Category Archives: John of the Cross

The Loves of God

 

Lord, you love discretion, you love light, you love love; these three you love above the other operations of the soul. Hence these will be sayings of discretion for the wayfarer, of light for the way, and of love in the wayfaring.

—-John of the Cross

 

John of Cross presents to us an approach to soul spirituality. He asserts that there are three operations of the soul that are primary. These operations guide us on our journey as we travel towards God. We are wayfarers searching for ourJohn-of-the-Cross-11-8-17 ultimate home. For me, this is a familiar journey. During nearly all of our 40 years of marriage, my wife and I have either lived in Parsonages or knew that the home we were purchasing would have to be given up when a move was designated. The life of an itinerant preacher is not one that encourages, or allows, the stability of place. Much to our joy, an opportunity presented itself for us to purchase and move into our “forever home” two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we lived in some very fine homes that we could never have afforded on our own, but it is such a peace to know that we are now stable.

The Christian wayfarer is on a very similar journey. He or she is happy and contented to be where God has placed them at the moment but always keeps an eye out for what is to come. We are all on a soul journey towards God and searching for the true meaning being a citizen of the God’s Kingdom.

Discretion

Discretion is knowing the right thing to do and doing it with a sense of humility. Jesus said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” As wayfarers, there are many experiences that will transpire in this world before we become complete kingdom people. None of us can achieve completeness of our souls when are busy with self-promotion. God’s love is not present in showy Christians. God wants us to be discrete.

Light

Our paths are being illuminated by the light that God supplies. There are far too many people who desire to supply their own light. In doing so, they completely miss the light of God. Our soul journey becomes a confusing mess of competing “lights” and none of them are the true light. The true light brings both freedom and responsibility. There is a sense that when we walk with the light we accept some of the burdens of others as Jesus accepted the burdens of all. As we accept the burden of others, we are given true light that will illuminate our path. Additionally, we are given the strength and wisdom that comes with God’s light. His light allows us to never be alone.

Love

Love is the most over used and distorted word in our vocabulary. We love in all kinds of ways and still miss the love of God. His love is unconditional and unfettered. It is limitless and available to all. Our love is always so conditional and it is limited by our ability to grasp the love of God. All God wants us to do is to accept His love and He will do the rest. When we accept His love we get a view of His heart and cannot be restrained from being and acting like Him. No rules are necessary – only live in the bliss of knowing the love of God.

If you are thinking that this is too good to be true, you are probably right. There is no such thing as perfection on this journey but there is the path that seeks it. God tells us through John of the Cross that there are at least three ways that we can try to find harmony with God. My suggestion is to just try. What have you got to lose?


Prayer
Lord, help me to examine the way I observe discretion, light, and love along my path. Keep these concepts in my mind as I walk the wayfarer’s path of life. Might I accept the wisdom of the wise man of the past and seek these concepts every day.

Amen


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Heart Light

In the happy night, in secret, when none saw me, nor I beheld anyone, without light or guide, except that which burned in my heart. This light guided me more surely than the light of noonday to the place where He was awaiting me.

— John of the Cross

 

I think that we all yearn for a “heart light” that will lead us directly to God. Life is far too hard and confusing for us to figure our own path to God, so he gives us a special light that only we can see. This light can be passed on to none or borrowed by no one. God gives it to the ones who have chosen to follow Him.

John of the Cross says that it is brighter than the light of the brightest day. The light that our Creator places in us when we acknowledge His grace exceeds anything we can imagine. This light takes us to the place that He has prepared for us before we were born.

The problem is that we travel this road in the dark night of this world. In that night we are surrounded by “light eaters”, that is, forces and powers that want us to turn away from our inner light. These forces manifest themselves in a great variety of ways. Such forces can be a friendly voice that steers us in the wrong direction or a tragic circumstance that leads us to doubt God. We are assured of this by the writer of Hebrews …“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” We travel in the night but not in darkness.

Prayer

Lord help me this day to discover that heart light that dwells dormant within me. With that discovery, I will surely touch the hem of your garment and receive healing of the soul. Amen

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The Road

If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.

St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church.

——John of the Cross

John of the cross is the medieval mystic who gave us “Dark Night of the Soul.” In his work he challenges us to the work of being a Christian, and the strength that comes for the journey. He tells us that the strength comes from complete union with God. This union has a price, and it is separation from the world. In that dark night of separation John finds the peace of God.

Prayer Thought

Lord help us to seek union with you and to understand its cost.

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Desire

Cross John of the CrossTo reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing,
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
— St. John of the Cross

Desire is a very strong emotion and it can lead us to good or bad. Our control of desire is the key to victory.

Prayer

Lord help me this day to desire nothing so that You may be able to give me more than I can imagine.

Amen

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The Dark Journey

We May say that there are three reasons for which this journey made by the soul to union with God is called night.

· The first has to do with the point from which the soul goes forth, for it has gradually to deprive itself of desire for all the worldly things which it possessed, by denying them to itself; the which denial and deprivation are, as it were, night to all the senses of man.

Zurbarán_St._John_of_the_Cross· The second reason has to do with the mean, or the road along which the soul must travel to this union — that is, faith, which is likewise as dark as night to the understanding.

· The third has to do with the point to which it travels — namely, God, Who, equally, is dark night to the soul in this life.

These three nights must pass through the soul — or, rather, the soul must pass through them — in order that it may come to Divine union with God.

—- John of the Cross from Ascent to Mt. Carmel

The writings of John of the Cross clearly point toward the ultimate mystery of attempting to reach into the inner sanctum of spiritual development. In this small excerpt from his “Ascent to Mt. Carmel,” he points out that the end of every path there is night (mystery) as we ascend to a meaningful relationship with God. We often think we can understand and reach union with God without encountering the pain of mystery. Such a path does not exist. Let us examine these three reasons we experience this night.

Preparation for the journey, any journey, is always stressful. There are plans to be made, things to be done that are not always things we look forward to doing. In the case of spiritual preparation we must learn to deny ourselves. Jesus asks us to take up a cross and follow Him. Fasting, denial, even simple living are among the things that can bring us into the night. All these disciplines, and more, are what it takes to journey closer to God.

Faith for the journey is a tall order. In the simplest of terms “… faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We live and breathe in a world that is constantly seeking to understand, prove or discover all manner of truth. Conversely, faith on the road to God cannot be understood, proven or discovered in any tangible way. Faith is clearly a journey into the night that only has God at the end of a dark tunnel.

Focus for the journey is found in an unshakable belief (most of the time) in the person of God. There is much darkness in not seeing. We can’t see or touch God and yet we spend our lives trying to get closer to Him. That is a remarkably dark and lonely place to be. Through resolute behavior and unshakable faith we can reach into the inner sanctum and find God.

May we all commit ourselves to this ascent to God, for in it we find a heavenly Peace.

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Self Denial

 

“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”

 

—-John of the Cross

 

Cross John of the CrossThe medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.

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Self-Denial

“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”

—–John of the Cross

Jesus and the BasinThe medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

—Jesus

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Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love

Lord God, my Beloved, if you still remember my sins in such a way that you do not do what I beg of you, do your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise your goodness and mercy, and you will be known St. john of the Crossthrough them. And if you are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings you desire to accept, and let it be done. But if you are not waiting for my works, what is it that makes you wait, my most clement Lord? Why do you delay? For if, after all, I am to receive the grace and mercy that I entreat of you in your Son, take my mite, since you desire it, and grant me this blessing, since you also desire that. Who can free themselves from lowly manners and limitations if you do not lift them to yourself, my God, in purity of love? How will human beings begotten and nurtured in lowliness rise up to you, Lord, if you do not raise them with your hand that made them? You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay. With what procrastinations do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart? Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

——John of the Cross

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Living Flame of Love

O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate! if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

 

English: Saint John of the Cross, portrait

O sweet cautery, O delightful wound! O gentle hand! O delicate touch that tastes of eternal life and pays every debt! In killing you changed death to life.

 

O lamps of fire! in whose splendors the deep caverns of feeling, once obscure and blind, now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely, both warmth and light to their Beloved.

 

How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

——- John of the Cross

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Discovering the Desert of My Soul

Candle PrayerI don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct others by sharing these experiences. God is a mystery, and He is best seen in a mystical way. In the desert they would find the Spirit that had apparently left the organized church, and indeed, they did. They were the first mystics.

 Many factors prohibited this mystical movement from being the major driving force of the church. All throughout history there have been famous mystics. Notable ones are, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ignatius of Loyola. I wanted to learn as much from them as I could, but in the middle of that experience something happened to my own way of thinking. Suddenly, the idea of certainty of belief was replaced with a deep, abiding appreciation for the mysterious nature of God. After all belief in God is mystery, not certainty, and can best be understood through the eyes of the mystic.

 I don’t claim to be a Christian mystic at the level of the people I have mentioned, but I do contend that thinking as a mystic can open new panoramas of faith. These panoramas can lead to a much broader view of the work of God, and a more intimate involvement with Him. Things like meditation, Lectio Divina, silence, and icons have taken on a new meaning in my life. They have become invitations to spiritual portals that I never knew existed.

Major realities I discovered by embracing Christian Mysticism:

  • God does live within me
  • God really speaks to me (not audibly)
  • God protects me at all times
  • God gives me strength beyond my ability
  • God owes me nothing
  • Evil wins sometime
  • Suffering is a spiritual discipline
  • Scripture is the Word of God and it still lives
  • Silence is the loudest prayer
  • Silence is a portal to God
  • There is more than one right answer

My journey into mysticism has not so much brought me closer to God, as it has helped me to understand how far I have to go. Jubilantly, I can say that I am not alone on the journey. He is with me! The mystical, monastic journey brought me to the desert of my soul, and there I found the face of God. I continue to travel through that desert with the traveling companions I have discovered. Thanks for reading this story and the other stories that I have written about these mystics who have become my friends.

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