person should not bear attachment to anything, neither the practice of meditation, nor to any savour, whether sensory or spiritual, nor to any other apprehensions. She should be quite free and annihilated regarding all things, because any thought or discursive reflection or satisfaction upon which she may want to lean would impede and disquiet her, and make noise in the profound silence of her senses and her spirit, which she possesses for the sake of this deep and delicate listening. God speaks to the heart in this solitude, in supreme peace and tranquillity, while the soul listens to what the Lord God speaks to it, for He speaks this peace in solitude.
When it happens, therefore, that a person is conscious in this manner of being placed in solitude and in the state of listening, she should even forget the practice of loving attentiveness I mentioned so as to remain free for what the Lord then desires of her. She should make use of that loving awareness only when she does not feel herself placed in this solitude, this oblivion, this spiritual listening.
It is impossible for this highest wisdom and language of God, which is contemplation, to be received in anything less than a spirit that is silent.
Bring her to as complete a withdrawal and solitude as possible, for the more solitude she obtains and the more she approaches this silent tranquillity, the more abundantly will the spirit of divine wisdom be infused into her soul.
The least that a person can manage to feel is a withdrawal and an estrangement as to all things, sometimes more than at other times, accompanied by an inclination toward solitude in the gentle breathing of love and life in the spirit.
The blessings this silent communication and contemplation impresses on the soul, without its then experiencing them, are inestimable. For they are most hidden unctions of the Holy Spirit and hence most delicate, and they secretly fill the soul with spiritual riches, gifts, and graces; since it is God who grants them, He does so in no other manner than as God.
- St John of the Cross. (Stripped from the complete works, including letters.)