Spanish Mystic and Doctor of the Church, 1542 – 1591, a reformer of the Carmelite Order, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites together with Saint Teresa of Avila.
In the Summer of 2008, in a week of talks, Brother Brian Dybowski introduced us to the poetry of St. John of the Cross. In his commentary on St. John’s poetry, Brother Brian wrote this: “He spoke the unspeakable. Somehow his experience shines through words, rhythm, rhyme, and images, to tell us about the mystical life. So you recognize your experience… you relate to it. Words can’t express his experience adequately but these come very close. That’s why folks have loved his poetry for 500 years.” Here is the first verse of one of St. John’s most famous poems, “O Flame of Love” in the original Spanish. For the complete poem and its English translation, follow the link to the commentary cited above.
!Oh llama de amor viva
Que tierrnamente hieres
De mi alma el mas profundo centro!
Pues ya no eres esquiva,
Acaba ya, si quieres.
Rompe la tela de este dulce encuentro.
- Considered to be the best of Spanish poets, St. John of the Cross is also the author of a number of treatises on mystical theology; two concern his famous poems, the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul. A third prose work, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, describes the soul’s search for perfect union with God.
Also available here is Brother Brian Dybowski’s interview about St. John of the Cross, made for Spirituality TV.