Today is the day of St. John of the Cross. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia and from the blog Alan Creech.
St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to less than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are widely considered to be among the best poems ever written in Spanish, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery.
The Spiritual Canticle is an eclogue in which the bride (representing the soul) searches for the bridegroom (representing Jesus Christ), and is anxious at having lost him; both are filled with joy upon reuniting. It can be seen as a free-form Spanish version of the Song of songs at a time when translations of the Bible into the vernacular were forbidden.
Dark Night of the Soul (from which the spiritual term Dark Night of the Soul takes its name) narrates the journey of the soul from her bodily home to her union with God. It happens during the night, which represents the hardships and difficulties she meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. Canadian world music artist Loreena McKennitt composed the music for and recorded a “song” version of the poem on her 1994 album The Mask and Mirror.
St. John also wrote three treatises on mystical theology, two of them concerning the two poems above, and supposedly explaining the meaning of the poems verse by verse and even word by word. He actually proves unable to follow this scheme and writes freely on the subject he is treating at each time.
The third work, Ascent of Mount Carmel is a more systematic study of the ascetical endeavour of a soul looking for perfect union, God, and the mystical events happening along the way. These, together with his Dichos de Amor y de Paz, or “Sayings of Love and Peace,” and St. Teresa’s writings, are the most important mystical works in Spanish, and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers all around the world. Among these can be named T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), and Thomas Merton. John has also influenced philosophers (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), and pacifists (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, and Philip Berrigan). He is also mentioned in Allen Ginsberg’s groundbreaking poem “Howl.”
“One of the more valuable things that has stuck with me for a long time that I read was a comparison of the process of spiritual growth and maturity to that of a Mother weening her young child from her breast – how she put bitter herbs there and stopped carrying the child, putting him down to begin to walk on his own little feet. This is a difficult but necessary process we all have to go through at some point in order to become spiritually mature adults.
Here’s a selection of a selection from today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours – not the most pleasant thoughts these, but definitely some truth to it that we need to understand:
“We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.”
–From a spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross
The thicket of the cross – that’ll undo you right there. Not without God’s Grace, though, or we would certainly be destroyed by it. We should certainly know that our destruction is not God’s intention for us. This cross, these crosses, are only for our re-creation. St. John, ora pro nobis.”
go barefoot…stand for justice…think jesuit!