While reading Stephen Clissold’s The Wisdom of the Spanish Mystics, I was most taken by the passages that spoke of love and detachment. Once again, thanks to New Directions for publishing this series decades ago.
One day St John of the Cross confided to a friend that there was still something which prevented his complete detachment from earthly affections. Fetching a bundle of papers he threw them into the fire and watched them burn. They were the lettres he had received from St Teresa and treasured dearly.
St Teresa exerted her daughters: Detach your heart from all things; seek God, and you will find Him.
St John taught: Strive always to bend yourself to the following:
not to what is easiest, but to what is most difficult;
not to what is most pleasing to the taste, but to what is most bitter;
not to what you find most pleasurable, but most disagreeable;
not to what is most restful, but most laborious;
not to consolation, but to what leaves you disconsolate;
not to the more, but to the less;
not to what is highest and most precious, but to what is lowest and most worthless;
not to want something you want, but to want nothing at all;
not to go seeking the best of temporal things, but the worst;
and in all there is in the world, to bear nakedness, emptiness and poverty for Jesus Christ.
St John expressed his teaching in the following paradoxes:
If you would come to taste all things; then do not seek to taste anything.
If you would come to possess all things; then do not seek to possess anything.
If you would come to be all everything; then do not seek to be anything.
If you would know everything; then do not seek to know anything.
To reach for that which you have no taste, you have to go where you have no taste to go.
To reach what you do not know, you have to go where you do not know.
To come to possess what you do not possess, you have to go where you have no possessions.
To be what you are not, you have to go where you are nothing.
When you dwell on any one thing, you cease to cast yourself upon the All.
To pass from all things to the All, you have to deny yourself will in all things.
And when you come to have the All, you must have it without asking for anything.
For if you wish to have anything at all, then you do not have your treasure purely in God.
St John of the Cross had the following advice: In the evening they will examine you in love. Learn to love as God wishes to be loved and cease to be what you were.
St Teresa used to remind her nuns: It is not a matter of thinking much, but of loving much. So do whatever most kindles love in you.
Among the papers found after St Teresa’s death were these maxims: Love makes labor light. Love alone gives value to all things.
St John of the Cross taught: Contemplation is nothing more than the peaceful and loving infusion of God which, if accepted, inflames the soul with the spirit of love.
St Francis Solano, when under the impetus of love, would move like the wind so that no one could keep pace with him. On Christmas, a friar caught sight of him rushing along carrying some gifts under his cloak and called after him: Where are you off to so fast, Friar Francis? To meet my Beloved! came the reply. The friar later discovered that his beloved was a toothless and bed-ridden old hag—one of the many sick and destitute whom the saint had taken under his care.