Dark Night

 

for the heart

A Dark Night, by unknown artist


Deep in the dark of night

with yearning, set aflame by love’s own fire,
—oh, happy grace-full flight!—
I left with no descrier,
as all my household, peaceful, would retire.

Secure, out of the light,
disguised, up secret ladder ever higher,
—oh, happy grace-full flight!—
the dark hid my desire,
as all my household, peaceful, would retire.

Within that happy night,
in secret, without anyone’s discerning,
nor aught that caught my sight,
nor guide nor light returning
save for the one that in my heart was burning.

It served me as my guide,
more certain than the brilliant midday sun,
to where for me would bide—
how well I knew! —the One,
where we might not be found by anyone.

O night that guides my flight!
O night that was more loving than the sun!
O night that would unite
the Lover and loved one,
beloved changed to Lover—unison!

Upon my blossoming breast—
I guarded it for only him, no less—
there he remained at rest,
I gave him my caress,
our love the fanning cedar’s breeze would bless.

The breeze blew from the tower,
my fingers now began to part his hair,
with his hand’s gentle power
he wounded my neck where
my senses, stricken, faded unaware.

I lost, forgot my being,
my face reclined upon my Lover there,
all ceased, my spirit freeing,
and leaving all my care
behind, forgotten, midst the lilies fair.

 

~ A poem by Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

 

 

 

 

 

A Pearl of Great Price

Pearl of great price by JVC

A pearl of great price, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

“The higher he ascends the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark which lit up the night;
Whoever knows this remains always in unknowing
and transcending all knowledge.”
~ Saint John of the Cross

The contemplative must lean on pure faith, as Saint John of the Cross affirms insistently. By this teaching, he maintains that our hunger for God in prayer depends in an absolute sense on a belief in his immediate presence to our soul despite what can seem at times the stark emptiness of the dark hour. In this teaching, faith is essential to the contemplative life, just as breathing is to the human person.
The certitude upon which the deeper life of contemplative prayer rests can only be firmly grounded in the unquestioning dispositions of a soul’s deeper faith. Faith establishes the certitude of the divine presence, without which prayer might be thought simply a lonely cry released into the vast reaches of an empty night. By faith our soul knows that prayer draws a mysterious response from God, even when it seems to be an answer of silence. The silence conceals God’s longing for our soul—a truth known often only by faith. It is a faith always rooted in the clear teaching of the Catholic doctrinal tradition, without which no contemplative life can survive.

The truth of God is an inexhaustible mystery and therefore always an incitement and goad to our intelligence. Even with an intensity of faith, we confront the incomprehensibility of God. There is no eventual arrival in prayer at a comfortable knowledge of God. He is infinite love and beyond our human understanding. Contrary to what may be our expectation, greater faith does not grant a more expansive knowledge of God. What it does more often is reduce our knowledge of him to a blind certitude of his living presence. We realize in deeper prayer how real he is and, likewise, how unknown he still is. This inability to overcome barriers of blindness in our knowledge of God is the normal condition of contemplative prayer after a certain point. Over time, we learn more about the limits of knowledge, while at the same time recognizing that there is no limit to love. A loving encounter with God can remain our great desire in prayer even in blindness and incomprehension. And God, indeed, does make the reality of his presence known at times, though not perhaps to our satisfaction. For his presence is not a reality that the soul, even with great love, can embrace as a possession. Always God slips back into hiding, so that our love, too, may be inexhaustible.   

~ A Meditation by Father Donald Haggerty

The Flower Of Love

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

“Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” ~ Saint John of the Cross

Whoever first plants the seed in any soil hitherto fallow, and cultivates the shoot with humble toil near steep or shallow…

They will be first to come upon the flower whose instant glory can recreate, in even this trivial hour, the Eden story.

Blessed are they who stand upon their vow and are insistent that love in this bleak here, this barren now become existent.

Blessed are they who battle jest and scorn to keep love growing from embryo immaculately born to blossom showing.

Primarily for them will petals part to draw and win them.
It, when the pollen finds their opened hearts, will bloom within them.

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
Jessica Powers 

 

The Living Flame Of Love

Saint John of the Cross4

Painting of St. John of the Cross by Céline Martin
“This was requested of me by the Carmel, as he was known. I focused on creating a strong contrast with the cross.” Céline’s note. (taken from the Archives du Carmel de Lisieux)


Songs of the soul in the intimate communication of loving union with God.
 

1. O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!


2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.


3. O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

 

4. How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love. 

~ Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

Notes on Spiritual Guidance in the Carmelite Way

Tiny bluebird friend by Unknown Artist

Tiny bluebird friend by Unknown Artist

In the Gospel [Jesus said] … where two or three are gathered to consider what is for the greater honor and glory of My name, there I am in the midst of them… that is, clarifying and confirming truths in their hearts, It is noteworthy that He did not say: Where there is one alone, there I am: rather, He said: Where there are at least two. Thus God announces that He does not want the soul to believe only by itself the communications it thinks are of divine origin, or for anyone to be assured or confirmed in them without the Church or her ministers. God will not bring clarification and confirmation of the truth to the heart of one who is alone. Such a person would remain weak and cold in regard to the truth. (The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross)

This passage, even though it deals specifically with souls who have received visions and revelations, is pertinent to all of us, for it contains a basic truth, namely, that we are not always the best interpreters of our own experience. St. Teresa of Jesus taught that it is one grace to receive a grace from God and another grace to correctly understand the grace that one has received (The Book of Her life. 154). And the grace of understanding is often communicated to us through another person.

St. John of the Cross does not say that we need someone to tell us the truth but we need a trusted guide who is able to assist us in “clarifying (aclarando) and confirming (confirmando) truths [that] are in [our] hearts.” Aclarando is the process of clearing up obscurity or shedding light upon things that are unclear, whereas confirmando means to confirm and give support.

Good spiritual directors are hard to come by, you may say. This is true. However, the guidance of which St. John of the Cross speaks can come to us through many sources. We can receive clarification and confirmation about truths that are in our hearts from our spouse, a coworker, a support group, a friend, or even a book.

So we may ask ourselves and reflect:

What are the channels through which I receive spiritual guidance? What or who is most helpful in clarifying or shedding light upon my experiences?

 

~ By Marc Foley, O.C.D ~ The Ascent of Mount Carmel Reflections

 

Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love

Tomb of Saint John of the Cross ~ Photo taken by me in Segovia, July 2017

 

I recently came back from a trip to Spain and visited the Monastery of San Juan De La Cruz, Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Segovia.  The Monastery stands next to the Shrine of La Fuencisla. St. John of the Cross is buried here.
The church has a single nave with side chapels. The marble and bronze mausoleum of St. John of the Cross is in the side chapel of the Evangelio.

There I read the most beautiful prayer by St. John of the Cross “Oracion del alma enamorada” Prayer of a soul taken with love….

You will not take from me, my God, what You once gave me in Your only Son, Jesus Christ in Whom You gave me all I desire.  Hence I rejoice that if I wait for You, You will not delay. With what procrastinations do You wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart? Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth.  Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners.  The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul?  Yours is all of this, and all is for you.  Do not engage yourself in something less, nor pay heed to the crumbs which fall from your Father’s table.  Go forth and exult in your Glory!  Hide yourself in It and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Lost and Found

If, then, I am no longer seen or found on the common,
you will say that I am lost; but stricken by love,
I lost my self, and was found.

~ Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

Art by Ladislav Záborský, 1921

Art by Ladislav Záborský, 1921