You should take care always to be inclined to the difficult more than to the easy, to the rugged more than to the soft, to the hard and distasteful in a work more than to its delightful and pleasant aspects; and do not go about choosing what is less of a cross, for the cross is a light burden (Matt. 11:30). The heavier a burden is, the lighter it becomes when borne for Christ.
St John of the Cross Counsels to a Religious, 6
John of the Cross, St 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
To step free from enslavement, we need a love which fills us at the point we thought the enslaving loves were filling us. To transcend our mediocrity, we need a love which touches us at the threshold of our fear. John presents a God whose love does that.
Iain Matthew, O.C.D. The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross
Matthew, I 1995, The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross, Hodder & Stoughton, London.
To Padre Jerónimo Gracián, Madrid Avila, 21-22 August 1578
… I tell you that ever-present to me is what they did with Fray John of the Cross, for I don’t know how God bears with things like that; even you don’t know everything about it.For all these nine months he was held in a little prison cell where small as he is, he could hardly fit. In all that time he was given no change of tunic, even though he had come close to the point of death. Only three days before his escape the subprior gave him one of his shirts. He underwent harsh scourges, and no one was allowed to see him.
I experience the greatest envy.Surely our Lord found in him the resources for such a martyrdom. And it is good that this be known so that everyone will be all the more on guard against these people. May God forgive them, amen.
An investigation should be conducted to show the nuncio what those friars did to this saint, Fray John, without any fault on his part, for it is a pitiful thing. Tell this to Fray Germán; he will do it because he’s quite mad about this …
Teresa de Jesús
Saint John of the Cross escaped from his prison cell in Toledo during the night of 17-18 August 1578. We share the following editorial notes from Father Kieran Kavanaugh:
“These are two fragments from one letter. They reflect Teresa’s first impressions on learning of St. John of the Cross’s escape from his prison cell in Toledo and of what he suffered there.”
The nuncio at the time was the Italian Archbishop Filippo (Felipe) Sega. Father Kavanaugh’s editorial note is too tantalizing to excerpt, so we present it in its entirety.
Born in Bologna, he became Bishop of Ripa and nuncio to Flanders before being appointed nuncio to Spain in 1577 as successor to Ormaneto. He entered Spain with a bias against Teresa and her reform, the source of which was Cardinal Buoncompagni, a relative of his and nephew of the pope. But the entire conflict that had developed in Spain among the Carmelites was so complex that he had little inkling of what he was getting into. He supported Tostado who was seeking to put into effect the decisions of the chapter of Piacenza. It was he who called Teresa “a restless, gadabout woman.”
Sega considered the discalced friars who took part in the chapter of Almodóvar in 1578 delinquents and rebels, never listened to their defense, and imprisoned their leaders in different monasteries of the observant Carmelites.
Through the intervention of the king, an investigating committee was set up, and the friars as a result were placed under the care of Angel de Salazar, a former provincial of the observant Carmelites in Castile. Salazar dealt with the matter gently and promoted greater peace between the two groups of friars. Sega then mellowed somewhat and acquiesced when the discalced formed a separate province. After leaving Spain, he served in Portugal, Germany, and France. He was made a cardinal in 1591 and died in Rome.
Finally, we share Father Kavanaugh’s note concerning Fray Germán: “Fray Germán de San Matías was a confessor for the nuns at the Incarnation along with John of the Cross. He was taken prisoner at the same time as John, but very soon afterward broke free from his captors.”
Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
God desires the least degree of obedience and submissiveness more than all those services you think of rendering him.
Saint John of the Cross Sayings of Light and Love, No. 13
On 10 August 1591 Saint John of the Cross transferred from the friars’ convent in Segovia to the solitude of La Peñuela, where at last he was relieved of all offices in the order; once again he was a humble friar, forgotten, despised, and neglected… as he had always desired.
His superior was the Provincial, Father Antonio de Jesús, with whom he had begun the reform under the guidance of Saint Teresa many years earlier in their humble abode in Duruelo.
Although John was able to pray gloriously in the solitude of rocks and forest, difficulties lay ahead; within weeks he would develop erysipelas, a skin infection on his foot that would lead to septicemia. By December, consumed by penances, trials, and his disease, Saint John of the Cross would be dead.
We have the very wisdom and the very beauty and the very fortitude of God in shadow,because the soul here cannot comprehend God perfectly. Since the shadow is so formed by God’s size and properties that it is God himself in shadow, the soul knows well the excellence of God.
What, then, will be the shadows of the grandeurs of his virtues and attributes that the Holy Spirit casts on the soul? For he is so close to it that his shadows not only touch but unite it with these grandeurs in their shadows and splendors, so that it understands and enjoys God according to his property and measure in each of the shadows. For it understands and enjoys the divine power in the shadow of omnipotence; and it understands and enjoys the divine wisdom in the shadow of divine wisdom; and it understands and enjoys the infinite goodness in the shadow of infinite goodness that surrounds it, and so on. Finally, it enjoys God’s glory in the shadow of his glory.
Who can express how elevated this happy soul feels here, how exalted, how much admired in holy beauty?
I believe love does not allow us to pause for long here on earth, and besides Saint John of the Cross says so definitively; he has a wonderful chapter in which he describes the death of souls who are victims of love, the last assaults He gives them, then all the rivers of the soul, which are so immense they already resemble seas, go to lose themselves in the Ocean of divine love. Little sister, Saint Paul says that “our God is a consuming Fire.” If we remain always united to Him by a simple, loving gaze of faith; if, like our adored Master, we can say at the end of every day: “Because I love my Father, I always do what pleases Him,” He will really be able to consume us, and like two little sparks we will lose ourselves in the immense Furnace, free to burn there for all eternity.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 293 to Clémence Blanc (excerpt) Beginning of July, 1906
… 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 6 July 1591
Have a great love for those who contradict and fail to love you, for in this way love is begotten in a heart that has no love. God so acts with us, for he loves us that we might love by means of the very love he bears toward us.
Saint John of the Cross Letter 33 to a discalced Carmelite nun in Segovia Ubeda, October-November 1591
John of the Cross helps me to believe that God exists. He helps me to believe that death is not the end, that there is more to life than biology. He helps me to trust that God loves us and means to bring us to eternal life in heaven. In short, he helps me to believe that Christ is risen.
The dominant figure in American decorative arts for more than half a century, Louis Comfort Tiffany founded several firms to satisfy the strong demand for his art glass, metalwork, pottery and furniture. Tiffany’s enthusiasm for sensuous materials and striking colors found full expression in his stained-glass windows. From 1877 through the 1920s, he and his craftsmen produced thousands of windows for churches, institutions and homes across the United States.
Upon the death of her husband in 1901, the widow of United States president Benjamin Harrison commissioned Tiffany to create a window in his memory. The window, the lower half of which appears here, was installed in 1905 at the First Presbyterian Church, 16th and Delaware Streets, Indianapolis, where the president had served as an elder for more than 40 years. Absorbed in scores of projects, Tiffany probably left the window’s conception to his team of talented designers, contributing his own thought before giving final approval. The design shows Michael, the Angel of the Resurrection, signaling the dead to rise at Christ’s second coming. In keeping with the romanticism of the time, Tiffany’s heroic angel is dressed in the chain mail suit of a crusading knight and seems like a figure from Sir Walter Scott’s novels…
El programa de televisión “Un paseo por Castilla y León” (canal 8 de rtvcyl) nos invita a conocer distintos rincones de cada una de las provincias de Castilla y León. Entrevistas a los paisanos y reportajes a pie de calle son el eje de este espacio que muestra la geografía, las tradiciones, la cultura y […]
Yo le digo que no sea boba, ni ande con temores que acobarden el alma. Dele a Dios lo que le ha dado y le da cada día, que parece quiere ella medir a Dios a la medida de su capacidad. Pues no ha de ser así. Aparéjese que le quiere Dios hacer una gran merced.
San Juan de la Cruz A la M. Ana de san Alberto, OCD, Priora de Caravaca Epistolario 3, 1582
To free yourself from the harm the world can do you, you should practice three precautions.
The first precaution
The first is that you should have an equal love for and an equal forgetfulness of all persons, whether relatives or not, and withdraw your heart from relatives as much as from others, and in some ways even more for fear that flesh and blood might be quickened by the natural love that is ever alive among kin, and must always be mortified for the sake of spiritual perfection.
Regard all as strangers, and you will fulfill your duty toward them better than by giving them the affection you owe God. Do not love one person more than another, for you will err; the person who loves God more is the one more worthy of love, and you do not know who this is. But forgetting everyone alike, as is necessary for holy recollection, you will free yourself from this error of loving one person more or less than another.
the person who loves God more is the one more worthy of love, and you do not know who this is
Do not think about others, neither good things nor bad. Flee them inasmuch as possible. And if you do not observe this practice, you will not know how to be a religious, nor will you be able to reach holy recollection or deliver yourself from imperfections. And if you should wish to allow yourself some freedom in this matter, the devil will deceive you in one way or another, or you will deceive yourself under some guise of good or evil.
In doing what we said, you will have security, for in no other way will you be capable of freeing yourself from the imperfections and harm derived from creatures.
Saint John of the Cross The Precautions (excerpt)
At age 20, Juan de Yepes y Alvarez entered the Carmelite Order, being clothed with the habit on February 24, 1563, and taking the name Juan de Santo Matia (John of Saint Matthias). Pursuing theological studies in Salamanca, he was ordained in 1567, and said his first Mass in Medina del Campo. During that trip, he first met Teresa of Avila, and she encouraged him to promote her reform among the men’s Order. In November, 1568, John and three other friars took up the observance of the primitive Carmelite Rule in a farmhouse near Duruelo. At that time, he changed his name in religion to Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross). [Source: Manuel Diego, O.C.D.]
Nota bene: there is no preview image for the video. Simply click on the link above to view the performance on YouTube.
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From Central Washington University YouTube channel comes this stellar performance of Dark Night of the Soul by the noted Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo. Their video “liner notes” offer the following information:
“Dark Night of the Soul” (Ola Gjeilo) is sung by The Central Washington University Chamber Choir (Gary Weidenaar, director) joined by Ola Gjeilo on the piano and the Kairos String Quartet (comprised of CWU string faculty).
ABOUT THE WORK: “Dark Night of the Soul was written in 2010, and premiered that year by the Phoenix Chorale. The text, three stanzas from St. John of the Cross’ magical poem Dark Night of the Soul, was suggested to me by Joel Rinsema, Executive Director of the Phoenix Chorale, and I fell in love with its passionate spirituality right away. One of the things I wanted to do in this piece was to make the choir and piano fairly equal, as if in a dialogue; often the piano is accompanying the choir, but sometimes the choir is accompanying the piano (or violin) as well, with the choir kind of taking the role of a soft, but rich “string orchestra” texture. I just love the sound of voices humming chords, it creates a sound that can be so evocative and warm, especially when doubled by a string quartet. To me, that sound combination has a similar effect to a great synth pad, only it perhaps feels more organic and alive.” – Ola Gjeilo
ABOUT THE TEXT:
THE DARK NIGHT
Songs of the soul that rejoices in having reached the high state of perfection, which is union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.
1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.
3. On that glad night
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.