The reason some spiritual persons never entirely enter into the true joys of the spirit is that they never manage to renounce their desire for joy in these exterior and visible things. These persons should keep in mind that although the place dedicated and suited to prayer is the visible oratory or church and the motivating good is the image, these means should not be so used that the satisfaction and delight of the soul stems entirely from them, thereby causing one to forget to pray in the living temple, which is interior recollection of soul.
To remind us of this, the Apostle said: Behold, your bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within you [1 Cor. 3:16]. This thought brings to mind the affirmation of Christ that we quoted: The true adorers should adore in spirit and truth [Jn. 4:24]. God pays little attention to your oratories and places arranged for prayer if through your desire and the delight you take in them you become attached and, in consequence, have less interior nakedness, that is, spiritual poverty, in the renunciation of things that can be possessed.
To purge the will of its desire and vain joy in these objects and direct it to God, you should strive in your prayer for a pure conscience, a will that is wholly with God, and a mind truly set on him.
And, as I mentioned, [Ascent, III, 39:2] you ought to choose the most withdrawn and solitary place possible, convert all your joy of will into glorifying and invoking God. And you should pay no attention to these other little exterior satisfactions; you should rather seek to deny them. Should a soul become bound to the delight of sensory devotion, it will never succeed in passing on to the strength of spiritual delight, which is discovered through interior recollection in spiritual nakedness.
Saint John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book III, Chapter 40
John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
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