It is very important to know that St John of the Cross had brought together his Collected Works in their written form after he, by the grace and love of God, had attained to the highest spiritual state of perfection possible here on earth, referred to variously as “The Spiritual Union of Love”, or the spiritual state of Mystical Theology (Secret Wisdom, Secret Understanding, or Secret Knowledge of God). It is termed “Secret” because it is experienced without knowing it. St John of the Cross affirmed that if anyone were to go through the experience, and were asked to describe it, such a person would be compelled to say as he did, “I don’t know what it is.” –‘Spiritual Direction Spiritual Directors: St Francis de Sales, St Teresa of Avila, Thomas Kempis, and St John of the Cross’. Joseph Paul Kozlowski
The Living Flame Of Love
St John of the Cross
O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!
O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.
O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.
How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.
Something coalesces within everything happening to me right now demanding absolute acquiescing to mystery, vulnerability, and the presence of God actively working upon me. I am awestruck by the look of dementia patients when they stare deeply into my eyes. Their bewilderment with their surroundings, their helplessness, their lack of understanding, all within in a sense of peace, a grace, an awareness beyond understanding. Last night after observing the woman peacefully asleep, being told she is hours away from passing, at the most days, knowing she was consumed with cancer, suffering from severe dementia, I found her beautiful, a veil of splendor adorning her space. Her white hair, thinned, sparsely populating her skull appeared refined, immaculately clean. I wanted to brush her hair, to more than bring comfort to her, to be with her and experience the grace she was receiving. Her life had culminated into a helpless, indescribable, and unsharable state of receiving. She was a broken vessel being filled. There was no sign of pain. Within a horrible physical condition, she seemed absolutely absorbed within grace. It reminds me of when I was younger my fascination with the eyes of babies, staring into their eyes every chance I could, just holding their gaze, wondering the state of their thoughts and mind. I remember a Marvel comic book I read when younger, I think it was the X-men or something similar. A superhero woman possessed the power to read minds, transposing herself into the minds of others. A fellow superhero playfully asked her to enter the mind of her infant child, to experience the mind of the baby and tell everyone what it was like. The superhero woman transferred her consciousness to the baby’s and after bringing herself back to her adult superhero body she broke into tears. Those gathered around her demanded to know what happen. Amidst tears the woman stammered, ‘Don’t make me talk. Please do not make me talk. Everyone go away, leave me alone. I cannot do that again. It was too wonderful. It hurt.’ Last night, when I awoke from my Rosary, finding the woman who I assumed would never open her eyes, staring at me I felt dumbfounded, only able to apologize to her for falling asleep while praying for her, self-consciously worried about snoring for I knew I fell deeply into sleep. She simply stared, observing a stranger sitting next to her bed. I have no idea or speculation what her thoughts were, or whether I could even comprehend her state of consciousness. Grace appeared to hold her captive, spellbound, and beyond understanding. I love the St John of the Cross poem, a poem from his final years, the fruition and completion of his vocation as a Carmelite priest. It seems accurately descriptive, poetically embracing the unknown. I think it is important to keep in mind that beyond the superhero reputation he now possesses as a mystical saint the huge pesona does an injustice to his reality as a natural man. He was a diminutive man, small in stature, a man of unremarkable appearance, one who went unnoticed. His life was a hidden life for the most part. He drew as little attention to himself as he could. St Teresa of Avila and others placed him in prominent positions amidst monasteries and the Carmelite order, going against his tendency to disappear into anonymity, seeking the companionship of those who abhorred him. His final years may have been his most favorable for they were spent with a religious authority who did not like him, perceiving him as arrogant. It was the years of the inquisition, an intense time of spiritual scrutiny, heresy, or better still others determining you spiritual ways were heretical, brought torture and death. St John of the Cross welcomed the scrutiny over praise.
O living flame of love, that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! The line is powerful, apropos for several other things coalescing, coming together without my approval or effort. One is my complete absorption in mass: that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! My experience in mass is best left alone, bonding with the Poor Clares apart, receiving the Eucharist within a spiritual home, has become all absorbing—nothing else matters during mass, I am consumed, yet within exists a serious negativity. Mass makes everything else seem inconsequential, life appears as a joke, a hilarious illusion, unessential and to be toyed with. Yet that is a dangerous and false interpretation, a serious error waiting to be inflicted upon my natural life, a source of drinking in years past. Then the reappearance of Ann in my life comes into play. It is the very thing she attacks, losing myself to the spiritual. I am so overwhelmed by her I absolutely become rendered to frustration and helplessness; consumed with passion (positive/negative), emotion (love/hate), and an absolute conviction we belong together. It is so hurtful, and it is not codependent as she insist upon defining it. I just want to scream at her, to do something dramatic, to hold her… It is awful and horrible. I pray God would just make her disappear. I would love to walk away from her, to abandon everything about her. Nothing would make me happier than to spit in her face and tell her to fuck off, to hurt her deeply and be done with everything, yet I cannot do it. I know I should not, and that God wants me to continue to come at her, to continue to be frustrated and dumbfounded by her ways. There is something deeply divine in my helplessness before her. All she has to do is speak and I am made obedient. I hate it. I hoped with all my heart Ramona would save me from her, however our intelligent and insightful conversation on the state of both of our lives clearly demonstrates that an intimate relationship is not ethically feasible. Ramona and I can share spiritual fellowship, yet respect and distance must be applied in regards to male/female properness. She will not serve as an escape from Ann, and it was disrespectful to selfishly place her in such a position. My overwhelming desire to be rid of Ann is not a proper start to a relationship with another woman. Ramona has her own story, her own unique life with its private and precious wonders and woes. She is a married woman of depth and must be prayed for, allowed to find her own peace, to be assisted in her struggle forward in pursuit of God without further complications from me.
St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.