St John Of The Cross


the person in a new way, causing him, in ascending order, to search for God unceasingly, to work for Him unfailingly, to suffer for Him indefatigably, to long for Him impatiently, to run after Him swiftly, to seek Him boldly, to hold Him inseparably, and to burn for Him in gentle love.1

Through this enkindling and growth of the emotion of love in the depths of the human spirit, the will is purified and prepared for union with the Divine Will. This love causes all the strength of the will--the appetites and emotions--to be withdrawn from inordinate seeking of pleasure in objects and centered solely upon the love of God. This "vehement passion of divine love (vehemente pasión de amor divino)"2 thus frees the will for union with God and appropriate love for all creatures. John explains how God, in granting this ardent love, prepares the entire person for divine union: . . .


lN2, chaps. 19 & 20. The traditional latin titles for all of the ten steps on the latter of love (together with the Spanish translation used by St. John) are as follows in ascending order:


1. languere utiliter

2. quaerere incesanter

3. operari indesinenter

4. sustineri infatigabiliter

5. appetere impatienter

6. currere velociter

7. audere vehementer

8. stringere indissolubiliter

9. ardere suaviter

10. assimilari totaliter


1. enfermar provechosamente

2. buscar sin cesar

3. obrar para no faltar

4. sufrir sin fatigarse

5. apetecer impacientemente

6. correr ligeramente

7. atrever con vehemencia

8. asir y apretar sin soltar

9. arder coa suavidad

10. asimilarse totalmente

2N2,11, Title.


they cannot find satisfaction in any of their objects (no puleden gustar de cosa que ellos quieran). God proceeds thus so that by withdrawing the appetites from other obiects and recollecting them in Himself, He strengthens the soul and gives it the capacity for this strong union of love, which he begins to accord by means of this purgation. In this union the soul will love God intensely with all its strength and all its sensory and spiritual appetites (amar con qran fuerza de todas las fuerzas y apetitos espirituales y sensitivos del alma). Such love is impossible these appetites are scattered by their satisfaction in other things (se derramasen en gustar de otra cosa). In order to receive the strength of this union of love, David proclaimed to God: I will keep my strength for You (Ps.58:10), that is, ability, appetites, and strength of my faculties (toda la habilidad y apetitos y fuerzas de mis potencias), by not desiring to make use of them or find satisfaction in anything outside of You (ni queriendo emplear su operación ni gusto fuera de ti en otra cosa).

One might, then, in a certain way ponder how remarkable and how strong this enkindling of love in the spirit (esta inflamación de amor en el espíritu) can be. God gathers together all the strength, faculties, and appetites of the soul, spiritual and sensory alike, that.the energy and power of this whole harmonious composite may be employed in this love (para que toda esta armonía emplee sus fuerzas y virtud en este amor). The soul consequently arrives at the true fulfiliment of the first commandment which, neither disdaining anything human nor excluding it from this love (no desechando nada de el hombre ni excluyendo cosa suya de este amor), states: You shall love Your God with your whole heart and with your whole mind and with your whole soul and with all your strength (Dt.6:5).1


1N2,11,4-3. It is noteworthy that John states that fulfillment of the commandment to love God neither excludes nor disdains anything human. Rather, it enables one to love creatures in an ordered way. Insofar as this ordered love of creatures is a result of contemplation, it is analogous to an increased acceptance of others that results from successful psychotherapy. This analogy again suggests the need for further research in the relationship between psychotherapy and contemplation. On acceptance of others as a result of psychotherapy, see Rogers, On Becoming a Person, p. 174. and "Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships," pp. 216-21.


Having seen the separate effects of divine contemplation upon the human intellect and will, we can now understand how this infused loving knowledge prepares the entire person for union with God. In the light of God's Self-communication, one sees both himself and God. At the same time that the knowledge of oneself causes the person to relinquish all disordered love of self, the knowledge of God causes him to redirect all the energy of his soul to the love of God. This process is painful for the person, for, as John writes, "the soul receives this contemplation and loving knowledge in distress and longing of love (aprieto y ansia de amor)."l It is distressing for a person to see himself as he truly is, to give up his former security, and to die to himself; likewise, it is painful to seek God with anxious longings of love. Nonetheless, this process is also a grace, for it eventually unites the whole person with God in perfect faith, hope: and love.2

Following his explanation of the essence of purgative contemplation, John recounts some of the properties (algunas propiedades) of the dark night of spirit to reassure persons that, although dark and painful, it is the secure, secret, gradual way to union with God. "We should not think a person runs a more serious risk of being lost because of the torments of anguish, the doubts, the fears, and the horrors of this





night and darkness, for rather a man is saved in the darkness of this night."1

In the night of purgative contemplation, one journeys to God in security. As contemplation withdraws all the appetites, affections, and faculties from creatures and centers them in God, the person is liberated from inordinate attachment to self and to his natural ways of knowing and loving, the source of all failures to progress in the spiritual life.2

Purgative contemplation also guides the soul to God in secrecy. Because God communicates His loving wisdom directly to the soul without the activity of the human faculties, the person neither understands the origin of his experiences of purgation and illumination nor can he adequately describe them to others. Although contemplation thus makes one journey to God by way of ignorance and unknowing, it also has the effect of hiding a person within himself (de esconder al alma en sí), where in darkness he encounters God, his Teacher (el Maestro), who dwells within him and the Spirit who speaks directly to his spirit (de puro espíritu a espíritu puro).3

By calling contemplation a "ladder," John highlights another characteristic of contemplation. It is a "science of love (ciencia de amor), infused loving knowledge, that



2N2, chap. 16.

3N2, chap. 17.


both illumines and enamors the soul, elevating it step by step unto God, its Creator." Throughout the entire spiritual life, God's Self-communication leads one orderly and gradually to divine union according to both the nature of the person and the reality of love. One's advance through the stages of divine love may be filled with painful longings; but it is also accompanied by predictable "signs and effects ( señales y efectos) by which to judge one's progress.1

Finally, the dark night of spirit is a journey to God in faith, hope, and love. These virtues both disguise a person from the world, the flesh, and the devil--the only enemies which can interfere with his progress to God--and prepare his intellect, memory, and will for union with God.

Without the darkness of faith, the detachment of hope, and the purification of charity, there is no journey to God, no matter how much one may think he is serving Him in his activities or is pleasing to Him in his religious experiences. On the importance of these virtues, John writes:

Because these virtues have the function of withdrawing the soul from all that is less than God, they consequently have the mission of joining it with God.

Without walking (caminar) sincerely in the garb of these three virtues, it is impossible to reach the perfect union with God through love. This garb and disguise worn by the soul was very necessary that it reach its goal, which was this loving and delightful union with its Beloved. It was a great grace that the soul put on this vesture and persevered in it until at-


lN2,l8,5. See also A2, chap. 17.


After passing through the trials of the dark night of purgative contemplation, one reaches the goal or end (pretensión y fin) of the spiritual journey--the loving and delightful union with one's Beloved. He has passed from the stage of proficients to the state of the perfect, from the via illuminativa to the via unitiva. In this third and final stage of the spiritual life, the entire person--all the human faculties, appetites, emotions, and operations--is centered upon God; and God communicates Himself to the person with a steady and peaceful inflow of His wisdom and love.2

Theologically, this final stage of the spiritual life may be expressed in various ways. The human person is both espoused to the Son of God and one with the Spirit of God. He lives with an inner harmony of sense and spirit that resembles Adam's original state of innocence. He is the New Man proclaimed by the New Testament, reborn according to God to a new life in the Spirit.3

The state of divine union may also be seen from a psychological viewpoint as a condition of optimal health for the human person. In withdrawing the human faculties, appetites,



2N2,3,3; 9,1-6 & 9-11; 17,1; 18,4; 20,4; 21,11-12; 22,1; 23,11; 24,1-4.

3N2,3,3; 7,3; 9,4&6; 13,11; 20,4; 21,3; 24,2-3.


and emotions from their inordinate attachments and centering them on God alone, purgative contemplation heals the roots of the person's disordered behavior and enables him to discover the source of his health, God Himself (su salud, que es el mismo Dios).1

In the state of divine union, the person also discovers his unique individuality. In the purifying light of contemplation, God not only reveals a person to himself, but He also draws that person to center the energies of his will upon the will of God, the ultimate Source of each person's individuality. Moreover, in the state of union, God speaks directly and intimately to the person, guiding him to the fulfillment of his own human capacities.2

Finally, in this state of divine union a person transcends his normal human functioning. Liberated through purgative contemplation from attachment to self and objects, the person experiences a true freedom in his activities and an enjoyment of all things, human and divine. His human faculties of intellect, memory and will, having been transformed by faith, hope, and love, attain a divine mode of operation and participate in God's love and knowledge of Himself and creatures in a manner that exceeds the natural limits of these faculties. John describes the sentiments of one who


1N2,7,4; 16,10. See also, Nl,3,3.

2N2,12,2; 17,2-8; 23,11-12.


has achieved this transcendence:

I departed from my low manner of understanding, and my feeble way of loving, and my poor and limited method of finding satisfaction in God. I did this unhindered by either the flesh or the devil.

This was great happiness and a sheer grace for me, because through the annihilation and calming of my faculties, passions, appetites, and affections, by which my experience and satisfaction in God was base, I went out from my human operation and way of acting to God's operation and way of acting. That is:

My intellect departed from itself, changing from human and natural to divine. For, united with God through this purgation, it no longer understands by means of its natural vigor and light, but by means of the divine wisdom to which it was united.

And my will departed from itself and became divine. United with the divine love, it no longer loves in a lowly manner, with its natural strength, but with the strength and purity of the Holy Spirit; and thus the will does not operate humanly in relation to God.

And the memory, too, was changed into presentiments of eternal glory.

And finally, all the strength and affections of the soul, by means of this night and purgation of the old man, are renewed with divine qualities and delights.1

Thus, the loving and delightful union of the soul with God is the perfection of the human person from both the theological and psychological points of view.2 This state of perfection is actually achievable during this life, although it


1N2,4,1-2. See also N2,3,3; 9,1-5; 13,11; 14,2-3; 21,11-12. 22,1.

2Aside from its theological benefits, contemplation leads to psychological healing, individuation, freedom and transcendence. It is, therefore, thoroughly psychotherapeutic in its results. For this reason, its relationship to the psychotherapeutic process deserves to be investigated further. Furthermore, the psychotherapeutic benefits of the contemplative life ought to be more fully studied and explained.


is fully realized only in the beatific vision when the person is totally assimilated to the Divine Essence.1 Yet, one does not achieve this goal of human life solely on his own, for ultimately its attainment is a free gift of God who "accomplishes all this work in the soul by illumining it and firing it divinely with love's urgent longings for God alone."2

If union with God attained through the dark night of purgative contemplation is the goal or end of the spiritual journey, then this union is implicitly the goal of spiritual direction as a helping process. Let us now see what John says in Book Two of the Night concerning this ministry which aims to help persons attain divine union.

John affirms that God, who dwells in the depths of the soul (mora sustancialmente en el alma), is the person's principal teacher and guide (maestro y guia). After leading the person for years in the state of proficients, God places him in the night of the spirit to prepare him for divine union. In this darkness, God takes the person by the hand and guides him securely along new and unknown roads to the degree of divine union He desires to grant to the person.3

God directs persons specifically by communicating to them his own wisdom and love through contemplation. "Through




3N2,1,1-2; 7,3; 16,7-8; 17,2&8; 23,11.


this contemplation, God teaches the soul secretely (de secreto enseña and instructs it (la instruye) in the perfection of love without its doing anything nor understanding how this happens (sin ella hacer nada ni entender cómo)."l Through contemplation, God: empties the human faculties of their natural objocts in order to fill them with His light and love; purifies the deeply rooted imperfections in the human spirit that it might be united with the Spirit of God; frees a person from attachment to self and to one's own activity and transforms the human faculties, affections, and appetites into a divine mode of acting; communicates directly, intimately, and secretly with a person in the highest degree of prayer; and conducts the soul along the road to union with God in love (el camino de la unión de amor).2 Indeed, contemplation itself is seen as the soul's guide to God: the love which it infuses teaches the soul to serve God as He deserves (el amor enseñando lo que merece Dios) and "guides and moves it and makes it soar to God in an unknown way along the road of solitude (guía y mueve al alma entonces, y la hace volar a su Dios por el camino de la soledad)."3

With God so active in guiding a person to divine union


1N2,5,1. See also N2,14,1-2.

2N2,3,3; 5,3-4; 7,3; 12,4; 13,11; 15,7; 23,1-3&11-12; 25,2.

3N2,17,7-8; 19,3; 25,4.

pp 340-350

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