Advent Saint

St. John of the Cross, a Saint for the Season

“Saints have their seasons. Some of them seem to fit perfectly into the time of year they are honored at the altar. St. Philip Neri, with the Spirit’s fire in his heart, is happily at home in late Eastertide. St. Dominic, radiating the sunlight of truth, is manifestly a saint of high summer. The feast of St. John, the evangelist of the Word made flesh, is certainly no disturbance of Christmas. The memorial of the Apostle’s namesake, St. John of the Cross, falls in Advent, as do many of the key dates of his life. His theology, too, is evocative of Advent, for what the Church proclaims in that season is essentially the message conveyed by St. John of the Cross in all his poetic and prose works: ‘Ecce Sponsus venit,’ cc (Behold the Bridegroom comes; go forth to meet Him (Mt. 25:6). John’s nights of sense and spirit, otherwise so bewildering, become more intelligible when they are seen as an Advent preparing the soul for the Christmas of illumination and union with the Beloved. By date and doctrine, St. John of the Cross is an Advent saint” (St. John of the Cross Advent Saint by Rev. John Staward).

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On Christmas, 1585, St. John of the Cross,

in an impulse of love,

took a statue of the Infant Jesus

in his arms and began to dance.

 

“With the Word Divine,

the Virgin Child-bearing

comes along the road

if you give her lodging,

if you give her lodging.”

~

(Poem of St. John of the Cross)

 

The Romances of St. John of the Cross were written in the prison cell of Toledo, where Fray John suffered in the darkness of his own night of faith.  In this poem, reflecting the life of the Trinity ‘In principio’, John takes us through the creation of the world as a “palace for the bride” to the Incarnation and Birth of Christ who comes as bridegroom to ransom his bride. Here are some excerpts from this marvelous Advent/Christmas poem:

~

 “in the beginning the word

was; he lived in god

and possessed in him

his infinite happiness.

That same word was god,

who is the beginning;

he was in the beginning

and had no beginning. . .

~

In that immense love

proceeding from the two

the father spoke words

of great affection to the son…

“My son, i wish to give you

a bride who will love you.

because of you she will deserve

to share our company

and eat at our table,

the same bread I eat,

that she may know the good I have in such a Son. . .

~

And by these words

the world was created,

a palace for the bride. . .

“I will go and tell the world,

spreading the word

of your beauty and sweetness

and of your sovereignty.

I will go seek my bride

and take upon myself

her weariness and labors

in which she suffers so;

and that she may have life,

i will die for her,

and lifting her out of that deep,

I will restore her to you.”

~

Then he called

the archangel gabriel

and sent him to the virgin mary,

at whose consent

the mystery was wrought,

in whom the trinity

clothed the word with flesh. . . .”

~

(Romances by st. john of the Cross)

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