The Detached Heart

In his book, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the 16th century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross said: “To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing.” His startling words stand in direct opposition to our American ambition for power, money, pleasure, glamour, security and an ever increasing standard of living. The saint came to realize that an unrestrained appetite for these things fragments the soul, causing our lives to be too divided and cluttered to find the true peace and joy that can only be found in loving and serving God above all else. On the cross, through grace, reconciliation and union with God became possible. St. John of the Cross asks us to live the Paschal Mystery, to enter the living death of the cross. He says, “The soul must empty itself of all that is not God in order to go to God.”

The detached heart knows the fullness of peace, joy and freedom, and sees the face of God illuminated in all of creation. Those who struggle for their daily bread can offer great insight to those of us who struggle to go deeper into our spiritual lives. The road to mystical consciousness is paved with an acceptance of our natural state of exodus, acceptance of the reality of human misery, acceptance of our limitations and fragility. The poor know about these things. And the humanity of Christ illuminated the vulnerable character of human nature.

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