Luminous Tradition's Blog




Luminous Tradition publishes regular blog posts engaging philosophy and spirituality through the Carmelite tradition.

A Focus on Gratitude
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A Focus on Gratitude

Recently, I was programming and working with ordered sets. So, for example, an ordered set would be any of the following: [1,2,3,4,5] [“Apples”, “Oranges”, “Kiwis”] [“Water”, “Air”, “Fire”] When considering the above ordered sets, it is clear that each set proceeds in a specific way, at a specific point, up to a specific point. Analogously, we all are “ordered sets” in that God gave us specific gifts, blessings, state in life, experiences, resources, etc.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Love as an Image of God According to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
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Love as an Image of God According to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross teaches about God as love with three points: first, from the fact that God is love; second, that love must be self-gift given freely (ἀγάπη); third, that love creates a union which she refers to as a “we.” While this teaching may seem similar to something St. John of the Cross would say, St. Teresa Benedicta is pointing at the nature of persons and how persons love one another.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
How to Love God More Than Anything According to Saint John of the Cross
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How to Love God More Than Anything According to Saint John of the Cross

Saint John, when talking about love in The Ascent of Mt. Carmel says that there are two things a person must work on to love God more than anything. First, a person must dispose of oneself; second, the person must allow God to throw off anything in the person that is not of God. Disposing of onself for the sake of God Saint John of the Cross says this type of thing over and over about disposing of anything that is not God.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
How Mortification Helps Develop Wisdom
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How Mortification Helps Develop Wisdom

Saint John of the Cross discusses how mortification relates to wisdom, and that mortification helps wisdom enter the person. Mortification means “dying to self.” If a human person examines his or her conscience, a person’s self-love quickly becomes apparent. All human persons fight self-love, that is, acting solely out of self-desire and self-interest. When acting from these sources, a person relates to other people, things, and his or herself, in a self-sourced way.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
How Wisdom Connects to Charity
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How Wisdom Connects to Charity

Saint John of the Cross taught that wisdom only enters the person when the person starts by living out the greatest commandment of love. The human person possesses the supernatural virtue of charity through Baptism. When a person is baptized, the person receives the Holy Spirit, and what is called sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace means the gifts that make the person holy through the indwelling of the Trinity and the activity of the Holy Spirit in the person.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
St. Joseph and Caesar Augustus: Silence and Cacophony
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St. Joseph and Caesar Augustus: Silence and Cacophony

During the time of Jesus’s birth, all subjects and citizens of the Empire had to submit to census by decree of Caesar Augustus, who was the nephew of Julius Caesar and was considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire. He was referred to as Princeps Civitatis (First Citizen). The census showed off Augustus’s greatness: the number of people in his Empire and under his rule quantified his power. Big numbers represent money and power, both of which allowed him to enact his own will on others.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
St. John of the Cross's First Mode of God's Presence and Essence-Existence Distinction
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St. John of the Cross's First Mode of God's Presence and Essence-Existence Distinction

St. John of the Cross’s doctrine on union with God demonstrates that when we remove what is contrary to God in ourselves, God will unite to us closer and closer in love. The nature of this union is not one of essence; we do not become God. Rather, we are so close to God in this union that we, by participation, become like God. To understand how we retain our identities as human persons when we unite with God, we need to understand the distinction between essence and existence and its relationship to God’s primary mode of presence in all existents.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
A Church Father Brings Perspective on Suffering
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A Church Father Brings Perspective on Suffering

No human being can altogether escape suffering in this life. Christians are keenly aware of the reality of suffering, given that Scripture makes no attempt to camouflage it. The Passion of Jesus, the martyrdom of the Apostles, and the daily potential for martyrdom in the early Church made the Church Fathers self-conscious about the fact of suffering. One Church Father, the Greek Patristic St. Irenaeus (130-200), meditated on suffering in his book Against the Heresies (Adversus Haeresus).

  • Curtis Hancock
    Curtis Hancock
How Our Expectations Affect Our View of God
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How Our Expectations Affect Our View of God

One of the difficult aspects of our faith is reconciling what is called the “immanence” of God with the “transcendence” of God. Furthermore, as human persons, we have a bias towards our mode of knowing that affects our view of God. In this post, I am going to briefly address the notions of immanence and transcendence in relation to God and how our mode of knowing affects what we believe about God.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Courage to Let Go of Attachments
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The Courage to Let Go of Attachments

God is the highest love we can have and is the guiding principle of life, yet many people, even virtuous people, never reach the spiritual perfection they need to attain union with God in this life, because they lack the courage they need to break away from their attachments. St. John of the Cross laments about souls who despite having many gifts, even virtues, still do not make a complete break with what they are attached to, however small that attachment may be.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Significance of the Title "Son of Man"
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The Significance of the Title "Son of Man"

In this week’s podcast, I mention that Jesus talks about how the Son of Man has authority over the Sabbath. I want to explain a little about the significance I see in this title. In the beginning of Mark 2 (the same chapter in this week’s podcast), the paralytic is laid in front of Jesus. After Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic, Jesus saw in the hearts of the scribes who were watching him that they thought Jesus was blaspheming, that only God could forgive sin.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Why Is God Called a "Dark Night" by St. John of the Cross?
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Why Is God Called a "Dark Night" by St. John of the Cross?

When St. John of the Cross says that God is a “dark night” or “darkness to the soul,” it may sound troubling when referring to God, who is normally referred to as “light” or specifically “the light of the world.” One thing to keep in mind is that God is darkness only relative to our powers. Just as the sun is a kind of darkness and blindness when you stare directly at it (which I do not recommend), when we try to “stare directly at God,” our powers are overwhelmed since by nature our powers are finite and God by nature is infinite.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
From Meekness and Fear of Punishment to True Love
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From Meekness and Fear of Punishment to True Love

Is there a relationship between meekness and fear of punishment? Meekness means to channel energy and passion towards the right end with the right means. Fear of punishment is the first mode of love because out of a self love the person does not act towards a goal or the person acts towards a goal for the sake of a conditional good. Meekness and fear of punishment seem unrelated, but when considered closely, a clear relationship exists.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Created Beauty as a Launch Point into God
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Created Beauty as a Launch Point into God

The natural world can act as a launch point to God. In fact, one of the great saints of the Church, St. Bonaventure, along with St. John of the Cross, used nature as a launch point for contemplation of our God. I recently started reading St. Bonaventure’s A Soul’s Journey to God and think St. Bonaventure can help us focus on what matters, which is our relationship with Christ, who is our Lord, our Savior, and our God.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Relationship between Love and Action
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The Relationship between Love and Action

In the podcast episode this week, I engage in a discussion about wonder, fear, and sacrifice. I make a distinction between real love and what I call “logical love” and “sentimental love.” I want to take some time here to explain more about the distinction between these three types of love and whether real love is simply action. The three types of love I mention in the podcast are the following: (1) real-love, which is action with affectivity for the beloved’s good; (2) sentiment-love, which places love’s fulfillment in feelings rather than the good of the other regardless of how it makes the lover feel; and (3) logical-love, which separates speech and the practical activity required to show that the speech signifies a reality.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Relationship between Silence and Truth
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The Relationship between Silence and Truth

Silence is a challenging yet necessary aspect of the spiritual life. Finding interior silence can be difficult because we are always concerned with what is in front of us, even if it bores us,1 and finding exterior silence can be difficult because of the ease of connection and communication that we have in the world today. Most works I have seen on exterior silence recommend turning off devices and taking a walk outside or just sitting alone in a room.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Becoming Selfless with Your Cross
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Becoming Selfless with Your Cross

Our crosses can come in many forms, but two primary ones are circumstances and people. Circumstances tend to pass, which makes these crosses may last a long time or may pass rather quickly. In either case, we need to be selfless by embracing the cross for others. Consider the following example: let’s say a person has the circumstantial cross of unemployment. This particular cross is hard because it is not only a material cross but also a psychological cross of the stigma of being unemployed, which tends to be conflated with being unwanted, like that person is not good enough.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Meaning of "Annihilation" in St. John of the Cross
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The Meaning of "Annihilation" in St. John of the Cross

When St. John of the Cross talks about annihilating natural operations, such as memory, he is not advocating Stoicism or extreme asceticism. The word “annihilation” is used to help us understand that two things that are contrary cannot coexist in the same subject and that if we wish for one contrary to exist, we must annihilate, remove, etc., the contrary that impedes the presence of the contrary we seek. Take the example of the impression of creatures through the memory: if a person focuses on creatures, the person is not focusing on God.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Two Aspects of Love in St. John of the Cross
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Two Aspects of Love in St. John of the Cross

People often talk about God as Love, yet they often associate love with feelings, meaning they believe that love makes them feel good, not that love involves willing what is best for another person. Love is not feelings. Something can give a person good feelings that is not good for his or her completion as a person. Love, therefore, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, involves willing the good of the other.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Hope for Divine Adoption
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Hope for Divine Adoption

In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he explains how divine adoption is what we groan and endure for in our faith. He says we hope for what we do not possess yet, and once we do possess what we hope for through sight of the hoped-for, we no longer hope but rejoice. St. Paul continues by saying, τῇ γὰρ ἐλπίδι ἐσώθημεν ἐλπίς δὲ βλεπομένη οὐκ ἔστιν ἐλπίς ὃ γὰρ βλέπει τις τί ἐλπίζει εἰ δὲ ὃ οὐ βλέπομεν ἐλπίζομεν δι᾽ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα (For in this hope we were saved, however hope, being seen, is not hope.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Hope in God under All Conditions
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Hope in God under All Conditions

In chapter 5 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul provides some insights that can help us to see more clearly why we should place our hope in the Lord. He says, Οὐ μόνον δέ ἀλλὰ καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν ἡ δὲ δοκιμὴ ἐλπίδα (Not alone now but also we vaunt in being-hemmed-in-by-pressure knowing that being-hemmed-in-by-pressure accomplishes remaining-under-patiently and remaining-under-patiently the tested-and-true and the tested-and-true hope.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
St. Paul, Athens, the Areopagus, and Hope in God
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St. Paul, Athens, the Areopagus, and Hope in God

In Acts 17, St. Paul confronts the Athenians, particularly the Epicureans, Stoics, and visiting people, who seek novelty, on the Ares Hill about his teaching on Christ. St. Paul starts with this statement in verses 22-23: Ἄνδρες, Ἀθηναῖοι, κατὰ πάντα ὡς δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ὑμᾶς θεωρῶ διερόμενος γάρ καὶ ἀναθεωρῶν τὰ σεβάσματα ὑμῶν εὗρον καὶ βωμὸν ἐν ᾧ ἐπεγέγραπτο Ἀγνώστῳ Θεῷ ὃ οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες εὐεβεῖτε τοῦτο ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν (Men, Athenians, I behold you in all things more religious than others.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Preparing a Defense for Your Hope in Christ
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Preparing a Defense for Your Hope in Christ

In 1 Peter 3:15, St. Peter writes to us: Κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν ἕτοιμοι ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι ὑμᾶς λόγον περὶ τῆς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐλπίδος ἀλλὰ μετὰ πραΰητος καὶ φόβου (Now you all set apart Lord Christ in your hearts, prepared on every occasion for a defense to all demanding from you a reason concerning the hope in you, but with mildness and respect)

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Help for Tepid Souls
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Help for Tepid Souls

When a Pharisee asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the law is, Jesus responded with the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving neighbor (see Mt 22:34-40). The two greatest commandments of God center on love (Greek: ἀγάπη). Naturally, readers of this passage might wonder, how do I love God and my neighbor? Loving anything (or anyone) requires two steps: (1) choosing the object of one’s love and (2) going out to the object loved and uniting with it.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Human Persons Live on Borrowed Being
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Human Persons Live on Borrowed Being

Most people are cognizant of their ability to use their gifts or talents in life. But they often don’t consider the origin of those gifts and the necessity of that origin to maintain those gifts if they are going to use them. The origin of their gifts provides a foundation of borrowed being. People should be more cognizant of their borrowed being because they wouldn’t be able to use their gifts if they didn’t have that existence.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
How Loving God Can Increase Your Knowledge of God
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How Loving God Can Increase Your Knowledge of God

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.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
The Type of Actions Needed for the Carmelite Way of Perfection
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The Type of Actions Needed for the Carmelite Way of Perfection

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. I know, I know. Everyone needs good actions, right? Yes, but people who spend a lot of time praying and striving to love God totally need to be reminded about actions, which must be loving and conform to God’s will if the person is actually loving God and conforming to his will.

  • Cynthia Gniadek
    Cynthia Gniadek
The Journey Toward Spiritual Perfection: From the Senses to Supernatural Visions
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The Journey Toward Spiritual Perfection: From the Senses to Supernatural Visions

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).

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Why You Must Identify Disordered Attachments to Attain Spiritual Perfection and Union with God
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Why You Must Identify Disordered Attachments to Attain Spiritual Perfection and Union with God

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.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Purgatory and the Dark Night
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Purgatory and the Dark Night

If someone asked you to explain the Church’s teaching on purgatory, how would you describe it? Perhaps you would mention that purgatory is a place that removes a person’s imperfections and bad habits before reaching heaven. You might mention that people here on earth can pray for the souls in purgatory who are part of the “Church Suffering.” These souls suffer flames with love and long for God. But would you also mention that people have the opportunity for purgation here in this life?

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
How Mercy Can Help an Unforgiving Heart
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How Mercy Can Help an Unforgiving Heart

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.

  • Cynthia Gniadek
    Cynthia Gniadek
A New Response to Suffering
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A New Response to Suffering

Suffering is supposed to be redemptive, but we often fail to think of its redemptive nature when we’re in the midst of suffering. We concentrate on the physical, emotional, or mental pain, sometimes crumble under the weight of the pain (either physically or spiritually), and ultimately, if the pain continues for long enough, break. St. John of the Cross wisely advises us on how to suffer: In tribulation, immediately draw near to God with trust, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.

  • Andrew Gniadek
    Andrew Gniadek
Six Days Since My Friend's Passing, And Yet I Hope
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Six Days Since My Friend's Passing, And Yet I Hope

A few days ago, I learned that a friend of mine passed away. I was devastated when I heard the news, and I didn’t believe it at first. It must have been a mistake, I thought. He was too good to die; the world needs him. Grief is a natural process that all people go through when a loved one passes away. Christians go through the stages of grief. They don’t stop being sad just because they’re Christian.

  • Cynthia Gniadek
    Cynthia Gniadek

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