Thursday, January 14, 2016

St. John of the Cross and the Night of the Senses

The following comes from Fr. Iain Matthew O.C.D.
“The trouble is our culture has a mesmeric fascination in keeping moving–there is no where so urgent as an airport. Our fascination is moving, and growing fear of having to stop. It takes courage to stay with it: not to move on when I do not like it anymore but, instead, to stay with it and let what is no longer novel disclose its unsuspected depth.
St. John of the Cross tells us, ‘Say no to your desires and you will discover what your heart really desires. What makes you think your longings are God’s longings?’
“To live on likes and dislikes–gusto, apetito, gratification, affective drive–keeps one a tourist, doing more and more, experiencing less and less.  This is to live on the level of ‘sense’. It refers not so much to the sensory–the body, the emotions–as to the person who is hostage to his or her own needs. And the sensory side of the person can symbolize that: body and emotions are a rich blessing when they are in place, but they tend to turn imperialist and extend dominion over the whole person, making us ‘sensual’. Sensual man is the person enslaved to each next moment.
“If, however, a person chooses not to fill the hole with one more sensation, not to flit to another relationship or different project, but to see this one through, life can transfer on to a new level. St. John calls it ‘spirit’.
“At first it can feel like starving. John tells of a language, taste, texture, freedom, peace, life which is yet to be discovered and which we cannot know until it is discovered. He assures us that, ‘To come to know what you know not, you have to go by a way that you know not.’ Not filling the gap inside of us with another novelty can feel like we’re starving, but it allows the genuinely new to be disclosed. It allows one to live, not as a consumer among objects, but as a person among persons: Fit for communion, for the love, which can hold the other, and be held, on open palms. Not grasped.
“That is the level of spirit: availability as a person for communion; the space for the gift of the Other. This is more than just a rearrangement of the pieces.”

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