Dig Deeply into Christ – John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross makes clear that the only way to profound knowledge of the riches of God and the joy that this brings is through the thickets of tribulation and suffering. But this difficult path is worth traveling. For Christ, the destination, is like a mine with many pockets containing great treasures. So he encourages us to dig deeply into Christ!  For the feast of John of the Cross on December 14.

Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.

We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.

For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.

All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be steadfast and rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth – to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

This excerpt from A Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the cross (Red. B, str. 36-37) was written amidst great suffering while the Saint was in prison.  It encourages us not to shrink from the thickets of tribulations since it is only through them that we will arrive at the riches & treasures of God in Jesus Christ.  “Dig Deeply into Christ” is used in the Roman office of readings for the feast (liturgical memorial) of St. John of the Cross on December 14.

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) was born John de Yepes, the youngest child of a poor family from Toledo, Spain in 1542.  He entered the Carmelite monastery in 1563, went on to study theology at the famous University of Salamanca in 1564, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1567.  Dissatisfied with the laxity of his order, he considered becoming a hermit but was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to remain a Carmelite and work for the reform of the order.  Not all Carmelites were pleased with his reforming activities, and he was actually imprisoned on order of a superior and subjected to great hardship for 9 months before escaping.  His efforts led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, a reformed branch of the Carmelite order.

The writings of St. John of the Cross on the spiritual life combine the depth of a Thomist theologian with the sensitivity of a poet.  His Spiritual Canticle was composed in prison in 1578.  The Ascent of Mount Carmel was written soon afterword as well as the Living Flame of Love.  Perhaps his best known work is The Dark Night of the Soul.

St. John of the Cross died after a severe illness in 1591.  He was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926.  His feast (liturgical memorial) in the Roman calendar occurs on December 14.  (bio by Dr. Italy)