When the desert mothers and fathers went off into solitude they felt that in a certain sense they were returning to paradise because they intended to confront their own sinfulness and weakness and brokenness and fall on the mercy of God. Living with purity of heart is a sort of paradise. Thomas Merton writes about the recovery of paradise. Merton goes on to explore how we attain this recovery of paradise or innocence, and how it requires effort. We first must work on the level of knowledge of good and evil.
At our initial gathering we heard a reading by Dan Berrigan about peacemakers trying to cope with uncontrolled violence when someone got up and said “You know there is enough violence in this room to begin a war.” That prompted a discussion about our own repressed violence that led into our first talk on Clearing the Obstacles http://friendsofcarmel.ie/clearing-away-obstacles/. We need to make our own effort to know thyself and help clear the smudged window of our soul. Then Gillian reminded us that Teresa’s foundations were for those who desire to come close to God. Flying on the Breeze of Love http://friendsofcarmel.ie/flying-on-the-breeze-of-love/ is an image John of the Cross uses to describe someone who is encountering God in a new way. And true to form, Gillian cracks open John’s words in such a way that we, too, were flying.
As a way of summarizing our desire to restore paradise listen to John of the Cross.
Attachment – A Bird Tied by a Thread
It makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord. For even if tied by a thread, the bird will be prevented from taking off just as surely as if it were tied by a cord—that is—it will be impeded from flight as long as it does not break the thread. Admittedly the thread is easier to rend, but no matter how easily this may be done, the bird will not fly without first doing so.
This is the lot of a person who is attached to something; no matter how much virtue they have, they will not reach the freedom of the divine union.
It is regrettable , then to behold some souls, laden as rich vessels with wealth, deeds, spiritual exercises, virtues and favours from God, never advancing because they lack the courage to make a complete break with some little satisfaction, attachment or affection and thereby never reaching the port of perfection, which requires no more than a sudden flap of one’s wings to tear the thread of attachment. (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel Bk. I, 11.4.)
In thus allowing God to work in it, the soul (having rid itself of every mist and stain of creatures, which consists in having its will perfectly united to that of God, for to love is to labour to detach and strip itself for God’s sake of all that is not God), (the soul) is at once illumined and transformed in God and God communicates to it His supernatural being in such wise that the soul appears to be God Himself, and has all that God Himself has…All the things of God and the soul are one… and the soul seems to be God rather that the soul, and is indeed God by participation. (Ascent, Bk. II)
Next gathering: March 21st, 2020