Today's post is a belated celebration of the great 16th century mystic St. John of the Cross, whose feast-day is on December 14. We have John to thank for that great poetic phrase, "the dark night of the soul". He knew well of which he wrote. Imprisoned in a closet and beaten daily for nine months by Carmelite friars, John began to write love poems to God when a sympathetic jailor smuggled pen and paper into his cell. He fled naked out of his cell window one moonlit night after ripping his sheet and clothes into strips. His writings are a treasure trove of the poetic path to God: in the following selection, he invites us all to consider the ways that we can make room in our hearts and our lives to give birth to the Holy. To accompany today's poem is the exquisite "Ave Maria" of Tomas Luis de Victoria, John of the Cross's almost exact Spanish contemporary
If you Want
by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy, and say,
"I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close."
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim - the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing.