Sister Marie Gemma Ocd is the superior of the Prem Jyot monastery (Light of love). She witnesses to her vocation with a reflection on the mysticism of St. John of the Cross, the Order of the Discalced Carmelite reformer. The mysticism of the Carmelites is not "heroic asceticism," but an encounter of hearts with the love of God.
Gandhinagar (AsiaNews) - The search for love, the constant journey towards the Beloved, and even journey of self-discovery. These are the starting points of the mysticism of St. John of the Cross, the reformer of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, which Sister Marie Gemma OCD, Superior of the monastery Prem Jyot (Light of love) of Baroda, in the State of Gujarat shares with AsiaNews.
According to Sister Gemma, it is the "wounds of love" that drive us to make this journey. The "Flame", which is Christ, is both in darkness and in light. "The journey - she says - is not a departure from the dark, but the discovery that even if we walk in darkness, we are still in the light." Below the superior’s reflection.
The opening verse of one of the best-known poems of John of the Cross, ‘The Dark Night,’ goes like this:
So dark the night! At rest
and hushed my house, I went with no one knowing
upon a lover’s quest...
John lived in an age of discovery, the Spanish people gloried in their adventures beyond the seas and oceans – sail on, sail on......shine...Love – the beyond – which was another very important field of adventure for those of the 15th century. This is evident in many of their poems, ballads and love songs of which the poems of John of the Cross are vintage wine still cherished and considered priceless!
John’s young and eager spirit captured to the hilt this spirit of his time! That must have been the reason why John finally chose the reformed Carmel for the story of Carmel is essentially a love story and like every love story it involves a journey within, a journey of the heart, limitless, incredible that will ultimately be fulfilled only in the possession of the Beloved. We are made to seek and to search for our heart’s desire – restless pursuit that is best described in John’s words, as ‘a lover’s quest.’
St Augustine had first spoken of this restlessness in that classic line, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” But in Carmelite tradition it takes on a unique and distinctive focus: not only are our hearts restless, but the heart of God is equally so. The lover’s quest is twofold, a mutual yearning in which God and the human soul are both, and at the same time, pursuer and pursued: ‘it should be known,’ John of the Cross reminds us, ‘that if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more’ (LF 3:28)
“The Adventure” of the Night into the unknown....is the adventure of Spiritual life which is no longer a matter of labouring for food – perfection, achievement, success but it is making space for God to enter into the core of one’s being – God hovering over me. All we have to do is to make space for God. It is in the night that each one discovers, ‘I am only a creative capacity to God.’ The night ends when we recover from devotion to spirituality.
The Spirituality of St. John should not be viewed only from an ascetical point of view but through a mystical view; not perfection, but Union with God to which the Spirit carries you. In the Spiritual Canticle the tender words, the evocative images, the rich symbols all speak about the transformation of desire – the presence and absence, discovery and loss, joy and pain:
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you,
but you were gone.(SC, stanza 1)
The wounding of love is central to the lover’s search. It is the reason for the setting out in the first place. The journey begins, in John’s haunting words, ‘fired with love’s urgent longings (DN, stanza1). It is the same living flame of love that both wounds and cleanses; by one and the same movement, the soul is purified and transformed. As we listen to this poetry our hearts are enkindled, and we are aware of the beauty and the almost infinite possibilities open to us.
I realize that I am no longer compelled to give things up, let go – the NADA but I give it away for joy, searching for Him who makes me alive. When I am with Him every moment seems to be a discovery – Now I go my way up the hill full of excitement because You have wounded me. I am full of joy. ‘Nada’ for John means both nothing (its literal sense) and everything, for it denotes precisely the space into which everything, that is to say the divine intimacy can flow.’
There is in the Christian tradition a mysticism of light, just as there is a mysticism of dark, and the story of the lover’s search is contained within each of them. The quest is not simply a ‘search for nothing,’ as is so often said; quite the opposite: it is a ‘search for everything’. The face of the Beloved is not beyond the darkness but within it. Christ is both light and darkness; he is our companion in the darkness. The journey is not a movement away from darkness, but a discovery that, even as we walk in darkness, we are still in the light. There is a light within the darkness, or more accurately as John calls it, a fire: a fire burning in the heart, that beckons and calls from lover to lover. ‘The darkness extinguishes the light but it does not extinguish the fire, and this fire becomes the light of the soul by which it is safely guided’. The light, the fire and the call of love are one; they are, at the same time, the guiding and illuminating dynamic of the journey.
FLAME – It enters into me. The essential activity belongs to the Lord. It blackens the wood, crackles and becomes a flame... The flame burns and crackles me and makes me one with the Flame. – Sunrise – “God loves me (St. John is daring and God is always vital)
He is a Flame that keeps on burning, blazing and that is going on and on to set Love ablaze more than all the fire. The Holy Spirit is like a song that is new, leading me to believe and trust myself to the groundless, bottomless abyss of eternal Love and accept God on His own terms.
..Night the most beautiful time...
..Night O blessed chance...
..Night O blessed venture..
A self squandering God pouring out Himself on me
Night – God creating that space for me a process I cannot stop, I cannot hasten. It leads me every minute of my 24 hours, I am not in control.
Prayer is dead, my faith has vanished. I am dismantled, destabilized...yet happy. The senses are stripped of everything but the spirit is at peace.
Night a veil – darkness, solitude, stillness, rest, peace, silence, deep dreams, adventure
..Stars – moon light, friendship, romance – a journey of faith....
It is a Mystery, sheer beauty........Beloved meets the Beloved and is transformed. It stands for what is truest.
O beatitude – night place of encounter.
Living Flame of Love a spark of the Divine love
Piercing the veil to engulf me in His embrace
In the evening of life I shall meet Lover
When I am with Him every moment seems to be a discovery...
The lover’s quest is, I believe, at the core of the Carmelite charism. It is a journey every Carmelite is called to make. Once again to reiterate, ‘Our spirituality is not about heroic asceticism, it is about God’s all-conquering love, a love that has touched every heart and made it ache; otherwise we would not be here in Carmel.’