"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."

St Nicholas Flue

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"God has no need of men."

St Philip Neri

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St John of the Cross (1542-1591)  -   Carmelite and Doctor of the Church


By St John of the Cross, OCD


Which treats of the purgation of the active night of the memory and will. Gives instruction how the soul is to behave with respect to the apprehensions of these two faculties, that it may come to union with God, according to the two faculties aforementioned, in perfect hope and charity.

Ch 15. Which sets down the general method whereby the spiritual person must govern himself with respect to this sense.

In order to conclude this discussion on the memory, it will be well at this point to give the spiritual reader an account of the method which he must observe, and which is of universal application, in order that he may be united with God according to this sense. For, although what has been said makes the subject quite clear, it will nevertheless be more easily apprehended if we summarize it here.

To this end it must be remembered that, since our aim is the union of the soul with God in hope, according to the memory, and since that which is hoped for is that which is not possessed, and since, the less we possess of other things, the greater scope and the greater capacity have we for hoping, and consequently the greater hope, therefore, the more things we possess, the less scope and capacity is there for hoping, and consequently the less hope have we.

Hence, the more the soul dispossesses the memory of forms and things which may be recalled by it, which are not God, the more will it set its memory upon God, and the emptier will its memory become, so that it may hope for Him Who shall fill it. What must be done, then, that the soul may live in the perfect and pure hope of God is that, whensoever these distinct images, forms and ideas come to it, it must not rest in them, but must turn immediately to God, voiding the memory of them entirely, with loving affection.

It must neither think of these things nor consider them beyond the degree which is necessary for the understanding and performing of its obligations, if they have any concern with these. And this it must do without setting any affection or inclination upon them, so that they may produce no effects in the soul.

And thus a man must not fail to think and recall that which he ought to know and do, for, provided he preserves no affection or attachments, this will do him no harm. For this matter the lines of the Mount, which are in the thirteenth chapter of the first book, will be of profit.

2. But here it must be borne in mind that this doctrine ours does not agree, nor do we desire that it should agree, with the doctrine of those pestilent men, who, inspired by Satanic pride and envy, have desired to remove from the eyes of the faithful the holy and necessary use, and the worthy[526] adoration, of images of God and of the saints.

This teaching of ours is very different from that; for we say not here, as they do, that images should not exist, and should not be adored; we simply explain the difference between images and God. We exhort men to pass beyond that which is superficial[527] that they may not be hindered from attaining to the living truth beneath it, and to make no more account of the former than suffices for attainment to the spiritual.

For means are good and necessary to an end; and images are means which serve to remind us of God and of the saints. But when we consider and attend to the means more than is necessary for treating them as such, they disturb and hinder us as much, in their own way, as any different thing; the more so, when we treat of supernatural visions and images, to which I am specially referring, and with respect to which arise many deceptions and perils.

For, with respect to the remembrance and adoration and esteem of images, which the Catholic Church sets before us, there can be no deception or peril, because naught is esteemed therein other than that which is represented; nor does the remembrance of them fail to profit the soul, since they are not preserved in the memory save with love for that which they represent; and, provided the soul pays no more heed to them than is necessary for this purpose, they will ever assist it to union with God, allowing the soul to soar upwards (when God grants it that favour) from the superficial image[528] to the living God, forgetting every creature and everything that belongs to creatures.

526. [The Spanish word, ´┐Żnclita, is stronger than this, meaning 'distinguished,' 'illustrious.']
527. [Lit., 'which is painted.']
528. [Lit., 'the painted image.']