Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.
The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 2
It should be pointed out that in this verse the soul does no more than disclose to the Beloved her need and suffering. The discreet lover does not care to ask for what she lacks and desires, but only indicates this need so the Beloved may do what he pleases.
When the Blessed Virgin spoke to her beloved Son at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, she did not ask directly for the wine but merely remarked: They have no wine [Jn 2:3].
And the sisters of Lazarus did not send to ask our Lord to cure their brother but to tell him that Lazarus whom he loved was sick [Jn 11:3].
There are three reasons for this:
- first, the Lord knows what is suitable for us better than we do;
- second, the Beloved has more compassion when he beholds the need and resignation of a soul that loves him; and,
- third, the soul is better safeguarded against self-love and possessiveness by indicating its lack, rather than asking for what in its opinion is wanting.
The soul, now, does likewise by just indicating her three needs.
Her words are similar to saying:
Tell my Beloved, since I am sick and he alone is my health, to give me health; and, since I suffer and he alone is my joy, to give me joy; and, since I die and he alone is my life, to give me life.
Saint John of the Cross
The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 2, no. 8
John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.