After laying some groundwork in the previous weeks we finally stepped in to the meat, as it were, of John‘s writing.
We took up once again Step number One “on renunciation”. John moves very quickly to lay out before us the reasons why one would embrace the renunciation not only of the monks in the desert but of the ascetical life as a whole. The two fundamental reasons are the multitude of our sins and the love of God. The beginning of the spiritual life most often is the simple acknowledgment of our poverty and the infirmity that sin brings into our life. We see the emptiness of this life outside of our relationship with God. The acknowledgment of this truth bears the fruit of repentance; a fundamental turning toward God with streams of tears and heartfelt groanings that reflect an interior reality. It is then that God, as he did with Lazarus, orders that the stone be rolled away from the tomb and that we be unloosed from the passions that hold us in their grip.
Yet, John would not have us see this as a path that we take in isolation. It is always to be trod with a guide or a director, a Moses figure. We need those who can help bring about the healing of the passions of the soul by their care as physicians. We need to be guided by those who have lived a life equal to the angels; that is, who have been freed from the corruption of their wounds and so have become experts and the most skilled physicians/surgeons. We do not live our Christian life out in isolation but only in communion with others and strengthened by those who have been transformed by the grace of God and the ascetical life. This life, John tells us in an unvarnished way, requires violence and constant suffering; a dying to self and sin in order that our hearts might attain to the love of God and the love of chastity and all of the other virtues. There will be great toil in this battle and the false-self, that kitchen dog addicted to barking, John tells us, is only overcome by the one who becomes a lover of chastity and watchfulness.
The foundation of this journey is the courage to offer our souls to God in our infirmity, the faith to trust in Him, and the humility that we might bare all before his healing light of His Grace.
Text of chat during the group:
00:11:31 Cindy Moran: What version of the book is being used?