Friday, December 14, 2007

The Perfectly Free Man

If one is to study prayer and spirituality in the realm of Christianity, it is but impossible not to encounter the towering name of St. John of the Cross, whose feast day we celebrate today.

When I chanced upon a book ("Ascent of Mt. Carmel and The Dark Night" edited by John Venard, OCD) in our library, I immediately grabbed it. However, I was disappointed when I scanned the pages and found out that it was all in verse! I am not comfortable reading something lyrical. Yes, I taught literature, but as much as possible, I would attempt to skip the poetry part. I don't like metered expression of ideas and besides, the meaning of the poem is lost in me.

Anyway, I exerted a big effort in reading the first few pages of the book. And surprisingly, the ideas made sense! I'm not sure if the magic of St. John worked on me, but it was fantastic.

Below is one of his compositions.

To reach satisfaction in all,
desire its possession in nothing.

To come to possess all,
desire to be nothing.

To arrive at being all,
desire to be nothing.

To come to the knowledge of all,
desire the knowledge of nothing.

To come to the pleasure you have not,
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not,

To come to be what you are not,
you must go by a way in which you are not.

When you turn towards something,
you cease to cast yourself upon the all.

For to go from all to all,
you must deny yourself of all in all.

And when you come to the possession of the all,
you must possess it without wanting anything.

Because if you desire to have something in all,
your treasure in God is not purely your all.

In this nakedness the spirit,
finds its quietude and rest.

For in coveting nothing.
nothing raises it up, and nothing weighs it down
because it is the center of its humility.

When it covets something in this very desire
It is wearied.

-Ascent Book I Chapter 13 p. 103
The Collected Works