Saint John Of The Cross - Dark Night Of The Soul (262.0 Kb)
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It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that the verse and prose works combined of St. John of the Cross form at once the most grandiose and the most melodious spiritual canticle to which any one man has ever given utterance. The most sublime of all the Spanish mystics, he soars aloft on the wings of Divine love to heights known to hardly any of them. . . . True to the character of his thought, his style is always forceful and energetic, even to a fault. When we study his treatises--principally that great composite work kno... More >>>
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It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that the verse and prose works combined of St. John of the Cross form at once the most grandiose and the most melodious spiritual canticle to which any one man has ever given utterance. The most sublime of all the Spanish mystics, he soars aloft on the wings of Divine love to heights known to hardly any of them. . . . True to the character of his thought, his style is always forceful and energetic, even to a fault. When we study his treatises--principally that great composite work known as the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night--we have the impression of a mastermind that has scaled the heights of mystical science and from their summit looks down upon and dominates the plain below and the paths leading upward. Nowhere else, again, is he quite so appealingly human for, though he is human even in his loftiest and sublimest passages, his intermingling of philosophy with mystical theology makes him seem particularly so. These treatises are a wonderful illustration of the theological truth that graced far from destroying nature, ennobles and dignifies it, and of the agreement always found between the natural and the supernatural--between the principles of sound reason and the sublimest manifestations of Divine grace. E. ALLISON PEERS
Saint John of the Cross (Spanish: San Juan de la Cruz; 1542 - 14 December 1591), was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, a Roman Catholic saint, a Carmelite friar and a priest who was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.
John of the Cross was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of his time and the movement he helped initiate, along with Saint Teresa of Avila, eventually lead to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither he nor Teresa were alive when the two orders separated. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonized as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.
St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to fewer than 2500 verses, two of them -- the Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul -- are widely considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery. His theological works often consist of commentaries on these poems. All the works were written between 1578 and his death in 1591, meaning there is great consistency in the views presented in them.
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. The first 31 stanzas of the poem were composed in 1578 while John was imprisoned in Toledo. It was read after his escape by the nuns at Beas, who made copies of these stanzas. Over the following years, John added some extra stanzas. Today, two versions exist: one with 39 stanzas and one with 40, although with some of the stanzas ordered differently. The first redaction of the commentary on the poem was written in 1584, at the request of Madre Ana de Jesus, when she was prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Granada. A second redaction, which contains more detail, was written in 1585-6.
The Dark Night (from which the spiritual term 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. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem of this title was likely written in 1578 or 1579. In 1584-5, John wrote a commentary on the first two stanzas and first line of the third stanza of the poem.
The 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. Although it begins as a commentary on the poem "The Dark Night", it rapidly drops this format, having commented on the first two stanzas of the poem, and becomes a treatise. It was composed sometime between 1581 and 1585.
A four-stanza work, Living Flame of Love, describes a greater intimacy, as the soul responds to God's love. It was written in a first redaction at Granada between 1585-6, apparently in two weeks, and in a mostly identical second redaction at La Penuela in 1591.
These, together with his Dichos de Luz y Amor (or "Sayings of Light and Love") 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 are T. S. Eliot, Therese de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and Thomas Merton. John has also influenced philosophers (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), pacifists (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan) and artists (Salvador Dali). Pope John Paul II wrote his theological dissertation on the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross.
Saint John of the Cross Books:
- Dark Night of the Soul, London, 2012. limovia.net ISBN 978-1-78336-005-5
- Ascent of Mount Carmel, London, 2012. limovia.net ISBN 978-1-78336-009-3
- Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ, London, 2012.
- The Dark Night: A Masterpiece in the Literature of Mysticism (Translated and Edited by E. Allison Peers), Doubleday, 1959. ISBN 978-0-385-02930-8
- The Poems of Saint John of the Cross (English Versions and Introduction by Willis Barnstone), - Indiana University Press, 1968, revised 2nd ed. New Directions, 1972. ISBN 0-8112-0449-9
- The Dark Night, Saint John of The Cross (Translated by Mirabai Starr), Riverhead Books, New York, 2002, ISBN 1-57322-974-1
- Poems of St John of The Cross (Translated and Introduction by Kathleen Jones), Burns and Oates, - Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK, 1993, ISBN 0-86012-210-7
- The Collected Works of St John of the Cross (Eds. K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez), Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington DC, revised edition, 1991