Saint John of the Cross is known as the Doctor of Mystical Theology. The central theme of his mysticism is that through a life of pure faith and love of God, the soul may attain union with the Divine. As your retreat master and companion, John challenges you to become like Christ, to be wounded and suffer with Him, to be consumed by His presence and thus to be emptied of self, to be purified in heart and mind, and finally to be overcome and transformed by His love so that you love with God’s love and discover your true image at the heart of the Trinity. The ultimate consequence of your 15 day journey with John of the Cross may therefore be the deep mystical union with God that John placed at the center of the Christian life.
About the Author
Father Constant Tonnelier is a chaplain for the Carmelites in Laval, France and is a renowned expert in Carmelite spirituality. His other books include: 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Through the Liturgical Year with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
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Constant Tonnelier, a renowned expert in Carmelite spirituality, brings us a new entry in the “15 Days of Prayer with” series. Books in the series are formatted as a 15-day spiritual journey under the guidance of a particular “spiritual director,” in this case, the 16th Century mystic and Doctor of the Church, John of the Cross. Suggestions for using the material and a brief chronology of the life of the guide are provided. The material is taken chiefly from writings of the saint. St. John of the Cross, we learn, did not leave a large body of work, but two of his major contributions, the Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night of the Soul, encompass the major themes of his teaching and spiritual practice. Both address the need for purification through the denial of everything in order to reach union with God. John saw a need to seek purification actively with the help of God’s grace and passively, allowing God to bring about the desired purification. In Chapter 9, Purify My Knowledge, Tonnelier’s opening focus statement deals with the human capacity for knowledge and our need for God’s grace to employ that knowledge fruitfully as we seek communion with the divine. Union with God, writes Tonnelier, comes about through faith alone. Our inability to understand draws us into faith, into the disregard for certainties that have been built intellectually in an effort to discover God. And the Scriptures repeat throughout that “only the humble, poor, and the little ones can understand.” Reflection questions address ways of increasing our knowledge and understanding of God such as joining a Scripture study group, reading daily about the lives of the saints, and subscribing to religious publications. This work on John of the Cross is helpful for those who find the saint’s writings difficult, but that is not to say that his message is an easy one for twenty-first century Christians.