Poetry of John of the Cross

Today is the memorial of St. John of the Cross, not only one of the most acclaimed of the Christian mystical theologians, but one of Spain’s greatest lyrical poets. (He was also a great friend and confidante of one of my favorites of the mystics, Teresa of Avila, who also wrote some wonderful poetry.)

One of John’s shorter poems is titled, Romances – First Romance: On the Gospel “In principio erat Verbum,” Regarding the Most Blessed Trinity. It is a wonderful poem to reflect on in the 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.

Several years ago, during a reflection series titled Praying with the Mystics, I gave a short reflection on John of the Cross, which you can listen to listen to below or download here. (The podcast runs for 14:20.)

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