One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.
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.
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….
Saint John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Stanzas 1-4
Sin obscures. So does selfishness. The cross purifies. All of us ordinary mortals are wounded, immersed in our own darkness. A healthy self-denial sensibly practiced and rightly motivated slowly lifts one out of his egoism, laziness, hedonistic inclinations. We are fitted to receive the clean light of the Spirit.
The saints invariably possessed a remarkable wisdom. Even the most simple of them were gifted with a penetration into reality and into the God of all reality that books and studies cannot produce. This penetrating gaze into the real was made possible by their prior purification. This must be at least part of the meaning of that mysterious saying of St. John of the Cross: “The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.” In another place the saint amplifies this idea when he remarks that “the purest suffering brings with it the purest and most intimate knowing, and consequently the purest and highest joy, because it is a knowing from further within.” One who lives the paschal mystery, life through death, lives more and more deeply and thus will see more and more penetratingly. Authenticity is begotten on the cross.
Suffering reduces us to our own ashes; it strips away egoism and makes love possible. A Scripture commentator can remark that “to be a ‘tried’ Christian or to experience the Spirit is one and the same. Trial disposes to a greater gift of the Spirit, for He now achieves by trial His work of liberation. Thus freed, the tried Christian knows how to discern, verify, ‘try’ everything.”
If adaptation to the modern world has actually meant settling for a more comfortable life, a rejection of the hard road and the narrow gate, it is no renewal at all. If updating in a religious congregation has consisted largely of mitigations, we have a clear sign of resistance to the Spirit of the living God. If the renewal of moral theology consistently means more pleasure and less sacrifice, it is no updating at all. It is a surrender to the world.
from Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., “Moral Behavior: Cross-Asceticism”
Also, I did a series of posts on John of the Cross during Lent of 2004. Here are the links:
A tender soul,
making itself my captive,
as it walks into the cell,
locks the door behind it, eagerly,
and, reaching its arms through the iron bars,
throws the key far out of reach.
The little souls –
some are quite impulsive –
throw their keys with all their might.
They remind me of mother,
which isn’t surprising…
she taught me to throw when I was a child.
the great economist of the heart,
I learned that keys are made
to be thrown away.
Of course, she learned it from Father.
Father was the first to lock himself in,
to throw His key away…
with His back to the door
and a grin on His face,
He launched it over His shoulder.
He was so proud of mother
when she threw away her key.
“That’s my girl,” he said.
“That’s my girl.
Have you ever seen such an arm?” he asked me.
“Where did you get such a mother, anyway?”
This business of throwing keys away –
it wasn’t my idea, really,
though Father and Spirit like to say
that is all began with me.
It’s a conspiracy of praise on their part,
to which I willingly submit.
Father knew what He was doing
when He invented keys,
and when He sent me among men
to show them how to throw.
throwing away a key
is not such an obvious thing to do.
Having been a man,
I understand this.
Now there are many souls
throwing their keys with eager haste
and I throw with them.
Side by side
and throw away the keys.
From a collection of poems entitled Only Say The Word
I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have created.
And I myself rested on the seventh day.
He whose heart is pure, sleeps. And he who sleeps has a pure heart.
That is the great secret of being as indefatigable as a child.
Of having that strength in his legs, those new souls,
And to begin afresh every morning, ever new,
Like young hope, new hope.
But they tell me there are men
Who work well and sleep badly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me.
It is almost more serious than if they worked badly and slept well.
Than if they did not work but slept, because laziness
Is not a greater sin than unrest
And despair and lack of confidence in me.
I am not talking, says God, about those men who don’t work and don’t sleep.
Those men are sinners, to be sure. They have what they deserve.
Great sinners. It’s their fault for not working.
I am talking about those who work and don’t sleep.
I pity them. I am talking about those who work and who, in this,
Obey my commandment, poor children.
And who on the other hand lack courage, lack confidence, and don’t sleep.
I pity them. I have it against them. A little. They won’t trust me.
Like the child who innocently lies in his mother’s arms, thus do they not lie
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They lack the courage to be idle.
They have enough virtue to work. They haven’t enough virtue to be idle.
To stretch out. To rest. To sleep.
Poor people, they don’t know what is good.
They look after their business very well during the day.
But they haven’t enough confidence in me to let me look after it during the night.
As if I wasn’t capable of looking after it during one night.
He who doesn’t sleep is unfaithful to Hope
And it is the greatest infidelity.
Because it is infidelity to the greatest Faith.
Poor children, they conduct their business with wisdom during the day.
But when evening comes, they can’t make up their minds,
They can’t be resigned to trust my wisdom for the space of one night
With the conduct and the governing of their business.
As if I wasn’t capable, if you please, of looking after it a little.
Of watching over it.
Of governing and conducting, and all that kind of stuff.
I have a great deal more business to look after, poor people, I govern creation, maybe that is more difficult.
You might perhaps, and no harm done, leave your business in my hands, O wise men.
Maybe I am just as wise as you are.
You might perhaps leave it to me for the space of a night.
While you are asleep
And the next morning you might find it not too badly damaged perhaps.
The next morning it might not be any the worse perhaps.
I may yet be capable of attending to it a little. I am talking of those who work
And who in this obey my commandment.
And don’t sleep, and who in this
Refuse all that is good in my creation,
Sleep, all the good I have created,
And also refuse my commandment just the same.
Poor children, what ingratitude towards me
To refuse such a good
Such a beautiful commandment.
Poor children, they follow human wisdom.
Human wisdom says Don’t put off until tomorrow
What can be done the very same day.
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God.
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you today
And might very well devour you today.
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is he who puts off. That is to say Blessed is he who hopes. And who sleeps.
Sleep by Charles Péguy