Stanzas of the Soul
On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.
This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
(Saint John of the Cross)
Sets down the first line and begins to treat of the imperfections of beginners.
Into this dark night souls begin to enter when God draws them forth from the state of
beginners--which is the state of those that meditate on the spiritual road--and begins to set them in
the state of progressives--which is that of those who are already contemplatives--to the end that,
after passing through it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of the Divine union
of the soul with God. Wherefore, to the end that we may the better understand and explain what
night is this through which the soul passes, and for what cause God sets it therein, it will be well
here to touch first of all upon certain characteristics of beginners (which, although we treat them
with all possible brevity, will not fail to be of service likewise to the beginners themselves), in order
that, realizing the weakness of the state wherein they are, they may take courage, and may desire
that God will bring them into this night, wherein the soul is strengthened and confirmed in the
virtues, and made ready for the inestimable delights of the love of God. And, although we may
tarry here for a time, it will not be for longer than is necessary, so that we may go on to speak at
once of this dark night.
It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been definitely converted to the service of
God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured and caressed by God, even as is the tender child by its loving
mother, who warms it with the heat of her bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk and soft and
pleasant food, and carries it and caresses it in her arms; but, as the child grows bigger, the mother
gradually ceases caressing it, and, hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet breast,
sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its feet, so that it may lose the habits of
a child and betake itself to more important and substantial occupations. The loving mother is like
the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new warmth and fervour for the
service of God, He treats it in the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and
delectable, in all the things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great pleasure in
spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender
Therefore, such a soul finds its delight in spending long periods--perchance whole nights--in
prayer; penances are its pleasures; fasts its joys; and its consolations are to make use of the
sacraments and to occupy itself in Divine things. In the which things spiritual persons (though taking
part in them with great efficacy and persistence and using and treating them with great care) often
find themselves, spiritually speaking, very weak and imperfect. For since they are moved to these
things and to these spiritual exercises by the consolation and pleasure that they find in them, and
since, too, they have not been prepared for them by the practice of earnest striving in the virtues,
they have many faults and imperfections with respect to these spiritual actions of theirs; for, after
all, any man's actions correspond to the habit of perfection attained by him. And, as these persons
have not had the opportunity of acquiring the said habits of strength, they have necessarily to work
like feebler children, feebly. In order that this may be seen more clearly, and likewise how much
these beginners in the virtues lacks with respect to the works in which they so readily engage with
the pleasure aforementioned, we shall describe it by reference to the seven capital sins, each in its
turn, indicating some of the many imperfections which they have under each heading; wherein it will
be clearly seen how like to children are these persons in all they do. And it will also be seen how
many blessings the dark night of which we shall afterwards treat brings with it, since it cleanses the
soul and purifies it from all these imperfections.
For the full text of Dark Night of the Soul:
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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