The Spiritual Canticle
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) is the Spanish national poet, a saint, and a mystic.
He worked away with St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) to reform the Carmelite order.
Reform is never easy, especially when you are thrown into a dungeon by your brother Carmelites and held captive. He eventually escaped over the walls of the monastery and was welcomed by his sister Carmelites. They shielded him from the mob.
His captivity was more than fruitful. During this time, he wrote what is now considered one of the masterpieces of spirituality, ‘The Spiritual Canticle.’
He wrote a poem in prison based on the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. Distinguished Jewish Scholars consider it the most beautiful of books, even though the name of God is never mentioned in it.
The Song of Songs is just eight chapters and is about two lovers – bride and bridegroom. The bride continually searches for her beloved and seems to find and embrace him, but not quite.
We can see how it is symbolic of the search for our Beloved – the Lord himself – in this life. We seem to find him, but he always seems elusive.
And this is good since it fuels spiritual desire.
One of the Carmelite nuns asked John to write a commentary on his poem and he did. It is the poem and the commentary that is now the spiritual classic.
It opens with John asking the question, ‘Where is the Word?’
He responds, ‘In the bosom of the Father.’
‘And where are they?’ asks John:
‘The Word of God, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden, in essence, and presence, in the inmost being of the soul.’
John enquires further, ‘How is it that I find him not, nor feel him?’
‘He is hidden and you are not. … For she that wants to find some hidden thing must enter very secretly.’
The Gospel is John 14.
You might also try Matthew 6:6 & Matthew 13:44, passages cited by our mystic.