A Gift for Our Times
Chapter Five: The Voice of An Other in the Church
1. The Silent Ear
The lyrical “I” in The Temple does not only “speak”: he has his ears fixed on heaven, eagerly attentive to the Voice of An Other, wishing to be heard and hear; ready to respond, but in the first place awaiting response. Yet the reader of Herbert’s sequence is also warned that human intentionality is frequently a hindrance rather than a help in establishing contact with the divine. This is why the encounter must be preceded by the dark night of the soul, defined in the works of the mystics as “affliction, grief and torment” rooted predominantly in the sense of utter loneliness. In this way writers like St. John of the Cross reveal the fundamental paradox of the mystic’s prayer, rooted in a state of consciousness which has both psychological (the night of the senses and of the reason) and theological dimensions (the night of faith). This paradox consists in the fact that true dialogue can only take place in an absolute vacuum, that is in the absence of any idea of God or even any question about God in the mind of the human interlocutor. Only then can the abundance of light that arrives from the other side reveal itself as impenetrable darkness. Bedazzled by such light to the point of blindness, the human subject becomes “disoriented”, deprived of the sense of direction, not knowing where to look or listen, or what to expect.
This explains why the most...
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