(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. This week, I’m going to continue my discussion of the Dark Night and I want to concentrate on one of the first chapters in the ascent of Mount Carmel, where John starts talking about what he says are three reasons for calling it the Dark Night. And we’re gonna go through these three reasons and I’m just gonna kind of flesh them out a bit, so that we can kind of see why he focuses on this symbol, this image of the darkness, way of understanding, going through it to God.
The first reason he gives for calling this journey a Dark Night is basically that, as I’ve said in the podcast before, is that you have to focus on detachment and, what he means here is that it’s not, again, it’s not that you lock yourself in the closet, turn the lights off and you don’t sense anything like you know when he says that you know detaching yourself from worldly things, depriving yourself of what your appetites want. You have to remember certain definitions.
So an appetite for John is something that’s inordinate. It’s something he says at the beginning has to be out of order. So let’s start with that a little bit. So let’s say you want to do computer programming for a living now, you may be able to do it And you may be able to do it. Let’s say, you know, put you on a bell curve like 75th percentile or higher. Right? So pretty good. Right? And let’s say you do that because you want to do it because when you’re doing computer programming you find it makes you feel powerful or it makes you feel like great, and you go to parties and brag about it to people and glorify yourself because look at you, you can do computer programming and your computer programming skills are above everything for you.
You have to you have to do it, right? So obviously, for the record, I do computer programming and, you know, there’s nothing against computer programmers. But the point is that in this example, the person is putting computer programming as their highest good and making God a lesser good. And the problem there is that God ought to be the higher good. That would be an example. God should be number one. Computer programming should be where it should be in the hierarchy of things of things that person is attached to, things that that person goes out to.
So that would be one example of what he means. when he’s saying, look, when you’re denying and depriving yourself of things of the world, you’re one way of looking at it is you’re making sure that the things of the world that you’re not substituting the finite for the infinite. They’re not saying, well, I want to live in this particular place, or I want to have this specific job and that’s my highest good. That’s where you get in trouble. So, that would be the first. The second is he’s talking about how, since faith is the proximate means two union with God.
So let’s discuss what happens to the light of faith. So the light of faith is not the same as the light of reason. The light of faith is a supernatural virtue given to the intellect of the human person, meaning it’s a having. It’s something that you possess by virtue of baptism. And what happens is with faith, you’ll look at the world because that’s a higher habit than the light of reason. What will happen is your faith will inform your reason. But the problem, is that you’re not going to take whatever faith is meaning, it’s putting its light on, right?
Like you put a flashlight in the dark, right? The object of faith is something that your senses can’t see. So when you look at things through the eyes of faith, it’s almost like a darkness because something’s there, it’s like you’re hearing an animal, have you ever been out at night, you know, camping or sitting on your patio or whatever? And you hear something in the grass, you heard the sound so you’re like, oh, there’s something out there, but you can’t see it, right?
That’s kind of analogous to what’s going on here, that you look at the world and you see God. The greater your faith, you start to see God in more and more places. And that’s faith. That’s this idea that you see God in everything, because he’s in control of everything because he’s God. And in the case of pursuing union with God, what happens is you’re walking on a path that’s because you’re putting God first and not finite things, and you’re walking towards God solely and you can’t see him physically.
You’re ending up having to follow these kind of faith-footprints we will call them. This idea that you’re constantly looking for him and seeking him and loving him in that love the affectivity, that’s what’s getting you closer and closer to, because you can’t grasp God by his essence, by intellect, can’t do that. So you end up loving him and that’s how you know him more and see him more through your faith. So faith being the proximate means, what John saying is he saying, look, you’re following a light that’s darkness to you because you can’t see it, like you could see something like a book or you know, a glass of water or you know, the light of the sun or a tree or a flower.
So that’s what he means here with the the second thing. Second reason he calls the Dark Night.
And the third reason is kind of back to what we’re saying is that the end is God. So God, like I just said, is he and himself is darkness too. Because you can’t abstract his essence because he’s infinite. During the beatific vision, you’ll be able to see God face to face. He’ll give you what’s called the Light of Glory, give you the power to see him as he wants you to see him.
That’s basically what St. Albert the Great says. It’s like it’s giving you the ability to to see God in his essence. That’s the face. That’s what we mean by face to face. And kind of an interesting bit of history, is that the Greeks idea of the face was a mask. So they’re dramatic displays, they’d wear the mask that was the appearance. So when you say, you see God face to face, it’s kind of like you’re watching a play, the person puts on the mask, they become the character.
So you see who that character is by virtue of that appearance. So that’s kind of analogous lee what’s going on here. God is manifesting himself to us through this way and we’re seeing how that appearance is. You know what? We would see the light of Glory. But in this life you can’t, you know, you don’t have the Light of Glory. So God’s Darkness, right? So that’s where it’s also a dark night. These are all things to consider and, and kind of in more of a summary remark about it, John again, I can’t say this enough, John does not think that the material world is bad.
So there were many times that John was caught looking out the window praying or he’d go to his, there’s a spot I forget which monastery he was at the time, I think it was Southern Spain somewhere. He would sit out in nature and he would just look at nature and that immediately launched him to God. And there’s a section later in the ascent that I’ll probably have a discussion on where john says, he’s like, look if he’s like looking at nature is great, if it immediately lifts you to God.
So basically, if it immediately causes you to not rest in nature because it’s a finite thing, because that would again be messing with the hierarchy. Like we were talking about, he says, no, what you need to do is that needs to be a launch point needs to be the thing that triggers your affectivity for God. So similar to how meditation works you by understanding God, you love God more, right? So just like you, you know, if you learn more about your spouse or your friend, you love your friend or your spouse more, that’s kind of how this works here.
And I just wanted to touch on these subjects briefly because again, I think that the doctrine of the Dark Night can initially be intimidating for people because they think like, again, like I said at the beginning, I can’t have any sensory things, I can’t like anything, I can’t, and you need to go lock yourself in the closet and turn the lights off. But that’s not how this works. There’s a lot of deeper things going on here. It’s not what it looks like on the surface and I think it’s unfair to John to characterize him as some sort of like, you know, uh negative person.
In fact, if you read his letters, he’s actually a very positive person, very loving person, very caring person. So someone like that, you know, someone who is loving and caring and always looking out for the needs of others wouldn’t be anti-material. In fact, I will end with this, there’s a story where there was a nun, I think it was at the incarnation when he was there for those three years with Saint Teresa of Avila when she was sent back as the prayers. And what happened was is John saw, I think one of the nuns with no shoes and she’s just sweeping the floor and he didn’t walk up to her and say, “Good work, you have no shoes and way to be in the Dark Night.”
He immediately went, didn’t tell her, immediately went out, begged for money and bought her new shoes. So I don’t think anyone can say that this guy who’s sometimes his mischaracterizes like you need to give up everything. Why would he go by our shoes then? Why bother if he thought, if he thought material things, didn’t matter if he thought taking care of yourself? Didn’t matter, Why would he go by our shoes? Why would he do that?
He grew up very poor. And this is another thing I’ll podcast about later about his life. I’ll get into that later is he grew up very poor and he, you know, really suffered a lot. And I think he was very sensitive to these things. And again, so again, it’s it’s that’s what taught him his, you know, his teaching. That’s like his life experience kind of like helped him see this, but he his teaching includes the fact that, you know, people need shoes. So anyway, I’ll end on that.
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