John of the Cross

John of the Cross was a major support for Teresa of Avila in the process of reformation of Carmel. He lived at the same time, in the same area, but he was much younger (1542-1591).

After having met Teresa of Avila for the first time in 1567, he actively participated in the reform. They were complementary : Teresa of Avila was a woman of action, but had also an extraordinary deep inner life, and John of the Cross was somehow the soul of the reform and a great poet and mystic.  

The route of John of the Cross was riddled with obstacles. His brothers, who were against the reformation of Carmel, imprisoned him during more than eight months under miserable conditions: an insalubrious cell without light, where he had little or nothing to eat.

During this time of imprisonment, he wrote some poems and much of the Spiritual Canticle : "Where have you hidden, beloved and left me moaning?" Few if any have described the dark night of the soul as John of the Cross did it : in this night, God seems absent and just one thing remains: faith.

Nada, nada, nada
... (nothing, nothing, nothing). John of the Cross describes this way in Ascent of Mount Carmel : To reach all, desire nothing. Desire nothing, neither the goods of heaven nor the goods of earth, for both of these paths lead nowhere (see sketch of the Ascent of Mount Carmel). In all his writings, the fundamental inspiration is: "nothing". The way of the untiring pursuit of God is : nada, nada, nada. This is the only path which doesn't lead to a dead end. There the soul can rest and on this route one lives an increasingly deep union with God.

John of the Cross went on this route with body and soul. He had a leadership role in Carmel during the reformation, but despite this, he was later marginalized in this new reform too, in spite of all the energy he had put into it. One of his last letters (written about one month before his death) shows how much love was in him, even if all seemed against him: "You should love very much those who don't love you and who are against you, so love can grow in the heart which is without love. God is acting like this with us too. He loves us, so that we can love him because of His love (letter 61).

John of the Cross withdrew into solitude in Andalusia and died. Abandonned by all, like Christ has been abandonned.

How well I know that flowing spring,

in black of night.

(John of the Cross, The Fountain, first line)

Video The Fountain

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Dark_night and we can listen to abeautiful song, in Spanish: en una noche oscura