Journal Notes on St Paul of the Cross #21
by Amy Knight
It is always necessary to stay in holy fear so that our hearts do not get attached to the things of earth. God is jealous of our hearts. The care of the true servants of the Most High consisted principally in this: to keep themselves always annihilated for God, to be subject to every creature, and to be despoiled of every earthly affection. They always feared there was not enough of this.
For a while it is necessary not to trust in our feelings, it is good to take a frequent look at our heart to see whether it is seeking anything other than God or whether it is desiring something other. It is enough that this be a means of uniting oneself more with God. To walk more securely, the best thing is to let all desires die in God. L220
Philippians 4:12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
God desires that the soul be detached from everything except Him. As Saint Paul of the Cross says, “He is jealous of our hearts.” The principle of “doing without” helps the soul to detach, to become like Paul the Apostle who experienced this detachment to the degree that he could live with means or live without means, to be full or to suffer hunger. He understood that God was his constant sustenance and that for him, to live meant to have Christ. The suffering the apostle endured set him free from the love and attachment of temporal things and taught him to cling to that which is eternal.
The soul has great need of this suffering in order to attain to this detachment. The great saints of old understood this principle and embraced every type of discomfort so as to remain detached of the world and totally dependent on Him. This detachment is death to self. At first, this denial of self seems utterly impossible. One only has to try fasting from food for a short time to see that this is true. The flesh complains bitterly at discomfort of any type.
However, Jesus is the exemplar for the soul who desires Him and His ways. Jesus tells a scribe of His day, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”[i] Jesus’ entire life was death to Himself. He spoke to the Jews, “…I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things….for I always do those things that please Him.”[ii] Jesus never gave in to a self-pleasing, self-preserving, self-comforting mode. Therefore, as Saint Paul of the Cross mentions above, “They [the great saints] always feared there was not enough of this [annihilation of self] .” Truly, the saints feared for good reason since our flesh is unruly and always wants what it wants.
Until the soul has done without and suffered the loss of earthly means and comforts, it cannot even begin to know this place of holy indifference and being able like the apostle Paul to be content in any circumstance.[iii] Saint Paul of the Cross says, “To walk more securely, the best thing is to let all desires die in God.”
How does one practically “let all desires die in God”? To be sure, this death to self is a process and one does not accomplish it in a day. All that can be done today is to present oneself “…a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”[iv]
Like the rich young ruler in the Gospels[v], the soul is often blind to the attachment that is particularly keeping him from advancing in the ways of God. The Lord has an ability to put His finger on that which is hindering the soul. He wants to expose the attachments, but the soul must want this as well. One must have courage, and ask Him to expose those things that are hindering Love and keeping at bay the Son of Man from entering the door of one’s soul and finding intimacy, deep in one’s innermost being. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”[vi]
When He comes in to dine and find this sweet fellowship in His Beloved, then the soul is fully satisfied in Him and no longer desires the things of the earth. Just as Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me…”[vii]; so also, the soul will be content only with the heavenly food of doing His will, after such an encounter as deep union with the Trinity. In John 14:23, Jesus gives a clear statement of this: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
Prayer: Dear Jesus, in Your infinite kindness, I invite you to put Your finger on that which is an attachment that is hindering me from moving forward in You. I desire to open the door to You, that You may find Your home deep in me and that we may have deep union of fellowship together both now and for all eternity. Lead me in Your ways. In Jesus Name, Amen.
[i] Matthew 8:20
[ii] John 8:28-29
[iii] Philippians 4:11
[iv][iv] Romans 12:1-2
[v] Luke 18:23
[vi] Rev 3:20
[vii] John 4:34