Meditation: Freeing the Heart
from Praying with John of the Cross by Wayne Simsic (St Mary's Press: Winona 1993)
Theme: John understood that the heart must be free from inordinate attachments in order to respond to
the love of God.
Opening prayer: Give me the courage and strength to participate in the transformation and purification
you have begun in my life, loving and gentle God.
When John acted as a spiritual director to the nuns at Beas, he spoke about the practice of detachment. Some
nuns copied down this discourse, which later was found almost word for word in his work, "The Ascent of Mount
Carmel." [His advice] for overcoming the appetites: "Have a general desire of imitating Jesus Christ in all his
works, in conformity with his life, about which we must think in order to know how to imitate it and behave in
all things as he would have done. In order to be able to do this, it is necessary to renounce any appetite or
taste which is not purely for the glory of God and remain in a kind of void for love of him who in this life
had no more and wanted no more than to do the will of his Father." (Crisogono, Life, p. 135)
One day he gave the nuns a sketch of Mount Carmel, which represented a summary of his teaching on detachment.
The mountain had three dark lines that represented paths to the top. The two side paths were detours, the
middle one was the path of perfection. The middle path invited the spirit to reject all desires so nothing
would make it weary and divert it from its goal of God alone. Below the mountain was a series of "nadas"
['nothings'] that directed the spiritual journey:
To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not.
When you turn toward something
you cease to cast yourself upon the all.
For to go from all to the all
you must deny yourself of all in all.
And when you come to the possession of the all
you must possess it without wanting anything.
Because if you desire to have something in all
your treasure in God is not purely your all.
(John of the Cross, "The Ascent of Mount Carmel")
John realized that his advice sounded harsh, so he left behind a copy of his poems for the nuns, hoping they
would realize that detachment is impossible unless they were passionately answering the call of God's
transforming love as it was offered to them in their daily life. Besides, he knew that the "nada," or
nothing, was filled with God.