The Essential Writings

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-08-10
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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John of the Cross was a sixteenthcentury Spanish Carmelite monk, mystic, and contemporary of Teresa of Avila who became one of Christianity's foremost spiritual teachers. He is most famous for his lyrical poetry, in which he beautifully describes a tender, loving God. This volume contains his most stirring works, including the classic The Dark Night, in which John expands on the role of darkness in the spiritual journey:"It remains to be said, then, that even though this happy night darkens the spirit, it does so only to impart light concerning all things. And even though it humbles persons and reveals their miseries, it does so only to exalt them. And even though it impoverishes and empties them of all possessions and natural affection, it does so only that they may reach out divinely to the enjoyment of all earthly and heavenly things, with a general freedom of spirit in them all." John of the Cross


John of the Cross
Selections from The Dark Night and Other Writings

Chapter Four

The first stanza and its commentary.
One dark night,
Fired with love's urgent longings
-- Ah, the sheer grace! --
I went out unseen,
My house being now all stilled.

Understanding this stanza now to refer to contemplative purgationor nakedness and poverty of spirit (which are all about thesame), we can thus explain it, as though the soul says:

"Poor, abandoned, and unsupported by any of the apprehensionsof my soul (in the darkness of my intellect, the distress of mywill, and in the affliction and anguish of my memory), left to darknessin pure faith, which is a dark night for these natural faculties,and with only my will touched by the sorrows, afflictions, andlongings of love of God, I went out from myself. That is, I departedfrom my low manner of understanding, and my feeble way of loving,and my poor and limited method of finding satisfaction inGod. I did this unhindered by either the flesh or the devil.

"This was great happiness and a sheer grace for me, becausethrough the annihilation and calming of my faculties, passions,appetites, and affections, by which my experience and satisfactionin God were base, I went out from my human operation and wayof acting to God's operation and way of acting. That is, my intellect departed from itself, changing from human and natural to divine.For, united with God through this purgation, it no longer understandsby means of its natural vigor and light, but by means of thedivine wisdom to which it was united.

"And my will departed from itself and became divine. Unitedwith the divine love, it no longer loves in a lowly manner, with itsnatural strength, but with the strength and purity of the HolySpirit; and thus the will does not operate humanly in relation toGod."

And finally, all the strength and affections of the soul, bymeans of this night and purgation of the old man, are renewedwith divine qualities and delights.

John of the Cross
Selections from The Dark Night and Other Writings
. Copyright © by Mercer HarperCollins Spiritual Classics. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from John of the Cross: Selections from the Dark Night and Other Writings by HarperCollins Spiritual Classics Staff, Emilie Griffin
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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