The Ascent of Mount Carmel


#1

What is your favorite passage from
"The Ascent of Mount Carmel,"
Written by St. John of the Cross?


#2

Any commentary about this one?

"Endeavor to be inclined always:

not to the easiest, but to the most difficult;
not to the most delightful, but to the harshest;
not to the most gratifying, but to the less pleasant;
not to the consoling, but to the unconsoling;
not to the most, but to the least;
not to the highest and most precious, but to the lowest and most despised;
not to the wanting something, but to wanting nothing;
do not go about looking for the best of temporal things, but for the worst;
and desire to enter for Christ into complete nudity, emptiness, and poverty in everything in the world."

Book I, Chapter 13


#3

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:2, topic:179281"]
Any commentary about this one?

[/quote]

A classic, of course!

One of the things we stress in Carmelite community (I'm OCDS) is that the most important part of that passage is the phrase "Endeavor to be inclined." It's what keeps things in balance . . . so people don't misread him and go to extremes.

The "art" of reading St. John, imo, and especially in "The Ascent" is to not lose sight of his many balancing qualifiers to statements that would otherwise simply come across as harsh, forbidding and unobtainable.

Dave. :)


#4

In Fr. Thomas Dubay's book "Fire Within", page 156, it says:

............what we have to do is to** give up everything that does not lead to God. **
*This is a perfect, one-sentence summary of the whole of "The Ascent of Mount Carmel."
*

We are not to give up everything, but to give up everything that does not lead to God.

That is detachment. Like Dave said, balance is the key.


#5

[quote="DBT, post:3, topic:179281"]
A classic, of course!

One of the things we stress in Carmelite community (I'm OCDS) is that the most important part of that passage is the phrase "Endeavor to be inclined." It's what keeps things in balance . . . so people don't misread him and go to extremes.

The "art" of reading St. John, imo, and especially in "The Ascent" is to not lose sight of his many balancing qualifiers to statements that would otherwise simply come across as harsh, forbidding and unobtainable.

Dave. :)

[/quote]

The preceding statements before "Endeavor to be inclined" is...

"The following maxims contain a complete remedy for mortifying and pacifying the passions. If put into practice, these maxims will give rise to abundant merit and great virtues."

Book I, Chapter 13

A maxim is a fundamental principle.
"Balance" is not listed as a fundamental principle.

Such was the prayer of our Lady, the most glorious Virgin. Raised from the very beginning to this high state, she never had the form of any creature impressed in her soul, nor was she moved by any, for she was always moved by the Holy Spirit.

Book III, Chapter 3

I know one of the messages out of Medjugorje,
Is to pray the rosary every day.

Again,
"Balance" does not appear to be a fundamental principle.

[quote="InLight247, post:4, topic:179281"]

In Fr. Thomas Dubay's book "Fire Within", page 156, it says:

............what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God.
This is a perfect, one-sentence summary of the whole of "The Ascent of Mount Carmel."

We are not to give up everything, but to give up everything that does not lead to God.

That is detachment. Like Dave said, balance is the key.

[/quote]

Since,
God is the Undivided Fundamental Principle,
Could you explain why we should follow "balance?"


#6

I'm probably going to regret this, but here it goes:rolleyes:

Balance is an attitude of the heart, my friend. :) It is a spiritual way of seeing that does not always look at things in a literal light. The passage you cite lies at the heart of the teaching of "The Ascent" like you say . . . but it is one that can also be taken to extremes when seen only literally. Such a viewpoint can lead to all sorts of imbalances such as extreme penances and scrupilosity . . . even the exclusion of all joy. Pleasure is not a crime; the right use of it is what's important. And so much of this is wrapped up in the concept of inordinate or disordered desires. Without a firm understanding of what that means, "The Ascent" can be applied as a blunt and harsh instrument it is not intended to be.

"The Ascent" teaches souls not to make the things of sense and spirit ends unto themselves. All of these things are good in their own right and free to be used by souls . . . but their ultimate purpose is to raise hearts to God. If the things of heaven and earth achieve this effect in the soul; we can rest assured we're walking on solid ground. And even proceeding in a very holy way.

Much of "The Ascent" has to do with asceticism . . . self denial and mortification. This, however, is but the foundation and precursor to the mystical which our asceticism, when practiced in an ordered vs. disordered way, is to lead. Again it is the understanding of the difference between means and ends.

And here is another key point that St. John stresses over and over. The teaching of "The Ascent" is to be taken as a whole . . . the sum of all it's part. It is a work that is easy to take out of context because things that are said early in the book don't often get fully explained until much later in the book.

This, imo, is what balance means in the context of the passage you cite.

Hope this helps,
Dave :)


#7

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:5, topic:179281"]

Since,
God is the Undivided Fundamental Principle,
Could you explain why we should follow "balance?"

[/quote]

I am not sure I understand why there is conflict between "God is the undivided fundamental principle" and "balance". To me, balance is the key to many things.
Balance keeps us away form extremity and the scale will not be tipped over.

My take of St. John's Ascent of Mount Carmel is to put God first in our life but not stop being a normal human. For example, when St. John talked about the harm caused from joy in temporal goods, he was not saying we should not experience joy in this life or we ought to be sad instead of being happy. He was talking about the danger of allowing the fatness of joy and appetite weaken our will of focusing on God and divert our attention to temporal goods and creatures. That is where the balance comes in. We are not to give up joy but to give up any joy that may bring us away from God or cause us backsliding and become lukewarm.


#8

I have a few questions.

St. John of the Cross didn’t literally mean what he said?
Do you have any quotes to support that?

How do you understand the concept of “principle?”

When you say "balance,"
Do you mean “temperance?”

Because since,

“The following maxims contain a complete remedy for mortifying and pacifying the passions. If put into practice, these maxims will give rise to abundant merit and great virtues.”

Book I, Chapter 13

Then,

Uniting to the sufferings of Christ gives rise to greater temperance.
And since the Cross of Christ is the wellspring of all grace,
The maxims seem to be primary to “balance.”

So,
We should always try to follow God,
And always try to avoid anything that separates us from God?


#9

Hello Psychotheosophy -

I don’t think you’re understanding me at all . . . for this is not at all what I said. And I’m not sure I will be able to answer you in a way that will meet your satisfaction and still remain faithful to what I’ve been taught by the friars, nuns and seculars of the Order. Oh, well.

I wish you the very best on this, the feast of St. John of the Cross!!! :slight_smile:

Peace,
Dave :slight_smile:


#10

So,
We should always try to follow God,
And always try to avoid anything that separates us from God?

Yes, we should avoid anything that leads us away from God.
That is what the first commandment is all about.
That is what Jesus said in Matthews 22:37 :"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

The purposes of mortification, self-denial, detachment, practicing virtues, etc are all to do with following God wholeheartedly.


#11

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:8, topic:179281"]
I have a few questions.

St. John of the Cross didn't literally mean what he said?

When you say "balance,"
Do you mean "temperance?"

[/quote]

Hi Psychotheosopy -
I was tired when I last posted . . . sorry, let me try again.

Of course St. John means what he says. He is uncompromising on the demands of the Gospel, tells it like it is and never minces words. But he is also the Doctor of mystical love and all his asceticism is oriented toward that goal.

So I guess what I'm saying is that we always need to examine the disposition of our hearts when trying to live out the principals outlined in the passage you quote. If we are motivated by love . . . and especially a love that begins to take on a mystical aspect in our lives as our interior prayer grows . . . then all is well and good. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves motivated more by fear . . . an austerity for austerity sake . . . then the soul is not proceeding as St. John intends and could be prone to the imbalances already mentioned (scrupilosity, extreme penances etc.) Love is rewarded by love and a loveless asceticism will not likely lead the soul toward contemplation and, ultimately, mystical union. Make sense?

I suppose you might call what I'm saying temperance . . . but proper judgment and right understanding of his intent is more what I mean.

Hope this helps,
Dave:)


#12

[quote="DBT, post:11, topic:179281"]
Hi Psychotheosopy -
I was tired when I last posted . . . sorry, let me try again.

Of course St. John means what he says. He is uncompromising on the demands of the Gospel, tells it like it is and never minces words. But he is also the Doctor of mystical love and all his asceticism is oriented toward that goal.

So I guess what I'm saying is that we always need to examine the disposition of our hearts when trying to live out the principals outlined in the passage you quote. If we are motivated by love . . . and especially a love that begins to take on a mystical aspect in our lives as our interior prayer grows . . . then all is well and good. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves motivated more by fear . . . an austerity for austerity sake . . . then the soul is not proceeding as St. John intends and could be prone to the imbalances already mentioned (scrupilosity, extreme penances etc.) Love is rewarded by love and a loveless asceticism will not likely lead the soul toward contemplation and, ultimately, mystical union. Make sense?

I suppose you might call what I'm saying temperance . . . but proper judgment and right understanding of his intent is more what I mean.

Hope this helps,
Dave:)

[/quote]

Sorry, I still don't follow you.

Again,
I think it would be helpful
If you provided an actual quote
From, "The Ascent of Mount Carmel."


#13

Makes sense to me, anyway. :slight_smile:

I think we get imbalanced when we do things out of self will … we keep balance when we focus on God and do everything out of love of God. Sorry I don’t have a quote right now from St John of the Cross, I do love his writing though.


#14

** Psychotheosophy**, I think I can explain the nature and need for "balance" through one verse of the Bible. I think this is what DBT is getting at.

We give God what we can give Him cheerfully. This is a "balanced" approach to the spiritual life, for then all our sacrifice is loving rather than brutal drudgery. Then all giving inclines us toward the love of God rather than toward resentment against Him. If we follow this passage, we aren't doing what is presently too much for us and will burn us out.

The higher one rises on the spiritual path, the more one is inclined by love to sacrifice. One sacrifices more and more as one develops godliness, and we offer all the sacrifices God wants fully willingly.

I personally don't trust the supposed apparitions at Medjugorje (and we'd better not discuss that here), but the message that we should pray the Rosary every day is certainly a good one. This is not a command, however. It is an encouragement for people that have the will to unite themselves with God in this way. It is not commanding people to give more than they can cheerfully give. It is asking people to give in this way if they have it "in their hearts to give," just as the Scripture says. This "balance" is what allows love to flow.

Paul calls on fathers, in Colossians, to not exasperate their children so that they don't lose heart. God the Father practices this command with us, His children, by not giving us burdensome commands (Matt. 11:30), for otherwise we would lose heart.

What the Church commands the faithful to do is easy. It binds us to go to Confession once a year, to go to Sunday Mass and Mass on the Holy Days of Obligation, to only receive Eucharist in a state of grace, to fast from something on Fridays and from meat on Fridays in Lent, to strive against sin and seek holiness, basic things like that.

The physical acts our faith obliges us to perform are not difficult. As Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden light." Where we start in our faith journey, at the bottom rung of the ladder, He makes things easy. Fulfilling the Church's requirements is not hard. We take on more and more as we grow, private devotions, personal piety and sacrifices, things over and above what the Church commands because love motivates us to grow deeper into unity with Christ, to not settle for the least we can do to but to seek the highest He has to offer. This too is easy, because we desire it. That is the power of grace at work in our lives!

This is what St. John of the Cross is talking about, our growing in love causes us to grow in sacrifices, just as Christ's supreme love caused Him to enter the world to make the supreme sacrifice on the Cross. The more Christ-like we become, the more we desire that Cross. St. John is talking about the ideal, what we should desire and hope for, what we can experience in some smaller form wherever we are on the path as we seek the higher places.

Christianity is a journey. Jesus said, "I am the Way." He said, "I am the End," too, the "Alpha and Omega," but He also said, "I am the Way," because growing in Him is a journey rather than a snap of the fingers total transformation. We are on the road to perfection, and the road is Jesus. We aren't perfect yet. St. John knows this and describes the end goal, an ideal that we can enter into in some way, whether great or small, depending on where on the spiritual road we are right now. When we are perfect, we will fulfill this call perfectly. Throughout our Christian lives, we should do as St. Paul calls us to do in Corinthians, give what we desire in our heart to give, not bind ourselves by a law but grow in love where we are and keep growing in that love as much as we can.

A champion learning to run has to work his way up to being able to run marathons. He can't start out being able to run marathons. He first has to learn to run one mile before he can run ten. That's how God behaves with us, teaching us as a loving Father, not exasperating us with binding obligations so that we lose heart but encouraging us and using love to draw us toward perfection. That love creates in our hearts the desire for sacrifice, and through that sacrifice we love all the more. God be praised for the wonders of His mercy.


#15

[quote="Student09, post:13, topic:179281"]
Sorry I don't have a quote right now from St John of the Cross, I do love his writing though.

[/quote]

That's OK, I can wait.

I don't see how we can discuss
"The Ascent of Mount Carmel"
(The title of this thread)
Without actually referring to it.

I'm guessing,
St. John of the Cross, at some point,
Summarized parts of his book.

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:14, topic:179281"]
We give God what we can give Him cheerfully. This is a "balanced" approach to the spiritual life, for then all our sacrifice is loving rather than brutal drudgery. Then all giving inclines us toward the love of God rather than toward resentment against Him. If we follow this passage, we aren't doing what is presently too much for us and will burn us out.

The higher one rises on the spiritual path, the more one is inclined by love to sacrifice. One sacrifices more and more as one develops godliness, and we offer all the sacrifices God wants fully willingly.

I personally don't trust the supposed apparitions at Medjugorje (and we'd better not discuss that here), but the message that we should pray the Rosary every day is certainly a good one. This is not a command, however. It is an encouragement for people that have the will to unite themselves with God in this way. It is not commanding people to give more than they can cheerfully give. It is asking people to give in this way if they have it "in their hearts to give," just as the Scripture says. This "balance" is what allows love to flow.

Paul calls on fathers, in Colossians, to not exasperate their children so that they don't lose heart. God the Father practices this command with us, His children, by not giving us burdensome commands (Matt. 11:30), for otherwise we would lose heart.

[/quote]

So,
We should always follow objective principles,
Without being legalistic?

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:14, topic:179281"]
What the Church commands the faithful to do is easy. It binds us to go to Confession once a year, to go to Sunday Mass and Mass on the Holy Days of Obligation, to only receive Eucharist in a state of grace, to fast from something on Fridays and from meat on Fridays in Lent, to strive against sin and seek holiness, basic things like that.

The physical acts our faith obliges us to perform are not difficult. As Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden light." Where we start in our faith journey, at the bottom rung of the ladder, He makes things easy. Fulfilling the Church's requirements is not hard. We take on more and more as we grow, private devotions, personal piety and sacrifices, things over and above what the Church commands because love motivates us to grow deeper into unity with Christ, to not settle for the least we can do to but to seek the highest He has to offer. This too is easy, because we desire it. That is the power of grace at work in our lives!

This is what St. John of the Cross is talking about, our growing in love causes us to grow in sacrifices, just as Christ's supreme love caused Him to enter the world to make the supreme sacrifice on the Cross. The more Christ-like we become, the more we desire that Cross. St. John is talking about the ideal, what we should desire and hope for, what we can experience in some smaller form wherever we are on the path as we seek the higher places.

Christianity is a journey. Jesus said, "I am the Way." He said, "I am the End," too, the "Alpha and Omega," but He also said, "I am the Way," because growing in Him is a journey rather than a snap of the fingers total transformation. We are on the road to perfection, and the road is Jesus. We aren't perfect yet. St. John knows this and describes the end goal, an ideal that we can enter into in some way, whether great or small, depending on where on the spiritual road we are right now. When we are perfect, we will fulfill this call perfectly. Throughout our Christian lives, we should do as St. Paul calls us to do in Corinthians, give what we desire in our heart to give, not bind ourselves by a law but grow in love where we are and keep growing in that love as much as we can.

A champion learning to run has to work his way up to being able to run marathons. He can't start out being able to run marathons. He first has to learn to run one mile before he can run ten. That's how God behaves with us, teaching us as a loving Father, not exasperating us with binding obligations so that we lose heart but encouraging us and using love to draw us toward perfection. That love creates in our hearts the desire for sacrifice, and through that sacrifice we love all the more. God be praised for the wonders of His mercy.

[/quote]

Marriage is a desired loving union.
Marriage is also hard work.
Without hard work,
Eventually, time runs out,
And the marriage ends in divorce.

Time will eventually end,
Where there will be no more succession of events,
And therefore, no more growth,
And therefore, we would be separated from Perfection forever,


#16

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:15, topic:179281"]

So,
We should always follow objective principles,
Without being legalistic?

[/quote]

Of course,

Always following the Principle of Love
Allows balance to flow from it,
Not vice-versa.

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:15, topic:179281"]

Marriage is a desired loving union.
Marriage is also hard work.
Without hard work,
Eventually, time runs out,
And the marriage ends in divorce.

Time will eventually end,
Where there will be no more succession of events,
And therefore, no more growth,
And therefore, we would be separated from Perfection forever,

[/quote]

And the joy and pain of marriage,
Is as nothing compared to heaven and hell.

"Indeed it would also be vanity for a husband and wife to rejoice in their marriage, when they are uncertain whether God is being better served by it. They should rather be perplexed, for as St. Paul declares, matrimony is the cause of not centering the heart entirely on God, since the hearts of the couple are set on one another. [1 Cor. 7:32, 33]. He advises consequently: If you are free from a wife do not seek one, but if you already have one, be free of heart as if you had none. [1 Cor. 7:27, 29] He teaches us this together with what we affirm about temporal goods: This therefore, that I say to you brothers is certain, the time is short; what remains is that those who have wives be as those who have them not; and those who weep as those who do not weep; and those who have joy as those who do not rejoice; and those who are buyers as those who do not possess; and those who are users of this world as those who use it not [1 Cor. 7:29-31]

The reason he says all this is to explain that nothing but what belongs to the service of God should be the object of our joy. Any other joy would be vain and worthless, for joy that is out of harmony with God is of no value to the soul."

Book III, Chapter 18


#17

Since St. Joseph married The Blessed Mother,
Marriage (like any temporal good)
Is not something we all should give up…

“Just as every good is due to an approach toward God through the affection of the will, so withdrawal from Him through creature affection breeds every harm and evil in the soul.”

Book III, Chapter 19

And as this withdrawal from God continues, people,…

…not only possess darkened intellects and judgement in the understanding of truth and justice,…but they are now extremely weak, lukewarm, and careless in knowing and practicing true judgment. Isaias affirms this in these words: They all love gifts and allow themselves to be carried away by retribution, and they do not judge the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come to them and their attention [Is 1:23]. This attitude did not exist without their fault, especially when duty was incumbent upon them by their office.

Book III, Chapter 19

I’m wondering if this is what DBT meant by “balance.” Book III is the last book in “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.”…


#18

We may already be in agreement, but I’m not sure.

The Catholic Church permits physical separation of husband and wife
For certain reasons (such as abuse), but not divorce,
And encourages reconciliation
If possible (CCC #1649).

Therefore,

Alternating between living together as husband and wife
And living separate as husband and wife
Requires "understanding of truth and justice,"
And “practicing true judgment.”

For this understanding and practice to be true,
The soul (will & intellect) must align with objective principles.
The spouses must not simply follow their own will.
This is what St. John of the Cross refers to as mortifying the will.

And this mortification must be completed, not partial.
Even though marital behaviors may alternate.
The principle is always followed.

“Balance” is still an effect of Principle (God).


#19

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:2, topic:179281"]

"Endeavor to be inclined always:

not to the easiest, but to the most difficult;
not to the most delightful, but to the harshest;
not to the most gratifying, but to the less pleasant;
not to the consoling, but to the unconsoling;
not to the most, but to the least;
not to the highest and most precious, but to the lowest and most despised;
not to the wanting something, but to wanting nothing;
do not go about looking for the best of temporal things, but for the worst;
and desire to enter for Christ into complete nudity, emptiness, and poverty in everything in the world."

Book I, Chapter 13

[/quote]

The more both spouses follow these maxims,
The stronger the marital union
As each give to the other
What the other needs,
(Facilitated by dialog.)

God is a perfect spouse.
He needs nothing
But gives much.

Our union
with God (Unity)
is strengthened by
Following these maxims,
(Facilitated by dialog with Him.)


#20

[quote="Psychotheosophy, post:19, topic:179281"]
The more both spouses follow these maxims,
The stronger the marital union
As each give to the other
What the other needs,
(Facilitated by dialog.)

[/quote]

The more we follow these maxims,

And dialog with God,
And align our will to God,
The more we can bring God
To others, since Love is God.


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