St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 7

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.

Sayings of Light and Love, 103

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Psalm 51

 

MEDITATION

“O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest!” (Sayings, 16) This is the song of St. John of the Cross, his canticle of love distilled down to its very essence. 

God truly loves us, St. John reminds us through his letters. He tells us that God cannot fit in hearts that are occupied with distractions, that are attached to people, places, or things that mean more to us than God himself. God only fits in hearts that have been emptied to make room for him.

It seems that nada—nothingness within us—isn’t so farfetched after all. Cleansing our souls is like the necessary spiritual housekeeping that must be done prior to any Nativity moment in our spiritual lives; without that soul-cleansing, that housecleaning in our hearts, there will always be a NO VACANCY light shining outside the inn within. How can God find space to squeeze in here?

St. Edith Stein says that the moment we reach the realization that we need to clean house is the moment when we are on the threshold of making the greatest spiritual progress. Recalling the spiritual sense of dryness, darkness, and emptiness that we mentioned in the meditation for our sixth day of this novena, Edith offers this reflection on the state of the soul in her final masterpiece, The Science of the Cross (SC):

She [the soul] is put into total darkness and emptiness. Absolutely nothing that might give her a hold is left to her anymore except faith. Faith sets Christ before her eyes: the poor, humiliated, crucified one, who is abandoned on the cross even by his heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment, she rediscovers herself. Dryness, distaste, and affliction are the “purely spiritual cross” that is handed to her. If she accepts it she experiences that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. It becomes a staff for her that will quickly lead her up the mountain. (SC 10)

Accepting the dryness we experience in prayer, the distaste, the affliction, these are all signs that we actually are clearing out space for God within. 

When she realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. (SC 10)

And by the way, there is a little voice in Dijon, France who takes up the refrain: it is St Elizabeth of the Trinity, singing so sweetly in the pages of her Last Retreat (LR):

If my interior city (cf. Rev. 21) is to have some similarity and likeness to that “of the King of eternal ages” (I Tim 1:17) and to receive this great illumination from God, I must extinguish every other light and, as in the holy city, the Lamb must be “its only light.”

Here faith, the beautiful light of faith appears. It alone should light my way as I go to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist sings the He “hides Himself in darkness” (Ps 17:12), then in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying that “light surrounds Him like a cloak” (Ps 103:2). What stands out for me in this apparent contradiction is that I must immerse myself in “the sacred darkness” by putting all my powers in darkness and emptiness; then I will meet my Master, and “the light that surrounds Him like a cloak” will envelop me also, for He wants His bride to be luminous with His light, His light alone, “which is the glory of God.” (LR 4)

So there it is: the challenge, the call is to accept, welcome, embrace and—so to speak—hide in the dark and empty spaces within us, not running to another distraction, another attachment, another new idol in our lives to fill up that interior void. It is at the point when we feel (and know) the emptiness within, the void that we are creating and/or that God is helping us to create so that we can spend time and focus on him—whether that is accepting a loss of some sort of attachment, or purposefully choosing to give up a distracting activity in order to spend more time going to daily Mass, making time for daily Scripture reading, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary, or going to Eucharistic adoration, or practicing silent mental prayer instead of (name your distraction here).

At this point when we have a hunger and a thirst for God that is so strong and powerful that we are willing to sacrifice and say, “all for you and nothing for me” (Sayings 111), we also find ourselves crying out to God, “but I can’t do this alone, by myself!” When we are ready to give up and have reached the point of abandon, we’ve reached the most crucial moment of all because…

That is the truth.

“I never sought anything but the truth,” St. Thérèse said in the hours before her death (Yellow Notebook, 30 September).

St. Teresa set the benchmark in the Interior Castle: “To be humble is to walk in truth” (IC VI, 10:7)

And how will we know when we’re meeting the benchmark for St. John of the Cross?

The humble are those who hide in their own nothingness and know how to abandon themselves to God. (Sayings 163)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Bust of John of the Cross 17th c. Carmel of Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00986
Bust of St. John of the Cross
17th c. French
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.
Latin inscription upper left: QVID TIBI PRO LABOR
Latin inscription at base: PATI. ET. CONTEMNI. PROTE

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 10 March

Free me beggar girl
restless_mind / Flickr

You are telling me nothing new, and you are not the only one who experiences distractions. The mind is extremely flighty, but the will, mistress of all our powers, must take hold of it and bring it back to God as to its final end…

Remain before God like a poor, mute paralytic at the door of a rich man

I think the answer to our problems is to confess our faults and to humble ourselves before God. I advise you against long discourses during mental prayer, for they often foster distractions. Remain before God like a poor, mute paralytic at the door of a rich man. Strive to be attentive to God’s presence. If your mind wanders or withdraws occasionally, don’t get upset. Since these disturbances tend to distract the mind rather than focus it, we must use the will to gently collect our thoughts. If you persevere in this manner God will have mercy on you.

If your mind wanders or withdraws occasionally, don’t get upset

An easy way to keep the mind from wandering during the time of mental prayer is to keep it as still as possible—not to let it take flight—during the day. You must keep it faithfully in God’s presence; and once you are accustomed to think of him from time to time, it will be easy to remain calm during prayer, or at least to bring the mind back when it wanders…

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
Letter to a nun [no date], excerpts
Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God

 

Excerpt from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God 
Edited by Conrad De Meester, OCD, Translated by Salvatore Sciurba, OCD 
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC
Copyright © 1994, 2015 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Advent 1: Alert

The reason for this dryness is that God transfers his goods and strength from sense to spirit … But through this nourishment the spirit grows stronger and more alert.

Saint John of the Cross

gary-bendig-169660-unsplash
Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Porque la causa de esta sequedad es porque muda Dios los bienes y fuerza del sentido al espíritu … mas el espíritu que va recibiendo el manjar, anda fuerte y más alerto.

San Juan de la Cruz

The Dark Night: Book One, Chapter 9
The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, Revised Edition
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
With Revisions and Introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
ICS Publications
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 8

SCRIPTURE READING
Wisdom 19:6-17

God Guides and Protects His People

6 The whole nature of the universe was changed at your command so that your people would not be harmed. 7 They saw the cloud over their camp and dry land where water had been. There was a grass-covered plain between the stormy waves of the Red Sea, making it easy for them to cross over. 8 All your people, under your protection, saw this miracle and went across. 9 They pranced about like horses let out to pasture; they skipped about like lambs and praised you, Lord, for saving them. 10 They still remembered what life had been like when they were slaves—how the earth bred gnats instead of cattle, how the river produced huge numbers of frogs instead of fish. 11-12 Later, when they desperately wanted better food, quails came up from the sea to satisfy their hunger. The quail was a bird they had never seen before.

The Punishment of the Egyptians

13 But violent thunder gave warning of the punishment that was coming on those sinners. They suffered a well-deserved punishment for their great wickedness. No nation had ever hated strangers so bitterly. 14 Other people had been known to refuse welcome to strangers who came to them, but these people made slaves of those who were their guests and who had shown them kindness. 15 Every nation will be punished if it does not welcome foreigners, 16 but these people, who had earlier welcomed the foreigners with happy celebrations and treated them as equals, later made them suffer cruelly. 17 These people were also struck with blindness, like the men of Sodom who came to the door of that righteous man Lot. They found themselves in total darkness, as each one groped around to find his own door.

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross 3.C.(3)

The purgative dryness of the dark night

A case of purgative dryness of the dark night can be discerned by three signs:

1) that the soul finds no delight in creatures;

2) that “the soul turns to God solicitously and with painful care, and thinks it is not serving God but turning back because it is aware of this distaste for the things of God.”

3) one recognizes purgative dryness in that “the soul is powerless in spite of all its efforts to meditate and make use of the imagination, the interior sense, . . . God no longer communicates himself through the senses as he did before, by means of the discursive analysis and synthesis of ideas, but has now begun to communicate himself through pure spirit by an act of simple contemplation for which neither the exterior nor the interior senses of the sensory human being have any capacity.”

This dark and, for the senses, dry contemplation is “something secret and hidden and even for the one who possesses it, mysterious.” Ordinarily, it imparts to the soul an inclination and a demand to remain alone and at rest. She is unable to dwell on any particular thought, nor does she have any desire to do so. If those in whom this occurs knew how to remain quiet, “they would soon experience in that unconcern and idleness a precious interior nourishment. This refection is namely so delicate that the soul cannot usually feel it if it desires it excessively or tries to experience it specifically. . . . It is like air that escapes when one tries to grasp it in one’s hand . . . God deals with the soul in this state in such a manner and leads it along such a special way that, if it desires to work with its own faculties and strength, it would rather hinder than help the work of God.” The peace God produces in the spirit through the dryness of the sensory being is “spiritual and most precious” and its “fruit is quiet, delicate, solitary, satisfying, and peaceful, and far removed from all the earlier gratifications which were more palpable and sensory.” So one understands that only the dying of the sensory being is felt and nothing is experienced of the beginning of the new life that is concealed beneath it.

It is no exaggeration when we call the suffering of the souls in this state a crucifixion. In their inability to make use of their own faculties they are as though nailed fast. And to the dryness is added the torment of fear that they are on the wrong path.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

StoneMountainStatePark_andrew-neel-209619-unsplash
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

 

 

 

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 7

SCRIPTURE READING
Psalm 131

1 O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.

2 Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
A weaned child on its mother’s breast,
even so is my soul.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and forever.

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross 3.C.(3)

Passive Night as Crucifixion

It was mentioned earlier that the active entrance of the soul into the dark night is only possible for her because God’s grace anticipates her, draws her, and supports her along the entire way.

But for beginners this anticipatory and enabling grace does not as yet have the character of the dark night. Rather, God treats them the way a tender mother treats her tiny children—carrying them in her arms and feeding them with sweet milk: in all their spiritual exercises—in prayer, meditation, and mortifications—they receive abundant joy and consolation. This joy then motivates them to devote themselves to spiritual exercises. They are unaware of the imperfections that lie therein and how many faults they commit in their practice of virtue.

In order to be freed from all these defects we must be weaned from the milk of consolations and be fed with strengthening nourishment…. “After beginners have exercised themselves for a time in the way of virtue and have persevered in meditation and prayer and through the delight and satisfaction they experience in this have become detached from worldly things and have gained some spiritual strength in God, which helps them to restrain their appetites for creatures, and for God’s sake are able to suffer a little oppression and dryness without yearning to return to those better times when they experienced more pleasurable satisfaction and gratification… then… God darkens all this light and closes the door and the spring of sweet spiritual water they were tasting as often and as long as they desired…. Now he leaves them in such darkness that they do not know which way to turn in their discursive imaginings.”

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

melanie-wasser-233297-unsplash
Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 6

SCRIPTURE READING
Mark 8:31-38

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.” 32 He made this very clear to them. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don’t come from God but from human nature!”

34 Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If any of you want to come with me,” he told them, “you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 35 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it. 36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! 37 There is nothing you can give to regain your life. 38 If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching in this godless and wicked day, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross 1.I.(6)

Content of the Message of the Cross

We have considered by what ways John penetrated the message of the cross. The following sections wish to show how this message was incorporated into the doctrine and life of the saint. To do so, it is necessary to set the content of the message before our eyes—for the time being, in a brief outline. We set it down here exactly as we find it expressed by the master of the science of the cross: “‘How narrow is the gate and constricting the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it’ (Mt 7:14). We should particularly note the exaggeration and hyperbole conveyed by the word how in this passage. This is like saying: Indeed the gate is very narrow, narrower than you think. . . . This path on the high mount of perfection is narrow and steep, it can only be trodden by wanderers who carry no burden that could drag them downwards. . . .  Since in this, God alone is the goal that one should seek and gain, then only God ought to be sought and gained. . . . Our Lord, for our instruction and guidance along this road, imparted to us that wonderful teaching—I think it is possible to affirm that the more necessary the doctrine the less it is practiced by spiritual persons—. . . . ‘If anyone wishes to be my disciple let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life, will lose it but whoever loses it for my sake, will save it’ [Mk 8:34-35]. Oh, who can make this counsel of our Savior on self-denial understandable, practicable, and attractive! . . . Annihilation of all sweetness in God . . . dryness, distaste, and trial. . . . the pure spiritual cross and the nakedness of Christ’s poverty of spirit. . . . A genuine spirit seeks rather the distasteful in God than the delectable, leans more toward suffering than toward consolation, more toward going without everything for God than toward possession, and toward dryness and affliction than toward sweet consolation, for it knows that in this consists the following of Christ and self-denial, while the other is nothing further than seeking oneself in God . . . Seeking God in God [sic] means. . . for love of Christ, to choose all that is distasteful whether in God or in the world.”

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

EDITH - Annihilation of all sweetness in God

 

The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.
EDITH - In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble
The earlier arrogance disappears when one no longer finds in oneself anything that would give reason to look down on others; instead, others now appear to one to be more perfect; love and esteem for them awakens in the heart.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 3

SCRIPTURE READING
Psalm 63

.2 O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
.3 So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

.4 For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
.5 So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
.6 My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

.7 On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
.8 for your have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
.9 My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross, I.6.(3)

Passive Night as Crucifixion

In the beginning, this being inflamed in love is not commonly perceived. The soul feels rather only dryness and emptiness, sorrowful fear and concern. And if she does feel any of the love, it is as a painful yearning for God, a smarting wound of love…

Now she is to travel on the constricted road, which is the night of the spirit. Of course, few will come so far, yet the advantages of the first night are very great: the soul is granted self-knowledge; she gains insight into her own misery, no longer finds anything good in herself and learns therefore to approach God with greater reverence. Yes, only now is she aware of the grandeur and majesty of God. Precisely this being freed from all sensory supports enables her to receive illumination and become receptive for the truth. That is why we find in the psalm: “In a desert land, without water, dry and without a way, I appeared before you to be able to see your power and your glory ” (Ps 63:1-2).

In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble. The earlier arrogance disappears when one no longer finds in oneself anything that would give reason to look down on others; instead, others now appear to one to be more perfect; love and esteem for them awakens in the heart. One is too occupied with one’s own misery to be concerned about others. Through her helplessness the soul also becomes subservient and obedient; she longs for instruction in order to reach the right way. Spiritual avarice is thoroughly healed; when one no longer finds any practice to one’s taste, one becomes very moderate and does whatever one does purely for the sake of God without seeking any satisfaction for the self. And so it goes with all imperfections. All the confusion and unrest disappear with them. Instead, a deep peace and a constant remembrance of God are established. The only care that remains is the concern not to displease God.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

EDITH - In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble
Photo by Marko Zupan on Unsplash
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

A Long Walk in the Desert  — HOPE IN THE STORM

A word of introduction to this post from Jay Toups: Saint John of the Cross wrote, “My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on you.” The spiritual desert takes many forms. Read and reflect; what have your experiences been?

 

A Long Walk in the Desert Dryness in prayer, deep quiet times without consolation and sometimes a feeling of holy isolation are often a part of our walk with Christ. Striving for that union He desires with us can leave us vacant in our soul as God perfects our soul toward His will of eternal […]

via A Long Walk in the Desert  — HOPE IN THE STORM

“My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on you,” is drawn from the Sayings of Light and Love, No. 39.

The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, Revised Edition
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
With Revisions and Introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
ICS Publications
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑