SJC8 – The Will’s Capacity for Love – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast
In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.
An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation
For Saint John of the Cross, it is not simply the pleasures and enjoyments of the senses in themselves that are the crux of the problem. The human experience of sense satisfaction is unavoidable. Even the desert monks of the early Christian centuries, who took on extreme physical hardships, no doubt preferred the taste of one cooked leaf to another or found one cool spring of water a better choice over another. The Gospel recounts that Saint John the Baptist, in his desert, along with his consumption of the unpalatable locusts, survived also on honey. The Christian perspective in this matter, when it is healthy, advocates a balanced approach. It does not propose a denigration of bodily life to the point of destroying or damaging it. We are an inseparable unity of body and soul as human persons, and bodily life has a sacred dimension, a truth that has far-reaching consequences in morality. But that unity of body and soul is precisely the point and the issue of importance in asceticism. Nothing of bodily life can be lived as though detached from the soul’s existence.
Even more to the point, bodily pursuits inevitably engage the will. The will and its desires remain always in a kind of dynamic consort with bodily, emotional, and intellectual activity. At the same time, the will is a primary reality in our lives by the manner in which it cooperates with or rebels against the graced invitations of God. Seeking union with God demands a deeply rooted determination of our soul to give our will fully in love to God. This cannot be accomplished without the desires of the will aligning themselves with the goal of a union with God’s will in all facets of bodily, emotional, and intellectual life. Most importantly, the will is the faculty of love in the soul. The will must be empty of desires for gratification if by a great love it is to seek for God as a primary desire. All that touches and enters into the desires of the will is crucial for the possibility of a union with God by means of love. It remains now to explain how the will in its capacity for love is affected by the principles of self-denial and asceticism. These two statements from book 2 of The Ascent to Mount Carmel in effect define the nature of sanctity and at the same time express the essential importance of the will’s purification in sanctity.
Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 107-108). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
You find the book on which this series is based here