Listers, St. John of the Cross is the great Mystic Doctor of the Church. Along with St.Theresa of Ávila he founded the Discalced Carmelites, and this reform is only one aspect of his work in the Counter-Reformation. His reform of the Carmelite order was opposed by many within the order and eventually led to his imprisonment by the religious community in Toledo. There he composed the great part of many of his poems. He is still considered to be one of if not the pre-eminent poets of the Spanish language. His insight into the spiritual life makes him one of the most fascinating and important saints for all Catholics.
In honor of the Year of Faith, SPL is sharing eight of his twenty Spiritual Maxims on Faith. The Spiritual Maxims are a collection of quotes written by St. John of the Cross, and selected by him, from his various writings. In compiling these maxims, he prays:
Oh my Lord, Thou lovest discretion, and light, but love, more than all the other operations of the soul; so then let these maxims furnish discretion to the wayfarer, enlighten him by the way, and supply him with motives of love for his journey. Away, then, with the rhetoric of the world, sounding words and the dry eloquence of human wisdom, weak and delusive, never pleasing unto Thee.
The Spiritual Maxims on Faith
17. The way of faith is sound and safe, and along this souls must journey on from virtue to virtue, shutting their eyes against every object of sense and a clear and particular perception. ~A. ii. 16, 13.
18. When the inspirations are from God they are always in the order of the motives of his law, and of the faith, in the perfection of which the soul should ever draw nearer and nearer to God. ~L.F. Stanza iii. sec.29.
19. The soul that travels in the light and verities of the faith is secured against error, for error proceeds ordinarily from our own proper desires, tastes, reflections, and understanding, wherein there is generally too much or too little; and hence the inclination to that which is not seemly. ~D.N. ii. 16, 2.
20. By the faith the soul travels protected against the devil, its strongest and craftiest foe; and St. Peter knew of no stronger defence against him when he said: “Resist him, strong in faith.” ~D.N. xxi. 4, 5.
21. The soul that would draw near unto God and unite itself with Him, must do so by not comprehending rather than by comprehending, in utter forgetfulness of created things; because it must change the mutable and comprehensible for the immutable and the incomprehensible, Who is God. ~A. iii. 4, 3.
22. Outward light enables us to see that we may not fall; it is otherwise in the things of God, for there it is better not to see, and the soul is in greater security.
23. It being certain that in this life we know God better by what he is not then by what he is, it is necessary, if we are to draw near unto him, that the soul must deny, to the uttermost, all that may be denied of its apprehensions, both natural and supernatural. ~A. iii. 1, 1.
24. All apprehension and knowledge of supernatural things cannot help us to love God so much as the least act of living faith and hope made in detachment from all things. ~A. iii. 7, 4.
Taken from: St. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Vol. II. Trans. David Lewis. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007.
Index of abbreviations:
A. – The Ascent of Mount Carmel
L. F. – The Living Flame of Love
D. N. – The Dark Night of the Soul
This list was compiled by Abram Muenzberg, who writes at Men Like Wine, with the help of St. John of the Cross and David Lewis.