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St. John of the Cross

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St. John of the Cross

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PATRON OF Contemplative life, contemplatives, Mystical theology, mystics, Spanish poets

December 12 Saint of the Day

December 12 Saint of the Day

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Saint John of the Cross was a 16th century reformer of the Carmelite way of life. Together with Saint Teresa of Avila, he lived the primitive Rule of their Order, and paid a dear price for his commitment to reform and authentic living. Saint John of the Cross died in 1591.

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LITURGY OF THE HOURS - 2ND READING

The knowledge of the mystery hidden within Christ Jesus

From a Spiritual Canticle of St John of the Cross, priest
Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.
We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labours, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.
Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be steadfast and rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth – to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.
The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

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Detail from a drawing of the crucifixion by St. John of the Cross

John of the Cross (1542-91) is a Doctor of the Church, founder of the Discalced Carmelites, and one of the greatest mystical theologians in the history of the Church. Born Juan de Yepes de Álvarez in Fontiveros, Castile, Spain, he was raised by his mother, Catalina Álvarez, after his father died when John was still an infant. He studied at the Jesuit school of Medina and was apprenticed at the age of fifteen in the hospital of Our Lady of Conception. In 1563, he entered the Carmelites at their monastery of Medina del Campo (he took the name John of St. Matthias) and, after pro­fession, was sent to the monastery of the Carmelites near the University of Salamanca. He studied there from 1564-1568 and was ordained in 1567.
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Saint Stories for all Ages (Loyola Press)

John of the Cross was locked in a cell

John of the Cross was locked in a cell six feet wide and ten feet long for nine months, with no light except that which filtered through a slit high up in the wall. He later forgave the men who had imprisoned him. How could he do that? He explained, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.”
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.
When he met Teresa of Ávila and learned from her about the reform of the Carmelite Order, John decided to help with it. As part of this decision, he wore sandals instead of shoes and lived very simply in prayer and solitude. In 1577 the attitude toward the reform shifted.
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. Later he would describe these experiences in poetry. In 1578 John escaped to southern Spain to join the reformed Carmelites. There he held leadership positions and wrote reflections on his experiences, which showed his deep spirit of prayer. When he became ill, he chose to go to the city of Ubeda, where no one knew him. It was there that he died.
From Saints and Feast Days, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
SOURCE: LoyolaPress.com

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