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Reasons to read St. John of the Cross’ Sayings of Light and Love

ST JOHN OF THE CROSS

Aleteia

Daniel Esparza - published on 11/18/23

The Sayings of Light and Love are a collection of concise and contemplative statements, presented in the typical poetic style of the Carmelite saint, capturing the very core of his mystical experiences.

Delving into the mystical depth of St. John of the Cross’ spiritual writings can be an intimidating prospect for many – especially considering the Carmelite saint is also one of the greatest authors of the Spanish Siglo de Oro, the Spanish Golden Age of arts and literature. However, among his numerous works, the Sayings of Light and Love (Dichos de luz y de amor, in the original Spanish) stand out as an accessible, inviting entry point into the saint’s spiritual world.

These sayings, which somehow resemble those of the Fathers of the Desert, are among the most important mystical works in Spanish and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers way beyond the borders of Spanish culture, including T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein, and Thomas Merton.

The Sayings of Light and Love are a collection of concise and contemplative statements, presented in the typical poetic style of the Carmelite saint, capturing the very core of his mystical experiences. Comprising a series of short reflections, these sayings explore themes such as divine love, the soul’s union with God, and the transformative power of patience.

While the exceptional beauty of St. John of the Cross’ original Spanish prose may be challenging to fully capture in translation, the Sayings of Light and Love retain a remarkable capacity to communicate the core of his mystical teachings – in any language: John of the Cross’ insights easily transcend cultural and linguistic barriers. Here we list five reasons why everyone (regardless of their creed, theological formation, or spiritual inclinations) should at the very least take a look at these aphorisms.

Accessible spirituality

St. John of the Cross’ Sayings of Light and Love translate thoughtful spiritual insights into concise and comprehensible nuggets of wisdom. The brevity and clarity of these sayings make them accessible to readers of varying theological knowledge, offering a gentle entry point into the saint’s teachings.

Universal relevance

The themes explored by St. John of the Cross, such as the soul’s journey towards union with God, resonate universally. Regardless of one’s prior theological background, these sayings provide timeless guidance on the pursuit of spiritual growth.

Practical application

John of the Cross was exceptionally down-to-earth. The Sayings of Light and Love offer practical advice for integrating spiritual principles into everyday life. They provide real advice on navigating the challenges of the human experience while maintaining a focus on the transformative power of divine love.

Personal reflection

Each saying serves as a catalyst for personal reflection. Whether you are a seasoned theologian or a newcomer to spiritual exploration, these sayings offer a safe path while encouraging daring, sincere introspection.

Inspiration for prayer

St. John of the Cross’ sayings serve as powerful prompts for prayer and meditation. They offer a roadmap (in fact, a whole itinerary) for cultivating a meaningful prayer life – one that translates into a life lived according to common sense, virtue, and the fundamental principles of the Gospel.

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