The reader has apparently desired for quite a while to ask if the total mortification of all the appetites, large and small, is a requirement to attain this high state of perfection, or if it is sufficient to mortify just some of them and leave the others, at least those that seem trifling. For it seems it would be an arduous task for individuals to attain such purity and nakedness that they would have no attachment to anything.
First, I respond that it is true that the appetites are not all equally detrimental, nor are all equally a hindrance to the soul. I am speaking of the voluntary appetites because the natural ones are little or no hindrance at all to the attainment of union, provided they do not receive one’s consent or pass beyond the first movements, those stirrings in which the rational will does not take part either before or after.
“To eradicate the natural appetites, that is, to mortify them entirely, is impossible in this life.” #StJohnoftheCross #HowToBecomeASaintTweet
Even though they are not entirely mortified, as I say, they are not such a hindrance as to prevent one from attaining divine union. A soul can easily experience them in its sensitive nature and yet be free of them in the rational part of its being.
It will happen sometimes that while a person is experiencing an intense union of will in the prayer of quiet these appetites will be actually dwelling in the sensory part. Yet the superior part of the soul, which is in prayer, will be paying no attention to them.
But all the other voluntary appetites, whether they be the most serious that involve mortal sin, or less grave in that they concern venial sin, or whether they be the least serious of all in that they only involve imperfections, must be mortified. A person must be liberated of them all, however slight they be, in order to arrive at this complete union. The reason is that in the state of divine union a person’s will is so completely transformed into God’s will that it excludes everything contrary to God’s will, and in all and through all is motivated by the will of God.
“In the state of divine union a person’s will is so completely transformed into God’s will that it excludes everything contrary to God’s will.” #StJohnoftheCross #HowToBecomeASaintTweet
Here we have the reason for stating that two wills become one. And this one will is God’s will, which also becomes the soul’s. If a person were to desire an imperfection unwanted by God, this one will of God would be undone because of the desire for what God does not will.
Clearly, for a soul to reach union with God through its will and love, it must first be freed from every appetite, however slight. That is, one must not give consent of the will advertently and knowingly to an imperfection, and one must have the power and freedom to be able, upon advertence, to refuse this consent.
St. Paul teaches this clearly in Corinthians:
What I tell you, brothers, is that the time is short; what remains and suits you is that those with wives should act as though they had none, and those who weep for the things of this world as though they were not weeping, and those who rejoice as though not rejoicing, and the buyers as though they did not possess, and the users of the world should behave as though they made no use of it (1 Cor. 7:29-31).
In this text, the Apostle teaches us how detached our souls must be from all things in order to go to God.
Saint John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book I, Chap. 11, nos. 1-3, 8 (excerpts)
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.