The Path of Great Joy
by William Johnston
An important text is that of St. John who says that the one who loves knows God. "The one who does not love does not know God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8).
Note that John does not say that the one who studies theology knows God. Needless to say the theologian is no excluded; but the epistle stresses that the way to enlightenment is love.
So love is the way to Christian enlightenment and there is no other. This love has a twofold thrust: love of God and love of neighbor. In either case it is ecstatic.
That is to say, my consciousness expands and I go out of myself -- I go out to all men and women who have ever lived or ever will live, to the whole material universe of moons and stars and planets, to every blade of grass and every grain of sand, to every living creature, and to the great mystery at the centre of all, the great mystery we call God -- and God is love.
Now this loving expansion of consciousness leading to enlightenment and supreme wisdom takes place in people who devote their lives to the poor and the sick and the oppressed and to the service of others. But it also takes place when we sit in meditation.
For when we sit in silent contemplative prayer, sooner or later, there arises within the heart the blind stirring of love, the living flame of love, the inner fire, the loving energy of the Holy Spirit. And this love leads to the highest wisdom in fulfillment of the words of Scripture that the one who loves knows God. So this is the path to enlightenment. It is a path of great joy, when you will sing like a troubadour.
From Letters to Contemplatives by William Johnston, SJ (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books 1991), pp. 83-84.