Wisdom from St John of the Cross for Busy People
St John of the Cross observes that, for the person transformed in God through love, “it seems to her that the entire universe is a sea of love in which she is engulfed, for conscious of the living point or centre of love within herself, she is unable to catch sight of the boundaries of this love" (Living Flame, 2:10). John believed that St Paul was speaking of this personal transformation when he wrote: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20; LF 2:34).
How does a busy person attain the interior silence that disposes one for personal transformation in Christ Jesus?
How, then, does a busy person living and working in the midst of the noise and activity of a modern city like Sydney, for example, attain the interior silence that disposes one for the personal transformation in Christ Jesus that St Paul describes? Or, to use the metaphor of John’s poem “The Dark Night", how do we still our own house for transformation in the Beloved?
One means, assuredly, is the faithful practice of daily contemplative prayer, when we take time each day to sit with God for a half-hour to forty-five minutes in loving attention to God present within us, in surrendered openness to all that God wishes to do in our lives. In this daily practice of contemplative prayer, “the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom 5:5) – that divine love which purifies us of our disordered sensory and spiritual attachments and unites us with God’s own Trinitarian life.
We can practice sacred mindfulness in the normal course of our daily lives.
A second, and related, means of disposing ourselves for personal transformation is sacred mindfulness, which we can practice in the normal course of our daily lives, in-between times of formal contemplative prayer. In this practice, which John of the Cross frequently recommends (see The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 3, 15:1; 20:3; 21:2; 22:6), we habitually pay very close attention to the “first movements" of our minds and hearts, our thoughts and desires. As we notice thoughts and desires that lead us away from living in union with God, we gently “let go" of these thoughts and desires, allowing them simply to pass out of our consciousness; or if they persist, we redirect them to be in accord with God’s will.
Initially, we may find it hard both to concentrate on what we are doing in our daily round of activities, and at the same time to be aware of the “first movements" of our minds and hearts. However. with practice we can become quite skilled in this inner attentiveness. Also, we may feel at times the sharp pain of self-emptying when we deliberately refuse to consent to, or give psychic energy to, extraneous thoughts, memories, and desires. But this pain eventually gives way to a deep inner peace as our faith, hope, and love grow in the process, leading to a deeper union with God and greater likeness to Christ.
Source: This reflection is taken from “St John of the Cross: In Search of Silence" by Kevin Culligan. The article was originally published in the October-December 2011 issue of Mount Carmel: A Review of the Spiritual Life. It has been slightly adapted.