I’ve decided I will not continue blogging about The Dark Night of the Soul after I finish discussing Book One. There’s enough here for most of us to chew on until next Lent. 🙂 But if you’re ready to move on, by all means, get yourself a copy of The Collected Works of John of the Cross and dive in. A Third Order Carmelite who is a friend of mine recommends beginning with The Ascent of Mount Carmel; it is the part of the Collected Works that, in some ways, precedes and then overlaps with the content of The Dark Night.
In Book One, chapter eleven, John begins to comment on the verse, “fired with love’s urgent longings.”
The fire of love is not commonly felt at the outset, either because it does not have a chance to take hold, owing to the impurity of the sensory part, or because the soul for want of understanding has not made within itself a peaceful place for it; although at times with or without these conditions a person will begin to feel a certain longing for God. In the measure that the fire increases, the soul becomes aware of being attracted by the love of God and enkindled in it, without knowing how or where this attraction and love originates. At times this flame and enkindling increase to such an extent that the soul desires God with urgent longings of love, as David, while in this night, said of himself: “Because my heart was inflamed [in contemplative love], my reins were likewise changed [Ps. 73:21]”….
Yet it must be kept in mind that, as I began to say here, individuals generally do not perceive this love in the beginning, but they experience rather the dryness and void we are speaking of. Then, instead of this love which is enkindled afterward, they harbor, in the midst of the dryness and emptiness of their faculties, a habitual care and solicitude for God accompanied by grief or fear about not serving him. It is a sacrifice most pleasing to God — that of a spirit in distress and solicitude for his love [Ps. 51:17].