Well, we are one chapter away from finishing the book after this is studied. This chapter seems from the surface a bit intimidating as well as long – 27 pages! How does one condense this? Actually, upon finishing this chapter, I found that Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene’s ending was worth getting excited about. It was very Carmelite and in order to boost your interest – I will give you the ending first!
As taught to us always, we need to go to God in prayer with love, humility and detachment. Those are the Carmelite principles. So how does theology fit in? The dogmas of the Faith – give us our roots, our foundation and help as a control to see clearly that we are on the right path. This chapter explains that Theology is necessary but it is not to be our goal. Our goal is always – union with God – supernatural contemplation. So how does Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene end the chapter? With the example of St. Thomas Aquinas. For those who know how his story ends, I need not say more. St. Thomas is the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church. Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene says it like this:
“Let us end with the account that Brother Reginald has left us of an episode in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas. One day, the sixth of December, three months before his death, while St. Thomas was celebrating Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Nicholas at Naples, a great change came over him. From that moment, he stopped writing and dictating. Was the Summa, then to remain unfinished? To Reginald’s complaints, came his master’s reply, “I can do no more”, and the other insisting…” “Reginald, I can do no more, such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems to me like straw. Now I await the end of my life, after that of my works.”
“Straw!” the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of theology, when one places it in the presence of the ineffable light that the Word, the Sun divine, causes to shine silently into the soul that offers itself, pure and peaceful, to the inflowing of its warming rays. That ought to suffice us.”
OK for those who wish to go no further – this is it! WE NEED THEOLOGY BUT WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT WE NEED THE UNION OF GOD WHO IS LOVE - MORE!
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene also uses the examples of St. Therese and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. At the time of this book, St. Therese was not yet called a Doctor of the Church. This chapter is good for all those Catholics who are puzzled over the fact that a 24 year old “uneducated” woman could be called a Doctor of the Church! She teaches this very same lesson. Her little way was the Way. This is a great lesson for all of us today because we put education on such a pedestal. We should seek holiness as our goal when we open the books and seek out PhD’s.
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene does touch on Our Lady in this book but in my opinion - not enough. It is in the Old Rule that the Consecration to Jesus Through Mary is recommended. NOT SO IN THE NOVUS ORDO THIRD ORDER! I was told by Carmelite friars (no names) that this goes against Carmelite spirituality. (Seriously??) I was so thrilled to find this promoted in the Old Rule. All the things that lead us to Mary are found! I bring this up because – like St. Therese with her little Way. Our Lady is the sure way to supernatural contemplation because She is the sure way to Jesus Christ. Today, it is difficult to find a spiritual advisor for our souls. Most likely, because most are busy with business rather than the love of God and souls. The prayer life in the world has grown cold for many. People are too busy for God. Who do we go to – go to Mary! Of course, if one has means of a good spiritual advisor – both Mary and the advisor would be better.
Well – let us now cover these 27 pages – the best we can.
Theology and supernatural contemplation have a common object, namely, Divine Truth. Theology, using reason enlightened by faith, works on dogmatic truth – the perfect expression in human language of divine truth, but an expression that remains analogical. Contemplation, through faith perfected in its exercise by the gifts, is born beyond the covering that the dogmatic formula is, and penetrates to the very reality that is Divine Truth. Theology and Contemplation are differentiated by the way each grasps Divine Truth.
2. Contemplation goes Beyond the Formulas of Theology
Taking it a step further, St. John of the Cross calls contemplation the “secret ladder”. It reaches to Truth itself and its proper domain is the dark mystery of divine Truth. Contemplation sometimes absorbs the soul and engulfs it in its abyss in such a way that the soul clearly sees that it has been carried far away from every creature and considers itself as having been placed in a most profound and vast retreat to which no human creature can attain, such as an immense desert which nowhere has any boundary, a desert the more delectable, pleasant and lovely for its secrecy, vastness and solitude, wherein, the more the soul is raised up above all temporal creatures, the more deeply does it find itself hidden.” Dark Night, p. 458
St. John continues that this elevation is accompanied by knowledge:
“And so greatly does this abyss of wisdom raise up and exalt the souls at this time, making it strike deep into the veins of the science of love…” “It is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator.” Dark Night, p. 459
Found in the “Spiritual Canticle” by St. John and written by St. Paul, we read: “In Christ dwells hidden all the treasures and wisdom of God.” Such are the glorious riches of light that contemplation opens up to the soul and through it to the Church.
Theology brings the power and logic of reason enlightened by faith. Supernatural contemplation further contributes to it, with the great penetration of love. The theologian reasons, deduces, expresses his conclusions in exact formulas; the contemplative gazes on the living depths of Truth. Both are in the service of the same cause.
3. Contemplation Submits its Light to the Control of Theology
Theology which represents the teaching power of the Church is the guardian of the deposit of revealed Truth. The contemplative to whatever sublime heights his contemplation may ascend, must submit his lights to this control of theology. This is what the great spiritual persons have done – submit all to the judgment of Holy Mother Church.
Many heresies and unorthodox spiritual movements have come from authentic mystical experiences but were mingled with pride in not submitting to the authority of the Church.
4. Contemplation Has Its Own Living and Delightful Language
The soul’s response to contemplation as well as the expression of it, will be subject in some measure to the qualities and the defects of the temperament of the mystic.
When the mystical experience is very elevated, when it affects a purified soul and its powers, when it finds faculties refined enough to transmit it to us, it then brings us the harmonious sound of all the human riches of a soul, singing, exultant and vibrant under the light and the touch of the Infinite.
5. Theology Must Sustain Contemplation in its Progress
The mystical experience affects all the powers of the soul; yet because it proceeds from love and bears within it a vague echo of the Infinite, it seems to flee the intellectual framework of thought, which oppresses it with its precision and bounds. The spiritual beginner no longer wants to be anything but mystical, and becomes almost anti-intellectual.
This danger can be grave; there is a danger of illuminism, eager for sensible manifestations of the spiritual, constantly seeking the light and support of these manifestations in all stages of the moral and spiritual life. Thus human balance is jeopardized.
There is an intoxification of the senses which is produced by the divine outpourings of love and when they are not experienced, a very painful reaction follows. Thus the need for support and control is all the more needed and intense, as the soul now experiences only emptiness, a void that seems the more hollow after the fullness of delight that it has just known.
St. Teresa of Jesus is a great example of this sudden emptiness after an experience of God was now absent. She experienced so many mystical experiences that she was constantly in need of good spiritual advice and was greatly blessed with many theologians to help her progress.
Theology and contemplation enjoy mutual esteem and serve one another. Theology makes learned men and contemplation makes saints.
Theological contemplation (the joy found in the search and find of study) and supernatural contemplation do not require the same cooperation on the part of the soul. Intellectual activity is indispensable to the first; the second is sustained above all by peaceful surrender and humility. To impose a supernatural contemplative with intellectual activity would be to cast trouble. It would go against the will of God for that soul. St. John of the Cross speaks against the advisor that offers this to a contemplative soul by saying in the Living Flame of Love: “There will come some director who has no knowledge save of hammering souls and pounding them like a blacksmith and because his only teaching is of that kind, he will say…”Come now, leave all this, for you are only wasting time and living in idleness. Get to work, meditate and make interior acts, for it is right that you should do these things for yourself and be diligent about them, for these other things are the practices of Illuminists and fools…” Living Flame of Love
Such persons have no understanding of the degrees of prayer or of the ways of the spirit.
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene states: May all be so favored as to find a master in spirituality who, following the Reformer of Carmel, has enough influence and wisdom to teach them that:
mental prayer consists less in thinking than in loving - less in acting than in surrendering.
Wisdom is to be found where humility is.
There are examples in the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus searching for simplicity among her sisters rather than exhibiting knowledge above love.
6. Contemplation and Spirituality
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene uses the examples of St. Therese and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity to show the simplicity of these two souls that seek Truth through humility and love.
He says that St. Therese of the Child Jesus speaks with confidence and abandonment while preaching faithfulness in little things, orientates us toward the living Christ in His Crib and His Passion and all with the language and charm of a child.
He talks about Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and how while still at home, she experienced sensibly the presence of the Holy Trinity in her soul. A Dominican Fr. Vallee with the luminous soul of a theologian and contemplative, gives her the explanation of her experiences by expounding for her the dogma of the indwelling of God within us. Throughout her short life, she had this dogma always before her as she surrendered herself to the inflowing of divine Truth. May we all learn from Sister Elizabeth to make use of the truths of dogma in order to be recollected in God.
St. Therese and Blessed Elizabeth were neither philosopher nor theologians – they only aspired to know and love God and to become saints. They both succeeded, each one by the way that corresponded with her grace.
May we be true Carmelites and seek to love God with our whole hearts, minds and souls. May we pray to Our Blessed Mother to supply us with profound love, profound humility and profound detachment so that we can experience the everlasting joys of Heaven while still on earth and may we hunger for Him for all eternity while always submitting ourselves to the teachings of Divine Truth found in our Catholic Theology.
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene