Scribbles, &c.

John of the Cross and detachment

I've been slowly working my way through The Ascent of Mount Carmel and have been turning over a point St. John of the Cross made about things-in-the-world and how none of them are suitable (or sufficient) for drawing an individual into closer union with God. It was almost an aside, and simple enough to follow: the means must be suited to the end that is sought. He uses a couple of examples - only one road leads to a city, so departing from it necessarily means that the traveler does not reach the destination. A piece of wood is set afire by gradually increasing heat. Since there's nothing in-the-world like God (or even close to Him), we should seek detachment or risk being pulled away. 

Something about this passage has been turning over in my head for a couple of days now. On the one hand, the point is well taken. Detachment from the world certainly seems like a necessity. As fallen creatures we're too easily captured by the shiny or pointy things that ramp our passions, good and bad. Detachment is something I've been working on for awhile and even with my built-in reluctance, the efforts have begun to bear some fruit. So, detachment, check. I get it.

The Incarnation complicates things for me a bit, as do the sacraments. Our Lord came into the world. Matter, created by Him, is good. He uses matter to impart grace via the sacraments. He is truly present - body and blood, soul and divinity - in the Eucharist. This means He's in the world. I imagine that the Mystical Doctor is teaching us the difference between adoring water and the One who hallowed it. It does seem a bit all-or-nothing to me though - certainly the created world around us contains a sort of proto-catechesis or the seeds of what C.S. Lewis, referring to fairy stories, called a baptism of the imagination. Surely the world leads us to Him, for how could it do otherwise?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. Or as likely, I'm not reading enough. It stuck with me though and returns periodically for a re-think, even as I've proceeded well past it in the book. Perhaps some detachment is called for!