If we look at the great works of Saint John of the Cross, we discover that his whole intention is to guide us to the encounter with God.
In «The Spiritual Canticle», Saint John of the Cross presents us the path of the purification of the soul, that is, letting ourselves be possessed gradually and joyfully by God, until the moment in which the soul (= the person) discovers that herself loves God with the same love with which she is loved.
In «The Living Flame of Love», he describes in more detail the process of transforming union in God. He uses fire as the founding image. In fact, the more it is on, the more the wood consumes, and the more incandescent the flame. The same thing the Holy Spirit does with us, that during the night purifies the soul, at the same time that it illuminates it and heats it as if it were a flame.
«The Ascent to Mount Carmel» instead presents the spiritual journey from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to climb the mountain of perfection, with the symbol of Mount Carmel. The journey undertaken by man, aided by the grace of God, allows man to free himself from all attachment, from all affection contrary to the will of God.
Finally, in the «Dark Night» the Saint describes the “passive” aspect, in the progressive transformation and purification of the person. Human effort, in fact, is not capable by itself to reach the deep roots of the inclinations and vices of the person: it can only slow them down, but not uproot them. Therefore, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes to the union of love with Him.
May this work on Saint John of the Cross helping us to walk to the encounter with God, in this time of Advent. The long and difficult path of purification certainly requires a personal effort, but the true protagonist is God. The most that man can do is remain “available” (Maranatha!). Be open to divine action and not oppose any kind of resistance to his grace.
P. Patrice, ocd (Stella Maris)