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.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 2

All for me and nothing for you.

All for you and nothing for me.

Sayings of Light and Love, 110-111

 

SCRIPTURE

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upward to receive in Christ Jesus. We who are called “perfect” must all think in this way. If there is some point on which you see things differently, God will make it clear to you; meanwhile, let us go forward on the road that has brought us to where we are.

Philippians 3:8-16

 

MEDITATION

“Nothing for me.” The nada—that absolute, naked, utter nothing—of Saint John of the Cross can seem so stark, even off-putting to a novice reader of the Church’s Mystical Doctor. Nothing for me? How can this be?

In order to unpack these absolutes, it helps to have a reference point. Saint Paul can help us to understand the purpose of striving for such nakedness, such emptiness, the possession of nothing to the point of being nothing.

In the verses preceding our Scripture reading, St. Paul lists all the reasons that he had to boast of his “Hebrew-ness”. He even calls himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” That’s a rather bold statement. Yet despite all of his reasons to boast of his Hebrew and Pharisee pedigree, he says that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Ph 3:8) There’s that absolute qualifier again: nothing.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further: “For Him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish.” St. Paul is getting out his virtual work gloves, his virtual broom, dustpan, trash bags, and taking inventory of his life as one would assess their home and property with an insurance adjuster after a fire or natural disaster, understanding that all one possessed is a total loss, ready to be hauled away with the garbage.

Ah, but there’s a reason for rejoicingclearing away the rubbish creates total and absolute room for Christ: “if only I can have Christ and be given a place in Him.”

This contrast of self-emptying to be filled with something greater in St. John of the Cross and St. Paul the Apostle reminds us of the self-emptying in the life of Christ:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Ph 2:6-9)

And as we look at St. Paul’s words, it is interesting to look further at his all-or-nothing contrasts. We know what he considers to be nothing, a pile of rubbish. With what does he seek to replace it? Let’s search his text for the simple word, all. “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death… All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come” (Ph 3:10,13). Yes, nothing for me leaves all for you. That is, essentially, what St. John of the Cross said, in the stark all-and-nothing contrast of his saying, todo para ti y nada para mí.

If the nada of St. John of the Cross and the rubbish-heap imagery of St. Paul still leave us wondering how to attain such noble, holy aspirations, it is St. Paul’s great disciple, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity who can show us the way. In her retreat Heaven in Faith (First Day, second prayer) she writes:

We must not, so to speak, stop at the surface, but enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection. “I am still running,” exclaimed St. Paul (Ph 3:12); so must we descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God; let us slide down this slope in wholly loving trust. “Deep calls to deep” (Ps 42:8). It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love…. “Blessed are those who die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13)!

 

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.

 

StJohn_Orleans-France
Orléans, France

 

 

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 Bible.

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

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

Quote of the day: 28 June

To possess God in all, you should possess nothing in all. For how can the heart that belongs to one belong completely to the other?

Saint John of the Cross
Letter 17 to Sr. Magdalena del Espíritu Santo
Written from Segovia, 28 July 1589

 

Ascent-of-mount-carmel-saint-john-of-the-cross-fair-use
St. John of the Cross drew his sketch of the ascent of Mount Carmel “for my daughter Maddlena” (fair use image via Aleteia)

 

Letters: Letter 17, The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, Revised Edition
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D., With Revisions and Introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
ICS Publications Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
BAEZ - Jesus didnt live halfway IGsize
De la homilía de Monseñor Báez, Viernes Santo 2019

Usted no puede ser un santo a medias, tendrá que serlo del todo o no serlo en absoluto.

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús
Carta 247 al abate Maurice Bellière

JUANdelaCRUZ - Works done in faith SPANISH (2)
My dear brothers and sisters, listen to me. Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor in the world’s eyes to be rich in faith? Hasn’t he chosen them to receive the kingdom? Hasn’t he promised it to those who love him? (James 2:5)

¿qué hay que acertar sino ir por el camino llano de la ley de Dios y de la Iglesia, y sólo vivir en fe oscura y verdadera, (y esperanza cierta y caridad entera, y esperar) allá nuestros bienes, viviendo acá como peregrinos, pobres, desterrados, huérfanos, secos, sin camino y sin nada, esperándolo allá todo?
– San Juan de la Cruz –

JUANdelaCRUZ - En fe oscura HEBREW

 

 

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