06 St John of the Cross, Father of Carmelites - Sr. Marie Gemma OCD

posted Jul 14, 2017, 12:17 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 14, 2017, 12:17 AM ]

Carmelite spirituality is not about heroic asceticism, it is about God’s all-conquering love

St John of the Cross lived in an age of discovery. The Spanish people gloried in their adventures beyond the seas and oceans in the 15th century. This is evident in many of their poems, ballads and love songs. The poems of John of the Cross are vintage wine still cherished and considered priceless!

John's young and eager spirit captured to the hilt this spirit of his time! It must have been the reason why John finally chose the reformed Carmel. The story of Carmel is essentially a love story, and like every love story, it involves a journey within, a journey of the heart, limitless, incredible which will ultimately be fulfilled only in the possession of the Beloved. We are made to seek and to search for our heart's desire, a restless pursuit that is best described in John's words, as 'a lover's quest.'

St Augustine had first spoken of this restlessness in that classic line, "our hearts are restless until they rest in you." But in Carmelite tradition, it takes on a unique and distinctive focus: not only are our hearts restless, but the heart of God is equally so. The lover's quest is twofold, a mutual yearning in which God and the human soul are both, and at the same time, pursuer and pursued: 'it should be known,' John of the Cross reminds us, 'that if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more.' (LF 3:28)

"The Adventure" of the Night into the unknown....is the adventure of Spiritual life which is no longer a matter of labouring for food – perfection, achievement, success. It is rather making space for God to enter into the core of one's being – God hovering over me. All we have to do is to make space for God. It is in the night that each one discovers, 'I am only a creative capacity to God.' The night ends when we recover from devotion to spirituality.

The Spirituality of St John should not be viewed only from an ascetical point of view, but through a mystical view; not perfection, but Union with God to which the Spirit carries you. In the Spiritual Canticle, the tender words, the evocative images, the rich symbols all speak about the transformation of desire – the presence and absence, discovery and loss, joy and pain: