advent longing

Beginning on December 17th, the Church’s ancient liturgy heralds the coming of Christ by singing the O antiphons.

December 17th: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18th: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19th: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20th: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21st: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22nd: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
December 23rd: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

Even while nights are still lengthening, joy permeates a longing infused with hope:

“Gaude!” “Rejoice!”

one dark night…

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
– him I knew so well –
there in a place where no one appeared….

Saint John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Stanzas 1-4

the value of trials

Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of DiscernmentSin obscures. So does selfishness. The cross purifies. All of us ordinary mortals are wounded, immersed in our own darkness. A healthy self-denial sensibly practiced and rightly motivated slowly lifts one out of his egoism, laziness, hedonistic inclinations. We are fitted to receive the clean light of the Spirit.

The saints invariably possessed a remarkable wisdom. Even the most simple of them were gifted with a penetration into reality and into the God of all reality that books and studies cannot produce. This penetrating gaze into the real was made possible by their prior purification. This must be at least part of the meaning of that mysterious saying of St. John of the Cross: “The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.” In another place the saint amplifies this idea when he remarks that “the purest suffering brings with it the purest and most intimate knowing, and consequently the purest and highest joy, because it is a knowing from further within.” One who lives the paschal mystery, life through death, lives more and more deeply and thus will see more and more penetratingly. Authenticity is begotten on the cross.

Suffering reduces us to our own ashes; it strips away egoism and makes love possible. A Scripture commentator can remark that “to be a ‘tried’ Christian or to experience the Spirit is one and the same. Trial disposes to a greater gift of the Spirit, for He now achieves by trial His work of liberation. Thus freed, the tried Christian knows how to discern, verify, ‘try’ everything.”

If adaptation to the modern world has actually meant settling for a more comfortable life, a rejection of the hard road and the narrow gate, it is no renewal at all. If updating in a religious congregation has consisted largely of mitigations, we have a clear sign of resistance to the Spirit of the living God. If the renewal of moral theology consistently means more pleasure and less sacrifice, it is no updating at all. It is a surrender to the world.

from Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., “Moral Behavior: Cross-Asceticism”

Juan de la Cruz

Cross_iconIt’s the feast day of St. John of the Cross, one of my favorite spiritual writers of all time. (Doesn’t sound very detached, does it? Still working on that nada doctrine.)

I’ve created a multimedia retreat with Saint John of the Cross — and his Sayings of Light and Lovehere. It works well on mobile devices.

Also, I did a series of posts on John of the Cross during Lent of 2004. Here are the links:

Lenten retreat starts

Prologue to The Dark Night

Why is the dark night necessary?

pride

avarice

lust

anger

gluttony

envy and sloth

one dark night…

discernment of the night of the senses

how to respond to being placed in the dark night

fired with love’s urgent longings

fiat voluntas tua

What pleases me is freedom –
the key given to each soul,
an invitation to willing captivity.

A tender soul,
making itself my captive,
captivates me
as it walks into the cell,
locks the door behind it, eagerly,
and, reaching its arms through the iron bars,
throws the key far out of reach.

The little souls –
some are quite impulsive –
throw their keys with all their might.
They remind me of mother,
which isn’t surprising…
she taught me to throw when I was a child.

From mother,
the great economist of the heart,
I learned that keys are made
to be thrown away.

Of course, she learned it from Father.
Father was the first to lock himself in,
to throw His key away…
with His back to the door
and a grin on His face,
He launched it over His shoulder.

He was so proud of mother
when she threw away her key.
“That’s my girl,” he said.
“That’s my girl.
Have you ever seen such an arm?” he asked me.
“Where did you get such a mother, anyway?”

This business of throwing keys away –
it wasn’t my idea, really,
though Father and Spirit like to say
that is all began with me.
It’s a conspiracy of praise on their part,
to which I willingly submit.

Father knew what He was doing
when He invented keys,
and when He sent me among men
to show them how to throw.
For men,
throwing away a key
is not such an obvious thing to do.
Having been a man,
I understand this.

Now there are many souls
throwing their keys with eager haste
and I throw with them.

Side by side
we laugh
and throw away the keys.

From a collection of poems entitled Only Say The Word