Archive for December, 2010


Today’s Gospel Dec 30,2010

Today’s Gospel

Dec 30, 2010

There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

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Today’s Gospel

Dec 29, 2010

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great, that appears in the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18. The author, traditionally Matthew the Evangelist, reports that Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi. The incident, like others in Matthew, is described as the fulfillment of a passage in the Old Testament read as prophecy,[1] in this case a reading of Jeremiah: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children.”[2]

The infants, known in the Church as the Holy Innocents, have been claimed as the first Christian martyrs. Traditional accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative historicizing estimates put their number in the low dozens,[3] but there is dispute over whether the story is historical.

Biblical account

 

10th century illuminated manuscript

In Matthew‘s account, magi from the east go to Judea in search of the newborn king of the Jews, having “seen his star in the east”. They are directed to Bethlehem, and Herod asks them to let him know who this king is when they find him. They find Jesus and honor him, but an angel tells them not to alert Herod, and they return home by another way.

The Massacre of the Innocents is at Matthew 2:16-18, although the preceding verses form the context:

When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[4] When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”[2]

Matthew’s purpose is theological: he presents Jesus as the Messiah, and the Massacre of the Innocents as the fulfillment of passages in Hosea, referring to the exodus, and Jeremiah, to the Babylonian exile.[5] Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp.104-121.</ref> Raymond Brown sees the story as patterned on the Exodus story of the killing of the Hebrew firstborn by Pharaoh and the birth of Moses.[6]

Historicity

Herod the Great (73 BC – 4 BC) was an Idumean (or Edomite) whom the Romans established as the king of Idumea, Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Matthew’s account is consistent with the character of Herod, who was ruthless in defense of his power and notorious for his brutality. However, the massacre is not mentioned in Luke’s gospel or by Josephus.

Josephus records several other examples of Herod’s willingness to commit such acts to protect his power, noting that he “never stopped avenging and punishing every day those who had chosen to be of the party of his enemies.”[7] Some historians take the silence of Josephus as evidence that the massacre did not take place. Vermes and Sanders regard the story as creative hagiography,[8] and Maier wrote in 1998 that “most recent biographies of Herod the Great deny it entirely”.[9]

Eisenman argues that the story may have its origins in Herod’s murder of his own sons, an act which made a deep impression at the time and was recorded by Josephus as well as in the 1st century Jewish apocryphal work, the Assumption of Moses, where it is cast as a prophecy: An insolent king will succeed [the Hasmonean priests]… he will slay all the young.[10]

“Here Herod really did kill all the Jewish children who sought to replace him, as Matthew 2:17 would have it, but these were rather his own children with Maccabean blood!”[11]

Arguing for historicity France argues that Josephus would be unlikely to record the massacre:

“on the scale of atrocities known to have been perpetrated by Herod … this would register very low … The murder of a few infants in a small village [is] not on a scale to match the more spectacular assassinations recorded by Josephus”.

France argues against the incident being derived from the Moses infancy narrative as that concerns newborn children and does not explain the reference to infants under two years of age, and says that the Jeremiah passage is “an editorial comment on a traditional story, not its source”. He concludes that the incident is likely to be, and that at the very least Matthew believed it to be, “an actual event”.[12]

Later accounts

The story’s first appearance in any source other than Matthew is in the 2nd-century apocryphal Protoevangelium of James of c.150 AD, which excludes the Flight into Egypt and switches the attention of the story to the infant John the Baptist:

“And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.”[13]

 

The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, by Matteo di Giovanni

The first non-Christian reference to the massacre is recorded four centuries later by Macrobius (c. 395-423), who writes in his Saturnalia:

“When he [emperor Augustus] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod’s pig, than his son.”[14]

Macrobius’ statement shows that the tradition of the massacre of the innocents had become firmly established in the culture at large, for the fact that Christianity is not mentioned in any of his writings, despite the predominance it was asserting in every aspect of contemporary Roman life, coupled with his vigorous interest in pagan rituals, leaves scholars in no doubt as to his pagan religion.

The story assumed an important place in later Christian tradition; Byzantine liturgy estimated 14,000 Holy Innocents while an early Syrian list of saints stated the number at 64,000. Coptic sources raise the number to 144,000 and place the event on 29 December.[15] Taking the narrative literally and judging from the estimated population of Bethlehem, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) more soberly suggested that these numbers were inflated, and that probably only between six and twenty children were killed in the town, with a dozen or so more in the surrounding areas.[3]

In the arts

 

Cornelis van Haarlem, Massacre of the Innocents, 1590, Rijksmuseum

Medieval liturgical drama recounted Biblical events, including Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, performed in Coventry, England, included a haunting song about the episode, now known as the Coventry Carol. The Ordo Rachelis tradition of four plays includes the Flight into Egypt, Herod’s succession by Archelaus, the return from Egypt, as well as the Massacre all centred on Rachel weeping in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. These events were likewise in one of the Medieval N-Town Plays.

The theme of the “Massacre of the Innocents” has provided artists of many nationalities with opportunities to compose complicated depictions of massed bodies in violent action. It was an alternative to the Flight into Egypt in cycles of the Life of the Virgin. It decreased in popularity in Gothic art, but revived in the larger works of the Renaissance, when artists took inspiration for their “Massacres” from Roman reliefs of the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs to the extent that they showed the figures heroically nude.[16] The horrific subject matter of the Massacre of the Innocents also provided a comparison of ancient brutalities with early modern ones during the period of religious wars that followed the Reformation – Breugel‘s versions show the soldiers carrying banners with the Habsburg double-headed eagle (often used at the time for Ancient Roman soldiers).

The 1590 version by Cornelis van Haarlem also seems to reflect the violence of the Dutch Revolt. Guido Reni‘s early (1611) Massacre of the Innocents, in an unusual vertical format, is at Bologna.[17] The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted the theme more than once. One version, now in Munich, was engraved and reproduced as a painting as far away as colonial Peru.[18] Another, his grand Massacre of the Innocents is now at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The French painter Nicolas Poussin painted The Massacre of the Innocents (1634) at the height of the Thirty Years’ War.

The Childermass, after a traditional name for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is the opening novel of Wyndham Lewis‘s trilogy The Human Age. In the novel The Fall (La Chute) by Albert Camus, the incident is argued by the main character to be the reason why Jesus chose to let himself be crucified—as he escaped the punishment intended for him while many others died, he felt responsible and died in guilt. A similar interpretation is given in José Saramago‘s controversial The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, but there attributed to Joseph, Jesus’ father, rather than to Jesus himself. As depicted by Saramago, Joseph knew of Herod’s intention to massacre the children of Bethlehem, but failed to warn the townspeople and chose only to save his own child. Guilt-ridden ever after, Joseph finally expiates his sin by letting himself be crucified (an event not narrated in the New Testament).

The Massacre is the opening plot used in the 2006 movie The Nativity Story.

Feast days

 

Triumph of the Innocents by William Holman Hunt

The commemoration of the massacre of these “Holy Innocents”—considered by some Christians as the first martyrs for Christ[19]—first appears as a feast of the western church in the Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485. The earliest commemorations were connected with the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January: Prudentius mentions the Innocents in his hymn on the Epiphany. Leo in his homilies on the Epiphany speaks of the Innocents. Fulgentius of Ruspe (6th century) gives a homily De Epiphania, deque Innocentum nece et muneribus magorum.[20]

Today, the date of Holy Innocents’ Day, also called Childermas or Children’s Mass, varies. 27 December is the date for West Syrians (Syriac Orthodox Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Maronite Church) and East Syrians (Chaldeans and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church). 28 December is the date in the Church of England, the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church (in which violet vestments were worn before 1961, instead of red, the normal liturgical colour for celebrating martyrs). The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the feast on 29 December.

In Spain and Hispanic America, December 28 is a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool’s Day in many countries. Pranks are known as inocentadas and their victims are called inocentes, or alternatively, the pranksters are the “inocentes” and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin. Various Catholic countries had a tradition (no longer widely observed) of role reversal between children and their adult educators, including boy bishops, perhaps a Christianized version of the Roman annual feast of the Saturnalia (when even slaves played ‘masters’ for a day). In some cultures it is said to be an unlucky day, when no new project should be started.

In addition, there was a medieval custom of refraining where possible from work on the day of the week on which the feast of “Innocents Day” had fallen for the whole of the following year until the next Innocents Day. This was presumably mainly observed by the better-off. Philippe de Commynes, the minister of King Louis XI of France tells in his memoirs how the king observed this custom, and describes the trepidation he felt when he had to inform the king of an emergency on the day.[21]

Today’s Gospel

Dec 28, 2010

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph.

The Flight into Egypt: Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

The Feast of the Holy Family is a liturgical celebration in the Roman Catholic Church in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1st, in which case it is celebrated on December 30th.

Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Mgr François de Laval, a Canadian bishop who founded a Confraternity.

The feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany; that is to say, on the Sunday between January 7 through January 13, all inclusive (see General Roman Calendar of 1962). The calendar of the 1962 Roman Missal, whose use is still authorized, keeps the celebration on that date.

In the 1962 calendar, the feast was always on a Sunday and, if it fell on 13 January, it replaced the Commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord, to which the 1962 calendar assigned that date. It was never a holy day of obligation,[1] but when its celebration fell on a Sunday, there is an obligation to attend Mass on that day.

In the calendar promulgated in 1969, the feast was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, between Christmas and New Year’s Day (both exclusive), or when there is no Sunday within the Octave (if both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are Sundays), it is held on 30 December, a Friday in such years.

Today’s Gospel
Dec 26, 2010

 

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
He rose, took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea
in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go back there.
And because he had been warned in a dream,
he departed for the region of Galilee.
He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth,
so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

Today’s Gospel

Dec 22, 2010

Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.

Today’s Gospel

Dec 20, 2010

In the sixth month,
the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Today’s Gospel

Dec 16, 2010

When the messengers of John the Baptist had left,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John.
“What did you go out to the desert to see B a reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine garments?
Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously
are found in royal palaces.
Then what did you go out to see?
A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom Scripture says:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
he will prepare your way before you.

I tell you,
among those born of women, no one is greater than John;
yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(All the people who listened, including the tax collectors,
who were baptized with the baptism of John,
acknowledged the righteousness of God;
but the Pharisees and scholars of the law,
who were not baptized by him,
rejected the plan of God for themselves.)

Saint John of the Cross
Confessor and Doctor of the Church
Born 24 June 1542
Fontiveros, Spain
Died December 14, 1591(1591-12-14) (aged 49)
Ubeda, Andalusia, Spain
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion; Lutheran Church
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

Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) (24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591), born Juan de Yepes Alvarez, was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.

Saint John of the Cross was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonized as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church. When his feast day was inserted into the General Roman Calendar in 1738, it was assigned at first to 24 November, since his date of death was impeded by the then existing octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This obstacle was removed in 1955 and in 1969 his feast day was moved to his date of death, 14 December.

Life

[edit] Early life and education

St. John was born by the name of Juan de Yepes Alvarez[1] into a Jewish converso family in a small community near Ávila.[2] His father died when he was young, and so 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. [3] There he worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Society of Jesus (Jesuit) school from 1559 to 1563. The Society of Jesus was a new organization at the time, having been founded a few years earlier by the Spanish St. Ignatius Loyola. On 24 February 1563 he entered the Carmelite order, adopting the name Fr. Juan de Santo Matía.

The following year (1564) he professed as a Carmelite (was promoted from novice status) and moved to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the University and at the Colegio de San Andrés. This stay would influence all his later writings, as Fray Luis de León taught biblical studies (Exegesis, Hebrew and Aramaic) 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 into Spanish. (Translation of the Bible into the vernacular was not allowed then in Spain).

[edit] Priesthood and association with Saint Teresa of Avila

A series of articles on
Christian meditation
Mystic Marriage.jpg
Articles
Aspects of meditationChristian meditationHesychasmReflection on the New Age

Early period
Gregory of NyssaBernard of ClairvauxGuigo II

13-14th centuries
Francis of AssisiDominic de GuzmánBonaventureCatherine of Siena

15-16th century
Ignatius of LoyolaFrancisco de OsunaJohn of AvilaTeresa of AvilaJohn of the Cross

17-18th centuries
Francis de SalesPierre de Bérulle

19th century
Therese of LisieuxGemma GalganiConchita de Armida

20th century
Maria ValtortaFaustina KowalskaThomas Merton

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 travelled to Medina del Campo, where he met the charismatic Saint Teresa de Jesús. She immediately talked to him about her reformation projects for the Carmelite order, and asked him to delay his entry into the Carthusians. The following year, on 28 November, he started this reformation at Duruelo together with Fr. Antonio de Jesús de Heredia, and the originally small and impoverished town of Duruelo became a center of religion.

John, still in his 20s, continued to work as a helper of Saint Teresa until 1577, founding monasteries around Spain and taking active part in their government. These foundations and the reformation process were resisted by a great number of Carmelite friars, some of whom felt that Teresa’s version of the order was too strict. Some of these opponents would even try to bar Teresa from entering their convents.

The followers of St. John and St. Teresa differentiated themselves from the non-reformed communities by calling themselves the “discalced”, i.e., barefoot, and the others the “calced” Carmelites.

Imprisonment, writings, torture, death and recognition

On the night of 2 December 1577, John was taken prisoner by his superiors in the calced Carmelites, who had launched a counter-program against John and Teresa’s reforms. John had refused an order to return to his original house, on the basis that his reform work had been approved by the Spanish Nuncio, a higher authority than John’s direct superiors in the calced Carmelites.[4] John was jailed in Toledo, where he was kept under a brutal regimen that included public lashing before the community at least weekly, and severe isolation in a tiny stifling cell barely large enough for his body. He managed to escape nine months later, on 15 August 1578, through a small window in a room adjoining his cell. (He had managed to pry the cell door off its hinges earlier that day). In the meantime, he had composed a great part of his most famous poem Spiritual Canticle during this imprisonment; his harsh sufferings and spiritual endeavours are then reflected in all of his subsequent writings. The paper was passed to him by one of the friars guarding his cell.[5]

After returning to a normal life, he went on with the reformation and the founding of monasteries for the new Discalced Carmelite order, which he had helped found along with his fellow St. Teresa de Ávila.

He died on 14 December 1591, of erysipelas (cellulitis). His writings were first published in 1618, and he was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI. When inserted into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1738, his feast day was assigned to 24 November.[6] Pope Paul VI moved it to the dies natalis (birthday to heaven) of the saint, 14 December.[7]

The Church of England commemorates him as a “Teacher of the Faith” on the same date.

Literary works

St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to less than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are widely considered to be among the best poems ever written in Spanish, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery.

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 translations of the Bible into the vernacular were forbidden.

Dark Night of the Soul (from which the spiritual term takes its name) narrates the 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. A year after writing this poem, in 1586 he wrote a commentary on Dark Night of the Soul with the same title. This commentary explains the meaning of the poem verse by verse.

St. John also wrote four treatises on mystical theology, two treatises concerning the two poems above, which set out to explain the true meaning of the poems verse by verse and even word by word.

The third work, Ascent of Mount Carmel is a more systematic study of the ascetical endeavour of a soul looking for perfect union, God, and the mystical events happening along the way. A four stanza work, Living Flame of Love describes a greater intimacy, as the soul responds to God’s love. These, together with his Dichos de Luz y Amor, or “Sayings of Light and Love,” and St. Teresa‘s writings, are the most important mystical works in Spanish, and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers all around the world. Among these can be named T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), and Thomas Merton. John has also influenced philosophers (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), and pacifists (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, and Philip Berrigan). Pope John Paul II wrote his theological dissertation on the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross. Saint John is also mentioned in Allen Ginsberg‘s groundbreaking poem Howl,[8] and is quoted by Jonas Mekas in his epic film-diary work ‘Walden’