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Whoever heeds instruction will find success, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross
Flame, alive, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret center of my soul!
Since now evasion’s over,
finish your work, my Lover,
break the last thread,
wound me and make me whole!
Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
slaying, you give me life for death’s distress.
O lamps of fire bright-burning
with splendid brilliance,
turning deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
now their strange new-found glowing
gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.
Ah, gentle and so loving
you wake within me, proving
that you are there in secret and alone;
your fragrant breathing stills me
your grace, your glory fills me
so tenderly your love becomes my own.
“The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable. Hence the Philosopher [Aristotle] says (Ethic. i): “Goodness is what all desire.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I.5 a1).
“Behold, and again see if you can. Certainly you love only the good, because the earth is good by the height of its mountains, the moderate elevation of its hills, and the evenness of its fields; and good is the farm that is pleasant and fertile; and good is the house that is arranged throughout in symmetrical proportions and is spacious and bright; and good are the animals, animate bodies; and good is the mild and salubrious air; and good is health without pains and weariness; and good is the countenance of man with regular features, a cheerful expression, and a glowing color; and good is the soul of a friend with the sweetness of concord and the fidelity of love; and good is the just man; and good are riches because they readily assist us; and good is the heaven with its own sun, moon and stars; and good are the angels by their holy obedience; and good is the lecture that graciously instructs and suitably admonishes the listener; and good is the poem with its measured rhythm and the seriousness of its thoughts.
“But why should I add still more? This good and that good; take away this and that, and see good itself if you can; so you will see God who is good not by another good, but is the good of every good. For in all these good things, either those which I have enumerated, or any others which are seen or thought, we would be unable to call one better than the other, if we judge in accordance with the truth, if the idea of good itself had not been impressed upon us, according to which we approve of something as good, and also prefer one good to another. Thus God is to be loved, not as this or that good, but as good itself. For the good of the soul that is to be sought is not that over which one flies by judging, but that to which one adheres by loving, and what is this but God? Not the good soul, nor the good angel, nor the good heaven, but the good good.” (St. Augustine, De trinitate, 8.3.4)
“The fact is that only God is able to uncover aspects of our humanity which otherwise lie fallow. So of the ‘deep caverns of the soul’, John says that ‘nothing less than the infinite will fill them’. This immensity usually (perhaps thankfully) stays hidden – though more hidden than it should be when rubbish is thrown into it. But when these caverns ‘are empty and pure, the thirst and hunger and sense of spiritual longing is more than can be borne… The capacity of these caverns is deep, because that which they can hold is deep and infinite; and that is God.’” (Iain Matthew, Impact of God, p. 27 [St. John of the Cross, Living Flame, 3.18, 22]).
Bonum diffusivum sui (“good is diffusive of itself”): “[John] choose the word [union] deliberately: people speak of ‘perfection, which here we are calling union of the soul with God’. His entire enterprise pounds along in a relentless quest: that this person should be filled with this God. Life remains dispersed till this God is at its centre.” (Iain Matthew, Impact of God, p. 17 [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, argumento])
“But where God is concerned, the problem lies in our desiring too little, and growing means expanding our expectations; or rather, making His generosity, not our poverty, the measure of our expectations.” (Iain Matthew, Impact of God, p. 33)
“I do not doubt that some people, not understanding this nor knowing the reality of it, will either disbelieve it, or think it exaggerated, or reckon it less than it in fact is. But to all of these I answer that the Father of lights, whose hand is not shortened, and who pours Himself out abundantly, without partiality, wherever He finds space, like a ray of sunlight, and joyfully discloses Himself to people on the footpaths and highways – this God does not hesitate or disdain to find His delight among the children of humankind…” (Living Flame, 1.15)
Categories: Bible Reflections