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Saint John of the Cross

Source: The Wikipedia s.v. "John of the Cross"

Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) (June 24, 1542 – December 14, 1591) was a major figure in the Catholic Reformation, a Spanish mystic and Carmelite friar born at Fontiveros, a small village near Ávila.

He is renowned for his cooperation with Saint Teresa of Avila in the reformation of the Carmelite order, and for his writings; both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul (in the Christian sense of detachment from creatures and attachment to God) are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church.

The Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. "St. John of the Cross"

The Dark Night of the Soul
Stanzas of the Soul
(Introduction to the Dark Night)


Dark Night of the Soul in its Entirety

Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross

From: THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, revised edition (1991).
Copyright 1991 ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included.

An explanation of the stanzas describing a soul's conduct along the spiritual road that leads to the perfect union with God through love, insofar as it is attainable in this life. A description also of the characteristics of one who has reached this perfection.

In this book we will first cite the entire poem, then each stanza will be repeated separately and explained, and finally we will do the same thing with the individual verses. The first two stanzas describe the effects of the two kinds of spiritual purgation that take place in a person: one, a purification of the sensory part; the other, a purification of the spiritual part. The remaining six stanzas speak of some of the marvelous results obtained from spiritual illumination and union with God through love.


Stanzas Of The Soul

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.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Beginning of the explanation of the stanzas that deal with the way a soul must conduct itself along the road leading to union with God through love, by Padre Fray John of the Cross.

Before embarking on an explanation of these stanzas, we should remember that the soul recites them when it has already reached the state of perfection - that is, union with God through love - and has now passed through severe trials and conflicts by means of the spiritual exercise that leads one along the constricted way to eternal life, of which our Savior speaks in the Gospel [Mt. 7:14]. The soul must ordinarily walk this path to reach that sublime and joyous union with God. Recognizing the narrowness of the path and the fact that so very few tread it - as the Lord himself says [Mt. 7:14] - the soul's song in this first stanza is one of happiness in having advanced along it to this perfection of love. Appropriately, this constricted road is called a dark night, as we shall explain in later verses of this stanza. The soul, therefore, happy at having trod this narrow road from which it derived so much good, speaks in this manner:

  • Introduction to Book ONE
  • Book ONE - Chapter 1
  • Book ONE - Chapter 2
  • Book ONE - Chapter 3
  • Book ONE - Chapter 4
  • Book ONE - Chapter 5
  • Book ONE - Chapter 6
  • Book ONE - Chapter 7
  • Book ONE - Chapter 8
  • Book ONE - Chapter 9
  • Book ONE - Chapter 10
  • Book ONE - Chapter 11
  • Book ONE - Chapter 12
  • Book ONE - Chapter 13
  • Book ONE - Chapter 14
  • Book TWO - Chapter 1
  • Book TWO - Chapter 2
  • Book TWO - Chapter 3
  • Book TWO - Chapter 4
  • Book TWO - Chapter 5
  • Book TWO - Chapter 6
  • Book TWO - Chapter 7
  • Book TWO - Chapter 8
  • Book TWO - Chapter 9
  • Book TWO - Chapter 10
  • Book TWO - Chapter 11
  • Book TWO - Chapter 12
  • Book TWO - Chapter 13
  • Book TWO - Chapter 14
  • Book TWO - Chapter 15
  • Book TWO - Chapter 16
  • Book TWO - Chapter 17
  • Book TWO - Chapter 18
  • Book TWO - Chapter 19
  • Book TWO - Chapter 20
  • Book TWO - Chapter 21
  • Book TWO - Chapter 22
  • Book TWO - Chapter 23
  • Book TWO - Chapter 24
  • Book TWO - Chapter 25

  • Copyright ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included. Maintained by the Austrian Province of the Teresian Carmel


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