Praying with St. John of the Cross

A friend of mine suggested I read Wayne Simsic's Seeking the Beloved: A Prayer Journey with St. John of the Cross, offering the book pretty high praise: "I never 'got' John of the Cross until I read this book," she said. That alone made me think it was worth checking out. And I would agree that this is an excellent primer to the great mystical theologian, deftly and accessibly interpreting his teachings in ways that make sense to the ordinary person of our day. … [Read more...]

Carmelite Review

In the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Carmelite Review, Father Gregory Houck, O.Carm. had this to say about The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: When I was an undergraduate taking philosophy, my professor said to the class that most philosophers are not actually philosophers; rather, they are merely historians of philosophy. What he was saying is that there is a clear distinction between knowing content and practicing that content. Since then I have found that this same distinction can be applied to … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

One of the greatest favors bestowed on the soul transiently in this life is to enable it to see so distinctly and feel so profoundly that it cannot comprehend God at all. …They who know God most perfectly perceive that God is infinitely incomprehensible. Those who have less clear vision do not perceive so clearly how greatly God transcends their vision. — John of the Cross quoted by Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy … [Read more...]

Fast Food Mysticism?

Consider these two interesting quotes. This one comes from Simon, who commented on my essay The Hidden Tradition of Christian Mysticism: One of the dangers of Centering Prayer, as I see it, is that contemplation is being served up as some sort of fast food. MacContemplation, so to speak! And this, from Ali at Meadowsweet & Myrrh, reflecting on the Northern Ireland retreat: What is the connection between silent contemplation and peace? Is there one? ... so far the lesson of this week … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire to have pleasure in nothing. In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desire to possess nothing. In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to be nothing. In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing. — John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel … [Read more...]

As Old as John of the Cross When He Died

Here's a bit of useless information. Today, to the day, I am as old as John of the Cross was when he died. I figured this out earlier this week. I was thinking about John, and realized he was 49 when he died, and I'm 49 now. So I looked at his dates, and figured his age at death (49 years, 5 months, 20 days) and compared it to me (today I'm 49 years, 5 months, 22 days, but the slight discrepancy is because I have a February in there). So to the day, I'm as old as he was when he died. Aside … [Read more...]

Quotes for the Day

All the way to heaven is heaven. — Catherine of Siena, as quoted in New Monasticism by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove You are as holy as you want to be. —Jan van Ruusbroec, as quoted in Ruusbroec and His Mysticism by Paul Verdeyen God never grants mystical wisdom without love. — John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul … [Read more...]

Vision

Today is the feast day of Juan Diego: the visionary of Mexico who received the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in1531. In Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Evelyn Underhill has a chapter called "Voices and Visions." Julian of Norwich was a visionary. So was Birgitta of Sweden, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, and Francis of Assisi. Receiving visions seems to be very much part of the stock in trade of the mystical life. The prophet Joel, whom Peter … [Read more...]

Theology and Mysticism

Once upon a time, there was no difference between theology and mysticism, just like there was no difference between philosophy and science. Science ("natural philosophy") was an integral part of the quest for wisdom, just as mysticism ("ascetical theology") was an integral part of the quest for wisdom of God. Ken Wilber talks about how it was a good thing for humankind to reach the point where we were able to differentiate between "external" forms of wisdom (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) … [Read more...]

The Dark Night of the Soul for free…

Here's an entry to this blog I originally posted back in September: The wonderful Christian Audio company sells downloadable MP3s and CDs of inspirational audiobooks; their catalog includes a number of mystical classics, including The Rule of St. Benedict, The Imitation of Christ, and The Practice of the Presence of God. Plus they have lots of wonderful works by more contemporary authors, ranging from Henri Nouwen to Richard Foster to N. T. Wright. Each month, Christian Audio offers one of … [Read more...]