Appeared in Fall 1991, Vol. XVII, No. 3

This year the Catholic world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the death of St. John of the Cross. Pope John paul II, who wrote his doctoral dissertation at the angelicum on St. John’s teaching concern- ing faith, has recently issued a beautiful apostolic letter on the thought of this great man who was both a mystic and a theologian. Fr. Donald Haggerty, in this beautiful essay, probes the dogma of the indwelling presence of the Trinity in the soul as found in the writings of this reformer of Carmel.

Where have You hidden, Beloved,and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
After wounding me;
I went out calling You,
and You were gone.

These agonized, opening lines of the bride in the spiritual canticle of St. John of the Cross do far more than set the poem firmly in the tradition of lyrical love poetry. Clearly the voice we hear bursting forth from silence, unleashing pent-up emotion, identifies a lover tormented by her own solitude. The complaint she makes is not so much a rebuke of her Beloved, but an overflow of unrelieved frustration. Yet even more fundamentally, this piercing lament of the bride presupposes a former period of joy in the presence of her Bridegroom, some prior experience with Him that left her once ravished, wounded, and suffering for His return. A mood of anguished tension is thus exposed, and the reader can rightly expect some subsequent resolution of the bride’s self-conscious loneliness caused by her lover’s absence.

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