Ascent of Carmel
The logic of St. John of the Cross, or rather, his coherence, is great. He tells us: if I believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, it means to say that I cannot fulfil myself except in Truth and Love. All that is contrary to them is an attempt against my authentic humanity. But experience shows that this profound identity within me is grievously wounded by sin:
I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do... Wretched man that I am!"
Rom. 7: 18-19, 24
I need to be re-created, to give way to the new man in me.
How is this to take place?
By uniting myself to Christ, the New Adam. This signifies a living death on the cross of the sinful person that I am: to die to self-centeredness, to my lack of solidarity with others. I have to destroy the false images of God and of myself that I keep alive though opposed to the truth. I must adhere to Christ in His Passion —
when he was most annihilated in all things . . . and reduced to nothing . . . that those who are truly spiritual might understand the mystery of the door and way (which is Christ) leading to union with God.”
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book Two, Ch. 7
This re-creation, the gestation of the child of God that I potentially am, is what John of the Cross terms “purification”, “night”, “ascent of Carmel”. It is a painful and disconcerting period; in reality, it is the reverse side of the transformation operated by Love. In these periods of crisis, John of the Cross is an exceptional guide.
If I decided to write... It is only because I hope in the goodness of the Lord who will help me to say something in response to the needs of so many souls... in order to make them understand their state or at least so that they may allow themselves to be led by God."
Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel
This difficult path is actually a path of liberation. For the saints of Carmel, freedom is not to be found at the point of departure, as we often imagine. On the contrary, they say, we set out heavily mortgaged to sin. It is truth and the love of God which liberate us:
Love is indeed 'ectasy', not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards is liberation through self-giving."
Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 6