The Living Flame of Love

John of the Cross wrote a book called “The Living Flame of Love.” He was near the end of his life and at the very peak of mystical experi­ence.

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Our biography of John of the Cross

The Three Stages

Our own paraphrase of the poem

Stanza 1

Stanza 2

Stanza 3

Stanza 4

Conclusion

Terminology

Bibliography

Endnotes

Scripture passages

 


 

THE THREE STAGES

 

In the late 5th to early 6th century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite devised a three-fold division of the life of prayer. And in his day, John of the Cross builds upon it.

Pseudo-Dionysius divided the spiritual life into three phases, which he gave the unlikely names of beginners, proficients and perfect. Those cor­respond to three phases of growth in prayer that we see in John of the Cross: pur­gative, illuminative and unitive.

The Living Flame of Love is all about the third phase, the unitive phase. It’s about union with God.

The first phase of the spiritual life is the PURGATIVE phase. It’s addressed in John’s book, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.” It describes the beginnings of the life of prayer. John lists some of the ingredients necessary for growth in prayer and for becoming ready for greater close­ness to the Lord. Those are the things that we actively do as we cooperate with the grace of God. We grow in discipleship by imitating the life of our Lord Jesus. We reorient our motiva­tion so it is for the greater glory of God.

The second phase of the spiritual life is the ILLUMINATIVE phase. It’s the topic of John’s book, “The Dark Night.” It describes the middle of the spiritual journey. John describes how the Lord works in us as we sit still and passively allow him to work in us, purifying our senses and our soul. The difficulties experienced in the darkness work to our advantage and help bring us closer to our goal. The goal of this journey is, of course, union with God. This union can transform our entire personality.

The third phase of the spiritual life is the UNITIVE phase. This is what “The Living Flame of Love” is all about. After the soul has passed through the darkness of the Active Night and the Passive Night, it has, in a real sense, “arrived.” It has arrived at a remark­able union with the Most High God. Now there is a living flame of love from God that burns within the soul. The soul feels that it is all inflamed in this union with God. It is bathed in glory and love. Deep within, it is flooded with glory and delight and living water.

Here is an overview:

PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS PHASE IN JOHN OF THE CROSS TYPE OF PRAYER PRAYER PRACTICE BOOK BY JOHN OF THE CROSS
Beginner 1. Purgative Meditative Prayer Discursive meditation The Ascent of Mount Carmel
Proficient 2. Illuminative Contemplative Prayer Loving attention to God The Dark Night
Perfect 3. Unitive No method Peace and calm and inward absorption The Living Flame of Love

Those who practice Meditative Prayer are called BEGINNERS. The goal for them is to practice discursive spiritual exercises so as to focus their at­tention on the spiritual realm. John sees meditation as “necessary for most beginners, even if it is only a remote means for union with God.” (Note 1)

Next are the PROFICIENTS, those who are being weaned from meditation and are learning to sit quietly in Contemplative Prayer. They should be guided in a manner opposite to the beginners. They should not do meditation. Rather, they should proceed only with a loving attention to God.

Proficients should set aside their active mode and just be passive and lovingly aware. They should be very annihilated in their natural operations, unhampered, idle, quiet, peaceful and se­rene. What is called for is deep and delicate listening, solitude and withdrawal. It amounts to a very deliberate act of holy idleness.

St. Bonaventure says

In this passing over, if it is to be perfect, all in­tel­lectual activities must be left behind and the height of our affection must be totally trans­ferred and transformed into God. (Note 2)

Many of us are deluded into thinking that our experiences of God are profound. John gives us a very strong caution:

however impressive may be one’s knowl­edge or expe­rience of God, that knowledge or experience will have no resemblance to God and amount to very little. (Note 3)

The former sweetness gained through meditation needs to be set aside 100%, so as to not be an impediment to further growth. This was addressed in “The Dark Night.”

When they are aware of being placed in a mode of solitude and listening, they should for­get even the practice of loving attentiveness, so as to be free for whatever God desires of them. There is a peace and calm and inward absorption. This pure contemplation lies entirely in receiv­ing. This is Unitive Prayer.

It is very important to be very detached from meditation by this point, because the least act of the intellect, memory or will can easily disturb and hinder these anointings. The Syrian monk Isaac of Nineveh pointed this out:

Many are avidly seeking but they alone find who remain in continual silence. (Note 4)

Finally, the soul sits in stillness, enjoying the Trinitarian fire deep within it. This is the focus of “The Living Flame of Love.”

Its important to note that “genuine Christian mysticism has nothing to do with technique; it is always a gift of God, and the one who benefits from it knows himself to be unworthy.” (Note 5)

 

OUR OWN PARAPHRASE OF THE POEM

 

STANZA 1

O living Holy Spirit, fire of love shooting out from within me

that floods my soul with tender wounds of loving delight

in the most profound center of my being! Since

you have already purged me of all my imperfections,

now consummate our spiritual marriage with total union, if it be your will:

let me die now, that I may be with you in heaven!

 

STANZA 2

O Holy Spirit, sweet cauterizing fire,

delightful stab that blazes me into an intense fire of love!

O gentle origin, hand of the terrifyingly powerful Father!

O delicate contact, touch of the awesome Son

which even now effects a sublime foretaste of eternal life

and more than makes up for everything I went through to get here!

In killing my old self you changed my daily dying into perfect spiritual life in you.

 

STANZA 3

O burning lamps shining forth God’s many attributes!

Within your fiery splendor

the depths of my intellect, and memory and will –

which were once in spiritual darkness and blinded by desires and affections –

are now shining to the Father

the love and knowledge your Holy Spirit infused in me.

 

STANZA 4

How gently and lovingly

You awaken my heart, Jesus,

the most profound center of my being where you dwell alone;

and in your sweet breathing,

filled with the good and glory of the Holy Spirit

how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

 

STANZA 1

 

With St. John of the Cross, you always need to start with the poems. They’re the real embodiment of his mystical experiences. Then from the poems, you can move on to the rest of the book. His books are his commentaries on his poems. And here are our comments on his poems …

 

LINE 1. O living Holy Spirit, fire of love shooting out from within me

John begins by speaking affectionately of this living flame of love that is burning deep within him.

The living flame is the soul’s bridegroom. It is the Holy Spirit.

When the flame of the Holy Spirit flares up within, it bathes you in glory and re­freshes you. Like a twig that begins to burn after being held in a bonfire, so too the twig of the soul is being held in the bonfire of the Holy Spirit. By now you are spiritually burning and spiritual flames are leaping up from you.

You know that the Holy Spirit is the source of all this, and you are filled with a deep delight of eternal life.

Jeremiah 23:29. “Isn’t my word like fire?” says the LORD; “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

 

LINE 2. that floods my soul with tender wounds of loving delight

The ever-active love of the Holy Spirit is in continual mo­tion within you. Unwittingly, you emit spiritual flames everywhere you go.

John says the effect of these flames within is tender wounds of loving delight. He calls them “wounds” because they are made by a fire that touches us within.

When these flames touch us within, it feels like a delightful stab that dissolves us into a sea of love.

Song of Songs 5:4. My heart trem­bled within me, and I grew faint when he spoke. (NAB translation)

 

LINE 3. in the most profound center of my being! Since

These amazing experiences take place deep within us.

At the beginning of the life of prayer, we were very far from the place where God resides. But by the grace of God, we have now journeyed to our center, to the location of the Father’s “many dwell­ing places:”

John 14:2. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (NASB translation)

This is the center of The Interior Castle that Teresa of Avila wrote about.

The Holy Trinity is dwelling within us in a mani­festly transformative way:

John 14:23. Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.”

Now our experiences of God are completely interior. God is the only doer of these deeds now, not ourselves nor the devil.

By now the embers of love have be­come so hot that they shoot forth a living flame from within.

 

LINE 4. you have already purged me of all my imperfections,

Now John’s focus shifts. In the past, the Holy Spirit was helping him to grow by de­stroying and consuming his bad habits.

The spiritual writers call that the “purgative” way. They say that during the purgative time, people suffer great deprivation, afflictions and tri­als. We gain a clearer picture of ourselves, but finds no relief.

Lamentations 3:6. He has made me dwell in dark places, as those who have been long dead.

Through this purgative experi­ence, God mediates and heals us of our many infirmities.

The cause of that purging is that we cannot see our own darkness until the divine light shines upon us. Only God’s grace can purify us of sin and deeply transform us.

Next to such a delightful and ample flame as the Holy Spirit, and feeling the depths of our own misery, we felt distress and distaste.

Through this experience, God brought about a truly holistic cure for our spiritual sicknesses.

Formerly the flame was oppressive, assailing us from the outside. Now the flame is very gentle, since it has entered within us.

 

LINE 5. now consummate our spiritual marriage with total union, if it be your will:

Having mused on the ways that the Holy Spirit worked in his life in the past, John of the Cross now shifts to the future.

He says that we long for the fullness of union with God, and are not afraid to ask God for it.

We have a clearer expectation of what the fullness of knowing God will be like (see John 17:3). We urgently desire the “beatific vision,” which is yet to be experienced in heaven. We longs to hear our divine lover call us to it.

Song of Songs 2:10. My beloved spoke, and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”

 

LINE 6. let me die now, that I may be with you in heaven!

There were three “veils” that had separated us from total union with God: the exterior; the interior; and mortal life itself.

Through the pur­gations ex­perienced earlier, the exterior and the interior veils were torn away. Now there is only one veil between us and God: our own mortal life.

We are so head-over-heels in love with God that we send another petition to God: let me die. For such people, their own death is gentle and sweet, filled with divine impulses of love.

Psalm 116:15. Precious in the LORD’s sight is the death of his holy ones.

 

APPLICATION

The consuming nature of God’s love is of such intensity that we are deluged by it. It heats us up so much that we ourselves shoot forth a living flame. After all, God is a consuming fire:

Deuteronomy 4:24a. For the LORD your God is a devouring fire.

Let’s pray to be consumed by the love of Jesus Christ and ablaze with love for him.

On the one hand, we would want to do everything we can to get ourselves ready for that. On the other hand, we realize that it would be 100% a gift and not the result of our own efforts.

So our prayer is for a greater love for him.

 

STANZA 2

 

LINE 1. O Holy Spirit, sweet cauterizing fire,

Our God “is a consuming fire” (see Deuteronomy 4:24), a fire of love that can consume and trans­form us.

Not only does he transform us, but God also cauterizes us, setting us on fire and making us blaze with his glory.

This happened in the Upper Room, when the Holy Spirit came as “tongues of fire” (see Acts 2:3) and totally transformed those it touched.

 

LINE 2. delightful stab that blazes me into an intense fire of love!

The cautery, the burn wound produced in the soul by the fire of the Holy Spirit, is a de­lightful wound.

In a burn wound caused by a material fire, it must be cured by first aid and medicines. But in the case of the spiritual burn wound, it is cured by the very thing that caused it: the fiery love of the Holy Spirit. In being wounded with love, the soul is made completely healthy.

Some mystics, such as St. Francis of Assisi, say that this wounding is like being stabbed in the heart by an angel, with flaming darts of love.

John of the Cross says:

there flow seas of loving fire within it, reaching to the heights and depths of the earthly and heavenly spheres . . . It seems to it that the entire universe is a sea of love in which it is engulfed. (Note 6)

Yet this experi­ence will not come to those who seek it by means of their own senses. Rather, the activity of the senses must be left behind.

 

LINE 3. O gentle origin, hand of the terrifyingly powerful Father! O delicate contact, touch of the awesome Son

Having discussed the operation of the Holy Spirit, John shifts to a discussion of God the Fa­ther and God the Son and their activity.

John calls the Father the hand; the Son is the touch of that hand. It is the hand that wounds the soul by touching it, in order to cure it.

When the hand contacts the soul, so wonderful an effect is made that:

every other touch of all things both high and low seems coarse and spurious. (Note 7)

 

LINE 4. which even now effects a sublime foretaste of eternal life

The gift given, this touch from God, has a savor of eternal life.

We ex­perience that touch and its benefits and remain silent. Sometimes the unction of the Holy Spirit overflows into our body so that we rejoice all the way down into our bones. Thus even our human body itself glorifies God.

Psalm 35:10a. All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like you.”

 

LINE 5. and more than makes up for everything I went through to get here!

In this foretaste of eternal life, there is a redeeming ef­fect: we feel more than compen­sated for the difficulties and pains of the Dark Nights.

In com­parison to what we had experienced be­fore, namely, trials, discomforts, fears, temptations, aridities, af­flictions, tribulations, darknesses, dis­tresses and abandonments, we now feel that we have received “a hundred times more” (see Matthew 19:29b).

The fire of those sufferings were necessary to help us reach this union.

Jeremiah puts it well:

Jeremiah 12:5a. If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?

Tobit adds:

Tobit 12:13. Since you were acceptable to God, he favored you by sending you temptation that he might try you more in order to exalt you more. (NAB translation)

John offers three insights for those who are laboring under the heavy bur­den of temptations and trials.

  1. They should live with great patience and constancy in all the trials and tribulations they face.
  2. They should trust that “in all things God works for the good” (see Romans 8:28).
  3. They can esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends them, realizing they are significant blessings.

 

LINE 6. In killing my old self you changed my daily dying into perfect spiritual life in you

Our disordered ap­petites have now been burned away by the touches of the Holy Spirit. Now, we experience a more perfect spiritual life.

St. Paul says:

Romans 8:13. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The sinner has been put to death. Now, a new intellect, memory and will re­side there. St. Paul puts it this way:

Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.

Now we walk in festivity, joy and peace, both inwardly and outwardly.

We are to embrace suffering, and not avoid it. We are to live with great patience and constancy in all the trials God places on us. We are to accepting trials as if from God’s hand, sent as a good remedy, and not flee from them.

 

APPLICATION

Suffering can be a path of discipleship for the soul. Some sort of suffering will indeed be in store for pretty much everyone. It is universal.

John 16:33. I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.

Since that is the case, we can prepare for it so as to be able to deal with it when it comes.

The small and momentary sufferings we have experienced in the past did not eliminate us from the race. Thus we can gather courage from having made it this far by faith.

In a similar vein, John discusses temptation as a schoolmaster allowed by God to strengthen the believer on the path of love. Thus temptations, too, can be welcomed.

 

STANZA 3

 

LINE 1. O burning lamps shining forth God’s many attributes!

Deep within us are lamps of fire, each of which shines forth one of the attributes of God. They transmit light and give off warmth.

Just as a prism causes a beam of white light to re­fract into all the colors of the rainbow, so too the One God is manifested in many ways, such as wis­dom, omnipotence, mercy, goodness, omniscience and so on.

In the communi­cation of the Holy Spirit from these lamps, we are enflamed and placed in the activity of love. Thus we can see that holiness comes from God, and not from us.

In prayer, we are communing with love itself. If we stay there often enough, we become more loving.

 

LINE 2. Within your fiery splendor

With a lamp, light shines out and illumines the room. But the splendor of the spiritual lamps doesn’t simply illumine the soul from the outside. It does even more than illumine the soul from the inside. Rather, the splendors are inside us.

We become like the air combusted in a flame. We are enkindled and transformed. The movements of these divine flames are not produced by us alone, nor are they produced by the Holy Spirit alone. Rather, they are pro­duced by the Holy Spirit and us together. They are like happy festivals and games that the Holy Spirit plays together with us.

The flame flickers and flares together with the enkindled air. John asks,

Who can express how elevated this happy soul feels here, how exalted, how much admired in holy beauty. (Note 8)

 

LINE 3. the depths of my intellect, memory and will –

The depths of our being are like caverns. The caverns are our faculties: the intellect, memory and will. If these faculties are not emptied of all their affections, they do not feel the vast emptiness of their deep capacity. Then they can easily become bewitched and burdened by any little thing, even though they are capable of infinite goods.

The emptying of the first cavern, the INTELLECT, results in a greater thirst for God:

Psalm 42:1. As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God.

The emptying of the second cavern, the WILL, results in a greater hunger for God:

Psalm 84:2. My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

The emptying of the third cavern, the MEMORY, results in yearning and melting away with desire for God:

Lamentations 3:20-21. My soul still remembers them, and is bowed down within me. 21 This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope.

In short, John says

the more the soul desires God the more it possesses him, and the possession of God delights and satisfies it. (Note 9)

This is a high state of what the spiritual writers call “spiritual betrothal.” Yet the delights here are not even comparable to what is experienced in the later state called “spiritual marriage.”

John spends a considerable amount of space (40 paragraphs) offering advise about three blind guides. The first blind guide is the spiritual director; the second is the Devil; the third is the soul itself.

John is concerned about these three blind guides because of the great danger that we could fall into. We could loose our progress or even fall back. We can draw comfort from the fact that

if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more. (Note 10)

We should keep in mind that

God is the principal agent in this mat­ter. He acts as guide of the blind. (Note 11)

The first blind guide is the spiritual director. We should be careful into whose hands we entrust ourselves, because the student will become like the master. A suitable spiritual director will be learned, discreet and experienced. The director should be sensitive to where God has brought souls to and guide them accordingly. Directors should strive to bring souls out of meditation and into solitude and idleness. It cost God a great deal to bring these souls to this stage, and so the director should strive to not be an obstacle in the way of God’s workings in a soul.

The second blind guide is the devil. The devil can lead the soul astray by moving it back to meditative prayer or to the desire for feelings in prayer. He can do greater damage simply by leading these souls away from contemplation than he can by greatly harming other souls.

The third blind guide is the ourselves. We can discredit the stillness of contemplative prayer as unproductive and then regress back to meditative prayer. But the silence is doing far more for us than what is possible by meditation. In meditation, we carry ourselves. But in contemplative silence, it is God that carries us.

John makes a detour, and reviews the ways that God leads people in the life of prayer. He creates a road map of spirituality. It is helpful for us, because it shows us where we’re at and what’s ahead. We provided an overview above, in the section called “The Three Stages.”

The last comment John provides in this line of the poem concerns the deep caverns. We are being anointed with the most sublime unctions of the Holy Spirit. They dispose us for un­ion with the Holy Spirit. Those caverns of feeling, the intellect, memory and will, are the means through which we experience God’s grandeur.

 

LINE 4. which were once in spiritual darkness and blinded by desires and affections –

In the beginning, darkness had cov­ered the face of the earth until God said, “Let there be light” (see Genesis 1:3).

Similarly, darkness had cov­ered us until God illumined and enlightened us. Hence, we were no longer obscured or blind.

1 Corinthians 2:14. Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

But now the Holy Spirit is burning within the deep caverns of our feeling. God’s light and our own light have be­come as one, in the same sense that a burning twig set into a huge bonfire begin to burn as one flame.

 

LINE 5-6. are now shining to the Father the love and knowledge your Holy Spirit infused in me

Now that the caverns of the faculties are pervaded with the lamps that are burning within them, they give to God the very splendors they have received from him. We shine and dif­fuse the warmth and light of love.

We have been given God in the person of the Holy Spirit. Now we offer back to God the Father what we have freely received: the Holy Spirit. We enjoys a great deal of delight. God and the individual can say to each other:

John 17:10. All things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Regarding this love for God the Father, it is not offered through ourselves but through the Holy Spirit. We are ardently absorbed in the love of God and God alone. We are head over heels in love with him and enjoy him greatly.

 

APPLICATION

John calls souls to cultivate a desire for God that eclipses all other desires. (Note 12)

John “senses an irresistible attraction to God and pursues this goal uncompromisingly and relentlessly.” (Note 13)

May God grant us a greater desire for him.

John says to proceed only with a loving attentiveness to God, until the soul is conscious of being placed in solitude and in the state of listening. Then they should even forget the practice of loving attentiveness. This state can be recognized in that it always comes to pass with a certain peace and calm and inward absorption.

Here is the sequence:

  • Loving attentiveness to God, until you arrive at solitude and listening
  • Then forget the practice of loving attentiveness

John reinforces that we should not go back to medita­tion at any time. Nor should we look for sweet experiences. Instead, we should be detached from everything. This is because pure contemplation lies in receiving. We wait in reverent expectation.

 

STANZA 4

 

LINE 1-2. How gently and lovingly … You awaken my heart, Jesus,

John’s comments on Stanza Four are just seven pages long. The Fourth Stanza addresses two admirable effects that the Bridegroom sometimes produces within us:

  1. An awakening of God in the soul
  2. The breathing of God inside of it.

Thomas Dubay wrote that “Men and women are made for delights that even here on earth immeasurably outstrip the erotic.” In this Stanza, St. John is speaking of those delights.

The awakening of God within us is a movement of the God the Son in our deepest core. It yields grandeur and dominion, glory and intimate sweetness. It seems that all the fragrant spices and flowers of the world yield their sweet fragrance together.

When we are careless and asleep in God’s presence, it seems to us that God is asleep.

Likewise, when God moves and awakens us, it seems that it was God who moved and awakened. Nonetheless, this experience is so powerful that it is entirely beyond words.

 

LINE 3. the most profound center of my being where you dwell alone;

John says that God dwells secretly within all people, both saint and sinner, as the metaphysical ground of their being.

But here, there is a vast difference. For this person, God is pleased to live as in his own house. He dwells there in secret and pure embrace, unchallenged by inordinate appetites. The person enjoys the strong delight that God gives it.

 

LINES 4-6. and in your sweet breathing, filled with the good and glory of the Holy Spirit … how tenderly you swell my heart with love

It feels as if God is breathing from within us.

God the Father is breathing the Holy Spirit into the soul. This happens to the extent that the soul is able to understand and know the Father.

This breathing of the Holy Spirit absorbs the soul profoundly in the Holy Spirit. It rouses the soul’s love with a divinely exquisite quality and delicacy.

 

APPLICATION

John points out the dilemma faced by those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. They are called to live an active life, yet they would prefer to be still.

We have seen this in a few isolated individuals. When he was not actively doing something, a monk would sit absolutely stationary in deep recollection, as John describes above.

The loftiest experiences of even the greatest mystics are but a weak foretaste of that which is yet to come.

Keep at your daily prayer practices, for the best is yet to come!

 

CONCLUSION

 

We’ve been looking at “final” phase of the spiritual life, the unitive phase. We’ve studied St. John of the Cross’ poem and book, “The Living Flame of Love.”

After the soul has passed through the darkness of the Active Night and the Passive Night, it has, in a real sense, “arrived” at a remark­able union with the Most High God.

Now there is a living flame of love from God that burns within the soul. Now the soul feels that it is inflamed in union with God. Its spiritual pal­ate is satiated with glory and love and delights. From its depths flow rivers of living water.

Leading to this peak of mystical experi­ence was the first phase of the spiritual life and the second phase of the spiritual life. The first phase was the purgative phase, which John addressed in “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.” The second phase was the illuminative phase, covered in “The Dark Night.”

Here are our final two points:

First, God calls many to contemplative prayer. Perhaps he is calling you.

Second, we be­lieve that we Christian believers, immersed within our diverse cultural and spiritual milieu, need to hear anew that there are deeply spiritual practices well within the Christian tradi­tion, sol­idly orthodox and thoroughly attractive to today’s spiritual seeker.

 

TERMINOLOGY

 

The world of contemplative and unitive prayer uses some very specialized terminology. Not all the authors use those terms to mean the same thing. Even an individual author uses them to mean different things in different contexts. John of the Cross is like that.

We’ve needed to synthesize our own definitions:

Contemplation: A deep love communion with the Triune God. We cannot produce this; we can only receive it. It is a wordless awareness and a love that we cannot initiate or produce ourselves. It can be described by its effects: deep peace; a new love of God; delight; emptiness; a new, dark knowing; a loving knowing; humility; an inflowing of God; delicacy; transformation. It cannot be figured out; it cannot be understood fully.

Infused Recollection: A passive experience of recollection. A drawing of the faculties gently inward. The recollection achieved at the cost of human effort is different than this.

Prayer of Quiet / Initial Contemplation: A deeper form of infused recollection, in which the will finds rest but the intellect continues to move. The heart is held, but the mind and the imagination are free to wander. There is a quiet, deep and peaceful happiness in the will.

Prayer of Union. Like the Prayer of Quiet, but the faculties become completely silent (“suspended”). The soul has a certitude that it was in God and God was in it.

Betrothal. Also called ecstatic union or absorption. God gives the soul raptures that draw it out of itself. During this experience, the soul is without outward consciousness and can no longer communicate with the outside world.

Spiritual Marriage. An increase of the betrothal that culminates in an intellectual vision of the Most Holy Trinity.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Borst, James, M.H.M., “Contemplative Prayer.” Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publi­cations, 1979

Ewert Cousins, trans. Bonaventure, “The Soul’s Journey to God.” Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1978

Doohan, Leonard. “The Contemporary Challenge of John of the Cross.” Washington, D.C., Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1995

Dubay, Thomas, S.M. “Fire Within.” San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989

Hart Clifford, Patricia. “Sitting Still.” New York: Paulist Press, 1994

John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.” In “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross.” Washington, D.C., Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991

John of the Cross, “The Dark Night.” In “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross.” Washington, D.C., Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991

John of the Cross, “The Living Flame of Love.” In “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross.” Washington, D.C., Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991

Griffin, Emilie, editor, and Farrington, Tim, translator. “The Cloud of Unknowing.” HarperOne, 1981

Merton, Thomas. “Contemplative Prayer.”

Teresa of Avila. “The Interior Castle.” Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriquez, O.C.D.. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1979

Teresa of Avila. “Way.”

Thérèse of Lisieux. “The Story of a Soul.” Translated by John Beevers. New York: Image Books Doubleday, 2001

 

ENDNOTES

 

Note 1. Thomas Dubay, S.M., “Fire Within” (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989), page 52. [Back to the text]

Note 2. “Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey to God,” translated by Professor Ewert Cousins (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1978), page 113. [Back to the text]

Note 3. John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” Second Dwelling Place, Chapter 4, paragraph 3. [Back to the text]

Note 4. Isaac of Nineveh, quoted in Louis Thomas Merton, “Contemplative Prayer,” pages 28-35. [Back to the text]

Note 5. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” (Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, 1989), paragraph 23. [Back to the text]

Note 6. John of the Cross, “The Living Flame of Love,” Stanza 2, paragraph 10. [Back to the text]

Note 7. Ibid, paragraph 18. [Back to the text]

Note 8. Ibid., paragraph 16. [Back to the text]

Note 9. Ibid., paragraph 23. [Back to the text]

Note 10. Ibid., paragraph 28. [Back to the text]

Note 11. Ibid., paragraph 29. [Back to the text]

Note 12. John of the Cross, “The Living Flame of Love,” stanza 3, paragraph 23. [Back to the text]

Note 13. Leonard Doohan, “The Contemporary Challenge of John of the Cross: An Introduction to His Life and Teaching” (Institute for Carmelite Studies, 1995), page 21. [Back to the text]

 

SCRIPTURE PASSAGES

 

Exodus 24:17. The appearance of the LORD’s glory was like devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.

Isaiah 33:14. The sinners in Zion are afraid. Trembling has seized the godless ones. Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting burning?

 


Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.