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John of the Cross - The Darkness of Faith

John of the Cross - The Darkness of Faith

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Published by Jeff Price

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Published by: Jeff Price on Oct 29, 2012
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01/06/2014

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Jeffrey Price 0HT504
 –
John of the Cross 1
Teacher and Lover
 A life lived in the light and love of Christ is a life lived well. Juan de Yepes Alvarezbegan such a life when he was born in 1542 in a little town near Avila, Spain. Though much of his life was spent in the darkness of pain and poverty there was light burning brightly within hissoul. Juan was born during a time of tumult and great change as reform was spoken on the lipsof many from Erasmus to Luther to Calvin. There were reformational forces at work fromwithin and from outside of the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestants were breaking free of Rome altogether while others were seeking refuge under
Rome’s
banner yet still separatingthemselves from the corruption of Rome. Juan de Yepes Alvarez was reborn into a new order of reformation in 1568 when Teresa of Avila called on him to join her as a discalced friar, and thusJohn of the Cross was born.The discalced Carmelite order was one of several new orders formed in the 16
th
centurythat followed in the monastic tradition of poverty and simplicity. While Teresa of Avila was a
woman after Christ’s own h
eart and her influence on John of the Cross was immeasurable, Johnembodied her teaching in such a way that even she was amazed. His influence over her wasfound to be equally immeasurable when she proclaimed John to be a saint and gave him creditfor ena
 bling her to reach the “summit of her mystical experience – 
 
the spiritual marriage.”
1
ForTeresa and John and many in the monastic order, their marriage to Christ was primary but thisimagery was especially profound for John who on his deathbed in 1591 had Song of Solomonread aloud to him.
1
Kavanaugh 1999, 49
 
Jeffrey Price 0HT504
 –
John of the Cross 2
John of the Cross was many things to many people. He was a student, a pastor, a poetand a deacon. As a student he quickly learned and lived out what he was taught, surpassing hisown teachers in both word and deed.
His teacher, Don Alonso, impressed with John’s
knowledge of Latin, rhetoric and theology was the first to encourage him to prepare forordination, and little did he know what a profound influence this ordained friar would have onthe lives of so many.John of the Cross was a spiritual guide to those he served within the monasteries atDuruelo, Pastrana, and Incarnation. As a spiritual guide he pastored friars and nuns with
“precise expressions of love and admonition.”
2
It is no easy task to weave together truth in love,and yet that is just what John of the Cross offered up to those who were in his care. These are
John’s words from his
The Sayings of Light and Love
, “let us speak to the heart words bathed in
sweetness and love, which do indeed please you, removing obstacles and stumbling blocks fromthe paths of many souls who unknowingly trip and unconsciously wal
k in the path of error.”
3
 
The pastor’s heart is easy to hear in these words as both one who is seeking to simultaneouslycorrect error and yet offer comfort in the form of God’s love. John’s life paints the vivid picture
of one who knew Jesus and desired others to experience this same knowledge in their lives,correcting when necessary but always sharing the love of God. Pastoral care takes on manyforms but none are as beautiful and inspiring as those that tie together the truth of the Gospelwith the grace and love of Christ. John had known pain, suffering and poverty and he hadknown the joy found in Jesus which he held out to the friars and nuns in his care.
2
Kavanaugh 1999, 47
3
J. o. Cross, The Sayings of Light and Love
 
Jeffrey Price 0HT504
 –
John of the Cross 3
Despite the suffering John had experienced already, his suffering was about to get muchworse when he became a prisoner of a different monastic order. Not all monastic orders werelike the peace-seeking discalced Carmelites. Some, like the Jesuits, even saw themselves as the
Pope’s army.
John was imprisoned as a rebel in December 1577 for not sharing the same views
as the Carmelites and for supporting the reforms of Teresa of Avila. “For nine months John
lived in obscurity and pain, physically and spiritually
,”
4
as he was tortured, punished and
imprisoned in a nine by five cell with no window and little light. Here he experienced “the dark night par excellence” which he drew on as inspiration to write poetry. As a prisoner/poet, John
of the Cross would create some of his most remembered writings which closely resembled theinterplay between the bride and bridegroom in
Song of Solomon. John experienced Christ’s
mercies from the shadows of his cell.Extinguish these miseries,since no one else can stamp them out;and may my eyes behold you,because you are their light,and I would open them to you alone.
5
 In experiencing these tender mercies, John was able to bring together his gifts of pastoralcare with the call to diaconal mercy ministry. After his release from prison, John was called toservice in Granada where he worked diligently and restlessly on a community garden from which
he was “able to provide food not only for the community but for many of the famished poor of the area as well.”
6
He was no stranger to poverty throughout his lifetime, from his youth to his
service in the monastery to his imprisonment, John knew of the great need for Christ’s tender 
4
Kavanaugh 1999, 51
5
J. o. Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, 10
6
Kavanaugh 1999, 55

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