John of the Cross was a Carmelite. In 1568 St. Teresa of Avila convinced him to help her reform the Carmelite Order.
This caused him much suffering, including imprisonment.
He was a great mystic, as well as a reformer.
John is well known for his work on the ‘dark night of the soul’.
It is about a difficult and significant transition to a deeper perception of life. It is a purification of love.
A person can feel a deep sense of sadness. This is triggered by the state of one’s life, or life around. It is a spiritual crisis on the journey to union with God. This night brings sadness to the spirit, it does so only to give it light in everything. It humbles and makes miserable so to exalt and to raise the spirit.
One feels impoverished and emptied of natural affection and attachment. This happens so as to enable the spirit to stretch forward and be purified and liberated.
It is a bit like falling in love. When a person first falls in love, everything looks brighter; romantic love is good and beautiful. It is good, but not enough.
As two people journey in love together a maturity begins to happen.
A person begins to need to make decisions to keep loving. To love the other for who they are, and not because they want something back.
This is true for the spiritual life. One can ‘fall in love’ with God. There are beautiful feelings of transcendence. There is a certain spiritual high, good feelings. We are then invited to grow spiritually. We are invited to love God for who God is and not because we want something back.
One can experience a certain distaste for prayer and spiritual things. There can be feelings of uncertainty. The images we have of God can be challenged and fail to satisfy.
It is about dying to the ego.
It is about not creating a God in our own image.
It is about loving God for who God is.
It is about trust in faith.
It is about surrendering to our lover, God.When these things happen, we cannot rush the process.St. John advises not to run away and seek relief or comfort in what will not satisfy.
The advice is to stay faithful in prayer. It is about liberation and purification. It is good to find a wise and spiritual person to be a companion to talk with, search with, travel with.
Ephesians chapter 3 vs 14-21, is a beautiful summary of the spiritual life, about knowing the knowledge beyond knowledge, and understanding, in love.