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Midnight Carmelite Podcast
Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life
All knowledge begins with sense wonder. The human person encounters something that is unknown, and wonder, as a species of fear, acts as the origin of the human person's journey to understand what that something is by nature. Wonder engages with sense experience but with an openness to this previously unknown something. The human person has different types of knowledge: on the one hand, a person may rest after discovering why 2+2=4; on the other hand, a person may rest after choosing to love another person.
Carmelite spirituality is known for contemplation and prayer, but less is said about the type of actions that are fitting for a person who follows the Carmelite way of perfection. What I’m about to tell you may sound painfully unwitty at first, but stay with me for a moment: the type of actions that are fitting for Carmelites are good actions. Refusing to love or conform to God’s will defeats the purpose of prayer.
When you think of spiritual perfection, do you ever consider where your journey toward perfection begins? I mean in terms of the human person—you know, the body and soul and all that constitutes them—where does the journey begin? You might be surprised when I tell you this, but the journey actually begins through the senses. Why the senses? Because the senses are the place where all human persons begin their interaction with being (reality).
Attaining spiritual perfection and union with God requires doing things we at first don't want to do. One of these things is letting go of attachments that keep us from doing what God calls us to. We often don't recognize what we are attached to, but the spiritual life requires identifying these attachments as we strive for spiritual perfection and union with God. This is sort of a silly example, but maybe you discern that God is calling you to learn how to paint, but you really like watching TV in your free time even when nothing particularly edifying is on.
I recently posted the following question in our community: what is the number one thing you could do today to show mercy toward someone who hurt you? What surprised me was not the answers I read from other members, but my own. I had to think about this question for a minute. Not only was I feeling that the possibilities were restricted by physical distance, like living in different places, but I also wanted to choose something I would actually do; otherwise, the question-and-answer process would be a waste of time.