September 23, 2011

Advice from St. John of the Cross

When I covet my attractive Bible, I think of this:
One more piece of very good advice: Try to remember what St John of the Cross said about the sacramentals we use (and I think this applies to The Bible.)
"St. John of the Cross points out that sacred objects (sacramentals such as statues, religious articles, spiritual rehcs, crucifixes, rosaries, holy water), and so forth, can play an important role in the spiritual life. However, some people in their prayer life become so attached to these sacred objects that they begin to lose the spiritual benefits they bring. He explains it thus. In the early stages of the spiritual life - he identifies the stages as beginners, advanced, and proficients - God does lead people to him through such sacred objects. However, as they advance in their prayer life from meditative prayer to meditative-contemplative, and finally into pure contemplative prayer, he emphasizes very strongly that they, upon seeing any of these sacred objects, should immediately raise their hearts (souls) to the hidden, incomprehensible God in Heaven Who resides within our own very souls. For He is closer to us than we are to ourselves, but still remains always a hidden God for Whom we should continually search for in our soul. A God Whom we must constantly search out through our prayer life, and through the carrying of our crosses in imitation of Jesus Christ our Saviour. He points out very clearly that when persons sincerely strive for spiritual development and a greater love for God, for holiness, they should avoid the habits of preferring this crucifix to that one because of the quality of wood or metal; or to accumulate rosaries of various types, preferring one to the other because of its colour, metal, size, form and so forth. They begin to accumulate all kinds of statues one after another. In contrast St.John of the Cross affirms that one of the most devout persons he knew had made for himself a rosary of fish bones. Another carried all of his life a simple crucifix made of a palm fastened with a pin.

In following these practices of a habitual attachment to sacred objects considered by them to be more valuable they cease to derive as much spiritual benefit from these sacred objects, than if they had fewer of them. He recommends that they should instead discipline themselves to prayerfully raise their hearts from these sacred objects to the hidden, incomprehensible God. For he cautions, that as such persons excessively attach themselves to sacred objects they are in actuality detaching themselves from a more true, pure love of the hidden God in their hearts and in heaven. He emphasizes, however, lest there be a misinterpretation of what he is advising, that sacred objects are always an aid to raising one's heart closer to God; providing that at a certain stage in one's prayer life, upon seeing these sacred objects, they immediately make a very determined effort to raise their hearts to the ineffable, incomprehensible God."

(From The Book: "SPIRITUAL DIRECTION & SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS")

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