Carmelite Spirituality Series: Saint John of the Cross

Monday, December 14, 2020 - 20:15

The videos in the Carmelite Spirituality Series, offered to provide spiritual nourishment during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, allow us to reflect on the Catholic-Christian faith from the perspective of our Order's rich tradition.

On the feast of Saint John of the Cross, we're delighted to publish this reflection by Fr. Gerard (Ged) Walsh, O.Carm., a friar currently ministering at Aylesford Priory in Kent, England.

The videos in the Carmelite Spirituality Series, offered to provide spiritual nourishment during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, allow us to reflect on the Catholic-Christian faith from the perspective of our Order's rich tradition.

On the feast of Saint John of the Cross, we're delighted to publish this reflection by Fr. Gerard (Ged) Walsh, O.Carm., a friar currently ministering at Aylesford Priory in Kent, England.

John of the Cross is one of the great mystics of the Western Tradition, and a Doctor of the Church. He lived in 16th-century Spain and was a contemporary of Saint Teresa of Avila. He is renowned for his teachings on spiritual growth and contemplative union of the soul with God, his involvement with the Discalced reform of the Carmelite Order, and his beautiful poetry.

Father Ged considers John's family background and his vocation as a Carmelite. John was imprisoned in Toledo by fellow friars who distrusted his efforts at reform. Though this was a dark period for John, it prompted some of his greatest poetry and his articulation of "The Dark Night". Those who seek God go through a dark night of senses and spirit, in which spiritual things dry up and one can even feel abandoned by God. In actual fact, this darkness is God drawing closer.

John recommends that the person going through a "dark night" should simply rest in the presence of God, waiting on God with patience and without anxiety. In the "night of contemplation" we pass from "knowing" to "loving".

Saint John's feast day always falls in Advent. Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation, a time of both active desire and passive resignation. Our waiting is full of hope, even when the night is dark. Our hearts open to receive Christ.