Quote of the day: 19 February

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.


if by chance you see

This means: If by my good luck you so reach his presence that he sees and hears you. It is noteworthy that even though God has knowledge and understanding of all, and even sees the very thoughts of the soul, as Moses asserts (Dt. 31:21), it is said when he provides a remedy for us in our needs that he sees them, and when he answers our prayers that he hears them. Not all needs and petitions reach the point at which God, in hearing, grants them. They must wait until in his eyes they arrive at the suitable time, season, and number, and then it is said that he sees and hears them. This is evident in Exodus. After the 400 years in which the children of Israel had been afflicted by their slavery in Egypt, God declared to Moses: I have seen the affliction of my people and have come down to free them [Ex. 3:7-8], even though he had always seen it.

And St. Gabriel, too, told Zechariah not to fear, because God had heard his prayer and given him the son for whom he had prayed those many years, even though God had always heard that prayer [Lk. 1:13]. Every soul should know that even though God does not answer its prayer immediately, he will not on that account fail to answer it at the opportune time if it does not become discouraged and give up its prayer. He is, as David remarks, a helper in opportune times and tribulations [Ps. 9:9].

Saint John of the Cross

Spiritual Canticle Stanza 2, No. 4

 

BOUGUEREAU The Thank Offering PhilaMuseum
The Thank Offering
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, (French, 1825-1905)
Oil on canvas, 1867
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

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.

 

Quote of the day: 18 February

… Do not let what is happening to me, daughter, cause you any grief, for it does not cause me any. What greatly grieves me is that the one who is not at fault is blamed. Men do not do these things, but God, who knows what is suitable for us and arranges things for our good. Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love …

Saint John of the Cross

Letter 26 to Madre María de la Encarnación, Segovia
July 6, 1591

 

Whatsapp Aloysius Deeney
Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

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.

Carmelite Online Retreat — Lent 2020

Online Carmelite Retreat 2020

Lent

With St. John of the Cross


 

Dear friends, here we are once again to invite you to experience this Lent in a spirit of communion through an online retreat prepared especially for you by the Discalced Carmelite friars. 

If you have registered already and received the meditations from one of the previous retreats, you do not need to register again. 

However, don’t hesitate to extend an invitation to your friends and acquaintances so that they can register using the form on the website: 

www.retreat-online.karmel.at 

We suggest that you share this link with your Christian community, parish, ecclesial movement, association, or prayer group. You also can promote this initiative through social media. 

Inviting others to pray through the retreat is an excellent way to evangelize and witness to your faith. 

This Lent we will be guided by the beautiful writings of St. John of the Cross, a Doctor of the Church who pioneered the Discalced Carmelite reform with St. Teresa in the sixteenth century. 

At the end of February, you will receive the introductory text of this retreat. Then you will receive the meditations for each of the 7 weeks of Lent and Easter, with the following themes:

  • 1st week: The obstacle within us
  • 2nd week: Only Jesus
  • 3rd week: Straight to the heart
  • 4th week: Journey in the night
  • 5th week: New life
  • Holy Week: “The true spiritual person”
  • Easter: “On that glad night”

The content will be available so that you may organize your moments of meditation during the week. The texts were prepared by Discalced Carmelite friars from Avon, France, and the translation into English was prepared by Secular Carmelites from North America. 

The online retreat is free of charge. You can register or unsubscribe at any time.

If you have any difficulty in receiving the meditations, please send an email to:

retreat-online@karmel.at

With this invitation to the online retreat, we extend our sincere wishes for a blessed Lent!

Elijah’s Breeze on behalf of
fr. Roberto Maria OCD and
The Discalced Carmelites in Austria

Quote of the day: 9 February

Since this is the proper moment, we ought to point out another benefit resulting from this night and dryness of the sensory appetite. So that the prophecy—your light will illumine the darkness (Is. 58:10)—may be verified, God will give illumination by bestowing on the soul not only knowledge of its own misery and lowliness but also knowledge of His grandeur and majesty.

When the sensory appetites, gratifications, and supports are quenched, the intellect is left clean and free to understand the truth, for even though these appetites and pleasures concern spiritual things, they blind and impede the spirit. Similarly, the anguish and dryness of the senses illumine and quicken the intellect, as Isaiah affirms: Vexation makes one understand (Is. 28:19). But God also, by means of this dark and dry night of contemplation, supernaturally instructs in His divine wisdom the soul that is empty and unhindered (which is the requirement for his divine inpouring), which He did not do through the former satisfactions and pleasures.

Isaiah explains this clearly: To whom will God teach his knowledge? And to whom will he explain his message? To them that are weaned, he says, from the milk, and to them who are drawn away from the breasts (Is. 28:9). This passage indicates that the preparation for this divine inpouring is not the former milk of spiritual sweetness or aid from the breast of the discursive meditations of the sensory faculties that the soul enjoyed, but the privation of one and a withdrawal from the other.

In order to hear God, people should stand firm and be detached in their sense life and affections, as the prophet himself declares: I will stand on my watch (with detached appetite) and will fix my foot (I will not meditate with the sensory faculties) in order to contemplate (understand) what God says to me (Heb. 2:1).

We conclude that self-knowledge flows first from this dry night and that from this knowledge as from its source proceeds the other knowledge of God. Hence St. Augustine said to God: “Let me know myself, Lord, and I will know you.” For as the philosophers say, one extreme is clearly known by the other.

Saint John of the Cross

The Dark Night: Book One, Chapter 12

 

Zodiacal Light over La Silla European Southern Laboratory Flickr 5161784698
This image beautifully captures the zodiacal light, a triangular glow seen best in night skies free of overpowering moonlight and light pollution. The photograph was taken at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile in September 2009, facing west some minutes after the Sun had set. A sea of clouds has settled in the valley below La Silla, which sits at an altitude of 2400 metres (1.49 miles), with lesser peaks and ridges poking through the mist. | Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky, European Southern Observatory / Flickr 

 

 

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.

Quote of the day: 6 February

There are three signs of inner recollection:

  1. a lack of satisfaction in passing things;
  2. a liking for solitude and silence, and an attentiveness to all that is more perfect; and,
  3. the considerations, meditations, and acts that formerly helped the soul now hinder it, and it brings to prayer no other support than faith, hope, and love.
Saint John of the Cross

Sayings of Light and Love, 119

 

hands people woman girl
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

 

 

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.

Quote of the day: 12 January

Baptism of Christ - Andrei Rublev and workshop c. 1408
Detailed image from The Baptism, Andrei Rublev and Workshop ca. 1408, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. View the complete image here.

 

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

The soul’s chief aim in this verse is not to ask for sensible devotion, in which there is neither certain nor clear possession of the Bridegroom in this life, but for the manifest presence and vision of his divine essence, in which she desires to be secure and satisfied in the next life.

The bride of the divine Song of Songs had this very idea when, longing for union with the divinity of the Word, her Bridegroom, she asked the Father: Show me where you pasture and where you rest at midday [Song 1:7]. In requesting him to disclose his place of pasture, she wanted him to reveal the essence of the divine Word, his Son. For the Father does not pasture anywhere else than in his only Son, for the Son is the glory of the Father. And in begging that he show her his place of rest, she was asking to see that same Son.

The Son is the only delight of the Father, who rests nowhere else nor is present in any other than in his beloved Son. He rests wholly in his Son, communicating to him his essence at midday, which is eternity, where he ever begets him and has begotten him.

When the soul, the bride, cries: “Where have you hidden?” she seeks this pasture, the Word, her Bridegroom, where the Father feeds in infinite glory, and she seeks the flowering bosom where he rests with infinite delight of love, deeply hidden from every mortal eye and every creature.

Saint John of the Cross

The Spiritual Canticle
The Spiritual Canticle: Stanza 1, No. 5

 

 

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.

 

Quote of the day: 27 December

Discourse

His Holiness John Paul II

Speech to the Planning Commission
IV Centenary of St. John of the Cross
Friday, 16 November 1990


“Following your footprints”, as the mystic poet himself sings, he has followed his life’s journey in search of God, discovering his presence in creation and in creatures. Now, “following in his footprint”the footprint that John of the Cross has left in his writingsthe Church in Spain and, in particular, the people of Castile and León want to undertake a journey that may become an illuminated trail in personal and family life, in culture and in the witness of Christians in the midst of society.

John of the Cross, master in the faith, is also a guide on the pathways of life. His word, profound and thoughtful, suggests to men and women all the fullness of their dignity in the demanding task of approaching the mystery of existence, in the human fatigue of believing by overcoming the darkness, and in the integration of loving God and neighbor, since, as the Saint beautifully says, “After all, this love is the end for which we were created”.


The solemn canonization of Saint John of the Cross was held on 27 December 1726, decreed and celebrated by Pope Benedict XIII. He was raised to the altar together with St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, St. Francis Solano and St. Peregrine Laziosi of the Servite Order by the Papal Bull “Pia Mater Ecclesia”. (Source: Efemérides Carmelitanas)

 

 

Arnold_van_Westerhout_-_Portrait_of_John_of_the_Cross-1719
Blessed Father John of the Cross, Arnold van Westerhout engraving 1719 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

“A zaga de tu huella”, como canta el mismo poeta místico, él ha recorrido el camino de su vida a la búsqueda de Dios, descubriendo su presencia en la creación y en las criaturas. Ahora, “a zaga de su huella” —la que Juan de la Cruz ha dejado en sus escritos—, quieren la Iglesia en España y, en particular, las gentes de Castilla y León emprender un camino que sea estela luminosa en la vida personal y familiar, en la cultura y en el testimonio de los cristianos en medio de la sociedad.

Juan de la Cruz, maestro en la fe, es también guía en los senderos de la vida. Su palabra, honda y pausada, sugiere al hombre toda la plenitud de su dignidad en la ardua tarea de acercarse al misterio de la existencia, en la humana fatiga del creer superando la oscuridad, en la síntesis del amar a Dios y al prójimo, ya que, como hermosamente dice el Santo “Al fin, para este fin de amor fuimos creados”.


Solemne canonización de S. Juan de la Cruz, el día de 27 de diciembre de 1726, decretada y celebrada por el Papa Benedicto XIII; elevado a los altares juntamente con Sto. Toribio de Mogrovejo, S. Francisco Solano y Peregrino Gratiosi de los siervos de María, por la Bula papal “Pía Mater Ecclesia”.  (Fuente: Efemérides Carmelitanas)

 

 

This English translation of Saint John Paul's Spanish discourse is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and attribution.

Quote of the day: 24 December

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino:
¡si le dais posada!

San Juan de la Cruz

Navideña: Del Verbo Divino

 


 

The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God,
comes down the road:
if only you’ll shelter her.

Saint John of the Cross

Christmas Refrain

 

Nativity Census Bruegel Belgium copy bruegel-3637dig-l
The Census at Bethlehem
Pieter Bruegel I (Dutch, 1527/28? – 1569)
Oil on oak panel, 1566
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

 

 

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.

 

Quote of the day: 23 December

This year we also celebrated the fourth centenary of the death of another European saint, Saint John of the Cross. I wanted the event to be commemorated by sending a delegate of mine both at the beginning and at the end of the Jubilee celebrations in Spain, and with the apostolic letter Maestro en la fe.

The humble and austere figure of this Carmelite emanates with his writings, which are still very relevant today, a great light to penetrate the mystery of God and the mystery of man. He, who had a particular sense of divine transcendence, directs our gaze in the hour of the new evangelization.

Master in faith and theological life, John of the Cross inculcated in us the need to be purified by the Spirit of the Lord in order to carry out an incisive and effective apostolic activity. There is, in fact, a close connection between contemplation and commitment to the transformation of the world.

Aware of this, the Church has always attached special importance to the function of contemplative souls who, in recollection, prayer and hidden sacrifice, offer their lives to God for the salvation of their brothers and sisters. I hope that even today, there will be many people generously disposed to accept God’s call and to face – in the solitude of the Carmels and the various monasteries of contemplative life – the demanding and fascinating adventure of the exclusive search for dialogue with the one who is the source of all human existence.

Saint John Paul II

Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia (excerpt)
23 December 1991

 

Juan de la Cruz (10) writing
Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and attribution.

 

O Oriens

Mi Amado, las montañas,
los valles solitarios nemorosos,
las ínsulas extrañas,
los ríos sonorosos,
el silbo de los aires amorosos,

la noche sosegada
en par de los levantes del aurora,
la música callada,
la soledad sonora,
la cena que recrea y enamora.

San Juan de la Cruz

 Cántico Espiritual (Redacción B)
Canciónes entre el alma y el esposo
Canciónes 14-15

 

Juan de la Cruz (15) writing
St. John of the Cross, enlightened by the Holy Spirit | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

My Beloved, the mountains,
and lonely wooded valleys,
strange islands,
and resounding rivers,
the whistling of love-stirring breezes,

the tranquil night
at the time of the rising dawn,
silent music,
sounding solitude,
the supper that refreshes and deepens love.

Saint John of the Cross

The Spiritual Canticle (Redaction B)
Songs between the soul and the Bridegroom
Stanzas 14-15

 

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.

O Adonai

Si hablamos de la sobrenatural, según se puede en esta vida, de potencia ordinaria no tiene el entendimiento disposición ni capacidad en la cárcel del cuerpo para recibir noticia clara de Dios, porque esa noticia no es de este estado, porque, o ha de morir, o no la ha de recibir.

Y ésta es la causa por que Moisés en la zarza, como se dice en los Actos de los Apóstoles (7,32), no se atrevió a considerar, estando Dios presente; porque conocía que no había de poder considerar su entendimiento de Dios como convenía, conforme a lo que de Dios sentía.

San Juan de la Cruz
Subida del Monte Carmelo: Libro 2 Capítulo 8

 

Juan dela Cruz - Brescia- 17th c Spanish School
17th c. Spanish, Carmel of Brescia | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

If we speak of supernatural knowing, insofar as one can in this life, we must say that the intellect of its ordinary power, while in the prison of this body, is neither capable of nor prepared for the reception of the clear knowledge of God. Such knowledge does not belong to our earthly state; either one must die or go without this knowledge.

This is why Moses, as affirmed in the Acts of the Apostles (7:32), did not dare to look at the bush while God was present. He knew that his intellect was powerless to consider God in an appropriate way, a way that conformed to what he felt about him.

Saint John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book Two, Chapter 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.

O Sapientia

La sabiduría entra por el amor, silencio y mortificación. Grande sabiduría es saber callar y no mirar dichos ni hechos ni vidas ajenas.

San Juan de la Cruz
Puntos de amor, reunidos en Beas, No. 29

 

Juan dela Cruz - Brescia- 17th c Spanish School
17th c. Spanish, Carmel of Brescia | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Wisdom enters through love, silence, and mortification. It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.

Saint John of the Cross
Sayings of Light and Love, No. 109

Quote of the day: 14 December

John’s entire work is tensed towards eternity, towards the ‘other, better Indies’. As the friars at his bedside began the prayers for the dying, John checked them. “That is not necessary: read me something from the Song of Songs.” He was interpreting his death as a mystery of love.

He had written of death like this:

“The rivers of love which have long been flowing in the soul swell, bank up, like seas of love, as they press to pour into the ocean.”

Eternity meant to him love set free. That is where night is leading.

Iain Matthew, O.C.D.

The Impact of God, Chap. 10

 

At midnight on the night of 13-14 December 1591, Saint John of the Cross died in the discalced friar’s convent at Úbeda and entered fully into the mystery of love.

 

 

Ubeda_-_112_(30738110375) memorial plaque
Memorial plaque at the Discalced Carmelite friars’ convent in Úbeda, Spain | Luis Rogelio HM / Flickr

 

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 9

What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.        

Sayings of Light and Love, 132

 

SCRIPTURE

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
  my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8

 

MEDITATION

“Are you seeking to find God? Then listen to the silence; immerse yourself in silence.”

This simple, yet profound advice comes from Father Jacques de Jésus, O.C.D., the headmaster of the Discalced Carmelite boarding school in Avon, France who was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the harshest forced labor camps at Gusen and Mauthausen during World War II. Like St. Raphael Kalinowski in Poland, who we met on the third day of our novena, and whose experience in a forced labor camp in Siberia prepared him for life in Carmel, so for Père Jacques, life in Carmel prepared him for life as a political prisoner.

And as prisoners, both of them resembled St. John of the Cross: suffering, abandoned, physically tested, yet through it all they were seeking, reaching, listening, grasping for the presence of God. We can imagine them passing through vast interior deserts in silence, en route to their loving encounter with God.

On the eighth day of our novena, we shared an excerpt from John 17, which is often referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer. St. Edith Stein offers this brief comment concerning the prayer in her 1936 essay, The Prayer of the Church:

The Savior’s high priestly prayer unveils the mystery of the inner life: the circumincession of the Divine Persons and the indwelling of God in the soul. In these mysterious depths, the work of salvation was prepared and accomplished itself in concealment and silence. And so it will continue until the union of all is actually accomplished at the end of time. The decision for the Redemption was conceived in the eternal silence of the inner divine life.

Small wonder, then, that St. Thérèse understood that hiding in the Face of Christ meant that she would be able to tune out the trivial noise of the world, as we also discovered in the eighth novena meditation.

Father Jacques makes that abundantly clear: “God is eternal silence; God dwells in silence.” We’ll let him continue:

Christ is characteristically serene and silent. (…) That serene silence is the hallmark of Christ. (…)

God is eternal silence; God dwells in silence. He is eternal silence because he is the One who has totally realized his own being because he says all and possesses all. He is infinite happiness and infinite life. All God’s works are marked by this characteristic. Contemplate the Incarnation; it was accomplished in the silence of the Virgin Mary’s chamber at a time when she was in prolonged silence, her door closed. Our Lord’s birth came during the night, while all things were enveloped in silence. That is how the Word of God appeared on earth, and only Mary and Joseph were silently with him. They did not overwhelm him with their questions, for they were accustomed to guarding their innermost thoughts. (…)

Whoever embraces silence, welcomes God and whoever relishes silence, hears God speak. Silence is the echo of God’s eternity and the foundation of the rich teaching of Saint John of the Cross. That teaching in all its richness derives from his prison cell at Toledo. During the months of his solitary confinement there, he accepted his isolation and embraced silence. He became imbued with silence. In turn, that silence revealed to him the true value of suffering, which is at the heart of his teaching concerning the ascent to God. Without this treasured silence, John of the Cross would never have become the great mystical Doctor of the Church that he is. (…)

Silence should penetrate deep within us and occupy every area of our inner home. Thus is our soul transformed into a sanctuary of prayer and recollection. (…) Such silence allows us to listen to the secret voice of God, like the saints, especially St. John of the Cross. (Listen to the Silence, Conference 8)

Have you ever had the opportunity to make a silent retreat? Or to enjoy 30 minutes in a quiet home when the rest of the family is out of the house? Perhaps there is a favorite spot, a “happy place” or some other getaway location, real or imagined, where you virtually or literally can get away from the rush and the noise of your daily commitments. In that space, do you find yourself feeling calmer, more peaceful, better able to think, to relax, to focus, even to pray?

If God dwells in silence, it is in silence that we must seek him. And if God dwells in silence, he is no more attracted to the noise than we are in moments of silence. As we accustom ourselves to silence, we welcome and even crave silence.

It’s in the midst of our welcome, our craving the silence of God that we understand the silence that God desires of us:  “the language he best hears is silent love.”

As we have walked together through these novena days with Saint John of the Cross and the commentary offered by the saints of Carmel, we have gained many insights along the way. As we conclude, let’s read St. John’s own prologue to the Sayings of Light and Love; his proposals at the beginning of the collection of sayings form a wonderful summary of what we have learned as we come to the end. Thanks for joining us.

O my God and my delight, for your love I have also desired to give my soul to composing these sayings of light and love concerning you. Since, although I can express them in words, I do not have the works and virtues they imply (which is what pleases you, O my Lord, more than the words and wisdom they contain), may others, perhaps stirred by them, go forward in your service and love – in which I am wanting. I will thereby find consolation, that these sayings be an occasion for your finding in others the things that I lack.

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. May there be nothing of worldly rhetoric in them or the long-winded and dry eloquence of weak and artificial human wisdom, which never pleases you. Let us speak to the heart words bathed in sweetness and love that do indeed please you, removing obstacles and stumbling blocks from the paths of many souls who unknowingly trip and unconsciously walk in the path of error – poor souls who think they are right in what concerns the following of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming like him, imitating his life, actions, and virtues, and the form of his nakedness and purity of spirit. Father of mercies, come to our aid, for without you, Lord, we can do nothing.

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Haifa-icon
Icon of St John of the Cross venerated by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Haifa Israel | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Bunel, J 2004, Listen to the Silence - A Retreat with Pere Jacques, translated and edited by Murphy F, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 13 December

Fray Antonio de Jesús, his companion since the beginnings of the order in Duruelo, stood before St John of the Cross and said: “Padre Juan, cheer up, trust in God and remember the deeds we did and the labors we endured in the beginnings of this religious life.”

John of the Cross, with a loud voice, apparently a bit exhausted, covered his ears with his hands:

Don’t tell me that, Father. Tell me my sins!

 

From the account of the death of St. John of the Cross by Fray Diego de Jesús
Efemérides Carmelitanas

 

John and Teresa meet at Duruelo
St Teresa meets St John of the Cross and Fray Antonio de Jesús at Duruelo | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 8

 The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. 

Sayings of Light and Love, 100

 

SCRIPTURE

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:6-19

 

MEDITATION

“What is truth?” (Jn 18:38)

Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question echoes through the centuries.

St. Edith Stein reminds us that Pilate could have asked a more essential question: Who is truth?

In her meditation, The Hidden Life and Epiphany, Edith touches on this question as she makes use of the Epiphany manger scene to make an analogy for the Church and its development. 

The kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later that star had to appear to show these wise men the way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it. 

“God is truth… he wants to be found… that star had to appear.” Edith, in her matter-of-fact, German way, minces no words. God isn’t hiding after all, he’s in our midst, standing before our eyes, just as Jesus stood before Pilate. Jesus, Incarnate Truth, was standing before the governor who asked him, “what is truth?”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity seems to be speaking to us when she writes:

I understand that you need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But, you see, there is only One; it is He, the Only Truth! Ah, if you only knew Him a little as your Sabeth does! He fascinates, He sweeps you away; under His gaze, the horizon becomes so beautiful, so vast, so luminous…. My dear one, do you want to turn with me toward this sublime Ideal? It is no fiction but a reality. (Letter 128)

Are you serious? Where is this horizon? Because in the darkness where we’re hiding, it’s difficult to see. And once again, it is St. John himself who responds:

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. (Sayings 27)

Hiding in glory… there’s a concept that we don’t see or hear every day. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it seems that God is the one who is doing all the hiding while we’re waiting around for him to show up. Is there anyone who understands what St. John of the Cross means?

St. Thérèse does! The language of “hiding” was one of her favorite concepts, especially in her poetry, and it’s a transferable concept, meaning that it’s not strictly applicable to the cloistered life. For example:

My Sweet Jesus, on your Mother’s breast
You appear to me, glowing with Love.
Love—this is the indescribable mystery
That exiled you from the Heavenly Abode…
Ah! Let me hide under the veil
That hides you from all mortal eyes
And close to you, O Morning Star!
I’ll find a foretaste of Heaven.

(Pn 1)

Here, Thérèse is talking about hiding under the Blessed Virgin’s veil, not necessarily hiding under the veil of a Carmelite nun. Hiding under the veil of the Virgin Mary is an image that is more approachable for us, perhaps. But the Infant is glowing on Mary’s breast, glowing with Love, and is there a hint of glory in that image, too?

Here’s another example from the poetry of St. Thérèse:

The unspeakable gaze of your Son—
Upon my poor soul he deigned to look down;
I looked for his adorable face
And in Him, I want to be hidden.
I’ll have to stay little forever
To deserve the glances from his eyes;
But by virtue of that, I will soon grow up
Under the heat of this heavenly star.

(Pn 11)

Now, we are getting more of a sense of how Thérèse has captured St. John’s profound concept of hiding in glory, yet she has expressed it in the language of littleness, that loving gaze of Jesus, and yet at the same time—while remaining hidden—there is light and heat generated by the Lord, having a direct effect on her spiritual life.

This is all very heady stuff. But it seems that for Thérèse, the key to hiding in glory is to be found in the face of Jesus. The Gospel of John and St. Paul testify to this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (…) And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:1-5,14)

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

Well if that’s the case, gazing on the face of Christ and hiding in the face of Christ, must be a key to “growing up” as Thérèse said; growing in prayer, growing in faith, growing in hope, and our goal… growing in love. After all, that’s our aim.

We’ll let St. Thérèse have the last word, then, about hiding in the face of Jesus:

Ah! Let me, Lord, hide in your Face.
There I will no longer hear the trivial noise from the world.
Give me your love, preserve me in your grace
Just for today.

(Pn 5)

Ah…. silence.

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Praying John of the Cross 16-17th c Carmel de Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00984
St. John of the Cross in prayer
French, late 16th-17th c.
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Elizabeth of the Trinity, S 2003, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

The English translation of the poetry of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and proper attribution.

 

Quote of the day: 12 December

In the summer of 1591, a major meeting in Madrid showed up serious differences of opinion in the Teresian reform. John seems to have regarded some policies of the central government as unfairly harsh, and he objected strongly. While much is unclear, the fact is that John came out of the meeting without effective voice in the central running of the reform. Instead, he was on course for the mission in Mexico, ‘the Indies’. He asked for volunteers (significantly, ‘friends’) who would willingly go with him.

Some weeks later the volunteers’ signatures had been collected; but John’s own destination had changed. A letter of his to one of them (‘The letter consoled me immensely’) announces that John was embarking for ‘other, better Indies’, where the treasures are ‘eternal’, and was preparing his luggage for the voyage. He died later that year.

Iain Matthew, O.C.D.

The Impact of God, Chap. 10

 

8_download
Virgin of Guadalupe (detail)
Mexican, 18th c.
Oil on canvas
IMA at Newfields

 

Sixty years before John prepared to leave for Mexico, the Blessed Virgin appear to Saint Juan Diego

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 7

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.

Sayings of Light and Love, 103

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Psalm 51

 

MEDITATION

“O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest!” (Sayings, 16) This is the song of St. John of the Cross, his canticle of love distilled down to its very essence. 

God truly loves us, St. John reminds us through his letters. He tells us that God cannot fit in hearts that are occupied with distractions, that are attached to people, places, or things that mean more to us than God himself. God only fits in hearts that have been emptied to make room for him.

It seems that nada—nothingness within us—isn’t so farfetched after all. Cleansing our souls is like the necessary spiritual housekeeping that must be done prior to any Nativity moment in our spiritual lives; without that soul-cleansing, that housecleaning in our hearts, there will always be a NO VACANCY light shining outside the inn within. How can God find space to squeeze in here?

St. Edith Stein says that the moment we reach the realization that we need to clean house is the moment when we are on the threshold of making the greatest spiritual progress. Recalling the spiritual sense of dryness, darkness, and emptiness that we mentioned in the meditation for our sixth day of this novena, Edith offers this reflection on the state of the soul in her final masterpiece, The Science of the Cross (SC):

She [the soul] is put into total darkness and emptiness. Absolutely nothing that might give her a hold is left to her anymore except faith. Faith sets Christ before her eyes: the poor, humiliated, crucified one, who is abandoned on the cross even by his heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment, she rediscovers herself. Dryness, distaste, and affliction are the “purely spiritual cross” that is handed to her. If she accepts it she experiences that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. It becomes a staff for her that will quickly lead her up the mountain. (SC 10)

Accepting the dryness we experience in prayer, the distaste, the affliction, these are all signs that we actually are clearing out space for God within. 

When she realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. (SC 10)

And by the way, there is a little voice in Dijon, France who takes up the refrain: it is St Elizabeth of the Trinity, singing so sweetly in the pages of her Last Retreat (LR):

If my interior city (cf. Rev. 21) is to have some similarity and likeness to that “of the King of eternal ages” (I Tim 1:17) and to receive this great illumination from God, I must extinguish every other light and, as in the holy city, the Lamb must be “its only light.”

Here faith, the beautiful light of faith appears. It alone should light my way as I go to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist sings the He “hides Himself in darkness” (Ps 17:12), then in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying that “light surrounds Him like a cloak” (Ps 103:2). What stands out for me in this apparent contradiction is that I must immerse myself in “the sacred darkness” by putting all my powers in darkness and emptiness; then I will meet my Master, and “the light that surrounds Him like a cloak” will envelop me also, for He wants His bride to be luminous with His light, His light alone, “which is the glory of God.” (LR 4)

So there it is: the challenge, the call is to accept, welcome, embrace and—so to speak—hide in the dark and empty spaces within us, not running to another distraction, another attachment, another new idol in our lives to fill up that interior void. It is at the point when we feel (and know) the emptiness within, the void that we are creating and/or that God is helping us to create so that we can spend time and focus on him—whether that is accepting a loss of some sort of attachment, or purposefully choosing to give up a distracting activity in order to spend more time going to daily Mass, making time for daily Scripture reading, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary, or going to Eucharistic adoration, or practicing silent mental prayer instead of (name your distraction here).

At this point when we have a hunger and a thirst for God that is so strong and powerful that we are willing to sacrifice and say, “all for you and nothing for me” (Sayings 111), we also find ourselves crying out to God, “but I can’t do this alone, by myself!” When we are ready to give up and have reached the point of abandon, we’ve reached the most crucial moment of all because…

That is the truth.

“I never sought anything but the truth,” St. Thérèse said in the hours before her death (Yellow Notebook, 30 September).

St. Teresa set the benchmark in the Interior Castle: “To be humble is to walk in truth” (IC VI, 10:7)

And how will we know when we’re meeting the benchmark for St. John of the Cross?

The humble are those who hide in their own nothingness and know how to abandon themselves to God. (Sayings 163)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Bust of John of the Cross 17th c. Carmel of Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00986
Bust of St. John of the Cross
17th c. French
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.
Latin inscription upper left: QVID TIBI PRO LABOR
Latin inscription at base: PATI. ET. CONTEMNI. PROTE

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 11 December

I’m leaving this world.

Saint John of the Cross

 

In the town of Ubeda, St. John of the Cross asks for Viaticum on Wednesday, 11 December 1591, which he fervently receives. “I’m leaving this world,” he says to Fray Diego, who attends to him and doesn’t leave his side. John has kept a folder of letters under his pillow. These are the last letters he has received concerning the slanderous accusations brought against him by Fray Diego Evangelista at La Peñuela. Of his difficulty with Fray Diego he wrote:

Men do not do these things, but God, who knows what is suitable for us and arranges things for our own good. Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love. (Letter 26)

 

Cure of Saint John of the Cross - Puebla
18th c. Mexican artist José Joaquín Magón depicts St. John of the Cross receiving treatment in Ubeda for his deadly infection. One of the precious art treasures in the Discalced Carmelite Friars’ Church of de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Puebla, Mexico. | PESSCA (Creative Commons)

 

 

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.

Travels with John of the Cross — Ubeda | John of the Cross Today

My wife and I have traveled a lot to the places linked to John of the Cross. We recently went to Ubeda where John died. However, we first stopped in Baeza, where John had opened a house of studies for the friars, close to the old university. There he resided from 1579-82. In Baeza John wrote part of “En una noche oscura” (the Dark Night poem), and some of the ascent of Mt. Carmel. When John of the Cross became ill towards the end of his life, he was sent to Ubeda, in the province of Jaen, for treatment. At first he was made unwelcome in the monastery by the prior, Francisco Crisostomo. whom John had corrected earlier in life. When other friars reported to the provincial about John’s mistreatment, the provincial, Fr. Antonio Heredia, the first companion of John in the reform, came to Ubeda to rectify this mistreatment…

via Travels with John of the Cross — Ubeda

 

Burial of St John of the Cross icon Ubeda
Icon of the burial of St John of the Cross, Ubeda

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