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Ascent of Mount Carmel

Ascent of Mount Carmel

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Published by Peter Pio

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Published by: Peter Pio on Nov 20, 2008
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09/09/2012

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THE ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMELThis treatise explains how to reach divine union quickly. It presents instruction and doctrine valuable for beginners and proficients alike that they may learn how to unburden themselves of all earthly things,avoid spiritual obstacles, and live in that complete nakedness and freedom of spirit necessary for divineunion. It was composed by Padre Fray John of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite.THEMET. The following stanzas include all the doctrine I intend to discuss in this book, The Ascent of MountCarmel. They describe the way that leads to the summit of the mount -- that high state of perfection wehere call union of a soul with God. Since these stanzas will serve as a basis for all I shall say, I want tocite them here in full that the reader may see in them a summary of the doctrine to be expounded. Yet Iwill quote each stanza again before its explanation and give the verses separately if the subject sorequires.STANZASA song of the soul's happiness in having passed through the dark night of faith, in nakedness andpurgation, to union with its Beloved.1. One dark night, fired with love's urgent longings-- ah, the sheer grace! -- I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.2. In darkness and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised,-- ah, the sheer grace! -- in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled.3. On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guidethan the one that burned in my heart.4. This guided me more surely than the light of noon to where he was awaiting me-- him I knew so well -- there in a place where no one Appeared.5. O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!O night that has united the Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover.6. Upon my flowering breast which I kept wholly for him alone, there he lay sleeping, and I caressing himthere in a breeze from the fanning cedars.7. When the breeze blew from the turret, as I parted his hair, it wounded my neck with its gentle hand,suspending all my senses.8. I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved; all things ceased; I went out frommyself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.PROLOGUEP.1. A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark nightthrough which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate soulsordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that humanscience cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them.Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won't be able to describe it.
 
P.2. In discussing this dark night, therefore, I will not rely on experience or science, for these can fail anddeceive us. Although I will not neglect whatever possible use I can make of them, my help in all that, withGod's favor, I shall say, will be Sacred Scripture, at least in the most important matters, or those that aredifficult to understand. Taking Scripture as our guide we do not err, since the Holy Spirit speaks to usthrough it. Should I misunderstand or be mistaken on some point, whether I deduce it from Scripture or not, I will not be intending to deviate from the true meaning of Sacred Scripture or from the doctrine of our Holy Mother the Catholic Church. Should there be some mistake, I submit entirely to the Church, or evento anyone who judges more competently about the matter than I.P.3. I am not undertaking this arduous task because of any particular confidence in my own abilities.Rather, I am confident that the Lord will help me explain this matter because it is extremely necessary toso many souls. Even though these souls have begun to walk along the road of virtue, and our Lorddesires to place them in the dark night that they may move on to the divine union, they do not advance.The reason for this may be that sometimes they do not want to enter the dark night or allow themselves tobe placed in it, or that sometimes they misunderstand themselves and are without suitable and alertdirectors who will show them the way to the summit. God gives many souls the talent and grace for advancing, and should they desire to make the effort they would arrive at this high state. And so it is sadto see them continue in their lowly method of communion with God because they do not want or knowhow to advance, or because they receive no direction on breaking away from the methods of beginners.Even if our Lord finally comes to their aid to the extent of making them advance without these helps, theyreach the summit much later, expend more effort, and gain less merit, because they do not willingly adaptthemselves to God's work of placing them on the pure and reliable road leading to union. Although Goddoes lead them -- since he can do so without their cooperation -- they do not accept his guidance. Inresisting God who is conducting them, they make little progress and fail in merit because they do notapply their wills; as a result they must endure greater suffering. Some souls, instead of abandoningthemselves to God and cooperating with him, hamper him by their indiscreet activity or their resistance.They resemble children who kick and cry and struggle to walk by themselves when their mothers want tocarry them; in walking by themselves they make no headway, or if they do, it is at a child's pace.P.4. With God's help, then, we will propose doctrine and counsel for beginners and proficients that theymay understand or at least know how to practice abandonment to God's guidance when He wants themto advance.1P.4.(2). Some spiritual fathers are likely to be a hindrance and harm rather than a help to these souls that journey on this road. Such directors have neither understanding nor experience of these ways. They arelike the builders of the tower of Babel [Gn. 11:1-9]. When these builders were supposed to provide theproper materials for the project, they brought entirely different supplies because they failed to understandthe language. And thus nothing was accomplished. Hence, it is arduous and difficult for a soul in theseperiods of the spiritual life when it cannot understand itself or find anyone else who understands it.P.4.(3).It will happen to individuals that while they are being conducted by God along a sublime path of dark contemplation and aridity, in which they feel lost and filled with darknesses, trials, conflicts, andtemptations, they will meet someone who, in the style of Job's comforters [Jb. 4:8-11], will proclaim thatall of this is due to melancholia, depression, or temperament, or to some hidden wickedness, and that asa result God has forsaken them. Therefore the usual verdict is that these individuals must have lived anevil life since such trials afflict them.P.5. Other directors will tell them that they are falling back since they find no satisfaction or consolation asthey previously did in the things of God. Such talk only doubles the trial of a poor soul. It will happen thatthe soul's greatest suffering will be caused by the knowledge of its own miseries. That it is full of evil andsin is as clear as day to it, and even clearer, for, as we shall say further on, God is the author of thisenlightenment in the night of contemplation. And when this soul finds someone who agrees with what itfeels (that these trials are all its own fault), its suffering and distress grow without bounds. And thissuffering usually becomes worse than death. Such a confessor is not satisfied with this but, in judgingthese trials to be the result of sin, he urges souls who endure them to go over their past and make manygeneral confessions -- which is another crucifixion. The director does not understand that now perhaps is
 
not the time for such activity. Indeed, it is a period for leaving these persons alone in the purgation God isworking in them, a time to give comfort and encouragement that they may desire to endure this sufferingas long as God wills, for until then no remedy -- whatever the soul does, or the confessor says -- isadequate.P.6. With divine help we will discuss all this: how individuals should behave; what method the confessor should use in dealing with them; signs to recognize this purification of the soul that we call the dark night;whether it is the purification of the senses or of the spirit; and how we can discern whether this affliction iscaused by melancholia or some other deficiency of sense or spirit.P.6.(2). Some souls -- or their confessors -- may think that God is leading them along this road of the darknight of spiritual purgation, but perhaps this will not be so. What they suffer will be due to one of thesedeficiencies. Likewise, many individuals think they are not praying when, indeed, their prayer is deep.Others place high value on their prayer while it amounts to little more than nothing.P.7. Some people -- and it is sad to see them -- work and tire themselves greatly, and yet go backward;they look for progress in what brings no progress but instead hinders them. Others, in peace andtranquility, continue to advance well. Some others let themselves be encumbered by the veryconsolations and favors God bestows on them for the sake of their advancing, and they advance not atall.P.7.(2). We will also discuss many other experiences of those who walk along this road: joys, afflictions,hopes, and sorrows -- some of these originating from the spirit of perfection, others from the spirit of imperfection. Our goal will be to explain, with God's help, all these points so that those who read this bookwill in some way discover the road they are walking along, and the one they ought to follow if they want toreach the summit of this mount.P.8. Readers should not be surprised if this doctrine on the dark night -- through which a soul advancestoward God -- appears somewhat obscure. This, I believe, will be the case as they begin to read, but asthey read on they will understand it better since the latter parts will explain the former. Then, if they readthis work a second time, the matter will seem clearer and the doctrine sounder.P.8.(2). But if some people still find difficulty in understanding this doctrine, it will be due to my deficientknowledge and awkward style, for the doctrine itself is good and very necessary. But I am inclined tobelieve that, even if it were presented with greater accuracy and polish, only a few would find profit in it,because we are not writing on moral and pleasing topics addressed to the kind of spiritual people who liketo approach God along sweet and satisfying paths. We are presenting a substantial and solid doctrine for all those who desire to reach this nakedness of spirit.P.9. My main intention is not to address everyone, but only some of the persons of our holy order of theprimitive observance of Mount Carmel, both friars and nuns, whom God favors by putting on the pathleading up this mount, since they are the ones who asked me to write this work. Because they are alreadydetached to a great extent from the temporal things of this world, they will more easily grasp this doctrineon nakedness of spirit.

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