LETTER: Walk Humbly by John of the Cross

Walk Humbly by John of the Cross

Segovia, 12 October 1589

To one living in the world:

May Jesus be in your soul.  I have done anything but forget you; just think, how could I forget one who is in my soul, as you are?  While you are walking in that darkness and in those empty places of spiritual poverty, you think that everyone and everything are failing you; but that is not surprising, for at these times it seems to you that God is failing you too.  But nothing is failing you, nor have you any need to consult me about anything, nor have you any reason to do so, nor do you know one, nor will you find one: all that is merely suspicion without cause.  He that seeks naught but God walk not in darkness, in whatever darkness and poverty he may find himself; and he that harbors no presumptuousness and desires not his own satisfaction, either as to God or as to the creatures, and works not his own will in any way whatsoever has no need to stumble or to worry about anything.  You are progressing well; remain in quietness and rejoice.  Who are you to be anxious about yourself?  A fine state you would get into if you did that!

You have never been in a better state than now, for you have never been humbler or more submissive, nor have you ever counted yourself and everything in the world as of such little worth; nor have you ever known yourself to be so evil, nor God to be so good, nor have you ever served God so purely and disinterestedly as now, nor do you any longer go, as you may have been apt to do, after the imperfections of your will and your own resolution.  What do you desire?  What kind of life do you imagine yourself as living in this world?  How do you imagine yourself behaving?  What do you think is meant by serving God, but abstaining from evil, keeping his commandments and walking in his ways as best we can?  If this be done, what need is there of other apprehensions, or of any other illumination or sweetness whether from one source or from another?  In these things as a rule the soul is never free from stumbling-blocks and perils, and is deceived and fascinated by the objects of its understanding and desire, and its very faculties cause it to stray.  And thus God is granting the soul a great favor when he darkens the faculties and impoverishes the soul so that it may not be led astray by them; and how can it walk aright and not stray, save by following the straight road of the law of God and of the church, and living only in true and dark faith and certain hope and perfect charity, and awaiting its blessings in the life to come, living here below as pilgrims, exiles, and orphans, poor and desolate, with no road to follow and with no possessions, expecting to receive everything in Heaven?

Rejoice and put your trust in God, for he has given you signs that you can quite well do so, and indeed that you ought to do so; should you do otherwise, it will not be surprising if he is wroth at seeing you so foolish, when he is leading you by the road that is best for you and has set you in so sure a place.  Desire no way of progress but this, and tranquilize your soul, for all is well with it, and communicate as is your wont.  Confess, when you have something definite to say; there is no need to talk.  When you have anything to say you will write about it to me, and write to me quickly and more frequently.

I have been somewhat indisposed, but now am well again, though Fray Juan Evangelista is ailing.  Commend him to God, and me likewise, my daughter in the lord.

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