Thought for the Day – 14 December – The Memorial of St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
In his life and writings, John of the Cross has a crucial word for us today. We tend to be rich, soft, comfortable. We shrink even from words like self-denial, mortification, purification, asceticism, discipline. We run from the cross. John’s message—like the gospel—is loud and clear: Don’t—if you really want to live! (Fr Don Miller OFM)
‘Song of the soul that is glad to know God by faith’
14 December – The Memorial of St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
There have been a number of translations into English of the works of St John of the Cross. One of the translations which has been considered one of the best is that by the Anglo-South African convert poet Roy Campbell (2 October 1901 – 22 April 1957).
In October 2009, Roger Scruton wrote about Roy Campbell in his article “A Dark Horse” published in The American Spectator. He was hated by the English “left establishment” especially because of his position on The Spanish Civil War.
The Wikipedia entry says of Roy Campbell that he “was considered by T. S. Eliot, Edith Sitwell and Dylan Thomas to have been one of the best poets of the period between the First and Second World wars but he is seldom found in anthologies today.”
Campbell’s translations of the poetry by St John of the Cross were lavishly praised by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges
For more about Campbell`s work, R J Dent has published an essay on Roy Campbell and his work entitled: Violence and exquisite beauty – the aesthetics of Roy Campbell.
Here is a poem of St John of the Cross with the translations by the late Roy Campbell.
‘Song of the soul that is glad to know God by faith’
How well I know that fountain’s rushing flow Although by night
Its deathless spring is hidden. Even so Full well I guess from whence its source flow Though it be night.
Its origin (since it has none) none knows: But that all origin from it arose Although by night.
I know there is no other thing so fair And earth and heaven drink refreshment there Although by night.
Full well I know the depth no man can sound And that no ford to cross it can be found Though it be night
Its clarity unclouded still shall be: Out of it comes the light by which we see Though it be night.
Flush with its banks the stream so proudly swells; I know it waters nations, heavens, and hells Though it be night.
The current that is nourished by this source I know to be omnipotent in force Although by night.
After the beatification of St John of the Cross on 25 January 1675, the Carmelite convent of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios near Seville commissioned this life-sized statue from the young Sevillian sculptor, Francisco Antonio Gijón, then only 21.
The figure of the saint holds a quill pen in his right hand and, in the left, a book with a model of a mountain surmounted by a cross, which refers to his mystic commentary, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.”
Francisco Antonio Gijón (1653–c. 1721) and unknown painter (possibly Domingo Mejías)
Saint John of the Cross
Painted and gilded wood
168 cm (66 1/8 in.)
Quotes of the Day – 14 December – The Memorial of St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
“In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and He has no more to say… because what He spoke before to the prophets in parts, He has now spoken all at once by giving us the ALL Who is His Son.”
“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”
“At the end of your life, you will be judged by your love.”
St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
One Minute Reflection – 14 December – The Memorial of St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
In all truth I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest…John 12:24
REFLECTION – “O you souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.”…Saint John of the Cross
PRAYER – Lord God, You gave St John of the Cross, the grace of complete self-denial and an ardent love for the Cross of Christ. Grant that by following always in the footsteps of Christ and by the prayers of St John of the Cross on our behalf, we may come to the eternal vision of Your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Christ of Saint John of the Cross is a painting by Salvador Dalí made in 1951.
It depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although it is a depiction of the Crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. Also in a dream, the importance of depicting Christ in the extreme angle evident in the painting was revealed to him.
It is known by it’s Title because its design is based on a drawing by the 16th-century Spanish friar, today’s saint and a Doctor of the Church, St Jon of the Cross. The composition of Christ is also based on a triangle and circle (the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by Christ’s head). The triangle, since it has three sides, can be seen as a reference to the Trinity and the circle represents Unity. Below is the drawing by St John of the Cross.
On the bottom of his studies for the painting, Dalí explained its inspiration: “In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!”
In order to create the figure of Christ, Dalí had Hollywood stuntman Russell Saunders suspended from an overhead gantry, so he could see how the body would appear from the desired angle and also envisage the pull of gravity on the human body. The depicted body of water is the bay of Port Lligat, Dalí’s residence at the time of the painting.
Saint of the Day – 14 December – (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church – Carmelite monk and Priest, Religious Founder, Writer, Poet, Mystic, Apostle of Contemplative Prayer. Also known as • Doctor of Mystical Theology • John della Croce • John de la Croix • John de la Cruz. Patronages – • contemplative life, contemplatives• mystical theology, mystics• Spanish poets• World Youth Day 2011• Segovia, Spain• Ta’ Xbiex, Malta. Attributes – eagle, Crucifix, Cross, Carmelite habit. John of the Cross is known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonised as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church, added by Pope Pius XI in 1926. His works are • Ascent of Mount Carmel• Dark Night of the Soul, Book 1 • Dark Night of the Soul, Book 2 • A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ.
St John was born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez into a converso family (descendents of Jewish converts to Christianity) in Fontiveros, near Ávila, a town of around 2,000 people. John’s father had been disowned by his wealthy Spanish family when he married a poor weaver rather than a woman of equal economic status. Living in poverty proved to be too much for him and he died shortly after John was born. John spent much of his youth in an orphanage, where he was clothed, fed and given an elementary education. At the age of 17, he found a job in a hospital and was accepted into a Jesuit college. In 1563 he entered the Carmelite Order. Eventually he enrolled in another university, where he did so well that he was asked to teach a class and to help settle disputes.
Ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25, John met Teresa of Avila and, like her, vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. John was caught up in a misunderstanding and imprisoned at Toledo, Spain. During those months of darkness in that little cell, John could have become bitter, revengeful, or filled with despair. But instead, he kept himself open to God’s action, for no prison could separate him from God’s all-embracing love. During this time he had many beautiful experiences and encounters with God in prayer. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.
Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into the Light. There are many mystics, many poets- John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the Spiritual Canticle.
But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his Ascent to Mt Carmel, as he named it in his prose masterpiece. As man-Christian-Carmelite, he experienced in himself this purifying ascent; as spiritual director, he sensed it in others; as psychologist-theologian, he described and analysed it in his prose writings. His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. John is truly “of the Cross.” He died at 49—a life short, but full. AND his reforms of the “Discalced” Carmelites revitalised the Order. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI on 24 August 1926.