Saint John of the Cross is a Saint but also considered one of the 33 Doctors of the Catholic Church. He was part of the Catholic Counter Reformation and helped guide the Church into mystical contemplation of God. Dark Night of the Soul narrates the journey of the soul from her bodily home to her union with God. This is a painful experience which people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. A year after writing this poem, in 1586 he wrote a commentary on Dark Night of the Soul with the same title.
The Dark Night Of The Soul
By Saint John of the Cross
Once in a dark of night,
Inflamed with love and wanting, I arose
O coming of delight!
And went, as no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose
All in the dark went right,
Down secret steps, disguised in other clothes,
O coming of delight!
In dark when no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose.
And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.
It guided me and shone
Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
And lead me to the one
Whom only I could see
Deep in a place where only we could be.
O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.
And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.
And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.
I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.
“This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul – called infused contemplation or mystical theology. God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of love, without its doing anything. It is the loving wisdom of God, and He prepares it for the union of love with God. This Divine wisdom is night and darkness for the soul, and affliction and torment. When this pure light assails the soul, in order to expel its impurity, the soul feels itself to be so impure and misterable that it believes God to be against it, and things that it has set itself up against God.” (Dark Night, II.5)