My life is an open book where God writes his story. My daily life is often full of contradictions that don’t need to be opposites.
John of the Cross – a hero of a daily life of faith, hope and love
How John of the Cross does manage this daily life of overwhelming ideals and great desires? In his writings we find many statements difficult to understand, like: transforming union, spiritual betrothal, spiritual matrimony, night of senses, active night, passive night etc. The Spanish Mystic in spite of those categories regarding theology of spiritual life, doesn’t separate himself from the prose of life, contrary, he tries to pull you in at the orbit of God, because from there you will see better, act more effectively and understand more clearly.
How to enter in this space of God? How to be one with Him – God? This is the way of living united with God, by this attempt of a daily union of creature with Creator through friendship – unanimity. John’s statement about „active night” means your efforts in arranging your exterior life (night of senses) and interior life, spiritual life (night of spirit), with purpose of constructing this friendship. An effort in this situation is needed, is necessary, because it confirms your progress, your commitment in this matter. Night is something positive, not sad extremity…
Of course, in this effort of the night of self-work, you are not alone. God through different circumstances of life supports you and works over you (passive night). This kind of action is sometimes painful, because it means to accept life unconditionally, just as it comes…
All this effort and work names by John „night” is about this unity with Him who gave life to you. This is your earthly way of friendship with God; a way that leads you to your goal. And this is not a way only for the chosen ones. It is for all.
Because this journey is humanly an impossible task to do, God equipped you with three extraordinary supernatural „senses of spirit”. The way you perceive the world through the five senses of your body: sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing, you have also received three other senses, which help you to see the way God sees, desire the way God desires, and loves the way God loves. Meaning, have His worldview. Humanly you cannot manage many things; how can you trust in a person who failed to you so many times; how can you desire the good of other person if this person has humiliate you so many times; how can you love other person if this person can only insult you and doesn’t appreciate your sacrifice.
And in spite of all it is possible! Those three senses of spirit that you received on baptism, change your image of the world, of another persons and of yourself. Thanks to them you can see with the eyes of God, want with God’s mercy and love with God’s love. Meaning, in your daily life you live by faith, hope and love. Saint John says in The Dark Night:
„The soul, then, touched with the love of Christ the Spouse, and longing to attain to His grace and gain His goodwill, goes forth here disguised with that disguise which most vividly represents the affections of its spirit (…) Thus the livery which it wears is of three chief colours—white, green and purple—denoting the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity (…). For faith is an inward tunic of a whiteness so pure that it completely dazzles the eyes of the understanding. And thus, when the soul journeys in its vestment of faith, the devil can neither see it nor succeed in harming it, since it is well protected by faith—more so than by all the other virtues—against the devil, who is at once the strongest and the most cunning of enemies (…) Over this white tunic of faith the soul now puts on the second colour, which is a green vestment. By this, as we said, is signified the virtue of hope, wherewith, as in the first case, the soul is delivered and protected from the second enemy, which is the world. For this green colour of living hope in God gives the soul such ardour and courage and aspiration to the things of eternal life that, by comparison with what it hopes for therein, all things of the world seem to it to be, as in truth they are, dry and faded and dead and nothing worth (…). Over the white and the green vestments, as the crown and perfection of this disguise and livery, the soul now puts on the third colour, which is a splendid garment of purple. By this is denoted the third virtue, which is charity. This not only adds grace to the other two colours, but causes the soul to rise to so lofty a point that it is brought near to God (…)” (The Dark Night II, 21,3-10)
How to make use of this triple paquete of life of God in you?
Faith is remaining face to face with God in the shadow of the night. Darkness in this situation is not the essence but it’s an important characteristic of faith: I remain close to the One I love, even if humanly I don’t experience Him. Faith helps me to perceive God not only by the prism of corrupted world, but through God’s faithfulness in love for creatures to whom he gave their being. Faith gives you also the possibility of seeing yourself in totally different way: you are unique, you have a special task to fulfill, without you world wouldn’t be the same. Faith, in the end, moves you to see your neighbor holistically and see not only the exterior cover of his/her last deed, but most of all his/her efforts, trials and desires… Concluding we need to add that to live completely in the spirit of faith, we need to see in its light all the pleasant and unpleasant events in our life.
Hope means desire of permanent development, grateful look at what has been and openness for what will be. Progress is ascribed in your life, because if you abandon your desire, you are as good as dead. „If you embrace one thing, you stop chasing all”, St. John of the Cross said. Hope pushes you always forward and convinces „let’s try again”. It cannot guarantee success, but it will teach you patience and perseverance. In life you will continue feel lack of satisfaction and experience emptiness, and hope will teach you not to fill these hungers with just anything, just as quickly as you can, but to strive for your goal with prudence in spite that it seems so difficult. Hope eliminates from your life criticism and complaining, inviting you to look gratefully on your past and to commit personally in constructing better future.
Love means giving, giving out yourself. It is so risky, humanly speaking, and every person is scared of this attitude. You may think that giving out yourself you may lose everything. Well yes, you will lose it all, but you will find yourself, the true yourself, the one according to the plan of God. Giving yourself and your life, your time and presence, good word and smile, you are receiving te most, because you bring out from inside the best of you: your humanity, the most valuable feelings and storage of goodness. Your only task and vocation here on earth is to grow as a human person. Of course, this attitude of love is not easy, it’s always related with effort and sacrifice. But don’t be afraid: good returns. Your goodness will return. Jesus says „take and eat”, he gives himself out. Take his example, give yourself out, you won’t lose anything. You will just become like him, like Jesus.
These are the three senses of your interior: FAITH that invites you to risk and trust, to make decisions with courage and later manage the hurricane; HOPE that pushes you continue growing and achieving, mening to live your life like an adventure, fresh and new; LOVE that teaches you the true friendship, being for the others and continuous giving out, but also knowing yourself: how much can I give and receive.
Don’t be scared to use these three senses. Don’t be afraid of living in fullness!
Fr. Mariusz Wójtowicz OCD