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The Path of Nothing
“In order to enjoy, know, possess, and be everything — desire to enjoy, know, possess, and be nothing.”
Saint John of the Cross likened spiritual life to ascending a mountain. There are several paths that lead up the mountain, the Mount of Perfection to be exact, but only one path makes it all the way to the top — The Path of Nothing.
The Path of Nothing requires sacrificing everything. We’re called to detach ourselves, deprive ourselves, renounce ourselves, and annihilate ourselves to die spiritually to ourselves and all things, in order to pursue perfection of the spiritual life.
Why do we have to give up everything?
The Gospel has the first part of our answer: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
When we find something of infinite value, we drop everything else to pursue it. For many of us, the closest example of this is what we do for the love of our lives. Suffering through long distance, moving across the country, switching jobs, and giving up our dream career are all examples of sacrifices we have had to make for loved ones. When we find treasure, we sacrifice for it.
Secondly, to make this journey we need to cut the fat, which in ascending the Mount of Perfection is everything. Everything that doesn’t conform to God’s will is deadweight that we can’t bring with us. For this reason, Saint John of the Cross says that at the summit, “Only the Honor and Glory of God remain.” Everything else has been left behind.
Saint John of the Cross left us the map. It’s not an easy trek, but we know what we have to do. If it doesn’t fit God’s will, cut it loose.