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Posted October 17, 2014

Book: Love Awakened by Love: The Liberating Ascent of Saint John of the Cross
Author: Mark O'Keefe, O.S.B.
The Institute of Carmelite Studies. Washington, DC. 2014. Pp 179

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Contrary to popular opinion, religious "experiences" are not the essence of the spiritual journey at all, nor is asceticism for its own sake. What is? According to St. John of the Cross, it's a life of union with God through the practice of the virtues, especially the theological virtues. John's emphasis on the nada (nothing) is to lead to that liberating emptiness which equips us to be filled with the divine life. As a skilled moral theologian, Fr. Mark O'Keefe leads God-seekers to focus attention on this liberation we need to truly love God and be conformed to God in divine union --- a liberation that comes through authentic Christian living. This book is an insightful companion to The Ascent of Mount Carmel, guiding readers to appreciate the key role of virtuous living in striving for authentic human freedom and ultimately, at the journey's summit, finding the God who is love.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Spiritual Itinerary

The image of a journey or path is perhaps clearest in the title of one of St. John's major works, The Ascent of Mount Carmel. Of course, the choice of this particular term suggests that this journey is an uphill climb. His explanation of his famous diagram of Mount Carmel by which he encapsulates his spiritual doctrine - and which he has placed at the beginning of The Ascent --- has at its center the sure and speedy path that leads to the summit. As direct as this path might be, it is nonetheless an often arduous journey that takes the person from sin to divine union.

At the same time, in addition to the metaphor of journeying from one point to another, there is also present in John's thought the image of a journey into one's own depths to find God (though this is less prominent than in St. Teresa's image of entering ever more deeply into the "interior castle" of the soul). This image suggests the dynamism of the Christian life as going progressively deeper into the self in order to find union with the God who is always present to us within, holding us in existence. In The Spiritual Canticle, he writes, "It should be known that the Spirit is hidden by his essence and his presence in the innermost being of the soul. Individuals who want to find him should leave all things through affections and will, enter within themselves in deepest recollection, and let all things be as though not." Since we are ourselves "his dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place," we must leave aside the superficial and seek to join him in this inner sanctuary within ourselves. "The soul's center is God."

Table of Contents:

1. The life and spiritual itinerary of St. John
2. Love awakened by love: the asceticism of the ascent
3. The theological virtues
4. Faith
5. Hope
6. Love
7. Love's still deeper liberation
8. Love's pinnacle