The spiritual life can get tricky for the young sojourner. It makes us think that we have harnessed our pride just when pride masks itself as devotion. And, like many other spiritual classics, The Cloud of Unknowing seeks to lead its readers onto the authentic path for the love of God. It is a beginner’s handbook of sorts for the spiritual life.
I read through the text last year on a retreat and almost stayed faithful to the anonymous author’s introductory request, “If you read this book to yourself or to others, or copy it, or else hear it read in private or in public, you must bid them as I do you, to take time to read it in private or out loud, to copy it or listen to it, right through.” In the pages that I did read, a few pieces of contemplative advice stuck out to me from this great Medieval text.
1. In the absence of sense, when you can’t feel God, it is like there is a great unpenetrable thick of cloud resting between you and the Creator. Imagine yourself pressing up into that cloud, reaching your hands out to the divine. Know that God has done his part to reach back, and trust in the embrace.
2. When life’s troubles seem to distract you during contemplation, pretend they are a person and simply look over its shoulder into the face of God.
3. When life’s troubles seem too much for your own strength, fall under them like a helpless child beneath a pile of laundry. Give yourselves to God who shows himself strong in our weakness and who will save us from all which overcomes us.
A young or old sojourner will find wisdom for their journey in the The Cloud of Unknowing. It helps us navigate a profound revelation about the God of the Universe: that the Creator is forever revealing and forever concealing. I would highly recommend this classic for the everyday reader, and I suggest if you read it, read it all the way through in one sitting.