The vast emptiness

O lamps of fire bright-burning
with splendid brilliance, turning
deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
now with their strange new-found glowing
gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.

These caverns are the soul’s faculties: memory, intellect, and will. They are as deep as are the boundless goods of which they are capable, since anything less than the infinite fails to fill them.

It is noteworthy that when these caverns of the faculties are not emptied, purged, and cleansed of all accretions, they do not feel the vast emptiness of their deep capacity.

Any little thing that adheres to them in this life is sufficient to so burden and bewitch them that they do not notice the lack of their immense goods, nor know their own capacity.

It is an amazing thing that the least little thing is enough to so encumber these faculties, capable of infinite goods, that they cannot receive these infinite goods until they are completely empty.

  • St John of the Cross

Killing, you give me life

Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
killing, you give me life for death’s distress.

For death is nothing other than the privation of life, because when life comes no vestige of death remains.

Let it be known that what the soul calls death is all that goes to make up the old man: the entire engagement of the faculties in the things of the world, and the indulgence of the appetites in the pleasures of creatures. All this is the activity of the old life, which is the death of the new spiritual life. The soul is unable to live in this new life, if the old man does not die completely.

Consequently, the soul is dead to all that it was in itself, which was death to it, and alive to what God is in Himself.

The soul can well repeat the words of St Paul: I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.

  • St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love.

Wound of delight

Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!

You detach and withdraw the soul from all the other touches of created things by the might of Your delicacy, and reserve it for and unite it to Yourself alone, so mild an effect do You leave in the soul that every other touch of all things both high and low seems course and spurious.

O Word, indescribably delicate touch, produced in the soul only by Your most simple being, which, since it is infinite, is infinitely delicate and hence touches so subtly, lovingly, and delicately.

This is a touch of substances, that is, of the substance of God in the substance of the soul.

The delicateness of delight felt in this contact is inexpressible. There is no way to catch in words the sublime things of God which happen in these souls. The appropriate language for a person receiving these favours is that she understand them, experience them within herself, enjoy them, and be silent.

  • St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love. (2:18-21)

Living flame

Flame, living flame, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret center of my soul !

Since this flame is a flame of divine life, it wounds the soul with the tenderness of God’s life, and it wounds and stirs it so deeply as to make it dissolve in love. What the bride affirmed in the Canticle is fulfilled in the soul. She was so moved that her soul melted, and thus she says: “As soon as He spoke my soul melted.”[Ct. 5:6] For God’s speech is the effect He produces in the soul.

  • St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love.

a night serene and fair

Soft breathing of the air,
sweet song of nightingale above the plain,
the graceful thicket, where
a night serene and fair
brings flame that burns, consuming with no pain.

One should not think it impossible that the soul be capable of so sublime an activity as this breathing in God, through participation as God breathes in her.

The result of the soul’s breathing the air is that she hears the sweet voice of her Beloved calling to her.

She hears the sweet voice of her Bridegroom Who is her sweet nightingale, renewing and refreshing the substance of the soul with the sweetness and mellowness of His voice, He calls her as He would call one now disposed to make the journey to eternal life, and she hears the pleasant voice urge: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come; for now the winter has passed, the rains have gone far off, the flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. [Ct. 2:10-12]

… the soul rejoices in and praises God  with God Himself in this union, as we have said she loves God with God Himself.

Such is the song of the soul in the transformation that is hers…

… in the clear and serene contemplation of the vision of God.

  • St John of the Cross. The Spiritual Canticle. (Stanza 39)