Tag Archives: Saint John of the Cross

14 December: On fire with all love’s longing.

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For the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, here is one of his spiritual songs. This is taken from ‘San Juan de la Cruz Seven Spiritual Poems’, translated by A.S. Kline, available through Project Gutenberg. 

Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State of perfection, that is, the union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.

Upon a darkened night
on fire with all love’s longing
– O joyful flight! –
I left, none noticing,
my house, in silence, resting.

Secure, devoid of light,
by secret stairway, stealing
– O joyful flight! –
in darkness self-concealing,
my house, in silence, resting.

In the joy of night,
in secret so none saw me,
no object in my sight
no other light to guide me,
but what burned here inside me.

Which solely was my guide,
more surely than noon-glow,
to where he does abide,
one whom I deeply know,
a place where none did show.

O night, my guide!
O night, far kinder than the dawn!
O night that tied
the lover to the loved,
the loved in the lover there transformed!

On my flowering breast,
that breast I kept for him alone,
there he took his rest
while I regaled my own,
in lulling breezes from the cedars blown.

The breeze, from off the tower,
as I sieved through its windings,
with calm hands, that hour,
my neck, in wounding,
left all my senses hanging.

Self abandoned, self forgot,
my face inclined to the beloved one:
all ceased, and I was not,
my cares now left behind, and gone:
there among the lilies all forgotten.

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1 March: Ash Wednesday. Where am I going?

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I am driving purposefully, signalling my intentions to cars around, moving forwards towards…

Hold on…where am I going?

I am going entirely the wrong way!

The trouble was the beginning of the journey was part of a familiar route and I’d gone into automatic pilot. I didn’t need to think about where to turn and why. So when I should have turned left I carried straight on – good for the journey I’d made many times in the past but not at all related to where I had to get to today.

Lent is a time for waking from the dream and more consciously thinking about where we are going. If I carry on this way will I come to a place I really want to get to, or am I simply going with momentum – the draw of the familiar. Which way is my life facing and what will happen if I carry on moving this way? There is a sense for many of us that we fall into a path others determine for us – be that to do with job, lifestyle or the roles we play; and there is often much that is good and true and necessary about this. But is this our all?

John of the Cross wrote of how there is an alternative gravity that draws us deep within our hearts – a gravity that those who heard Jesus responded to intuitively. This gravity draws us into relationship with One leads us into meaningful living; it helps us face our lack of wholeness and our entanglement, but gives us hope of integration and freedom.

The soul feels that she is rushing toward God

as rapidly as a falling stone when nearing its centre…

She knows, too, that she is like a sketch or the first draft of a drawing

and calls out to the one who did this sketch to finish the painting and image.

[The Spiritual Canticle, chapter 13]

Mark’s Gospel summarises Jesus’ Gospel this way:

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.’

[Mark 1:15].

Repentance carries with it this sense of stopping to consider where we are going; do I really want to continue in this way? Or is there another gravity that draws me? Repentance is about desire and direction, not achievement or arrival. Those who responded to Jesus’ call ‘followed him’; they probably had little sense of where that journey would take them but chose all the same to go where he went. They sensed in their own unease the draw of another, inward gravity.

Where am I going?’

CC.

And a nod to Saint David with our illustration!

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14 December: Recognising God in the world.

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Today is Wednesday in the third week of Advent, .and also the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross Priest and Doctor of the Church. He was a Carmelite friar who was outstanding in his holiness and knowledge, as his many spiritual writings testify.

The first reading from Isaiah 45: 6-8; 18, 21-26 is telling us that “Apart from me, (God) all is nothing. I am the Lord unrivalled. There is no other god besides me, a God of integrity and saviour;… Turn to me and be saved. From the Lord alone comes victory and strength”. As we are in this Advent period of waiting for Christ, how open I am to receive him? How prepared am I to welcome him and accept him and His good work in me? Am I ready to recognise him in my daily life?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist sends his disciples to go and ask Christ if he is the Messiah, or are they to wait for another? (Luke 7: 19-23) God comes to me in my daily activities and in the people that I meet each day. I meet God in creation, in the stillness of the lonely valleys…flowing with fresh water’… as St John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle. I pray through the intercession of St John of the cross, that God will give me the grace to be strengthened, and rooted in the Love of God, that I may have the power to comprehend with the saints the breath, and length, and height and depth of the Love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf.Ephesians 3:18). Amen.

FMSL

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Good News, not Good Advice.

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The word “Gospel” means “good news,” not “good advice.” The gospels are not so much a spiritual and moral theology book that tell us what we should be doing, but are more an account of what God has already done for us, is still doing for us, and the wonderful dignity that this bestows on us. Of course the idea is that since we are gifted in this way our actions should reflect that dignity rather than the opposite. Morality is not a command, it’s an invitation; not a threat, but a reminder of who we truly are. We become taller and less petty when we remember what kind of family we ultimately come from.

We all have two souls, two hearts, and two minds. Inside of each of us there’s a soul, heart, and mind that’s petty, that’s been hurt, that wants vengeance that wants to protect itself, that’s frightened of what’s different, that’s prone to gossip, that’s racist, that perennially feels cheated. Seen in a certain light, all of us are as small in stature as Zacchaeus. But there’s also a tall, big-hearted person inside each of us, someone who wants to warmly embrace the whole world, beyond personal hurt, selfishness, race, creed, and politics.

The world isn’t divided up between big-hearted and small-minded people. Rather our days are divided up between those moments when we are big-hearted, generous, warm, hospitable, unafraid, wanting to embrace everyone and those moments when we are petty, selfish, over-aware of the unfairness of life, frightened, and seeking only to protect ourselves and our own safety and interests. We are both tall and short at the same time and either of these can manifest itself from minute to minute.

For John of the Cross, this is the way we heal:

We heal not by confronting all of our wounds and selfishness head-on, which would overwhelm us and drown us in discouragement, but by growing to what he calls “our deepest centre.” For him, this centre is not first of all some deep place of solitude inside the soul, but rather the furthest place of growth that we can attain, the optimum of our potential. To grow to what our deepest DNA has destined us for is what makes us whole, makes us tall—humanly, spiritually, and morally.

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Thus, if John of the Cross were your spiritual director and you went to him with some moral flaw or character deficiency, his first counsel would be: What are you good at? What have you been blessed with? Where, in your life and work, does God’s goodness and beauty most shine through? If you can grow more and more towards that goodness, it will fan into an ever larger flame which eventually will become a fire that cauterises your faults. When you walk tall there will be less and less room for what’s small and petty to manifest itself.

But to walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Nothing else, ultimately, gives us as large an identity. That’s useful also to remember when we challenge each other: Gospel-challenge doesn’t shame us with our pettiness, it invites us to what’s already best inside us.

AMcC.

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Light VI: Silent as light.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

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To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee.

Walter Chalmers Smith.

John Betjeman commented on the first line of this hymn, ‘Happily wisdom isn’t the only attribute of God – clever people can be very tiresome.’ He has a point: all the apocalyptic imagery here can be off-putting. Nevertheless, I return to the last line, ‘only the splendour of light hideth Thee.’ Light pollution can be physical but also mental and spiritual.

Like Newman, we should be wary of the garish day, and join Vaughan, deciphering the glimmers in the night sky – after all, until GPS came in the stars were used for navigation, even leading the Wise Men to Jesus. If it is dark outside, may we trust with Therese and John of the Cross, who   ‘had neither guide nor light, except the one shining in my heart’, who will lead us home.

 

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July 13:Light IV – They Are All Gone into the World of Light! (continued)

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NASA photo showing the Milky Way

We continue with Henry Vaughan:

If a star were confin’d into a tomb,
Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock’d her up gives room,
She’ll shine through all the sphere.

O Father of eternal life, and all
Created glories under Thee!
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall
Into true liberty.

Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
My perspective still as they pass:
Or else remove me hence unto that hill
Where I shall need no glass.

I cannot help but think of Therese and John of the Cross, reading the lines: ‘If a star were confin’d into a tomb, Her captive flames must needs burn there.’ John’s prison cell  and even Therese’s Carmel must seem like prisons to some of us. I’ve certainly had moments when I’ve just had to escape from certain rooms and get out of doors. I believe it may have something to do with the harsh artificial light in there. And Traveller friends have described feeling oppressed even by spending too much time indoors in friendly places. 

But Therese and John still burned in their confinement, and shine through this sphere today, enlightening many with their wisdom. We can pray for God to disperse the mists that fill our lenses – Vaughan is surely peering through a telescope as the words come into his mind. And we can look forward to the city on a hilltop where we will live by the light of the Lord God.

I hope the stars will still be there!

MMB

 

 

 

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July 11: LIGHT II – Saint Thérèse, Saint John of the Cross and inner light

Thérèse is writing about her early experiences of the light of her vocation bursting forth in her heart, and refers to another Carmelite, Saint John of the Cross. See http://www.livres-mystiques.com/partieTEXTES/Lisieux/Histoire/fol36a53.html

The path I was walking along was so straight, so luminous, that I needed no other guide but Jesus.

When a gardener takes great care of a fruit that he wants to ripen before its season, it is never to leave it hanging on the tree, but in order to bring it to the table, beautifully served. It was something like that that Jesus had in mind when he multiplied his graces in his little flower – he who cried out during his mortal life ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’ (Luke 10: 21)

mercylogoHe wanted to make his mercy erupt in me; because I was little he came down to me and in secret taught me about his love.  Ah! If any scholars who had passed their lives in studies had come to interrogate me, doubtless they would have been astounded to find a fourteen year old child understanding the secrets of perfection, secrets that all their science could not reveal to them because to possess them one must be poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

As St John of the Cross said in his Canticle: ‘I had neither guide nor light, except the one shining in my heart. This light guided me, more surely than the light of midday, to the place where He who knew me perfectly was waiting for me.’ That place was Carmel.

(For each of them!)

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Tuesday 1st March 2016 (St. David) Pressing on toward the goal

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(Philippians 3:8-14; Ps 1, R/39:5; Matt 5:13-16)

 

We are pilgrims here on earth because we are passing through in order reach our final destination.  Meeting God is our ultimate goal. So what I have done, what am I doing and what will I continue to do in order to meet God face to face at the end of my journey here on earth? I need to look deeply into my heart and ask myself: Will I be among those to whom Christ will say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and in prison you came to visit me”?

Today is not too late to make a new start.  You and I can begin today to seek out those around us who may be in need, to make a difference in their lives, no matter how small it may seem to be. It may not be an easy task in a society where people are suspicious of one another, where a good act could be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Should I then stop doing good because I maybe misjudged?  Jesus says ‘NO’ because nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing him.  Jesus himself was misjudged and finally was nailed to the cross.  …But the cross was not the end of Jesus’ story.  He was raised up by God on the third day and was crowned with eternal glory.

Pope Francis, in The Name of God is Mercy, quotes the words of St. John of the Cross:‘”  In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”’  And we can be sure that all those who persevere to the end in charity will live with him in His glory forever.

 

FMSL

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14/12 Saint John of the Cross

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Yesterday’s readings could not have been bettered for today’s Saint, John of Cross. Like his namesake, the Baptist, he suffered imprisonment unjustly. We have witnessed, in our own day, the emotions aroused by change in the Church, in the Catholic, Anglican, or any other branch; we have witnessed resistance to the ministry of women who perceive that the skills and talents given to them and honed by diligent study and training, should be deployed where new needs and opportunities arise.

Welcome to the world of John of the Cross.

This collaborator of St Teresa of Avila  worked to revive the apostolic poverty that had been a mark of the Carmelites, but had been lost awhile as convents became luxurious homes for rich unmarried women. John and Teresa perceived that – of course – there were challenges for the brothers of the order as well if they were to be true to their calling, and – of course – they knew that prophets would be rejected in their own communities.

John may have been dismayed and suffered the dark night of his soul, but he escaped his cell and returned to his work.

These lines, written in prison on smuggled paper, link him to Dylan Thomas in trusting the dark:

Oh, night that guided me,

Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,

Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Let us pray that we may trust the Beloved to guide us all through the night, till the angel faces smile upon us.

MMB.

More posts about Saint Teresa.

Like Little Children, 15th October 2015

Whose Angel Faces Smile? 16th October 2015

Therese, her Parents and Other Saints, 17th October 2015

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