Advent 3 – Monday
Feast Day of St. John of the Cross, priest, mystic, poet and teacher of the faith (d. 14 December 1591) – Anglican & Roman Catholic Calendars
Next to St. Benedict, St. John of the Cross (or as the Spanish call him, San Juan de la Cruz) stands as another saint of the catholic Church that has had a huge impact on my spiritual life (which currently feels like it does not really exist).
He is there alongside with St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Dominic, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, John Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Thomas Merton OCSO, Fr. Sergei (Sergius) Bulgakov, Professor Vladimir Lossky, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Rev’d Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, St. Gregory the Great, St. John Chrysostom, my grandfather and the Cappadocian Fathers (you can wiki/google them all yourself if you are interested in finding out about each one of them). And apart from them, those who knew our Lord intimately: Our Lady (the Blessed Virgin Mary), St. Joseph (his dad), St. Matthew, St. John, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Thomas and St. Barnabas.
His writings, written in the most profound darkness that characterized a time of his spiritual life have brought me comfort and led me back to meditating on Scripture and even more importantly, prayer and confession (the latter is something I haven’t been practicing enough even though it is part of my regula and I have suffered enough torture from el-pointy-forked-one because of that).
Today is his a commemoration and remembrance of his dies natalis (birthday into heaven). I hope and pray that he, alongside innumerable saints in heaven, is continually praying for all followers of Christ in the Church here on earth.
I dragged myself to Mass today. It was tough going but the structure of the liturgy (as found in APBA) really rattled me to the core today. From the opening collect for purity (“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open…”) to the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us”) and the collect for this third week in Advent, it struck me about how badly I have needed assistance from God in this time in the desert. Had to stop myself midway through the collect for purity as I almost lost it at the words “… cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit…”
A portion from Psalm 25 was the responsorial today and the Gospel reading from St. Matthew’s account of Jesus questioning the Pharisees (Matt 21:23-27) got me thinking about my own life and why things have happened as they have thus far. I had a double bonus of Psalm 25 as it popped up again in the psalmody at vespers, which was spent in St. Stephen’s Cathedral after work.
The Invitation to Confession was another point where I almost lost it as well (the Advent variation is beautiful, especially appropriate given today’s feast day and was something that actually hit me really deeply):
The Lord comes, bringing to light things now hidden in darkness, and disclosing the purposes of the heart.
(Silence may be kept)
Let us open our hearts and prepare for his coming, confessing our sins in penitence and faith.
Rev’d Gauld (the associate priest at St. Clement’s-on-the-Hill at Stafford) was on duty at St. John’s today. After some counsel and discussion with her, she left me a poem by Daniel Ladinsky that could very well have been inspired by St. John of the Cross himself (and St. John himself had Arabic heritage).
What is Grace – Daniel Ladinsky
“What is grace” I asked God.
And He said,
“All that happens.”
Then He added, when I looked perplexed,
“Could not lovers
say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms
Existence is my arms,
though I well understand how one can turn
until the heart has wisdom.”
I’ll end this post off with a couple of collects for today’s feast day.
Collect for the Lesser Festival of St. John of the Cross, 1591
from Common Worship: Festivals
O God, the judge of all,
who gave your servant John of the Cross
a warmth of nature, a strength of purpose
and a mystical faith
that sustained him even in the darkness:
shed your light on all who love you
and grant them union of body and soul
in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Collect for the 3rd Class Feast of St. John of the Cross
from The Roman Missal 1962 (Baronius Press)
qui sanctum Joannem Confessorem
tuum atque Doctorem perfectæ sui abnegationis,
et Crucis amatorem eximium effecisti:
concede; ut, ejus imitationi jugiter inhærentes,
gloriam assequamur æternam.
Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum,
qui tecum vivit et regnat
in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus,
per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
who didst endow holy John,
Thy Confessor and Doctor,
with a wonderful spirit of self-denial
and a surpassing love of the Cross:
grant that by ever cleaving to his example,
we may obtain eternal glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God,
world without end.