There are three different kinds of places, I find, by which God usually moves the will.
The first includes sites that have pleasant variations in the arrangement of the land and trees and provide solitary quietude, all of which naturally awakens devotion.
It is advantageous to use these places if one immediately directs the will to God in forgetfulness of the place itself, since one should not be detained by the means and motive more than necessary to attain the end. If individuals strive for recreation of their appetites and sensory satisfaction, they will rather find spiritual dryness and distraction; for spiritual satisfaction and contentment are found only in interior recollection.
Therefore when people pray in a beautiful site, they should endeavor to be interiorly with God and forget the place, as though they were not there at all, for when they wander about looking for delight and gratification from a particular site they are searching for sensory recreation and spiritual instability more than for spiritual tranquility.
Saint John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book III, chap. 42, nos. 1-2 (excerpts)
Note: Editor and translator Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. offers the following clarification:
John himself had a deep aesthetic sense and used to take his religious out to solitary places of natural beauty for their prayer. The recollection he urges is not of a mere exterior sort that renounces the perception and use of things but a theological recollection in which nature mediates the transcendent.
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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