Readings for John of the Cross: Mystic and Monastic Reformer, 1591
“When the Spirit of Truth comes He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)
I studied John of the Cross while taking Spiritual Guidance courses at Shalem Institute. I am very moved by his writing, “Dark Night of the Soul.” It really demonstrates the contemplative possibilities that can be achieved when we settle ourselves down. The Spirit of Truth that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel of John is the Holy Spirit that came among us when Jesus had died and was raised again. The Holy Spirit of the Incarnate Word will accompany us in all that we ask. We truly will be guided into all truth.
“John of the Cross was unknown outside the Discalced Carmelites for nearly three hundred years after his death. More recently, scholars of Christian spirituality have found in him a hidden treasure. Once described by Thomas Merton as “the church’s safest mystical theologian,” John has been called the “the poet’s poet,” “spirit of flame,” “celestial and divine.” John was born in 1542 at Fontiveros, near Avila, Spain.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for December 14)
So as I now practice the humility of invisibility I am amazed that John was so quiet (invisible) that he was not really discovered until nearly 300 years after his death. His sometimes forced solitude enabled him to fully devote himself the Spirit of Truth that Jesus spoke of.
“John became disillusioned with what he considered the laxity of the Carmelites and, in 1568, he opened a monastery of “Discalced” (strict observance) Carmelites, an act that met with sharp resistance from the General Chapter of the Calced Carmelites. John was seized, taken to Toledo, and imprisoned in the monastery. During nine months of great hardship, he comforted himself by writing poetry. It was while he was imprisoned that he composed the greater part of his luminous masterpiece, The Spiritual Canticle, as well as a number of shorter poems. Other major works are, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Living Flame of Love, and The Dark Night. It is this latter work, Noche obscura del alma, that gave the English language the phrase “dark night of the soul. After a severe illness, John died on December 14, 1591.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for December 14)
His forced solitude made him creative. How much more can you and I do if we just take the time to be alone and quiet. Blaise Pascal wrote; “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I modified his words to read, “All of humanity’s problems stem from a person’s refusal to sit quietly in a room alone.” I believe we can, sadly, we just refuse.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+