The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls that the prayer is a Christian prayer when “it is a communion with Christ and it widens within the Church, which is His body” (CCC 2565). During the celebration of the divine mystery of the divine liturgy, as well as during the ordinary life, everything contributes to the fulfilment of the communion with Christ, to the “conversation” with Christ, the contemplative attitude of the Teresian Carmel which widens within the Church of the third millennium.
The “conversation” is the typical relationship with Christ that the Doctors of the Teresian Carmel lived and taught within the Universal Church; it is the way by which St. John of the Cross suggests, “with a whole faith” (3S 42,6) the secret and mysterious fascination of the Christian prayer, “conversation with God in the spirit” (2S 17,5).
The main character of the “conversation” that we are going to outline is a Christian “well-disposed towards God” (CB 1,22), because he is “converted” (1N 1,2) to the service of Him, searching Him in the “contemplative life, humiliating himself in the mortifications and in the humble exercises” (CB 3,4).
There are three ways of “conversation” of the contemplative attitude that aim at the communion with Christ within the Church. St. John of the Cross outlines them, with a motum obliquum, in the “path of dark contemplation” (2S 7,13):
As contemplative attitude we mean that disposition of a "searcher of God" (Benedict XVI) who has within himself some spontaneous attitudes, some moods in order to easily “converse” with God with "more courtesy" (1N 12,3) and with a “loving attentiveness” (2S 13,4). These are two attitudes that are difficult to separate one from the other, that are easy to love and that we can easily feel during our Christian path, seen by St. John of the Cross as that evangelical “path” (1S 13,10) which leads to the eternal life.
This “conversation” with God Who made Himself visible in Jesus Christ, was always in the heart of the Doctor of the nada, who desired nothing else than this, as these words show: “we imagine Christ crucified, or bound to the column, or at another of the stations" (2S 12,3).
Thanks to these first notes we can naturally realize that with the contemplative attitude in the form of “loving attentiveness” we have already entered that inner and secret space called “Eden”, a simple and natural space of a searcher of God, a delicious space for the divine Beloved, because He finds His delight in living with the sons of the humans. (Pr. 8,31)
The loving attentiveness towards God is a “confused, loving, passive and tranquil" (2S 14,2) knowledge of God, where the searcher of God "drinks wisdom and love and delight" (2S 14,2). It is called contemplative prayer because it is between the mental prayer and the infused contemplation. It is the same mental prayer in a theological form: “conversation with God” (2S 17,5) because the theological acts of pure love towards God, that the searcher is used to repeat during his mental prayer, became usual for him and they are a mood to receive the loving knowledge that God is presenting along the “path of dark contemplation” (2S 7,13).
God, finding His delight in the conversation with the human, is "The One Who moves and instils Love" (FB 3,50), "making the human to feel His presence in a lot
of ways, bringing delight and joy" (CB 11,3), as St. John of the Cross maintains, performing "a work which is quiet and delicate, solitary,
productive of peace and satisfaction" (1N 9,7). This divine pedagogy, spiritual and gentle, produces with “order and sweetness” (2S 17,2) the “secret,
peaceful and loving” (1N 10,6) infusion of contemplation which, as St. John of the Cross teaches, “if allowed, enkindles the soul with the spirit of Love" (1N 10,6).
Here are some quotations about this gradual infusion: "touch of knowledge and delight" (2S 26,5), "peaceful and secret infusion from God" (1N 10,6), "inflow of God" (2N 5,1; 2N 14,1), "infused and loving knowledge of God" (2N 18,5). So, touch-infusion-loving knowledge are equivalent.
From these quotations we can deduce that the secret infusion is an intervention of God , a touch (toque) which, thanks to the grace and the theological love, realizes a new dynamism of communion within the life of the searcher of God, summarized by the Mystic Doctor by two simple words, “loving knowledge” or contemplation, according to two main degrees:
The loving knowledge is an enchanting truth which God communicates throughout a touch (2S 17,5) which penetrates the “substance of the soul" (2S 26,5.6): "touch of knowledge and delight" (2S 26,5), "delectable touch" (2S 26,7), "divine touch" (2S 26,8). This communication produces in the searcher of God the passive act of knowledge and love of that loving knowledge. This whole mystery is defined by the Master of Faith "pure contemplation" (2S 23,3) and it is "part of the union" (2S 26,10).
wonders alternate with horrors (2S 6,6)
In a life "according to the faith" (CB prologue 2) "as it were by night in darkness" (1S 1,1) those who "well disposed" (CB 1,22) are looking for God, discover, to their amazement, two beautiful eyes outlined in their hearts (CB 12,5): order and sweetness, self-denial and purity.
- 'Wonders': the whistle
to hear the "whistle" with the hearing of the soul is to see it with the eye of the passive intellect (CB 14,15)
Veiled by the secret infusion of the contemplation and led by the two beautiful eyes along the "path of dark contemplation" (2S 7,13), sometimes it seems to the searcher of God to live in an spell, he wonders on what he sees and hears if "he is under a spell"(2N 9,5). All this is caused by a lot of beneficial effects that the infused contemplation exerts at the beginning over our explorer; in fact, as we can often read in the Works of the Doctor Mysticus:
Led by the conversation with God, the infused contemplation, the searcher of God will walk with wonder along the mystic path, and will go over the off-key echo of the earthly "nasty tongues" (CB 3,7), hidden and protected from the "contradiction of tongues" (2N 16,13).
- 'Horrors': in the grave (Psalm 87,8; Dn 6,17)
to enter the "grave" is the time of the spiritual passing of God, of His angel, in order to exceed the limits of human's nature (CB 14,18)
Anyway, along this wonderful mystic path, the searcher of God meets - and so cannot avoid - a lot of distress and horrors (2N 5,4.7; 9,11); furthermore, the path shows him a lot of obscure faces that will cause him pain and suffering in the spirit (2N 17,7).
These are the horrors of many anguishes, through which the explorer well disposed towards God maintains of walking safe (2N 16,1), since he is sustained and led by two beautiful eyes outlined in his heart.
The Prince of Mystics explains that the communication of God is "horrible" (1S 1,3) for two reasons:
The horrible experiences of his descent into the hell and his damnation - descensus ad inferos - that "here means purgatory" (2N 6,6) opens to the searcher of God:
These are the horrors of the many anguishes, the specific subject of the Dark Night, "severe word and doctrine" (1N 13,3), "substantial foods" (1N 1,2), "bread with crust" (1N 12,1), "the food of robust person" (1N 12,1) for the sons of the Church: "the inward food is the beginning of a contemplation that is dark and arid to the senses" (1N 6,9) as the Doctor of the Mystics maintains.
The "conversation with God" of St. John of the Cross that we briefly outlined not only shows an emotional communion with Christ (1.), but also reveals an effective communion with Christ (2.) in an Easter act, "secret wisdom" (2N 17,2) of the Cross, that St. John widened within the Church in a mystic exploratory form (3.).
Then, the contemplative attitude outlined by St. John of the Cross is "in communion with Christ and it widens itself within the Church, which is His body” (CCC 2565).