(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.)

Welcome to this week’s episode of Midnight Carmelite. This week will be focusing on St. John of the Cross and Union With God. Saint John of the Cross’s writings focus on the way to union with God. He describes going through four dark nights, which are really one dark night, but they affect different parts of the person, and he tells us about loving union with God and what it is and how to intensify this union. In our lives, we often don’t think about what union even is.

So I thought this podcast might be helpful. One major key for understanding St. John of the Cross is understanding what he means by union. He talks about it all the time. You go through all of his writings, union is his focus. How do you achieve union with God? The quickest and surest path that’s the ascent of Mount Carmel? This episode is going to go into what union means philosophically first. Then we’ll discuss what union means for St. John of the Cross, and then we will show how we achieve union with God, who is completely other from us.

So let’s start with understanding quantity. So when you look in the world. You see quantity in two ways. You see it in what’s philosophically called dimensive quantity, or you see in what’s called virtual quantity. And don’t be intimidated by these terms. It’s actually pretty simple, and we’ll start with virtual quantity because that’s the more intimidating term. So virtual quantity. It’s not something ethereal like a virtual world. It’s a common way of using that term today. The word comes from the word virtue, which means power, strength, and I find the Greek word ἀρετή a better word here.

Ἀρετή means excellence in that within something is an inherent qualitative completion that, through its operation, that is its function, properly relates that thing to something proper to that operation into the thing itself and simultaneously stabilizes this inherent qualitative completion. So that’s a long definition that I came up with to explain it. Really, in layman’s terms, what you need to know is that virtual quantity is a measure of equality. So if I say Tim runs fast, you will say, “Well, how fast?” you’re asking a question about virtual quantity, you’re saying, “Well, how great is Tim’s Fastness.”

Or if I say Tim is strong, you would say, “How strong?” No, that’s not a setup for a joke that’s asking a virtual quantity question. So another example. Let’s say we’re eating dinner and you have your plate of dinner and you say this food is excellent. What you’re saying is that the qualities of this dish that are inherent in the dish that complete the dish. These qualities of the dish relate to your palate into your stomach. They’re agreeable to digestion. You like the taste of it, etc.

And what there is that ought to be there for that dish to be complete is there, and therefore you say it’s excellent. Now some people out there may immediately recognize well, there’s no dispute, which is true, but I think the food example gives a good starting point because we do it every day. We all eat. That’s a pretty good place to start. Excellence in the sense of the taste of food is really not an objective measure, so we got virtual quantity and even further, simpler way to discuss it is qualitative radiance or shininess.

So it’s shiny. Obviously. I’m using shininess analogously. But, you know, shininess arrests us. We’re like, Ooh, shiny. And I’ll discuss analogy later. Another podcast. So don’t worry about that, if you don’t know what I mean. Okay, so we have virtual quantity, which is a measure of qualitative radiance, brilliance, shininess, completion of some things, as what it is, how it operates. And now the next type of quantity we’re gonna deal with this called dimensive quantity, and this is a little easier to deal with the virtual virtual quantity.

So dimensive quantity deals with things like continuous quantity. So, like a line. So you know, so you may remember in algebra class studying slope, you know, y equals MX plus B. You see your linear line. That would be an example of continuous quantity and discreet quantity would be like you or me. Classically when discussing virtual quantity, well, think of fire. Fire is an easy example, too, because the intensity of fire speaks to how great the fire is. So now we’re arriving at a problem. The problem is this. How do we understand these two types of quantity?

How can we say that one fire is greater than another fire? Or that a line is longer than another line? Now most of us would say, Well, you would look at the line and the fire and judge, which is longer, which is greater, and that works. But we’re still judging from experience. So we’re still using common sense and the other interior senses to make sense of how great one fire is compared to another, or how much longer one line is from another. And this even applies to discrete quantity to, you know, how many apples are in one basket versus another.

So if someone challenges our experience, we need some way of comparing two things to a singular thing. And then through that relation, you can understand which is more and which is less, which is great, which is small. And that’s the notion of a measure. A measure is a unity, and so that is, it’s a one of something. And just remember this later, a measure is unity, a way to know something of the virtual quantity or the dimensive quantity of a thing. A measure can be one inch, 1 ft.

Whatever we decide is our measure for the thing under consideration. There’s all units of measurement that we have through their kilometers miles. Pick whichever one you want, and then we measure these two things. Based on that measure, we use the measure to measure fires, heat, the amount of apples in the basket by using numbers and numbers are just multiple ones. So, for example, two is two ones, three is three ones and so on and the length of the line, which is based on a unit unity measure.

So here it is again, right so we can measure the length of the line based on a unit. So a unity, whatever we’ve chosen to measure the length of line with. After comparing two things by measuring, we also encounter the important notion in philosophy and especially in Saint John of the Cross called contrariety. So here is what Saint John himself says about contrariety. And by the way, the quote and any subsequent St. John quotes in this podcast, unless otherwise stated, are coming from the collected works of Saint John of the Cross translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez and published by ICS publications.

“Two contraries is cannot exist in the same subject. As the philosophers say.” That sounds simple, but what Saint John is pointing out? Is that you consider a fire that’s really hot and fire that’s not so hot or even a color that’s deep red and the color that’s light red or a sound that’s really loud or a sound that’s really soft? Let’s take sound. A sound can’t be loud and soft at the same time and in the same respect, meaning in the same subject objectively.

So if you have hearing loss, obviously loud sound can be experienced as quiet. But that doesn’t mean that the sound itself is quiet. That means you have, you know, the subject receiving can’t receive the sound as it is and that comes back to another important metaphysical principle that which has received is received according to the mode of the receiver. And we’ll see that more later, too, in this podcast. So in the case of someone with hearing loss, well, even though the sound is objectively loud because the way the person with hearing loss receives that is lacking, then they can’t hear the loud sound because that’s how they receive.

St. John continues here to point to the relationship between contrariety and union:

“Since love of God and attachment to creatures are contraries, they cannot coexist in the same will. What has creature to do with Creator, sensory with spiritual, visible with invisible, temporal with eternal, heavenly food that is pure and spiritual with food that is entirely sensory, nakedness of Christ with attachment to something?”

Now, let’s say a quick word about attachments, because people hear that word today and they get a little uncomfortable.

Attachments are just a disordered relationship with something, and the key word here is disorder. Let’s do a simple example. Let’s say someone serves you food and you refuse the food on the grounds that it’s not prepared in a certain way. Now someone may say, “Wait, I need my food prepared in a certain way because I have celiac or allergies,” peanut allergies, for example, or whatever. And those are not the casea that Saint John is talking about here with attachments, saying something certain about how your food is prepared has to do with whether it is what ought to be done for you or not.

So that’s crucial. What ought to be done for you or not? And the oughtness is in inherent. So obviously, in the case of allergies and other things, it should always be prepared that way to avoid a health issue. Because it ought to be prepared that way. Because if you give someone with a peanut allergy, for example, peanuts, then obviously there’s gonna be a negative health consequences. If they refuse a dish that has peanuts in it, you’re not attached to the way that you know there’s not a disordered attachment to the way the dishes prepared.

But if someone rejects the dish because let’s say the person is a snob or attached to that for no other reason and no regard for the person who prepared it, essentially, the person is being selfish, and that is disordered. Since selfishness does not make us better, it just makes us worse as people. And then there’s your attachment and attachments are personal. That’s the other thing to think about here because while two people may share the same type of attachments or even the same attachment, so that is, they’re attached to the same particular thing, the attachment is personal and it adheres in the person’s will for each of them and manifests itself based on that person.

That’s attachment. So another quick side note here that I think is important is about St. John’s personality as a human being. He grew up in poverty, and we’ll get into that in future podcasts. I really want to work through his biography for everyone so you can see that type of man, this guy was an outstanding human person, and he was deeply sensitive to the material needs of others. In fact, there’s a story we have, where he saw a nun with no shoes and without saying anything, he immediately went and begged for money to buy her shoes.

Think about that for a second. Most people characterize St. John of the Cross as anti-material. Things are bad and you shouldn’t have them. No, it’s what ought to be done for you or not. The nun wasn’t attached to having shoes, but she needed shoes, just like the person with allergies doesn’t need to be served peanuts. So by him giving her shoes he’s not pushing her away from God. He’s exhibiting charity. In that case, he didn’t go up to the nun pat her on the back and say, “Good work being detached from having shoes.”

So he showed us that he isn’t anti material, and I think that’s important. So let’s continue. So we got attachments and John’s personality previously considered. So now let’s reread that quote, and maybe we’ll hear it a little differently. So quote here’s the same quote from earlier.

“Since love of God and attachment to creatures are contraries, they cannot coexist in the same will. What has creature to do with Creator, sensory with spiritual, visible with invisible, temporal with eternal, heavenly food that is pure and spiritual with food that is entirely sensory, nakedness of Christ with attachment to something?”

Now it should be a bit more obvious that if our will, what we love is not first got in his will, we’re going to have a problem uniting with God in prayer. So here’s now here’s the culmination of this is Union. That means that we put finite things, I’m gonna say this again, finite things above God on our will’s priority list. St. John’s last three words are the key “attachment to something.” If we put anything finite above God, we will have inhering in our wills attachment, and that attachment is a virtual quantity.

Here it is, there is a more or less attachment. And in the future podcast, I’ll talk more about attachments, degrees of attachment and things like that. Naturally, the question becomes, “Well, if God is infinite and we are finite, how can we achieve union with him?” The answer is love. Remember how I asked you to remember that a measure is a unity?

Because we used to determine how much well our measure for how we can be united with God is our measure that we conform to Jesus Christ.He’s our measure.

And as far as uniting with God, John gives us that answer.

“The supernatural union exists when God’s will and the soul’s are in conformity, so that nothing in the one is repugnant to the other. When the soul rids itself completely of what is repugnant and unconformed to the divine will, it rests transformed in God through love.”

And that means in the supernatural order, how developed we are and conforming ourselves to God’s will in our life, whether we make him our priority, not anything finite and whether we do not offer God resistance helping to remove our attachments that determines whether we can unite with God in this life through loving union.

So one more thing before we end today’s podcast. So if you’re baptized and not in the state of mortal sin, obviously God dwells within you. Supernaturally the union here St. John is referring to goes beyond the union begotten of baptism.

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