Ch. 6 How have my attachments deprived me of God today? How do I experience the restlessness St. Augustine described?
Ch.7,8 Besides depriving me, my sensory attachments cause these harms: torment and affliction or blindness and darkness are more harms to the soul from these appetites. Can you see how these harms proceed from such attachments?
Ch.9,10 The remaining harms are defilement, weakness, and timidity. Do you remember the milk bottle soul? J is very graphic in this section to emphasize the risk we take in our attachments to these appetites. Consider the relationship between all of the harms and the prevalence of addictions.
Ch.11 A very important chapter where he distinguishes among the various appetites and attachments but in the end they are all connected and the smallest can lead to disaster. What does John have to say to you here? Examine your resolve and some concrete steps you can take to be disposed for the purification or nakedness necessary for union with God. Has John effectively motivated you toward this end? How?
ch 12, a summary of the previous. Read the points; note any that did not strike you before or now seem different or new.
ch 13. How do you “study” the life of Christ? How can the desire to imitate him be made more habitual? Meditate on leaving the senses in darkness and how the maxims, methods and counsels can help you. Much food for many days of prayer here. Print these and keep or post your answers. As always do as many or few as is helpful. Jot down questions.
ch 14. What happens when the soul has come through this first night? What is “love’s urgent longings.” How do you experience this–don’t be surprised that you cannot put it into words–just allow the awareness to help you soar to God, as John puts it…better to experience than to write of it. Do you understand how he wanted to avoid the imagination trying to do what only God can do? Each soul’s experience is unique. Allow God to intensify the urgent longings of your heart in order to strengthen you to mortify any appetites that may stand in the way of union with God.
Bk 2.1-3 Consider the darkness of faith; leap of faith. How is it darker; like midnight. This dark night of the spirit comes after the purification of the senses, resulting in stillness and freedom. How difficult is it for you to let go of even the memory of the blessings and graces that have brought you to this present moment of faith? Recall some of the ways that God “courted” your soul. Are you ready to let go of them and not desire to go back there but to go into the darkness, the emptiness of faith? Recall the trials of Therese and Mother Theresa. Have you experienced intellectual doubts where only faith could sustain you? Reflect on what this second dark night might demand of you.
2.4 Very important chapter…How does one “darken and blind themselves in that part of their nature that realates to God and spiritual things?” Have you ever thought you understood what God or Scripture means about love or grace or salvation or life? What made you think so? Is it easy to let go of what you know or are sure of? Have you thought you knew what God wanted you to do or even what will happen in the future. John says that however many communications we think we have from God, even visions or locutions, we must live denuded of them, in total darkness…All else will lead the soul astray. Do you understand this danger and why it is dangerous to want to know the future. If we think we know what God wants or has in store, how does that change how we pray and live? Think about the popular phrase “knowledge is power.” What is the danger for the soul? Consider your attachments to understanding God’s will, feelings of devotion to Mary or even the Eucharist, opinions about how to please God, desires to be virtuous, or any good works or practices that are part of your life and consider what John means when he says that what would be considered by most to be good or graces can be impediments to union with God. How do we detach and denude ourselves of these things that up to a certain point draw us to God? This is very difficult to understand and even more difficult to live because we cannot separate our head and heart, our mind and soul.