As we were reading in Psalm 66 this morning, I thought of The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. I believe that the term dark night of the soul is often misunderstood and over used. Nonetheless, I agree with John that there is an intimacy with God that is only available as we move through a time in which He appears to be absent. If you don’t understand exactly what he is saying here, join the crowd–that is why he wrote his three books, which were a commentary expaining his poem for the Carmelites. (Suggested best translation is The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross by Saint John of the Cross, Kieran Kavanaugh, and Otilio Rodriguez) Then, in recent times, Susan Muto, has written companion volumesThe Way of St. John of the Cross: A Guide Through the Dark Night of the Soul is one of them which attempt to explain what John was trying to say in his commentary. When I mentioned this to a friend who was interested in reading the Dark Night, she smiled, put his book down and said, maybe later. Enjoy! The following translation can be read online along with John’s commentary.
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.