instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, April 02, 2004

What do you mean, "We"?

Steven Riddle has been blogging a series of reflections on St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross's The Science of the Cross. In one post, he writes, "We must come to terms with our desires, slay them and remain faithful and true servants of Our Lord. Only in this is the path up Mt. Carmel and the presence of heaven on Earth.... But such is our goal...."

To which I reply, maybe such is our goal, and maybe such isn't. I would say my own goal is not the presence of heaven on Earth but the presence of me in heaven. And not just me, but you too.

I think this is another example of a persistent difference (though not an opposition) between Steven and me. Crudely put, I keep getting the sense he thinks everyone should be Carmelite -- in spirituality, that is, not in canonical status.

Now of course, Steven himself is Carmelite, in both spirituality and status. He can and should write from that perspective. Still, a lot of "only in this way"s and "such is our goal"s show up in his commentary, and they tend to be unconditional and unqualified.

I, certainly, cannot argue against St. John of the Cross that there is no other path up Mt. Carmel. But I am not at all convinced there is no other mount at the top of which God may be encountered.

To put it more graciously, I don't think God intends us all to be Carmelite, to follow the way of nada up Mt. Carmel, before our deaths. In dying, we have little choice but to abandon everything; not all of us, though, are called to abandon everything in living. The contemplative life may be a higher state than the active life, just as the celibate state is higher than the married, but as with marriage and giving in marriage, not all of us are called to perfection in contemplation in this life.

Just to keep things complicated: Note I wrote that we aren't all called to perfection in contemplation. I do believe we are all called to some level of contemplation, because contemplation is for everyone.