John of the Cross

POETRY: I Went In, I Knew Not Where, by John of the Cross

I went in, I knew not where and stayed, not knowing, but going past the boundaries of knowing. I knew not the place around me, how I came there or where from, but seeing where then I found me, I sensed great things, and grew dumb— since no words for them would come— lacking all knowledge, but going past the boundaries of knowing. Of piety and of peace I had perfect comprehension; solitude without surcease showed the straight way, whose intention— too secret for me to mention— left me stammering, but going past the boundaries of knowing. So wholly rapt, so astonished was I, from myself divided, that my very senses vanished and left me there unprovided with knowledge, my spirit guided by learning unlearned, and going past the [...]

MYSTICISM: Mystical Knowledge And Rational Knowledge, by Peggy Wilkinson

From: Finding the Mystic Within You “I prayed, and understanding was given me. . . .  Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion: she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.  She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty, a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness.  Although alone, she can do all: herself unchanging, she makes all things new.  In each generation she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets.” (Wisdom 7:7, 24) “Mysticism – doctrine that knowledge of spiritual truth may be attained intuitively.” “Intuition – the immediate knowing or learning of something without the conscious use [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Types Of Communication, by Thomas Dubay, S.M.

From Authenticity God does not speak to us as we speak to one another.  He speaks as God, and consequently we should be wary of our preconceived ideas as to how the communication ought to be carried off.  Moreover, he does not speak in one way only.  Nor should we assume that his speaking is always unmistakable. The indwelling Lord leads us into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13) in diverse ways and degrees.  St. John of the Cross discusses these ways and degrees under the caption of what he calls supernatural locutions.  It seems to me that this expression, “supernatural locution,” is equivalent to what we mean in saying that the Holy Spirit speaks to us.  John’s “locution” is a type of [...]

SATURDAY READING: Intelligence In The Prayer Of Quiet, by Thomas Merton

From The Ascent to Truth Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Àvila have both left us detailed studies of the ways of contemplative prayer, and better than any other mystics they have described the practical details of our cooperation with the Spirit of God in the degree of prayer which most interests us here.  They both agree that in the Night of Sense, and more still in the Prayer of Quiet, the faculties of the soul are in some measure passive.  But they also agree that these faculties are still free to act of their own accord and that consequently they are capable of either helping of hindering the work of God.  And they both agree that in order to help the action of grace our faculties must engage in some very simplified [...]

PRAYER: The Stages Of Prayer, by Carlos Carretto

From Letter from the Desert Prayer is words, poetry, song. Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer For I am poor and needy. Show me, Lord, your way, so that I may walk in thy truth Guide my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86) Often it contains a shout, a cry, a groan of anguish. Lord my God, I call for help by day; I cry at night before you. Let my prayer come into your presence. O turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is filled with evils; my life is on the brink of the grave. I am reckoned as one in the tomb: I have reached the end of my strength, like one alone among the dead; like the slain lying in their graves; like those you remember no more, cut off, as they are, from your hand. (Psalm 88) And sometimes an explosion of joy: I love [...]

THE DARK NIGHT: The Way Of The Night, by Wilfrid McGreal

From John of the Cross The way of nada is the way of the night, the way of faith.  The word “night” is perhaps one of the most powerful in John’s teaching and yet it can be off-putting.  The night is not a denial of life, but rather through the night we seek a way that will lead to union with God, the Beloved.  This is a union that can best be described as a Mystical Marriage.  Night stands as a symbol for purification, for escape from all that is negative, and it is also a place where true light is encountered.  Again, to understand what is really meant by night in John’s writing then the reader must see what is implied by [...]

THE DARK NIGHT: What To Do — The Teaching Of Saint John Of The Cross, by Thomas Merton

From The Inner Experience Saint John of the Cross explains in great detail how the soul should behave in order to accept this great gift of God and make use of it without spoiling his work.  It is very important to have competent guidance and instruction in the ways of contemplative prayer.  Otherwise it will be almost impossible to avoid errors and obstacles.  The reason for this is that no matter how good the intentions of the soul may be, its natural coarseness and clumsiness still prevent it from sensing the full import of the delicate work performed by God’s love within its most intimate depths and cooperating with his action. The most important thing of all is to get some realization of what God is doing in your soul.  Learn [...]

POETRY: Saint John of the Cross — Songs of the Soul, by E. Allison Peers

From Behind That Wall: An Introduction to Some Classics of the Interior Life Because of the curious way in which their lives were intertwined, Saint John of the Cross is generally thought of side-by-side with Saint Teresa.  Her writings touch great heights, and, if we consider with them her achievements as a reformer and her personality, it is probably no exaggeration to say that she was one of the most remarkable women who have ever lived.  But, though she continually delights the reader, and sometimes, either by her versatile and flexible mind or by her sheer power, surprises him, she can hardly be compared as a writer with Saint John of the Cross, who, besides the same native shrewdness and the same unerring instinct of sanctity, had [...]

PRAYER: Novena for Saint John of the Cross

Author Unknown Daily Prayer O glorious Saint John of the Cross, through a pure desire of being like Jesus crucified, you longed for nothing so eagerly as to suffer, to be despised, and to be made little of by all; and your thirst after sufferings was so burning that your noble heart rejoiced in the midst of the cruelest torments and [...]

MYSTICISM: John of the Cross’s Three Forms of Communication from God

The following quotes are from The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chapters 28 through 31. When I categorize my visions, I do so in a most informal way, coming up with umbrellas that I think might cover some of the most obvious characteristics.  And then I give these groups really, really fancy and well thought names: names such as A, and B, and I even have a category that I call, weapons. But that’s another story altogether. But John of the Cross takes a whole lot deeper approach to categorizing communications from God.  He is limiting himself in this work to those communications that involve words.  And while emotions and even actions may result of these visions, for this effort, he is addressing how God communicates. Now I [...]

DETACHMENT: The Path to Compassion

From John of the Cross: The soul must always be inclined not to the easiest thing, but to the hardest; not to the tastiest, but to the most insipid; not to the things that give the greatest pleasure, but to those that give the least; not to the restful things, but to the painful ones; not to consolation, but to desolation; not to more, but to less; not to the highest and dearest, but to the lowest and most despised; not to the desire for something, but to having no desires. No desires for ourselves, that is.  Just a desire to be open to God in all things. It is an impossibility, to be sure, to desire nothing for ourselves.  And certainly there are times in our lives when we think such an intention to be nothing short of insane.  How can [...]

A Letter from John of the Cross: God Alone

14 April 1589 To a religious, his penitent, The peace of Jesus Christ, son, be ever in your soul.  I received your reverence’s letter, in which you tell me of the great desires that our lord gives you to occupy your will with him alone, and to love him above all things, and in which you ask me to give you a few directions as to how you may achieve this. I rejoice that God has given you such holy desires and I shall rejoice much more at your putting them into execution.  To this end you should notice that all pleasures, joy, and affections are ever caused in the soul by the will and desire for things which appear to you good, fitting, and delectable, since the soul considers these to be pleasing and precious; and in this way the [...]

A Letter from John of the Cross: Walk Humbly

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 [...]


I took the following definition of centering prayer off the website, ostensibly the website dedicated to the teachings of Father Thomas Keating, one of the priests who began the teaching of contemplative prayer in the modern age.  The definition goes: Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. I find within this definition a perfect expression of our relationship with God: through this kind of prayer we [...]