Gregorio da Napoli

The Admirable Teaching

translated by Br. Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Translator’s note.
    This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. In I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp. 895-1085. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. Conv., and William J. Short O.F.M., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

 

We are publishing the complete text of the mystical instruction of Gregory of Naples for the first time. We are dealing with three different writings. The first has the nature of a summary of “the teaching on love within which all perfection is encompassed” (n 1). The second is a short, clear explanation of “certain very lofty points concerning intimate union” (n. 2). These include rapture, ecstasy, annihilation, union, deification, and transformation, “active and passive” openness to the work of the spirit which identifies the more significant moments and states of mystical experience by means of tangible discernment.

The third is a genuine treatise with the title Divine Lights or Mystical Practices (n. 3). This is the longest and most systematic work, which is set out in 67 long or short chapters where we can gain a better glimpse of the original epistolary style of the work. From this point of view the work is quite “modern” in its style and is set out as a work of letter writing. However the contents are of the highest spiritual nature and are amazing for the manner in which they describe the psychological states of the soul, the feelings of the heart, and the enlightenment of the mind when it listens to the word of God, the phenomena of mystical purification of the human will, the ardour of conformity to the crucified Christ, the progressive spiritual development of the whole human person in its interior and exterior faculties, the depth of annihilation by means of “divine enlightenment”  which allows the soul to passively share in “seeing” God without seeing and thus to live while being dead. Paradoxes abound. The author said that these tracts: “ought to be read only by “those who are blind” and “those who are dead.”  God’s love grasps us in simple (naked) love. This is experiencing deification by means of the unique school of the Cross, by means of annihilation of the human will, by totally abandoning oneself and resting alone in the divine pleasure. There is a refrain that sets the tone for the treatise. It is this; “commit yourself totally to the divine pleasure and firmly and radically wish, desire and expect nothing else, except what pleases God, divesting yourself of what is created, even though this is holy and very divine,. Do this in everything whether spiritual or temporal because it is a gift from God, something that is most exalted, intimate and pure.”

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