We are created for union with God. Saints and mystics over the course of the centuries have achieved union with God not only in heaven, but in this life as well. As a result, they have given us a map so that we, too, may ascend the mountain of holiness. Second to none in showing others the path toward sanctity is St. John of the Cross whose feast we celebrate on December 14.
An examination of today’s saint reveals a man who was on fire with love for God. The divine fire burning within him was manifested not only in the heroic manner in which he loved and cared for others, but also by his profound writings describing his mystical experiences of God. So profound were these experiences of God that only through his rich poetry was he able to attempt a description of these supernatural encounters with the Trinity.
His mystical writings can be found in the following classic works: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love. The brave soul who attempts to read any of these masterpieces will be challenged and perhaps even confused because a description of such lofty prayer experiences cannot easily be understood unless one has received similar graces in his or her own prayer life. Still, in delving into these rich accounts, one will be constantly directed to higher realities and will grow in the longing for God.
The writings of Saint John of the Cross are true explications of the Gospel, resonant with one certain principle given us by Jesus himself which is that we must take up our cross and follow him. John was no stranger to suffering and explains, “[I]t is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire.” The way is not easy, but the rewards are eternal. Let us not shrink at this most difficult but worthwhile of endeavors, but rather let us, with steadfast and determined hearts, strive toward this, our true end, union with God.
St. John of the Cross, pray for us!