It’s been a very rainy evening, perfect for reading a good book. Other than the Good Book (or rather collection of books), the following is here is what I’m reading this summer, from most to least esoteric.
As an aside, I like the word esoteric; it has a nice sound to it. For those who debating whether or not to jump up for a dictionary, esoteric means usually understood by a select or small group of people with special knowledge or interest. Not Gnosticism, the pantheistic “secret knowledge” sect, but simply a smaller interested audience.
First on the list is Dark Night of the Soul bySt. John of the Cross, the E. Allison Peers translation, which apparently is the standard. You have to be very careful which translation you get because the phrase “dark night of the soul” has been hijacked to describe a whole lot of things St. John of the Cross never intended. Mostly they are pop psychology pieces on going throught a difficult time. When I was first looking for the book, I ran across a “contemporary” translation. My notes at the time: You know, because the literal translation is so wooden. (cough). This review said that, “by minimizing the explicit scriptural references of the original text, she (the author) makes the treasure of Dark Night more accessible to readers of all traditions.” Duh, if you get rid of what is intrinsic, you end up with something different than the original. Oh, I missed a line in the review. “(The author’s) lively translation transcends the narrowness of Peer’s to reach a wide audience.”
Indeed, to get what St. John of the Cross wrote, it’s necessary to read it from a Catholic perspective, which mean an accurate translation of both the book and Scripture refernces.
A priest once told me that the purpose of the dark night of the soul is to bring the person into more constant prayer. Several saints have undergone this dark night, the most recent well known being Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta.
My own reading has been more like nibbling at the text, a little at a time. Catholic mystics have always fascinated me. Their experience at first seems so far removed from everyday life, and yet, Mother Teresa was very active in everyday concerns. And yet, St. John’s work does fit in the esoteric category in the sense that people come to it at a very specific time in their spiritual life.
For the more common times of spiritual dryness, an excellent book is Fr. Thomas Green’s When the Well Runs Dry. I can’t find my copy at the moment, but I just checked Amazon and Barnes and Noble and it’s still in print and available. Fr. Green, who died four months ago, was a Rochester native as noted by Rochester blogger Lee Strong, who had the good fortune of meeting Fr. Green.
As usual, I’ve rambled, so the other two summer books will have to wait until later this week.