"Try to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God. "

Thomas á Kempis

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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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"Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it."

St Philip Neri

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 St John of the Cross   (1542 - 1591)

 

THE DARK NIGHT (cont)

 

by St John of the Cross

 

Book Two

 

Ch 14. [An explanation of the three last verses of the first stanza.]

1. This sheer grace resulted from what is expressed in the following verses:

I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.

We have the metaphor of one who, in order to execute a plan better and without hindrance, goes out at night, in darkness, when everybody in the house is sleeping.1

The soul had to go out to accomplish so heroic and rare a feat - to be united with its divine Beloved outside - because the Beloved is not found except alone, outside, and in solitude. The bride accordingly desired to find him alone, saying: Who will give you to me, my brother, that I may find you alone outside and communicate to you my love? [Sg. 8:1]. The enamored soul must leave its house, then, in order to reach its desired goal. It must go out at night when all the members of its house are asleep, that is, when the lower operations, passions, and appetites of its soul are put to sleep or quelled by means of this night. These are the people of its household who when awake are a continual hindrance to the reception of any good, and hostile to the soul's departure in freedom from them. Our Savior declares that one's enemies are those of one's own household [Mt. 10:36]. The operations and movements of these members had to be put to sleep in order not to keep the soul from receiving the supernatural goods of the union of love of God, for this union cannot be wrought while they are awake and active. All the soul's natural activity hinders rather than helps it to receive the spiritual goods of the union of love. All natural ability is insufficient to produce the supernatural goods that God alone infuses in the soul passively, secretly, and in silence. All the faculties must receive this infusion, and in order to do so they must be passive and not interfere through their own lowly activity and vile inclinations. 2. It was a sheer grace for this soul that God in this night puts to sleep all the members of its household, that is, all the faculties, passions, affections, and appetites that live in its sensory and spiritual parts. God puts them to sleep to enable the soul to go out to the spiritual union of the perfect love of God without being seen, that is, without the hindrance of these affections, and so on. For these members of the household are put to sleep and mortified in this night, which leaves them in darkness, so they may not be able to observe or experience anything in their lowly, natural way that would impede the soul's departure from itself and the house of the senses. 3. Oh, what a sheer grace it is for the soul to be freed from the house of its senses! This good fortune, in my opinion, can only be understood by the ones who have tasted it. For then such persons will become clearly aware of the wretched servitude and the many miseries they suffered when they were subject to the activity of their faculties and appetites. They will understand how the life of the spirit is true freedom and wealth and embodies inestimable goods. In the following stanzas we will specify some of these goods and see more clearly how right the soul is in singing about the journey through this horrendous night as being a great grace.