John of the Cross

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Saint John of the Cross
JuanCruzretrat.jpg
Religious founder, priest and Doctor of the Church
Born1542 [1]
Fontiveros, Ávila, Spain
DiedDecember 14, 1591(1591-12-14) (aged 49)
Úbeda, Jaén, Spain
Venerated in Catholic Church
Anglican Communion [2]
Lutheranism [3]
Beatified 25 January 1675 by Pope Clement X
Canonized 27 December 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII
Major shrine Tomb of Saint John of the Cross, Segovia, Spain
Feast 14 December
24 November (General Roman Calendar, 1738–1969)
Patronage Contemplative life; contemplatives; mystical theology; mystics; Spanish poets [4]

John of the Cross (Spanish : San Juan de la Cruz; 1542 [1] – 14 December 1591), Carmelite friar and priest of Marrano origin, is a major figure of the Spanish Counter-Reformation, a mystic and Roman Catholic saint. He is one of thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in Spain and the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Carmelites Catholic mendicant religious order

The Carmelites, formally known as the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or sometimes simply as Carmel by synecdoche, is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States, hence the name Carmelites. However, historical records about its origin remain very uncertain. Berthold of Calabria has traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived.

Friar member of a mendicant religious order in Catholic Christianity

A friar is a brother member of one of the mendicant orders founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century; the term distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians and Carmelites.

Contents

John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature as of all Spanish literature. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

Mysticism Practice of religious experiences during alternate states of consciousness

Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Spanish literature generally refers to literature written in the Spanish language within the territory that presently constitutes the state of Spain. Its development coincides and frequently intersects with that of other literary traditions from regions within the same territory, particularly Catalan literature, Galician intersects as well with Latin, Jewish, and Arabic literary traditions of the Iberian peninsula. The literature of Spanish America is an important branch of Spanish literature, with its own particular characteristics dating back to the earliest years of Spain’s conquest of the Americas.

Pope Benedict XIII pope

Pope Benedict XIII, born Pietro Francesco Orsini and later called Vincenzo Maria Orsini, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 29 May 1724 to his death in 1730.

Life

Early life and education

Statues in Fontiveros of John of the Cross, erected in 1928 by popular subscription by the townspeople Monumento a San Juan de la Cruz en Fontiveros.JPG
Statues in Fontiveros of John of the Cross, erected in 1928 by popular subscription by the townspeople

He was born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez at Fontiveros, Old Castile into a converso family (descendants of Jewish converts to Christianity) in Fontiveros, near Ávila, a town of around 2,000 people. [5] [6] [7] His father, Gonzalo, was an accountant to richer relatives who were silk merchants. In 1529 he married John's mother, Catalina, who was an orphan of a lower class, and was rejected by his family and forced to work with his wife as a weaver. [8] John's father died in 1545, while John was still only around three years old. [9] Two years later, John's older brother Luis died, probably as a result of malnourishment due to the poverty to which the family had been reduced. As a result, John's mother Catalina took John and his surviving brother Francisco, first to Arévalo, in 1548 and then in 1551 to Medina del Campo, where she was able to find work. [10] [11]

Fontiveros municipality of Spain

Fontiveros is a municipality in Spain in the Ávila province, in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It comprises an area of approximately 40 square kilometers and according to the 2011 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 173 inhabitants.

Old Castile Former region of Spain

Old Castile is a historic region of Spain, which had different definitions along the centuries. Its extension was formally defined in the 1833 territorial division of Spain as the sum of the following provinces: Santander, Burgos, Logroño, Soria, Segovia, Ávila, Valladolid and Palencia. As the rest of regions in that division, Old Castile never had any special administrative agency; only the individual provinces had their own management.

Converso Jewish-descended community in Spain

A converso, "convert", was a Jew who converted to Roman Catholicism in Spain or Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries, or one of their descendants.

In Medina, John entered a school for 160 [12] poor children, mostly orphans, to receive a basic education, mainly in Christian doctrine. They were given some food, clothing and lodging. While studying there, he was chosen to serve as an altar boy at a nearby monastery of Augustinian nuns. [10] Growing up, John worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Jesuit school from 1559 to 1563. The Society of Jesus was at that time a new organisation, having been founded only a few years earlier by the Spaniard St. Ignatius of Loyola. In 1563 he entered the Carmelite Order, adopting the name John of St. Matthias. [13] [10]

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome and founded by Ignatius of Loyola with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Saint, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian, who co-founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and became its first Superior General at Paris in 1541. The Jesuit order served the Pope as missionaries, and they were bound by a vow of special obedience to the sovereign pontiff in regard to the missions. They therefore emerged as an important force during the time of the Counter-Reformation.

The following year, in 1564 he made his First Profession as a Carmelite and travelled to Salamanca University, where he studied theology and philosophy. [14] Some modern writers [ citation needed ] claim that that stay would influence all his later writings, since Fray Luis de León taught biblical studies (Exegesis, Hebrew and Aramaic) at the university. León was one of the foremost experts in biblical studies at that time and had written an important and controversial translation of the Song of Songs in Spanish.

Salamanca Place in Castile and León, Spain

Salamanca is a city in western Spain that is the capital of the Province of Salamanca in the community of Castile and León. The city lies on several hills by the Tormes River. Its Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. With a metropolitan population of 228,881 in 2012 according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), Salamanca is the second most populated urban area in Castile and León, after Valladolid (414,000), and ahead of León (187,000) and Burgos (176,000).

Exegesis Critical explanation or interpretation of a text

Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible; however, in modern usage "biblical exegesis" is used for greater specificity to distinguish it from any other broader critical text explanation.

Joining the Reform of Teresa of Avila

Statues representing John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila in Beas de Segura S. Juan de la Cruz y Santa Teresa.JPG
Statues representing John of the Cross and Teresa of Ávila in Beas de Segura

John was ordained priest in 1567. He subsequently thought about joining the strict Carthusian Order, which appealed to him because of its practice of solitary and silent contemplation. His journey from Salamanca to Medina del Campo, probably in September 1567 became pivotal. [15] In Medina he met the influential Carmelite nun, Teresa of Ávila (in religion, Teresa of Jesus). She was staying in Medina to found the second of her new convents. [16] She immediately talked to him about her reformation projects for the Order: she was seeking to restore the purity of the Carmelite Order by reverting to the observance of its "Primitive Rule" of 1209, which had been relaxed by Pope Eugene IV in 1432.

Medina del Campo Municipality in Castile and León, Spain

Medina del Campo is a town located in the province of Valladolid, Castile and León autonomous region, 45 km from Valladolid. It is the capital of a farming area, far away from the great economic centres.

Pope Eugene IV Italian pope

Pope Eugene IV, born Gabriele Condulmer, was Pope from 3 March 1431 to his death in 1447. He is the most recent pope to have taken the name "Eugene" upon his election.

Under the Rule, much of the day and night were to be divided between the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, study and devotional reading, the celebration of Mass and periods of solitude. In the case of friars, time was to be spent evangelizing the population around the monastery. [17] There was to be total abstinence from meat and a lengthy period of fasting from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) until Easter. There were to be long periods of silence, especially between Compline and Prime. More simple, that is coarser, shorter habits were to be adopted. [18] There was also an injunction against wearing covered shoes (also previously mitigated in 1432). That particular observance distinguished the followers of Teresa from traditional Carmelites, now to become known as "discalced", i.e., barefoot, differentiating them from the non-reformed friars and nuns.

Teresa asked John to delay his entry into the Carthusian order and to follow her. Having spent a final year studying in Salamanca, in August 1568 John travelled with Teresa from Medina to Valladolid, where Teresa intended to found another convent. After a spell at Teresa's side in Valladolid, learning more about the new form of Carmelite life, in October 1568, John left Valladolid, accompanied by Friar Antonio de Jesús de Heredia, to found a new monastery for Carmelite friars, the first to follow Teresa's principles. They were given the use of a derelict house at Duruelo (midway between Ávila and Salamanca), which had been donated to Teresa. On 28 November 1568, the monastery was established, and on that same day, John changed his name to "John of the Cross". [19]

Soon after, in June 1570, the friars found the house at Duruelo was too small, and so moved to the nearby town of Mancera de Abajo. John moved from the first community to set up a new community at Pastrana in October 1570, and then a further community at Alcalá de Henares, as a house for the academic training of the friars. In 1572 he arrived in Ávila, at Teresa's invitation. She had been appointed prioress of the Convent of the Incarnation there in 1571. [20] John became the spiritual director and confessor of Teresa and the other 130 nuns there, as well as for a wide range of laypeople in the city. [10] In 1574, John accompanied Teresa for the foundation of a new religious community in Segovia, returning to Ávila after staying there a week. Aside from the one trip, John seems to have remained in Ávila between 1572 and 1577. [21]

Drawing of the crucifixion by John of the Cross John of the Cross crucifixion sketch.jpg
Drawing of the crucifixion by John of the Cross

At some time between 1574 and 1577, while praying in a loft overlooking the sanctuary in the Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila, John had a vision of the crucified Christ, which led him to create his drawing of Christ "from above". In 1641, this drawing was placed in a small monstrance and kept in Ávila. This same drawing inspired the artist Salvador Dalí's 1951 work Christ of Saint John of the Cross .

The height of Carmelite tensions

The years 1575–77 saw a great increase in tensions among Spanish Carmelite friars over the reforms of Teresa and John. Since 1566 the reforms had been overseen by Canonical Visitors from the Dominican Order, with one appointed to Castile and a second to Andalusia. The Visitors had substantial powers: they could move members of religious communities from house to another or from one province to the next. They could assist religious superiors in the discharge of their office, and could delegate superiors between the Dominican or Carmelite orders. In Castile, the Visitor was Pedro Fernández, who prudently balanced the interests of the Discalced Carmelites with those of the nuns and friars who did not desire reform. [22]

In Andalusia to the south, the Visitor was Francisco Vargas, and tensions rose due to his clear preference for the Discalced friars. Vargas asked them to make foundations in various cities, in contradiction to the express orders from the Carmelite Prior General to curb expansion in Andalusia. As a result, a General Chapter of the Carmelite Order was convened at Piacenza in Italy in May 1576, out of concern that events in Spain were getting out of hand. It concluded by ordering the total suppression of the Discalced houses. [23]

That measure was not immediately enforced. King Philip II of Spain was supportive of Teresa's reforms, and so was not immediately willing to grant the necessary permission to enforce the ordinance. The Discalced friars also found support from the papal nuncio to Spain, Nicolò Ormaneto  [ it ], Bishop of Padua, who still had ultimate power to visit and reform religious orders. When asked by the Discalced friars to intervene, Nuncio Ormaneto replaced Vargas as Visitor of the Carmelites in Andalusia with Jerónimo Gracián, a priest from the University of Alcalá, who was in fact a Discalced Carmelite friar himself. [10] The nuncio's protection helped John avoid problems for a time. In January 1576, John was detained in Medina del Campo by traditional Carmelite friars, but through the nuncio's intervention, he was soon released. [10] When Ormaneto died on 18 June 1577, John was left without protection, and the friars opposing his reforms regained the upper hand.

Foundations, imprisonment, torture and death

El Greco's landscape of Toledo depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old alcazar (fort) and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs. El Greco - View of Toledo - Google Art Project.jpg
El Greco's landscape of Toledo depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old alcázar (fort) and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs.

On the night of 2 December 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John's dwelling in Ávila and took him prisoner. John had received an order from superiors, opposed to reform, to leave Ávila and return to his original house. John had refused on the basis that his reform work had been approved by the papal nuncio to Spain, a higher authority than these superiors. [24] The Carmelites therefore took John captive. John was taken from Ávila to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, at that time the order's leading monastery in Castile, with a community of 40 friars. [25] [26]

John was brought before a court of friars, accused of disobeying the ordinances of Piacenza. Despite his argument that he had not disobeyed the ordinances, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He was jailed in a monastery where he was kept under a brutal regime that included public lashings before the community at least weekly, and severe isolation in a tiny stifling cell measuring barely 10 feet by 6 feet. Except when rarely permitted an oil lamp, he had to stand on a bench to read his breviary by the light through the hole into the adjoining room. He had no change of clothing and a penitential diet of water, bread and scraps of salt fish. [27] During his imprisonment, he composed a great part of his most famous poem Spiritual Canticle , as well as a few shorter poems. The paper was passed to him by the friar who guarded his cell. [28] He managed to escape eight months later, on 15 August 1578, through a small window in a room adjoining his cell. (He had managed to prise open the hinges of the cell door earlier that day.)

After being nursed back to health, first by Teresa's nuns in Toledo, and then during six weeks at the Hospital of Santa Cruz, John continued with the reforms. In October 1578 he joined a meeting at Almodóvar del Campo of reform supporters, better known as the Discalced Carmelites. [29] There, in part as a result of the opposition faced from other Carmelites, they decided to request from the Pope their formal separation from the rest of the Carmelite order. [10]

At that meeting John was appointed superior of El Calvario, an isolated monastery of around thirty friars in the mountains about 6 miles away [30] from Beas in Andalusia. During that time he befriended the nun, Ana de Jesús, superior of the Discalced nuns at Beas, through his visits to the town every Saturday. While at El Calvario he composed the first version of his commentary on his poem, The Spiritual Canticle, possibly at the request of the nuns in Beas.

In 1579 he moved to Baeza, a town of around 50,000 people, to serve as rector of a new college, the Colegio de San Basilio, for Discalced friars in Andalusia. It opened on 13 June 1579. He remained in post until 1582, spending much of his time as a spiritual director to the friars and townspeople.

1580 was a significant year in the resolution of disputes between the Carmelites. On 22 June, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree, entitled Pia Consideratione, which authorised the separation of the old (later "calced") and the newly reformed, "Discalced" Carmelites. The Dominican friar Juan Velázquez de las Cuevas was appointed to oversee the decision. At the first General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites, in Alcalá de Henares on 3 March 1581, John of the Cross was elected one of the "Definitors" of the community, and wrote a constitution for them. [31] By the time of the Provincial Chapter at Alcalá in 1581, there were 22 houses, some 300 friars and 200 nuns among the Discalced Carmelites. [32]

Saint John of the Cross' shrine and reliquary, Convent of Carmelite Friars, Segovia Sepulcro-de-san-juan-de-la-cruz-02.jpg
Saint John of the Cross' shrine and reliquary, Convent of Carmelite Friars, Segovia
Reliquary of John of the Cross in Ubeda, Spain JohnCrossRelicsUbeda.jpg
Reliquary of John of the Cross in Úbeda, Spain

In November 1581, John was sent by Teresa to help Ana de Jesús to found a convent in Granada. Arriving in January 1582, she set up a convent, while John stayed in the monastery of Los Mártires, near the Alhambra, becoming its prior in March 1582. [33] While there, he learned of Teresa's death in October of that year.

In February 1585, John travelled to Málaga where he established a convent for Discalced nuns. In May 1585, at the General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites in Lisbon, John was elected Vicar Provincial of Andalusia, a post which required him to travel frequently, making annual visitations to the houses of friars and nuns in Andalusia. During this time he founded seven new monasteries in the region, and is estimated to have travelled around 25,000 km. [34]

In June 1588, he was elected third Councillor to the Vicar General for the Discalced Carmelites, Father Nicolas Doria. To fulfill this role, he had to return to Segovia in Castile, where he also took on the role of prior of the monastery. After disagreeing in 1590–1 with some of Doria's remodelling of the leadership of the Discalced Carmelite Order, John was removed from his post in Segovia, and sent by Doria in June 1591 to an isolated monastery in Andalusia called La Peñuela. There he fell ill, and travelled to the monastery at Úbeda for treatment. His condition worsened, however, and he died there, of erysipelas on 14 December 1591. [10]

Veneration

The morning after John's death huge numbers of townspeople in Úbeda entered the monastery to view his body; in the crush, many were able to take home bits of his habit. He was initially buried at Úbeda, but, at the request of the monastery in Segovia, his body was secretly moved there in 1593. The people of Úbeda, however, unhappy at this change, sent a representative to petition the pope to move the body back to its original resting place. Pope Clement VIII, impressed by the petition, issued a Brief on 15 October 1596 ordering the return of the body to Úbeda. Eventually, in a compromise, the superiors of the Discalced Carmelites decided that the monastery at Úbeda would receive one leg and one arm of the corpse from Segovia (the monastery at Úbeda had already kept one leg in 1593, and the other arm had been removed as the corpse passed through Madrid in 1593, to form a relic there). A hand and a leg remain visible in a reliquary at the Oratory of San Juan de la Cruz in Úbeda, a monastery built in 1627 though connected to the original Discalced monastery in the town founded in 1587. [35]

The head and torso were retained by the monastery at Segovia. They were venerated until 1647, when on orders from Rome designed to prevent the veneration of remains without official approval, the remains were buried in the ground. In the 1930s they were disinterred, and are now sited in a side chapel in a marble case above a special altar. [35]

Proceedings to beatify John began between 1614 and 1616. He was eventually beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, and was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. When his feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1738, it was assigned to 24 November, since his date of death was impeded by the then-existing octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. [36] This obstacle was removed in 1955 and in 1969 Pope Paul VI moved it to the dies natalis (birthday to heaven) of the saint, 14 December. [37] The Church of England commemorates him as a "Teacher of the Faith" on the same date. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI after the definitive consultation of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., professor of philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome. [38]

Literary works

The Ascent of Mount Carmel, as depicted in the first edition of 1618 by Diego de Astor El Monte Carmelo.jpg
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, as depicted in the first edition of 1618 by Diego de Astor

Saint John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in Spanish. Although his complete poems add up to fewer than 2500 verses, two of them, the Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul , are widely considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry, both for their formal style and their rich symbolism and imagery. His theological works often consist of commentaries on the poems. All the works were written between 1578 and his death in 1591.

The Spiritual Canticle is an eclogue in which the bride, representing the soul, searches for the bridegroom, representing Jesus Christ, and is anxious at having lost him. Both are filled with joy upon reuniting. It can be seen as a free-form Spanish version of the Song of Songs at a time when vernacular translations of the Bible were forbidden. The first 31 stanzas of the poem were composed in 1578 while John was imprisoned in Toledo. After his escape it was read by the nuns at Beas, who made copies of the stanzas. Over the following years, John added further lines. Today, two versions exist: one with 39 stanzas and one with 40 with some of the stanzas ordered differently. The first redaction of the commentary on the poem was written in 1584, at the request of Madre Ana de Jesús, when she was prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Granada. A second edition, which contains more detail, was written in 1585–6. [10]

The Dark Night, from which the phrase, Dark Night of the Soul takes its name, narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to union with God. It happens during the "dark", which represents the hardships and difficulties met in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps during the state of darkness, which are described in successive stanzas. The main idea behind the poem is the painful experience required to attain spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem was likely written in 1578 or 1579. In 1584-5, John wrote a commentary on the first two stanzas and on the first line of the third stanza. [10]

The Ascent of Mount Carmel is a more systematic study of the ascetical endeavour of a soul seeking perfect union with God and the mystical events encountered along the way. Although it begins as a commentary on the The Dark Night, after the first two stanzas of the poem, it rapidly diverts into a full treatise. It was composed some time between 1581 and 1585. [40]

A four-stanza work, Living Flame of Love, describes a greater intimacy, as the soul responds to God's love. It was written in a first version at Granada between 1585-6, apparently in two weeks, and in a mostly identical second version at La Peñuela in 1591. [41]

These, together with his Dichos de Luz y Amor or "Sayings of Light and Love" along with Teresa's own writings, are the most important mystical works in Spanish, and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers across the world. They include: T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and Thomas Merton. John is said to have also influenced philosophers, (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), pacifists, (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan) and artists (Salvador Dalí). Pope John Paul II wrote his theological dissertation on the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross.

Editions of his works

His writings were first published in 1618 by Diego de Salablanca. The numerical divisions in the work, still used by modern editions of the text, were introduced by Salablanca (they were not in John's original writings) in order to help make the work more manageable for the reader. [10] This edition does not contain the Spiritual Canticle however, and also omits or adapts certain passages, perhaps for fear of falling foul of the Inquisition.

The Spiritual Canticle was first included in the 1630 edition, produced by Fray Jeronimo de San José, at Madrid. This edition was largely followed by later editors, although editions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gradually included a few more poems and letters. [42]

The first French edition was published in Paris in 1622, and the first Castilian edition in 1627 in Brussels.

A critical edition of St John of the Cross's work in English was published by E Allison Peers in 1935.

Intellectual influences

The influences on John's writing are subject to an ongoing debate. It is widely acknowledged that at Salamanca university there would have existed a range of intellectual positions. In John's time they included the influences of Thomas Aquinas, of Scotus and of Durandus. [43] It is often assumed that John would have absorbed the thought of Aquinas, to explain the scholastic framework of his writings.

However, the belief that John was taught at both the Carmelite College of San Andrès and at the University of Salamanca has been challenged. [44] Bezares calls into question whether John even studied theology at the University of Salamanca. The philosophy courses John probably took in logic, natural and moral philosophy, can be reconstructed, but Bezares argues that John in fact abandoned his studies at Salamanca in 1568 to join Teresa, rather than graduating. [45] In the first biography of John, published in 1628, it is claimed, on the basis of information from John's fellow students, that he in 1567 made a special study of mystical writers, in particular of Pseudo-Dionysius and Saint Gregory the Great. [46] [47] There is little consensus from John's early years or potential influences.

Scripture

John was evidently influenced by the Bible. Scriptural images are common in both his poems and prose. In total, there are 1,583 explicit and 115 implicit quotations from the Bible in his works. [48] The influence of the Song of Songs on John's Spiritual Canticle has often been noted, both in terms of the structure of the poem, with its dialogue between two lovers, the account of their difficulties in meeting each other and the "offstage chorus" that comments on the action, and also in terms of the imagery for example, of pomegranates, wine cellar, turtle dove and lilies, which echoes that of the Song of Songs. [48]

In addition, John shows at occasional points the influence of the Divine Office. This demonstrates how John, steeped in the language and rituals of the Church, drew at times on the phrases and language here. [49]

Pseudo-Dionysius

It has rarely been disputed that the overall structure of John's mystical theology, and his language of the union of the soul with God, is influenced by the pseudo-Dionysian tradition. [50] However, it has not been clear whether John might have had direct access to the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, or whether this influence may have been mediated through various later authors.

Medieval mystics

It is widely acknowledged that John may have been influenced by the writings of other medieval mystics, though there is debate about the exact thought which may have influenced him, and about how he might have been exposed to their ideas.

The possibility of influence by the so-called "Rhineland mystics" such as Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, Henry Suso and John of Ruysbroeck has also been mooted by many authors. [51]

Secular Spanish poetry

However, a strong argument can also be made for contemporary Spanish literary influences on John. This case was first made in detail by Dámaso Alonso,who believed that as well as drawing from scripture, John was transforming non-religious, profane themes, derived from popular songs (romanceros) into religious poetry. [52]

Islamic influence

A controversial theory on the origins of John's mystical imagery is that he may have been influenced by Islamic sources. This was first proposed in detail by Miguel Asín Palacios and has been most recently put forward by the Puerto Rican scholar Luce López-Baralt. [53] Arguing that John was influenced by Islamic sources on the peninsula, she traces Islamic antecedents of the images of the "dark night", the "solitary bird" of the Spiritual Canticle, wine and mystical intoxication (the Spiritual Canticle), lamps of fire (the Living Flame). However, Peter Tyler concludes, there "are sufficient Christian medieval antecedents for many of the metaphors John employs to suggest we should look for Christian sources rather than Muslim sources". [54] As José Nieto indicates, in trying to locate a link between Spanish Christian mysticism and Islamic mysticism, it might make more sense to refer to the common Neo-Platonic tradition and mystical experiences of both, rather than seek direct influence. [55]

Books

See also

Related Research Articles

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The Interior Castle, or The Mansions, was written by St. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D., the Spanish Carmelite nun and famed mystic, in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development through service and prayer. Inspired by her vision of the soul as a diamond in the shape of a castle containing seven mansions, which she interpreted as the journey of faith through seven stages, ending with union with God.

Raphael Kalinowski Polish Discalced Carmelite friar and saint

Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, O.C.D. was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the city of Vilnius. He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many Carmelite monasteries around Poland after their suppression by the Russians.

Discalced Carmelites

The Discalced Carmelites, known officially as the Order of the Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or the Order of Discalced Carmelites, is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The order was established in the 16th century, pursuant to the reform of the Carmelite Order by two Spanish saints, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross. Discalced is derived from Latin, meaning "without shoes".

The Way of Perfection is a 1577 book and a method for making progress in the contemplative life written by St. Teresa of Ávila, the noted Discalced Carmelite nun for the members of the reformed monastery of the Order she had founded.

<i>Ascent of Mount Carmel</i> book

Ascent of Mount Carmel is a 16th-century spiritual treatise by Spanish Catholic mystic and poet Saint John of the Cross. The book is a systematic treatment of the ascetical life in pursuit of mystical union with Christ, giving advice and reporting on his own experience. Alongside another connected work by John, entitled The Dark Night, it details the so-called Dark Night of the Soul, when the individual Soul undergoes earthly and spiritual privations in search of union with God. These two works, together with John's The Living Flame of Love and the Spiritual Canticle, are regarded as some of the greatest works both in Christian mysticism and in the Spanish language.

The Byzantine Discalced Carmelites are communities of cloistered nuns and friars, belonging to several Eastern Catholic Churches – the Bulgarian Byzantine Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, the Ordinariate for Eastern Catholics in France and the Romanian Greek Catholic Church, living committed to a life of prayer, according to the eremitic tradition and lifestyle of the Discalced Carmelites.

The Book of the First Monks is a medieval Catholic book in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelite Order, thought to reflect the spirituality of the Prophet Elijah, honored as the Father of the Order.

Constitutions of the Carmelite Order

The Constitutions of the Carmelite Order stand as an expression of the ideals and spirit of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Foundational sources for the Constitutions include the desert hermit vocation as exemplified in the life of the Prophet Elijah. For the Carmelite the contemplative vocation is exemplified par excellence in the life of the Virgin Mary, beloved to the Order under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Additionally, the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert and the Book of the First Monks comprise fundamental points of reference in the life and spirituality of the Order.

The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis (OCDS), and formerly the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is a religious association of the Roman Catholic Church composed primarily of lay persons and also accepted secular clergy.

Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart Italian Discalced Carmelite nun, mystic and saint

Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D. was an Italian Discalced Carmelite nun. During her brief life of quiet service in the monastery, she came to be revered for her mystical gifts. She has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

Convento de San José (Ávila) building in Province of Ávila, Spain

The Convento de San José is a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Ávila, Spain. It is situated not far from the center of the city but outside the medieval walls. Saint Teresa of Jesus was the driving force behind the foundation of the monastery, which was built from 1562 onwards. The church was only begun in 1607. The statue in the facade was commissioned by King Philip III of Spain via artist Giraldo de Merlo.

The Dark Night is a 1989 Spanish drama film directed by Carlos Saura. It is about Saint John of the Cross, a Catholic priest important to the Counter-Reformation, in solitary confinement in the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, Spain.

<i>Teresa de Jesús</i> 1984 film by Josefina Molina

Teresa de Jesús is a Spanish film mini-series that premiered on national broadcaster Televisión Española in 1984. It presents the life of Teresa of Avila, a Spanish saint, mystic, and doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, who was at one time proclaimed "patron saint of the Spanish race" by the Spanish government, and has been proposed on multiple occasions since her death to be an official patron saint of Spain. Its dialogue is in Spanish, but versions with English subtitles are available. The film stars Concha Velasco as Teresa. Also appearing are Gonzalo Abril as Lorenzo de Cepeda, María Massip as Juana Suárez, Francisco Rabal as Peter of Alcantara, Héctor Alterio, and Marina Saura as another nun. It tells the story of Teresa's life from age 23 until her death at age 67.

Anne of Jesus Spanish Discalced Carmelite nun and spiritual writer

The Venerable Anne of Jesus, was a Spanish Discalced Carmelite nun and writer. She was a close companion of St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Carmelite reform and served to establish new monasteries of the Order throughout Europe. Known as a mystic and for her writings on prayer, she has been declared Venerable by the Catholic Church.

<i>Spiritual Canticle</i> book by Johannes van het Kruis

The Spiritual Canticle, is one of the poetic works of the Spanish mystical poet St. John of the Cross.

John of St. Samson

Servant of God John of St. Samson (1571–1636), also known as Jean du Moulin or Jean de Saint-Samson, was a French Carmelite friar and mystic of the Catholic Church. He is known as the soul of the Touraine Reform of the Carmelite Order, which stressed prayer, silence and solitude. John was blind from the age of three after contracting smallpox and receiving poor medical treatment for the disease. He insisted very strongly on the mystical devotion of the Carmelites. He has been referred to as the "French John of the Cross" by students of Christian mysticism.

References

  1. 1 2 The day is unknown. The parish registers were destroyed by a fire in 1546, and the only serious evidence is an inscription on the font in the church, dated 1689. Midsummer Day is sometimes cited as the date of John's birth, but since this is also the Feast of St John the Baptist, this may simply be conjecture. See E Allison Peers, Spirit of Flame: A Study of St John of the Cross, (London: SCM Press, 1943), p. 11.
  2. "Holy Men and Holy Women" (PDF). Churchofengland.org.
  3. "Notable Lutheran Saints". Resurrectionpeople.org.
  4. In 1952, the Spanish National Ministry for Education named him Patron Saint of Spanish poets. The same ministry repeatedly authorized and approved the inclusion of John's writings among the canon of Spanish writers.
  5. Rodriguez, Jose Vincente (1991). God Speaks in the Night. The Life, Times, and Teaching of St. John of the Cross'. Washington, DC: ICS Publications. p. 3.
  6. Thompson, C.P., St. John of the Cross: Songs in the Night, London: SPCK, 2002, p. 27.
  7. Roth, Norman. Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995, pp. 157, 369
  8. Tillyer, Desmond. Union with God: The Teaching of St John of the Cross, London & Oxford: Mowbray, 1984, p. 4
  9. Gerald Brenan, St John of the Cross: His Life and Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 4
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Kavanaugh, Kieran (1991). "General Introduction: Biographical Sketch". In Kieran Kavanaugh (ed.). The Collected Works of St John of the Cross. Washington: ICS Publications. pp. 9–27. ISBN   0-935216-14-6.
  11. Matthew, Iain (1995). The Impact of God, Soundings from St John of the Cross. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 3. ISBN   0-340-61257-6.
  12. Thompson, p.31.
  13. Kavanaugh (1991) names the date as 24 February. However, E. Allison Peers (1943), p. 13, points out that although the Feast Day of St. Matthias is often assumed to be the date, Father Silverio proposes a date in August or September for his postulancy.
  14. He entered Salamanca University probably between 21 May and October. See E. Allison Peers, Spirit of Flame: A Study of St John of the Cross (London: SCM Press, 1943), p. 13
  15. E. Allison Peers (1943, p. 16) suggests that the journey was in order to visit a nearby Carthusian monastery; Richard P. Hardy, The Life of St John of the Cross: Search for Nothing (London: DLT, 1982), p. 24, argues that the reason was for John to say his first mass
  16. E. Allison Peers, Spirit of Flame: A Study of St John of the Cross (London: SCM Press, 1943), p. 16
  17. Tillyer, p.8.
  18. Hardy, Richard P., The Life of St John of the Cross: Search for Nothing (London: DLT, 1982), p. 27
  19. The monastery may have contained three men, according to E. Allison Peers (1943), p. 27, or five, according to Richard P. Hardy, The Life of St John of the Cross: Search for Nothing (London: DLT, 1982), p. 35
  20. The month generally given is May. E. Allison Peers, Complete Works Vol. I (1943, xxvi), agreeing with P. Silverio, thinks it must have been substantially later than this, though certainly before 27 September.
  21. Hardy, p.56.
  22. He is possibly the same Pedro Fernández who became the Bishop of Ávila in 1581. He who appointed Teresa as prioress in Ávila in 1571, while also maintaining good relations with the Carmelite Prior Provincial of Castile.
  23. Kavanaugh (1991) states that this was all the Discalced houses founded in Andalusia. E. Allison Peers, Complete Works, Vol. I, p. xxvii (1943) states that this was all the Discalced monasteries but two.
  24. Bennedict Zimmermann. "Ascent of Mt. Carmel, introductory essay THE DEVELOPMENT OF MYSTICISM IN THE CARMELITE ORDER". Thomas Baker and Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-12-11. |pages = 10,11
  25. C. P. Thompson, St. John of the Cross: Songs in the Night (London: SPCK, 2002), p. 48. Thompson points out that many earlier biographers have stated the number of friars at Toledo to be 80, but this is simply taken from Crisogono's Spanish biography. Alain Cugno (1982) gives the number of friars as 800 — which Thompson assumes this must be a misprint. However, as Thompson details, the actual number of friars has been reconstructed from comparing various extant documents that in 1576, 42 friars belonged to the house, with only about 23 of them resident, the remainder being absent for various reasons. This is done by J. Carlos Vuzeute Mendoza, 'La prisión de San Juan de la Cruz: El convent del Carmen de Toledo en 1577 y 1578', A. García Simón, ed, Actas del congreso internacional sanjuanista, 3 vols. (Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, 1993) II, pp. 427-436
  26. Peter Tyler, St John of the Cross (New York: Continuum, 2000), p. 28. The reference to the El Greco painting is also taken from here. The priory no longer exists, having been destroyed in 1936 — it is now the Toledo Municipal car park.
  27. Tillyer, p.10.
  28. Dark night of the soul. Translation by Mirabai Starr. ISBN   1-57322-974-1 p. 8.
  29. Peter Tyler, St John of the Cross (New York: Continuum, 2000), p. 33. The Hospital still exists, and is today a municipal art gallery in Toledo.
  30. Thompson, p.117.
  31. fr:Jean de la Croix, Accessed 2012-10-13[ circular reference ]
  32. Thompson, p.119.
  33. Hardy, p.90.
  34. C. P. Thompson, St. John of the Cross: Songs in the Night, London: SPCK, 2002, p. 122. This would have been largely by foot or by mule, given the strict rules which governed the way in which Discalced friars were permitted to travel.
  35. 1 2 Richard P Hardy, The Life of St John of the Cross: Search for Nothing, (London: DLT, 1982), pp113-130
  36. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 110
  37. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 146
  38. http://www.avvenire.it/Cultura/Pagine/il-tomista-assalto.aspx Accessed 17 Feb., 2014
  39. Eric Truman Dicken, The Crucible of Love, (1963), pp. 238–242, points out that this image is neither a true representation of John's thought, nor is it true to the image drawn by John himself of the 'Mount'. This latter image was first published in 1929, from a 1759 copy of the original (now lost) almost certainly drawn by John himself. It is the 1618 image, though, which was influential on later depictions of the 'Mount', such as in the 1748 Venice edition and 1858 Genoa editions of John's work.
  40. Kavanaugh, The Collected Works of St John of the Cross, 34.
  41. Kavanaugh, The Collected Works of St John of the Cross, 634.
  42. The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross. Translated and edited by E. Allison Peers, from the critical edition of Silverio de Santa Teresa. 3 vols. (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1943). Vol. I, pp. l-lxxvi
  43. Crisogono (1958), pp. 33-35
  44. By L. Rodríguez-San Pedro Bezares, 'La Formación Universitaria de Juan de la Cruz', Actas del Congreso Internacional Sanjuanista (Valladolid, 1993)
  45. Bezares, p19
  46. The 1628 biography of John is by Quiroga. The information is from Crisogono (1958), p. 38
  47. Eulogio Pacho (1969), pp. 56-59; Steven Payne, John of the Cross and the Cognitive Value of Mysticism: An Analysis of Sanjuanist Teaching and its Philosophical Implications for Contemporary Discussions of Mystical Experience (1990), p. 14, n. 7)
  48. 1 2 Tyler, Peter (2010). St John of the Cross. New York: Continuum., p. 116
  49. This occurs in the Living Flame at 1.16 and 2.3. See John Sullivan, 'Night and Light: the Poet John of the Cross and the Exultet of the Easter Liturgy', Ephemerides Carmeliticae, 30:1 (1979), pp. 52-68.
  50. John mentions Dionysius explicitly four times—S2.8.6; N2.5.3; CB14-15.16; Ll3-3.49. Luis Girón-Negrón, 'Dionysian thought in sixteenth-century Spanish mystical theology', Modern Theology, 24(4), (2008), p699
  51. However, there is little precise agreement on which particular mystics may have been influential. Jean Orcibal, S Jean de la Croix et les mystiques Rheno-Flamands (Desclee-Brouwer, Presence du Carmel, no. 6); Crisogono (1929), I, 17, believed that John was influenced more by German mysticism, than perhaps by Gregory of Nyssa, Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, the School of Saint Victor and the Imitation .
  52. Dámaso Alonso, La poesía de San Juan de la Cruz (Madrid, 1942)
  53. Luce Lopez Baralt, Juan de la Cruz y el Islam (1990)
  54. Peter Tyler, St John of the Cross (2010), pp. 138-142
  55. José Nieto, Mystic, Rebel, Saint: A Study of St. John of the Cross (Geneva, 1979)

Sources

Further reading