Living the Life of God

The Living Flame of Love 

Gillian Coxhead

Having been gathered into the depth of a sacred time together, Gillian introduced us to John of the Cross’ “The Living Flame of Love” by describing it as a letter written for friendship, at the request of a laywoman.  This commentary releases the greatest energy in the universe!  Listen for yourself to Gillian’s masterful way of breaking open John’s words so that we know by experience “how tenderly you swell my heart with love”.


Brother Thomas Crutcher

Brother Thomas drew us into the spirit of adventure with his opening Helen Keller quote “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”



Celebration of the Trinitarian Love Life

Our proper and natural openness to all things, the free, renewed, non-possessive vision of the world that is given in the life of grace, is ultimately the contemplative energy of the second person of the Trinity within us, directed towards the Father and the world inseparably.   Looking East in Winter by Rowan Williams,  p. 34 (LE)

Reader 1:    “Where have You hidden…”

“It should be known that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden by his essence and his presence in the innermost being of the soul.  A person who wants to find Him should leave all things through affection and will, and enter within himself in deepest recollection…”  John of the Cross Spiritual Canticle (SC) II,6

Reader 2:    “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.  I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live, you also will live…and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and you in me and I in you.” “And those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”   Gospel of John, Ch. 14 16-20, Jn. 14: 21b

“Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…” 23

Reader 3:   For the baptized person in Christ, ‘The world is again his life, not his death, for he knows what to do with it’; everything is now given to us as full of meaning and beauty’. (Alexander Schmemann)

To be adopted children in and through the eternal Son is the essence of what baptism confers.  What we aim at is not the perfect keeping of the commandments as some sort of human achievement, but the freedom to receive the gift of Christ being formed in us and to guard it by means of our watchfulness.  LE pp. 31-2

All:     How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth.

When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and stars which you arranged,

What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?

How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth.   Ps. 8

Reader 4:    Christ is constantly dying and rising in us, crucified in our weakness, raised in our purification. The eternal Word is the ‘mustard seed’ of the gospel text (Mt. 13:31-2)  containing all things in potentiality; it is sown in the human heart and when that heart is purified by the Spirit, the ‘energies’ of all things are awakened.  LE p. 32

For humanity to bear the image of the Son, to have the Son’s life at the heart of finite human awareness, is what it means for it to bear the image of the Trinity. p. 40

Reader 1:   The ‘desire of the Father to be in the Son, to bestow all that is his as Father upon the Son, is never completed.  He is eternally confronted with the sheer otherness of the Son whom he generates.  The response of the Son to the Father is a desire to give life ‘into’ the other that is never exhausted. (St. Gregory of Palamas    The excess of love that generates the Son begets in the Son the same excessive love, a love that is not contained but overflows eternally.  This is the life that is designated by the name of ‘Spirit’.  LE  pp.38-39

The Spirit is the mutual joy or bliss of Father and Son, turned in love to each other.  LE pp. 36-37.

Reader 2:  “ Cooled by the breeze of your flight.”

“By the ‘flight’ He means the contemplation received in that ecstasy, and by the breeze, that spirit of love which this flight of contemplation causes in the soul.  He very appropriately terms this love which is caused by the flight a ‘breeze’ because the Holy Spirit, who is Love, is also compared to a breeze in Scripture, for the Holy Spirit is the breath of the Father and the Son. And just as the Holy Spirit is like a breeze from the flight…so the Bridegroom calls this love of the soul a ‘breeze ‘ because it proceeds from the contemplation and knowledge that she has of God at this time.”   J+  SC XIII,11

Reader 3:  “I have hardly begun to think of the Unity before the Trinity bathes me in its splendour: I have hardly begun to think of the Trinity before the Unity seizes hold of me again.

When one of the Three presents himself to me, I think it is the whole, so full to overflowing is my vision, so far beyond me does he reach.  There is no room left in my mind, it is too limited to understand even one. When I combine the Three in one single thought, I see only one great flame without being able to subdivide of analyse the single light.”  Gregory Nazianzen  Or. 49 on Baptism

Reader 4:  “Now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,  both warmth and light to their Beloved.”  J+ LFL IV, 80

“Accordingly, the deep caverns of feeling give forth with rare excellence to their Beloved heat and light together…together because the communication of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in the soul is combined; it is the light and fire of love in it. “

Prayer All:

God, who created all nature with wisdom and secretly planted in each intelligent being knowledge of himself…and a longing for Him,…We struggle to learn with tranquillity  and without going astray how to search out the truth, to seek wisdom and order manifest harmoniously in all creation.  Increase our desire.  Help us to banish all craving and aggression.  Impelled by the Spirit we long to contemplate God in stillness and unceasingly through the prayer of Jesus and to pour forth our entire selves in a human kenosis, for the sake of the needs of others .

We will conclude with a poem prayer composed by John of the Cross while he was imprisoned in a tiny cell in Toledo beside a roaring river.  The three streams symbolize the Trinity.  We can know those streams in our heart if we go to the water.  Since he could not celebrate Mass John imagined his tiny piece of bread as His Christ.


The fundamental pattern behind the entire universe is that of loving presence-in-the-other, a contemplative immersion in the other that never turns into identity yet is wholly devoid of defense and aggression.  LE,


A few words on Adventure from Karl Rahner

“From time to time there seem to occur, in every human life no matter whose, moments in which the sober everyday love that can scarcely be distinguished from reasonable selfishness suddenly finds itself confronted by the invitation to love without hope of requital, to trust without looking back, to dare to love where only a foolish adventure can reasonably be expected, one that would never be worth it.

At such moments, human beings’ freedom finds itself standing before the choice either of being cautiously cowardly—denying itself, and not daring to risk itself—or, in a foolhardy trustfulness, seemingly absurd (and yet—wonder of wonders—there it is), of taking the risk, of risking our freedom and our free subject without looking back., of risking really loving in the proper sense of the word.  There is no longer any ground to tap in advance to see if it is solid or not; then freedom dares more than is granted it by a calculating rationality, risks itself and its own subject, and plunges into the unfathomable, unbounded dwelling place of God, who can ultimately be experienced only in this bottomless, headlong plunge.”  The Love of Jesus and the Love of Neighbor, Karl Rahner



As our finale Paula Naughton gave us her personal accounts of some adventures she’d felt called to in Africa, through International Volunteers that landed her at Holy Hill, and to obscure and spirit filled places in India and Nepal.  Tony Delaney treated us to a few photos and accounts of the high points on his Camino trek (n.b. Tony’s outstretched arms)  including a visit to personal relics of St. Teresa.  So much richness!


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