Sunday, November 11, 2012

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic born in 1542. Influenced by the Counter-Reformation, he worked with St. Teresa of Ávila to bring strict reform to the Carmelite Order.  He was arrested in 1577 by fellow Carmelites (who opposed the reforms) and imprisoned in a monastery, where he began writing Spiritual Canticle. He escaped nine months later. He continued to write and build Discalced Carmelite communities until he died of illness in Úbeda in 1591. He is now a Doctor of the Church. 

His Spiritual Canticle and The Dark Night of the Soul both talk about the soul seeking Christ. The Dark Night of the Soul is divided into two parts: the purification of the senses and the purification of the soul. The term “dark night of the soul” has come to mean a spiritual crisis that occurs during one’s journey toward God. Frankly, I’ve always been a bit afraid of the mystic path because of the “dark night of the soul” business. I don’t want to go through years of feeling as if God has abandoned me. Of course, I’m sure nobody wants that. While I want to delve into the mystics and try to understand their writings, I don’t think I can. The mystic path is one of those things you can understand academically and still not get. You can’t really talk about it until you have traveled it, and if you have traveled it, words are inadequate.

Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross, 1951

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