Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hail, John, Reformer, Mystic and Doctor of the Church

 St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John of the Cross (1542 AD – 1591 AD).  St. John assisted St. Teresa of Avila in founding the Discalced Carmelites, a reform of the Carmelite Order which returned to the Carmelites' original, severe observance.   "Discalced" means shoeless, and though the Discalced Carmelites do go without shoes, they are not unshod, as they are permitted to wear sandals.  For this service to the Church, St. John suffered imprisonment and other harsh treatment from his fellow Carmelites.  However, the experience of imprisonment was fruitful for St. John of the Cross, as it inspired the composition of his mystical masterpieces "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" and "The Dark Night of the Soul."

Here is a short extract from "The Dark Night of the Soul":

"THIS night, which, as we say, is contemplation, produces in spiritual persons two kinds of darkness or purgation, corresponding to the two parts of man’s nature—namely, the sensual and the spiritual. And thus the one night or purgation will be sensual, wherein the soul is purged according to sense, which is subdued to the spirit; and the other is a night or purgation which is spiritual, wherein the soul is purged and stripped according to the spirit, and subdued and made ready for the union of love with God. The night of sense is common and comes to many: these are the beginners; and of this night we shall speak first. The night of the spirit is the portion of very few, and these are they that are already practised and proficient, of whom we shall treat hereafter."

St. John of the Cross, pray for us

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