Friendship and intimacy

I urge you … to open your heart to friendship and intimacy, remembering that your friendships are an extension of your contemplative prayer. They are indeed contemplative friendships. As mystical contemplation necessarily brings suffering and emptiness, dark nights and enlightenment, so too will intimate friendship bring suffering and emptiness, dark nights and enlightenment. As mystical contemplation leads to human authenticity so does mystical friendship; as mystical contemplation leads to self-transcendence so also does mystical friendship. You will find that deep purification takes place, and that you become transparent to another person and she to you …

I came across this statement from William Johnston’s Being in Love: The Practice of Christian Prayer at a quiet day at Tabor Carmelite Retreat House, Preston, on Saturday. I simply couldn’t believe it when these words were read out by the retreat leader. I was just stunned, utterly stunned …

Beauty and intimacy

Some further thoughts on beauty, this time in connection with intimacy. Paul J. Griffiths, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, notes that

it is rare for us to be dazzled by beauty … without seeking some kind of intimacy with it. [However,] appreciation of beauty can be heightened by certainty that there will be no physical intimacy with it; [and yet,] appreciation for and delight in beauty may not survive physical intimacy with it, and will certainly be altered thereby.

Griffiths’ commentary is a stimulating read, even if it is not one I would recommend to those seeking to acquaint themselves with the Song of Songs. Why? Because Griffiths comments on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew original, and he focuses quite strongly on figurative readings of the Song.