Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lighten Up, in the Name of the Lord

More to come on National Pastors Convention, but in the meantime I came across the following in Dark Night of the Soul, which, it turns out, has nothing to do with Batman:

With respect to the fourth sin, which is spiritual gluttony, . . . such persons expend all their effort in seeking spiritual pleasure and consolation; they never tire, therefore, of reading books; and they begin, now one meditation, now another, in their pursuit of this pleasure which they desire to experience in the things of God. But God, very justly, wisely and lovingly, denies it to them, for otherwise this spiritual gluttony and inordinate appetite would breed innumerable evils. It is, therefore, very fitting that they should enter into the dark night, . . . that they may be purged from this childishness.


Funny how some of the markers of great piety in our era--voracious appetite for spiritual reading, frequent meditation on the Word of God, and so on--are here considered markers of spiritual immaturity. It explains some of the bemused comments about evangelicals I've read in books by monastic Catholics such as Thomas Merton. Begs the question: which spiritual disciplines do you suspect someone like St. John of the Cross might suggest you lay off for a while? How would you respond if a spiritual giant told you to lighten up?

3 comments:

Mark said...

I'm not sure I totally buy into that quote, but I think it is very interesting and worthy of reflection.

I think about the idea of following hard after God and how we are told to meditate on the Book of Law day and night. I feel that reading good things renews my mind and buries good things in my heart.

On the other hand, I can see that it can be possible to spend so much time reading about what you should be doing that you never actually do what you should be doing.

Michelle Van Loon said...

After I got all indignant and threw down some probing questions about St. John's spiritual life and motivations with an eye toward discrediting him (in order to silence him), I'd go right back to my intellectually-gluttonous habits. This time, I'd enjoy a hightened feeling of self-righteousness.

Oh. You wanted to know what I'd do if I was willing to actually consider the question.

Recently, I told a spiritual workaholic friend that the best worship she might have to offer God is to do nothing for him. Stillness is costly to her; she'd rather be doing for God, rather than being with God by her own admission.

This quote reminded me of this conversation, and of Jesus' invitation to abide in Him. I have been guilty of approaching spiritual life like I'm hoping to score a 1600 on an SAT by cramming as much info (or service, or activity) into my life as it'll contain.

Not very healthy, is it?

Dr. St. John's prescription is meant to bring healing.

Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Recently heard this: You can be so "heavenly good" that you do no "earthly good." Sort of along the lines that God wants spititual fruits not religious nuts! :)
- KDS