“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another Saint John For Your Consideration

June 24th, the Nativity of St John the Baptist, is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, and an important day in the life of freemasons. However, do you realize this is also the birth date of another Saint John, a widow’s son?
Born, Juan de Yepes Alvarez, his father died when he was young, John, his two older brothers and his widowed mother struggled with poverty, moving around and living in various Castilian villages, with the last being Medina del Campo, to which he moved in 1551. There he worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Society of Jesus school from 1559 to 1563.
Make no mistake, I am not implying anything by this coincidence, I am just bringing your attention to an interesting saint.
In 1564, he professed as a Carmelite and moved to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the University and at the Colegio de San Andrés.
There can be no doubt that Saint John was influenced by Fray Luis de Leon, who taught biblical studies at the University. León was one of the foremost experts in Biblical Studies then and had written an important and controversial translation of the Song of Songs (The Song of Songs is thought by some to be an allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Israel as husband and wife.)
Speaking of Solomon's Song of Songs, Akiba ben Joseph states: "Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is holy of holies."
Saint John was ordained a priest in 1567, and then indicated his intent to join the strict Carthusian order, which appealed to him because of its encouragement of solitary and silent contemplation. Before this, however, he traveled to Medina Campo, where he met
Saint Teresa of Ávila, a Carmelite nun and a Spanish mystic.
Followers of St. John and St. Teresa differentiated themselves from the non-reformed communities by calling themselves the "discalced", i.e., barefoot
Thomas Merton called John of the Cross the greatest of all mystical theologians.

I recommend, if you have not already, read his poem, Dark Night of the Soul, a journey of the soul from her bodily home to her union with God. It happens during the night, which represents the hardships and difficulties she meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. From Wikipedia

Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden.” from the “The Spiritual Canticle” of Saint John of the Cross
As a candidate, blindfolded you followed your leader. Do you really believe this was to prevent you from seeing; after all, very little around you would have made sense even with eyes wide open.
Hoodwinked caused you to look inward, here was your first clue to the path you had choose to travel.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” Saint John of the Cross

“Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it. We don’t remember that we are creatures made in the image of God. We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.” Saint Teresa of Avila

The Dark Night of the Soul
St John Of the Cross

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!)
was awaiting me--
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,
and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.