December 10, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: St. John of the Cross

John F. FinkSt. John of the Cross, whose feast is on Dec. 14, is known as the Doctor of Mystical Theology. He was a mystic, theologian and poet. His treatises include the Spiritual Canticle, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Living Flame of Love, and Dark Night of the Soul.

Thomas Merton said of him, “In St. John of the Cross, we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified.”

John, who lived from 1541 to 1591, was a partner with St. Teresa of Avila, reforming the Carmelite men as Teresa did the women.

Pope John Paul II had a particular devotion to St. John of the Cross. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on St. John’s teachings, and thought about becoming a Carmelite.

The Church includes an excerpt from The Ascent of Mount Carmel in the Office of Readings for last Monday during this second week of Advent.

In it, John explained that, prior to the birth of Christ, prophets and priests sought from God revelations and visions since the Gospel law had not yet been established.

In his turn, God spoke at times through words and visions, and at other times in signs and symbols. However he responded, though, and what he revealed were mysteries of our holy faith, “either partial glimpses of the whole or sure movements toward it.”

Now, though, our faith is rooted in Christ, John said, and the law of the Gospel has been proclaimed. There is no longer the need to seek him in the former manner because “by giving us, as he did, his Son, his only Word, he has in that one Word said everything. There is no need for any further revelation.”

That’s what the Letter to the Hebrews meant, John said, when it said, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through his Son” (Heb 1:1-2). Therefore, John said, God “has now said everything in Christ. He has given us everything, his own Son.”

We would be committing an offense, he said, if we looked for some other vision or revelation instead of focusing entirely on Christ. It would be as if we were desiring something other than Christ or beyond him.

But there is nothing more. God has told us that in his Word he has already said everything, John said. “Fix your eyes on him alone for in him I have revealed all, and in him you will find more than you could ever ask for or desire.”

God the Father told us, John said, that with his Holy Spirit he came down upon Jesus during the Transfiguration and told us to hear him. Therefore, you don’t need any new teachings or ways of learning. When God spoke before Christ was born, it was about Christ who was to come, in whom is every good.

This, he said, was the whole teaching of the evangelists and Apostles. †

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