With this poem and commentary, the pre-eminent Catholic spiritualist, St. John of the Cross, maps his long and often dark spiritual journey. The contemplations of this Carmelite monk have encouraged generations of Christians to pursue Jesus Christ regardless of the immediate spiritual experience.
“The second sign and condition of this purgation are that the memory dwells ordinarily upon God with a painful anxiety and carefulness, the soul thinks it is not serving God, but going backwards, because it is no longer conscious of any sweetness in the things of God.” (Page 349)
“SOULS enter this Obscure Night when God is drawing them out of the state of Beginners, which is that of those who meditate in the spiritual way, and is leading them into that of Proficients, the state of Contemplatives, that, having passed through it, they may arrive at the state of the Perfect, which is that of the Divine union with God.” (Page 327)
“For, whereas speaking distracts, silence and action collect the thoughts, and strengthen the spirit.’” (Page vii)
“The third sign we have for ascertaining whether this aridity be the purgation of sense, is an inability to meditate and make reflections, and to excite the imagination, as before, notwithstanding all the efforts we may make; for God begins now to communicate Himself, no longer through the channel of sense, as He did formerly, in consecutive reflections, by which we arranged and divided our knowledge, but in pure spirit, which admits not of successive ideas, and in an act of pure Contemplation, to which neither the interior nor the exterior senses of our lower nature can ascend.” (Page 352)
“Many of them seek to be the favourites of their confessors, and the result is endless envy and disquietude. They are ashamed to confess their sins plainly, lest their confessors should think less of them, so they go about palliating them, that they may not seem so bad: which is excusing rather than accusing themselves. Sometimes they go to a stranger to confess their sin, that their usual confessor may not suppose they are sinners, but good people.” (Page 330)
St. John of the Cross was born in 1542 in Spain and was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation. He died in 1591.