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St- John of the Cross

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Day 36: A greater attraction, a greater love has to inflame us

St. John of the Cross make the point that sensual attractions are so strong and so rooted in our nature that efforts of renunciation by themselves will not be totally successful. A greater attraction, a greater love has to inflame us in order to enable us to let go of lesser, disordered loves.

A love for pleasure, and attachment to it, usually fires the will toward the enjoyment of things that give pleasure. A more intense enkindling of another, better love (love of the soul's Bridegroom) is necessary for the vanquishing of the appetites and the denial of this pleasure. By finding satisfaction and strength in this love, it will have the courage and constancy to readily deny all other appetites. The love of its Bridegroom is not the only requisite for conquering the strength of the sensitive appetites; and enkindling with urgent longings of love is also necessary. For the sensory appetites are moved and attracted toward sensory objects with such cravings that if the spiritual part of the soul is not fired with other, more urgent longings for spiritual things, the soul will be able neither to overcome the yoke of nature nor to enter the night of sense; nor will it have the courage to live in the darkness of all things by denying its appetites of them... How easy, sweet, and delightful these longings for their Bridegroom make all the trials and dangers of this night seem. - St. John of the Cross

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Day 35: The Beloved loves to be leaned on!

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wants us to know that even in the midst of the struggle - whether it be with mortal sin or venial sin, worldliness or temptation, perseverance in prayer or growth in virtue, loving or forgiving - we profoundly need to "lean on the Beloved". Bernard knows that to "fight against yourself without respite in a continual and hard struggle, and renounce your inveterate habits and inborn inclinations" is very hard, impossible really, without the help of the Lord.

But this is a hard thing. If you attempt it in your own strength, it will be as though you were trying to stop the raging of a torrent, or to make the Jordan run backwards (Ps. 113:3). What can you do then? You must seek the Word... you have need of strength, and not simply strength, but strength drawn from above (Lk. 24:49).

The words from Hebrews come to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (12:1-2)

The journey up the summit of the mountain of God (or Mount Carmel, as St. John of the Cross calls it) is difficult. And St. John of the Cross, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, and St. Francis de Sales know that it's impossible to attain the summit - spiritual marriage in this life, beatific vision in the next, without leaning heavily of the Beloved.

As Bernard, in accord with his fellow Doctors, explains:

"Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?" (Ps. 23:3) If anyone aspires to climb to the summit of that mountain (Ex. 24:17), that is to the perfection of virtue, he will know how hard the climb is, and how the attempt is doomed to failure without the help of of the Word. Happy the soul which causes the angels to look at her with joy and wonder and hears them saying, "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, rich in grace and beauty, leaning upon her beloved?" (Song 8:5). Otherwise, unless it leans on Him, its struggle is in vain. But it will gain force by struggling with itself and, becoming stronger, will impel all things towards reason... bringing every carnal affect into captivity (2 Cor. 10:5), and every sense under the control of reason in accordance with virtue. Surely all things are possible to someone who leans upon Him who can do all things? What confidence there is in the cry, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me!" (Phil. 4:13)... "Thus if the mind does not rely upon itself, but is strengthened by the Word, it can gain such command over itself that no unrighteousness will have power over it" (Ps. 118:133). - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The Good News is that the Beloved loves to be leaned on!

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Day 22: “The Spiritual Canticle” - St. John of the Cross

The soul... has grown aware of her obligations and observed that life is short (Job 14:5), the path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14), the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18), the things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2), that all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14), and that the time is uncertain, the accounting strict, perdition very easy, and salvation very difficult. She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished, that she must render an account of everything - of the beginning of her life as well as the later part - unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12), and that it is already late - and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) - to remedy so much evil and harm. She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures, Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved and say: Where have you hidden, Beloved, and left me moaning? You fled like the stag After wounding me; I went out calling you, but you were gone.

St. John of the Cross from "The Spiritual Canticle"

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Day 21: where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love - St. John of the Cross

It was in prison that St. John of the Cross composed in his head and on scraps of paper the great poem "The Spiritual Canticle", to which he later wrote a commentary.

Do not let what is happening to me, daughter, cause you any grief, for it does not cause me any. What greatly grieves me is that one who is not at fault is blamed. Men do not do these things, but God, who knows what is suitable for us and arranges things for our own good. Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.

In these remarkable few sentences John communicates his strong faith in the overriding providence of God in all the events of life - even those that seem to be a personal setback or a setback for the kingdom. He also gives practical advice on how to deal with situations that seem "imperfect," motivated by something other than love: When God the Father didn't find love in the human race, in the Incarnation of His Son. Then, He found love, in His Son Jesus and in all who had become a part of His Body. John counsels us to do the same. When we don't find love in a situation, we can put love in the situation, and then we will find it!

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