St John of the Cross has a quick and easy reference when he discusses “joy in the delights of food” in the Ascent of Mount Carmel. Simply take a look at the rich man and his sumptuous banquet while poor Lazarus lies at his gate like a piece of garbage, attracting the attention of the rich man’s hounds.
St. John of the Cross is fond of quoting from St. Matthew's gospel, with over 50 citations in John's collected works. Today we see him quote “my yoke is sweet and my burden light” in the all-important Chapter 7, Book II of the Ascent of Mount Carmel: "Indeed the gate is very narrow, more so than you think."
In one memorable passage from the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross explains how the Gospel passage concerning the narrow gate or narrow door is an excellent illustration of the Ascent of Mount Carmel: "Indeed the gate is very narrow, more so than you think."
In August 1591, roughly four months before his death, St. John of the Cross writes to a benefactor about his experience in the Desert of La Peñuela, where he had just arrived about nine days earlier from Segovia. The Desert of La Peñuela was a Discalced Carmelite monastery for the friars that was more secluded and eremitic than any of their other convents. Thus, St. John of the Cross could give himself totally to prayer. "God grant that I may stay here," he writes.
Saint John of the Cross escaped from his prison cell in Toledo during the night of 17-18 August 1578. We share the letter excerpts from 21 and 22 August 1578 in which she describes St. John's harrowing ordeal and her own feelings and thoughts concerning "such a martydom"... "I experience the greatest envy."
In 1940, St. Edith Stein wrote, "Since September 29 we've had a new Mother who would like me to write something again." She wrote from Westerbork Transit Camp on 5 August 1942 asking the nuns in Echt to send her the manuscript of The Science of the Cross.
"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," writes St. John of the Cross. In this excerpt from the Living Flame of Love, he describes how we enjoy God's glory in the shadow of his glory.
St. John of the Cross offers a commentary on our Sunday Gospel in The Ascent of Mount Carmel when he discusses "the vanity of rejoicing over riches, titles, status, positions," etc. "If people were better servants of God by being richer, they would be obliged to rejoice in riches."
St. John of the Cross, discussing the kinds of places where God chooses to be "invoked and worshipped", mentions Mount Horeb, "to which he sent our Father Elijah". John goes on to offer spiritual guidance for his readers based on the examples.
St. John of the Cross refers to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation in Stanza 3 of The Living Flame of Love: "O lamps of fire! in whose splendors..." He continues, "it should be known that an overshadowing is the equivalent of casting a shadow; and casting a shadow is similar to protecting, favoring, and granting graces."
St. Titus Brandsma once again turns to St. John of the Cross and the Living Flame of Live to help explain the profound mystery of Mary's motherhood of God: "casting a shadow is similar to protecting, favoring, and granting graces."
St. Titus Brandsma applies St. John of the Cross's image of the clear pane of glass and the ray of sunlight to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux explains what the work of a Good Samaritan can be in everyday life: "A word and a kind smile often are enough to cheer up a sad soul."
"O Jesus, what a new and appalling suffering it must have been for You, to be forced to cause your beloved Mother to share in the suffering that You had taken on Yourself for our sake..."
By the 6th of July 1591, St. John of the Cross had been relieved of responsibility in the governance of the Discalced Carmelite friars and among those who were disturbed by the news were two nuns in Segovia. On the 6th, St. John wrote from Madrid to assuage their fears and concerns. Those letters contain two of his most famous quotes.
"There is no assurance in God's revelations," writes St. John of the Cross. He cites examples from the lives of Saints Peter and Paul where they both need guidance and correction in their ministries.
What gives God joy? St. John of the Cross explains that he rejoices to find "the humility and the nakedness of our heart and in our contempt of worldly things for love of him." Not with sour faces, but with the joy that it gives him.
St. John of the Cross' exquisite Poem 7 about the "lone young shepherd" with the pierced heart, is our canticle for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: "his heart an open wound with love".
"The soul must practice the following instructions if it wishes to attain in a short time holy recollection and spiritual silence, nakedness, and poverty of spirit, where one enjoys the peaceful comfort of the Holy Spirit," writes St John of the Cross in the introduction to The Precautions.