Today is the birthday of St. John of the Cross, a man Thomas Merton called “the greatest of all mystical theologians.
Claudia Mair Burney describes his writing in The Ascent of Mount Carmel like this:
If you’ll allow him to, St. John of the cross will take you on an unforgettable journey. Like the romantic he is, he’s reaching for your hand, to steal away with you into the night. It’s a night of stark contrasts: the black darker than midnight, and the bright light more radiant than dawn.
Here is a little taste of his incredible poetry:
1. On a dark night, aroused in love with yearnings—
oh, happy chance!—
I went out without being observed, since all in my
house were asleep.
2. In darkness and secure, by the secret ladder,
disguised—oh, happy chance!—
concealed and in darkness, since all in my house
3. In the happy night, in secret, when no one saw me,
nor did I see anyone, without light or guide, except
the light that burned in my
4. This light guided me more surely than the light of
to the place where he (well I knew who!) was
waiting for me—
A place where no one appeared.
5. Oh, night that guided me, oh, night more lovely
than the dawn,
oh, night that joined beloved with lover, lover
transformed in the beloved!
6. He slept soundly on my flowery breast, which I had
kept wholly for him alone,
And I caressed him, and the fanning of the cedars
made a breeze.
7. The breeze blew from the turret as I parted his hair;
he wounded my neck with his gentle hand, and
suspended all my senses.
8. I remained, lost in forgetfulness; I lay my face on the
everything stopped and I abandoned myself,
forgetting my cares among the lilies.