2.5 John has reminded us many times that the goal for his writing is union of the soul with God. He briefly related the different types of union. Look at a flower or any created thing and meditate on the substantial union with God that keeps you and all of creation in existence. The union that is our goal here is union of likeness. He frequently used the term conformity. Consider his examples. Identify some smudges in your life. Spend some time with the famous quote about the soul becoming God by participation and the purity and love required for this to happen.
2.6-8–Become familiar with the correspondence between the theological virtues and the three faculties because he uses these throughout his works. There are few with the knowledge and the desire to enter into supreme nakedness and emptiness of spirit. John spends a lot of time talking about this and describing the journey. Identify the parts of this passage that you find most difficult to understand and the parts that you think are most difficult to actualize. Why is it so easy to get this all wrong? Why is intellectual comprehension of God impossible and what problems does that cause us? Consider how contemplation fits in here. Does this help you to understand contemplation better? 2.9 A summary of this section
2.10,11 John begins a complex and sometimes confusing differentiation among the types and aspects of knowledge. While this is not critical to understand it is good to appreciate the complexity. Even supernatural knowledge reaches the intellect through the senses… like sight and visions, hearing and locutions, etc. John is very very clear here that even though these things may be directly from God, they should NEVER be desired or acted upon. He cautions about thinking about them or talking about them. They are to be received passively so God produces the effect even when we resist them. I think this was what T’s confessor was telling her when he told her to make the “fig.” Ignoring, and even denying them will not prevent God’s action if the soul is humble and purified. J goes so far as to say that one should consider any messages or communications from God to be from the devil. Otherwise there is grave danger to the soul. The more clear the message, the less likely it is from God. We are not meant to know the mind of God. What does he mean when he says we forsake faith when we follow after these? J reassures the soul that rejecting his communications will not offend God and in fact is a protection against being misled by the devil. God will penetrate the soul and move the will to love and effect what he wills and the soul can no more prevent or resist than a window can prevent sunlight passing through.
He summarizes these cautions again very strongly. Do you understand why? Does this help explain why the church very seldom gives its approval to visions, prophesies, etc. The effects over very long periods of time are the true test but even if some of these things are from the devil God can use them to produce grace for some souls in the short-term. It is very dangerous and a major waste of time to chase after and believe in these things for the most part. God will produce the effect even if a genuine miracle is denied. How does this demonstrate the true meaning of faith?
ch 12 Natural apprehensions formed by the imagination are the stuff of meditation. Do you find this activity difficult or easy. Do you have a favorite image or scene that you use for meditation? Is this kind of meditation getting easier or more difficult for you? How do objects, pictures, etc. fit in with this mode of prayer? In light of the goal, what is the danger with either of these?
Learning to abide in quietude and loving attentiveness is not always easy. How do you quiet yourself? It can be more critical than ever to find the right time and place for this kind of prayer. Examine your prayer time/place. Have you noticed some other time or place where you more naturally feel drawn to just be alone with God? Make some trials and adjustments if they are needed. Feelings are not necessary but God often uses them to lead us to contemplation so pay attention.
ch 13 How do we let go of these images whether in the mind or in the hand? Why must we do this and when should we do this? Examine the signs John says will indicate that God is leading you into contemplation. If they are present, let go of meditation and let God hold you. I like the image of holding a baby chick or of floating in a sea of Love, or falling off a cliff into God’s arms or … do you have one? Once you have experienced sustained quiet prayer a few times you probably should not try to go back to meditation and it probably won’t be the same if you do but if the signs are there do not worry if it takes a while to get used to resting in this loving knowledge. How is the difference like that between cooking and eating.
Ch 14 Why does God lead the soul into contemplation? How did meditation prepare you? What are some of the effects and are they always perceptible? Why or why not?