St. John of the Cross

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. John of the Cross, one of the most acclaimed of the Christian mystical theologians. He was also a great friend and confidant of St. Teresa of Avila, and, despite the fact his own leanings were toward a more hermitic life, he became involved in her plans to reform the Carmelites, thus pulling him into a life of public service and controversy. (One time, he was imprisoned for nine months for refusing to renounce the Carmelite reforms he and Teresa were pushing.)

John of the Cross is also considered by many to be Spain’s greatest lyrical poet. One commentator suggested that “as a poet, he ranks with the greatest.”

One of John’s shorter poems is titled, Romances – First Romance: On the Gospel “In principio erat Verbum,” Regarding the Most Blessed Trinity. As I re-read it, it struck me as a wonderful poem to share during this Advent season.

In the beginning the Word
was; he lived in God
and possessed in him
his infinite happiness.
That same Word was God,
who is the Beginning;
he was in the beginning
and had no beginning.
He was himself the Beginning
and therefore had no beginning.
The Word is called Son;
he was born of the Beginning
who had always conceived him,
giving of his substance always,
yet always possessing it.
And thus the glory of the Son
was the Father’s glory,
and the Father possessed
all his glory in the Son.
As the lover in the beloved
each lived in the other,
and the Love that unites them
is one with them,
their equal, excellent as
the One and the Other:
Three Persons, and one Beloved
among all three.
One love in them all
makes of them one Lover,
and the Lover is the Beloved
in whom each one lives.
For the being that the three possess
each of them possesses,
and each of them loves
him who bears this being.
Each one is this being,
which alone unites them,
binding them deeply,
one beyond words.
Thus it is a boundless Love that unites them,
for the three have one love
which is their essence;
and the more love is one
the more it is love.

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