The fundamental conviction that underlines all his work can be summarized as follows: – Christianity is a Mysticism not a Moralism. In other words it is primarily concerned with transmitting the same mystical (or hidden) life that animated Christ himself to those who would follow him. Only then will it be possible to live the moral teaching of the Gospel that cannot be lived without it.
The vast majority of professed Christians in subsequent centuries, have at best reduced the profound mystical teaching of Christ to just another moral teaching or at worst to a set of legal do’s and don’ts. No matter how sublime the teaching of the Gospel might be, no matter how worthy the social action that it calls for, no one can possible live or perform it adequately unless the same Spirit that animated Jesus animates them from within. “Without me you have no power to do anything.”
The true imitation then, that empowers a person to live the Gospel to the full, can only be attained by continually opening oneself to receive the same Spirit that animated Jesus. The process in which and through which a person does this has traditionally been called prayer. “There is only one way to perfection and that is to pray, if anyone points in a different direction then they are deceiving you.” (St Teresa of Avila).
Love Cannot be Forced
Authentic Christian renewal then will not be brought about by a set of moral principles or a code of legal requirements, but by the same personal Love that animated Jesus Christ and which will animate others who freely choose to receive it. Love cannot be forced; it has to be received freely. Setting aside daily quality time for prayer therefore is the first step that expresses the serious desire to receive it.
The second step is to do all that is possible to raise the heart and mind repeatedly in that time until the person who prays becomes continually open to receive the same Love that animated Jesus Christ. Those who are gradually transformed into the image and likeness of Christ in this way are the best possible instruments that can be used to bring about renewal in the future as they have been in the past
From Selfishness to Selflessness
Serious spiritual traveller’s must always spend a prolonged period in which they are refined and purified after ‘the prayer of first fervour’ fizzles out, as it always does. Here true selfless loving is distinguished from ‘cupboard loving’ by whether or not a person is prepared to go on giving when they seem to receive nothing in return.
St John of the Cross shows better than any other how this profound purifying process is brought about in his ” Dark Night of the Soul”, when the bright lights that excited and encouraged the beginner peter out. St Teresa of Avila shows better than any other how a weak selfish human being is gradually transformed into a selfless one as Love becomes more and more tangible in deep contemplative prayer.
Gradually this otherworldly Love becomes the inner dynamism that enables them to bring about in the present, the same sort of renewal that their spiritual forebears have brought about in the past