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Juan de Yepes


SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, remembered yesterday on 14th December.

Juan de Yepes, known to us as S. JOHN OF THE CROSS, was born in Spain in 1542.

From the beginning of his life he understood the mystery of love and sacrifice. His father, from a wealthy Spanish family, was disowned and disinherited when he married the daughter of a poor weaver. Then, just after John was born his father died. John’s mother, utterly destitute, managed to keep her homeless family together as they wandered in search of work. When he was fourteen, John got a job in a hospital, looking after patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness.

So, it was in the context of poverty and suffering that he sought to know God.

In 1563 John took the habit of the Carmelite friars in Medina. The following year he was professed and went to the University in Salamanca to study arts and theology.

In 1567 he was ordained to the priesthood, and in the same year Teresa of Avila asked him to help her Reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer.

But many Carmelites and their sympathisers felt threatened by the Reform, and on 2nd December 1577 some members of John’s own order kidnapped him.

At the Toledo priory he was locked in a cell six feet wide and ten feet long for nine months, with no light except that which filtered through a slit high up in the wall. During those months of darkness, John could have become bitter, but he remained open to God, knowing that there was not a prison anywhere that could separate him from God’s love. During this time he had many experiences and encounters with the Lord in prayer. He later forgave those who had imprisoned him, saying,

“Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.”

In 1578, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the spiritual poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out of a window, using a rope made of strips of blankets. He went to southern Spain to join the reformed Carmelites, and devoted his life to helping people discover the transformative power of God’s love.

The best known of his books are: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ. He is regarded as a great spiritual guide in the Catholic tradition, understanding the reality of God's love in the human experience of light as well as darkness.

St John of the Cross died at the age of 49 on 14th December 1591 at Ubeda as he was preparing for assignment to Mexico. He was canonised in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII, and is a Doctor of the Church.

With thanks to Fr David Chislett SSC for this information.

Here are a few of St.John's sayings:

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on,

he must close his eyes

and walk in the dark.”

“The Dark Night of the Soul”

“In the evening of life,

we will be judged on love alone.”

"Sayings of Light and Love”


O living flame of love

that tenderly wounds my soul

in its deepest centre! Since

now you are not oppressive,

now consummate! if it be your will:

tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet cautery,

O delightful wound!

O gentle hand! O delicate touch

that tastes of eternal life

and pays every debt!

In killing you changed death to life.

O lamps of fire!

in whose splendours

the deep caverns of feeling,

once obscure and blind,

now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,

both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly

you wake in my heart,

where in secret you dwell alone;

and in your sweet breathing,

filled with good and glory,

how tenderly you swell my heart with love.


O God, the Judge of all, who gave your servant John of the Cross a warmth of nature, a strength of purpose and a mystical faith that sustained him even in the darkness: shed your light on all who love you and grant them union of body and soul in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Kindle in our hearts, O God,

the flame of that love which never ceases,

that it may burn in us, giving light to others.

May we shine for ever in your temple,

set on fire with your eternal light,

even your Son Jesus Christ,

our Saviour and our Redeemer. Amen.

St Columba

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,

creator of the changes of day and night,

giving rest to the weary,

renewing the strength of those who are spent,

bestowing upon us occasions of song in the evening.

As you have protected us in the day that is past,

so be with us in the coming night;

keep us from every sin, every evil, and every fear;

for you are our light and salvation,

and the strength of our life.

To you be glory for endless ages.

Lancelot Andrewes

Christ of Saint John of the Cross is by far one of the most famous religious paintings of modern day. Painted in 1951, iconic painter Salvador Dalí masterfully gave us his unique rendition of Christ. By providing the viewer with an unusual angle of the cross, Dali was able to create an image that was never seen before.

A surreal vision of Jesus Christ a year before the painting was completed served as the inspiration for this masterpiece. The religious image came to Dali full of different hues that seemed to stick in his mind. He saw an image of Christ from the view of God. This angle was strategically drawn and the painter used an actual muse to get an accurate perspective on how the body would dangle from a cross.

The surrealist style of Salvador Dalí was greatly seen in this painting as there appeared to be an intermix of angles. Dali mixed different hues of blues and greens that illuminate on the canvas to form the sea at eye level. The technical skill is evident as the body of Christ hangs nearly suspended in air. The muscles are intricately painted with flesh tones and shadows that create depth.

The viewers’ eye is drawn to the cross as the charcoal black oil paint in the background pushes the image front and centre. As the eye travels downward, pictures of faraway mountains and a lone pier grace the bottom of the artwork.

Dali used his skill as a painter to create a clear image that somehow seems to take on a life of its own. The geometric design and realistic colour-scheme combine to form an impressive show of workmanship.

Article from "Totally History"

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