(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)
Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of Midnight Carmelite. So, given that the month of May is coming to a close, I wanted to do one more podcast on Mary and this one comes from a mention of Mary in Saint John of the Cross’s writing in the Ascent of Mount Carmel, in the Ascent of Mount Carmel and all of John’s writing, he mentioned how you need to remove or annihilate, empty, pick your word, attachments in the memory, intellect and will in order to attain union with God.
Now, there’s a lot going on here. Obviously, I can’t explain it all in this podcast, but what I wanted to focus on a little bit today on memory and how that relates to Our Lady and Saint John of the Cross in this particular part of the Ascent, It’s towards the end, book three, he’s addressing people’s concerns with all this annihilation of natural operation. So he’s saying essentially, look, there’s going to be objections that say, well, wait a minute, If you’re trying to attain union with God, and you were telling me to annihilate my natural faculties, my intellect, my will, my memory, and then in the memory he contains the five exterior senses as well as interior senses. So all things that come from sensible being basically where we human beings start our knowledge, as we’ve discussed previously, letting his objectors best case come forward. He’s saying, look, how does this achieve union with God if you’re effectively destroying these natural operations, rather than using them to build you to God? So, John’s reply is interesting. He says, Well, the problem is, is that it’s not that those natural operations are bad. The problem is, is they’re not God and you can’t have attachment or affection for these natural things.
You can’t expect these natural operations to bring you to a supernatural state because by definition, they’re natural operations. So what you need to do is you need to make space, putting in air quotes, for supernatural operations because remember union with God is interesting. It’s very deep. And what I mean by that is is we know from, you know, previous podcast and blog posts that God is present, not by essence in things meaning he’s not a part of your essence. That would be pantheism. But he’s present by maintaining your active existence.
The fact that you’re even there, which St. John of the Cross talked about. So the idea here is how can we say that the natural operations will get us to God if essentially those natural things are not God. So what you have to do is you have to make room in your faculties for God by annihilating those things. And what he means is let me use an example. So let’s say you go to a nice restaurant and you have maybe this is not your thing, but maybe you have a nice steak or a pizza or a great salad or fish or great appetizer you’ve never had before.
Maybe a type of drink. And regardless after the restaurant, it’s in your mind all the time. You’re thinking about it, you want it. You know, you’re kind of trying to arrange things, so you get it. Now, is that inherently a bad thing? No. Now, I would argue, probably not. I mean, you know, maybe it’s something new, maybe it’s exciting and we are meant to delight in things in an ordered way. You know that God’s creation is good, right? However, it could become something where that thing is crowding out the progress God wants you to make in union with him, meaning you are without even knowing it.
Because remember we have a predilection due to our fallen nature to be attached to creatures, maybe without even knowing it. This thing is kind of becoming a God to you. Whatever this food would have been, this could apply to other physical activities, It could apply to scholarly research. You could, you know, it’s funny, I read the other day that the special thing about Christians is love of God, knowing God, meaning knowing things about him via the intellect, heretics and demons know that, in fact, we can see in Scripture that, you know, when Jesus is casting out demons, they say, what do you have to do with us, Son of the Most High? They know who he is.
They don’t love him, but they know who he is and this is key with what Saint John of the Cross is talking about here with memory and union, having knowledge of these things is not necessarily the problem. The problem is whether these things imprint on you, whether they cause a virtual unity of sorts a you become attached to these things. That’s when it becomes a problem, because it’s not knowing things that’s the problem. It’s loving these things above God is the problem. So, in this particular chapter, he’s talking about how he says, for example, that you can’t serve two masters and he’s quoting obviously the gospel of Matthew here.
And the idea being, is, again, you have to make space in these faculties for God to act because ultimately, you want the memory to be full of supernatural hope, that your hope is in God alone, your trust is in God. So when you’re under pressure, when you’re dealing with problems, it’s God that you’re looking to, not exercise, food, you know, assets, whatever created thing that people can be looking to instead of to God. Again, this isn’t to say those things are bad, the point is, the aim of your activity to be united with God and God’s will is supernatural.
And he’s none of those things, you’ve got to get those things out of the way so that God can operate through you. So let’s discuss a little bit. So what does it mean for God to operate through you? Well, first of all, a couple of things is when thinking about God’s presence, a good way to think about it is that God substances one simple, indivisible, etc, but God’s operation, his power, we see that and when like maintaining our active existence. So, when we say God’s in us in that way, it’s a manifestation of God’s power.
Now, that also means because God is one, that his substances there, too. But we’re principally talking about a manifestation of his power. And again, that it’s hard to talk about these things because God so far above us. So, we’re kind of using these terms to explain the best we can what’s going on. So, I don’t want to say that I you know, we’re explaining everything about God here. That would be crazy. So, anyway, the point is with with the memory in this is that because God is present in his power in our existence, when we make room in these faculties, he becomes present, and how we interact with the world.
And that’s where his mention of the Blessed Virgin comes in because he’s talking about how Mary never had any sort of impression on her soul creatures, meaning those creatures were never the measure by which she judged what to do with them. The measure which she judged had to do with them as with the Holy Spirit inspired her to do at any moment. And she’d say, okay. Well it still doesn’t make much sense. That’s have it make more sense here. Okay, so again, imagine the restaurant and now God may will you to go to the restaurant and according to St. John of the Cross this would happen in the way of you’re not thinking about it, and then all of a sudden you’re like, you know, I think I need to go, you know, take my spouse or take my friends or whatever to this restaurant because I think they’d enjoy it. Something like that. You’re not doing it for yourself. In this particular case, you’re doing it by kind of this inspiration, this charity, right? And you’ll pay let’s say, even up the ante here. What happens is that you could argue in that particular example, I just concocted, let’s say we knew this, that’s the Holy Spirit acting through because maybe the person you’re bringing out needed that charity and needed that care and that helped them and consoled them and got to spend time with you and that type of thing, you know, kind of just community, Right? Basic human interaction.
Now, that’s how Mary operated is that she was never moved by anything created. She was only moved by the Holy Spirit. So then, in fact, all of Mary’s operations were divine operations because there was nothing that her own will was moving towards having this likeness, this impression, this virtual unity towards created things that she remembered through sensible forms. She was merely interacting with them, how the Holy Spirit wanted her to act with them. And I think that’s the key point here is created.
Things are good, but the annihilation of them, it doesn’t mean we’re annihilating the faculties. What it means is we’re making room in them, we can’t serve two masters. We are making room in them for God to come in through his power and operation to unite with us. So that when we interact with these things were interacting with them from the principle of the Holy Spirit, from Divine Operation, rather than from a principle of ourselves and what we want. And I think that’s kind of what he’s getting at here is we can very easily deceive ourselves when it comes to these types of things.
We can very easily say, you know, I want this thing for this reason, but when you really start digging a bit willing to bet it’s not for the right reasons. You know it we really all of us, we really have to be very careful with ourselves, not almost not trust ourselves in a certain sense, I would emphasize that because you know, we have fallen nature right. You know, even the closer you become united to God think if I remember right St. John of the Cross says that there’s still habitual imperfections.
I mean, until we reached glory of heaven, God willing, we are kind of in this state that is a little off to put it charitably. Then the key here to understand is that Mary was always operating under the Holy Spirit, always under operating under divine operation. So then she knew what to do in present. She knew what to do in the future. Mary didn’t again store impress these sense images on her. She just saw them, forgot them and moved on to what God wanted.
She didn’t dwell on them. God dwelt within her. She was only cared about God and what God wanted. And that’s where Mary has highest virtue of hope, that we can all hope to imitate. So anyways, so that’s this week’s episode and ending this month of May. And and next week we will continue our discussions of Carmelite tradition and spirituality, Talk to you then.
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