St John of the Cross

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Practical splendor

Establishing an outline of a St John of the Cross pilgrimage, I have been detailing locales to visit, viewing the country of my mother’s upbringing. Of course, there is an underlying irony to seeking an earthly connection to the Saint of Nada. The subtly propels forward, illuminating the land of ancestors, pointing toward St Teresa of Avila, St Peter of Alcantara, Our Lady of Pilar, Monastery of Monteserrat, the original Our Lady of Guadalupe, and more, while pointing whole heartedly to God.

St John the Cross born in Fontiveros. Attended school in nearby Salamanca. First reformed Carmelite religious home Duruelo. Imprisoned in Toledo. Later years settling in Bielsa near the Pyrennes. He dies in Ubeda. His corpse resides in Segovia.

St John of the Cross poetry.

On the Communion of the Three Persons (from Romance on the Gospel)

Out of the vast love
Born of them both,
The Father spoke to the Son
With words of celebration,

With words of such full delight
That none can know;
Only the Son, only he took joy,
Since they were breathed in his ear alone.

But here is what
Can be understood:
–“Nothing, my Son, pleases me,
But your company.

“If something is sweet,
Through you alone do I taste it.
The more of you I see in its reflection,
The wider my smile;

“What is unlike you,
Has nothing of me.
In you alone is my delight,
Life of my life!

“You are the fire of my fire,
My knowing;
The form of my substance,
In you am I well pleased.

“Whoever gives his love to you, my Son,
To him I give myself,
And him I fill
With the love I feel for you
Just for making you beloved,
My Beloved.”

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‘You do not understand it, yet you explain it to yourself?’–Ivan Turgenev ‘Fathers and Sons’

So for the memory; even in prayer I must not seek to remember this or that person, or “intention,” but go direct to God, in whom the object of my petition, if it is to be granted, will be found.  I go, not to my friend, and take him up to God; but to God, and there, if He wills it, find my friend.  Even what is good, in memory, must be rejected, because of the tendency to rest upon it; just as a similar tendency is felt, to rest upon the vision—imaginative or intellectual—which, at the moment; fills me with divine delight.  In this way, even the will has to be “mortified,” and reduced (St John of the Cross says it seems) to silence.  Whatever grace, whatever help or spiritual success or communication God gives to me, is but new material for renunciation, until assuredly, since sense, memory, intelligence, and will, are one after the other transcended by the soul as it climbs its Carmel in the night, we well may ask, What, after all, is left?  –‘Upon God’s Holy Hills: the Guides of St Anthony of Egypt, St Bruno of Cologne, St John of the Cross’ by C.C.Martindale

St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.

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A lover of Christ residing as a poet, a saint

At last we can watch, even in these poems of the Dark, the Saint (St John of the Cross), holding in one hand the supreme substantial vision, and in the other created loveliness, and friends with both, since neither was held by him for his own worship:

On the flowers of my bosom
Kept whole for Him alone,
There He repose and slept;
And I caressed Him, and the waving
Of the cedars fanned Him.

As His hair floated in the breeze
That blew from the turret;
He struck me on the neck
With His gentle hand,
And all my senses left me.

I continued in oblivion lost—
My head was resting on my Love—
Lost to all things and myself,
And, amid the lilies forgotten,
Threw all my cares away.

‘Upon God’s Holy Hills; the Guides St Anthony of Egypt, St Bruno of Cologne, St John of the Cross’ by C.C. Martindale

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Struggling to be all that one can be

St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.

According to this holy doctor (St John of the Cross}, a single irregular appetite, even in a venial matter…an imperfect desire of the will, no matter how trifling— . one single human desire, to which the soul is inordinately attached, is enough to prevent her from being raised to divine union. “It is sad to see certain souls, richly freighted with merits and good works, who, because they have not the courage to break with certain tastes, attachments, or affections, never reach the haven of divine union, although God gave them strength to burst the bonds of pride and sensuality, and of many other vices and gross vanities, so that they are no longer held but by a single thread. There is, likewise, reason to deplore the ignorance of some, who, neglecting to mortify their real passions, think they can dispose themselves for divine union by indiscreetly undertaking a number of penances and other extraordinary practices; these are simply on the wrong road.

This is the teaching of a great saint and eminent mystic. If it is felt to be somewhat severe, at least every one must agree with him that the passions “fatigue, torment, darken, defile and weaken the soul. It is of the highest importance to discipline them, if we would advance in virtue and in prayer; “the greater or less purity of the soul determines the degree of illumination and union of which it is capable.” The best, surest and most meritorious means to pacify the soul is to strive always, not after that which is most easy, but after that which is most difficult; not after that which is most pleasant, but after that which is most unpleasant; not after what is more agreeable, but after what is less agreeable; not after what is more consoling, but after what is afflicting,”

It is not enough to purify the conscience, it must be pacified. “Remorse. when excessive, produces in the soul restlessness, depression, discouragement and weakness, which render it unfit for any good exercise. It is the same with regard to scruples, for a similar reason; these are thorns which prick the conscience, agitate it, and deprive it of tranquility, repose in God and the enjoyment of true peace.”

Let us, then, watch over the purity of our soul, without being too concentrated upon ourselves. Exaggerated examinations, minute inquiries, scruples, continual fears narrow the heart, hinder it from dilating with love, and are a great obstacle to divine union. –Abbot Vitalis Lehodey ‘Holy Abandonment’ quoting extensively from St John of the Cross

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Faith

Poem written by St john of the Cross, formatted according to the display on my Hoopla phone app.

For I know well the spring that flows and runs, although it is night.

That eternal
Spring is
Hidden, for
I know
Well where
It has its rise,
Although it is night.

I do not know
Its origin,
Nor has it one,
That every
Origin has
Come from it,
Although it is night.

I know that
Nothing
Else is so
Beautiful,
And that the
Heavens
And the earth
Drink there,
Although it is night.

I know well
That it is
Bottomless
And no one is
Able to
Cross it,
Although it is night.

Its clarity is
Never darkened,
And I know
That every
Light has
Come from it,
Although it is night.

I know that its
Streams
Are so brimming
They water
The lands of hell,
The heavens
And earth,
Although it is night.

I know well
The stream
That flows
From this spring
Is mighty
In compass
And power,
Although it is night.

I know the stream
Proceeding from
These two,
That neither of
Them in fact
Precedes it,
Although it is night.

The eternal
Spring is hidden
In this living
Bread for
Our life’s sake,
Although it is night.

It is here
Calling out
To creatures;
And they
Satisfy
Their thirst,
Although in darkness,
Because it is night.

This living spring
That I long for,
I see in
This bread of life,
Although it is night.

St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.

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Together immersed

Oh, lamps of fires,
In whose splendors the deep caravans of sense which were dark and blind
With strange brightness
Give heat and light together to their Beloved!

It must be understood that this enlightenment of splendor is not like a material fire which, with its burst of flame, enlightens and heats things that are outside it, but is like one that heats things that are within it, as is the soul in this state. For this reason, the soul says: ‘In whose splendors’: that is to say, it is ‘within’—not ‘near’ but ‘within’—its splendors, in the flames of the lamps (Divine infusion), the soul being transformed into flame. And so we shall say that it is like the air which is within the flame and is enkindled and transformed into fire, for flame is naught else but enkindled air; and the movements made by this flame are not simply those of air nor simply those of fire, but of air and fire together, and the fire causes the air that is enkindled within it to burn. –St John of the Cross ‘Living Flame of Love’

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