Dec 13, 2010

St. John of the Cross - mystic, poet, priest

At this point in Advent, just eleven days until Christmas, I am tempted to refer to our two “John’s”: St. John the Baptist about whom we have heard much this season and St. John of the Cross, the supreme 16th century Spanish mystic; a very different sort of Saint from the Baptist. St. John of the Cross is a mystical heavyweight.

As one source I found stated: He understood the mystery of God in Jesus Christ as far as it is humanly possible, lived it in intimate union with God and his Mother and wrote that mytery as it pertains to prayer life and the expression of God's charity in word and actions toward others. (Doctors of the Catholic Church.com) This places John of the Cross in an unprecented position.

Sometimes our saints are attractive due to their simple message and share in the common human experience like St. Therese of Liseux. Sometimes they are formidable like the intellectual genius of Thomas Aquinas. And sometimes, they stand like icons to be viewed with reverence as the profound spiritual mystic St. John of the Cross whose memorial is December 14th.

St. John is tough, lofty, abstract, but grounded on earth in the universal call to union with God. John of the Cross was a disciple of Teresa of Avila and worked with her in the reform of the Carmelite Order during the mid to late 1500’s in Spain. They founded the Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites in a deep embrace of poverty. His theme of union with God was the pursuit of his life and the subject of his writings. We must detach ourselves from all things in order to attain this union.

St. John spoke through his spiritual reflections and writings. They are not a quick read but a deep insight; a call to reflect on our union with God in this life as we look to the next:

I have said that God is pleased with nothing but love; but before I explain this, it will be as well to set forth the grounds on which the assertion rests. All our works, and all our labours, how grand soever they may be, are nothing in the sight of God, for we can give Him nothing, neither can we by them fulfil His desire, which is the growth of our soul. As to Himself He desires nothing of this, for He has need of nothing, and so, if He is pleased with anything it is with the growth of the soul; and as there is no way in which the soul can grow but in becoming in a manner equal to Him, for this reason only is He pleased with our love.