On the Communion of the Three Persons (from Romance on the Gospel)

by John of the Cross

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Spanish

Born of the limitless love
flooding from them both,
the Father sang words
of celebration to the Son,

Words of such sweet delight
none can truly know.
In his solitude the Son rejoiced,
whispered as they were for him alone.

Here, though, is the sum
of what in secret was said:
-- "Nothing, my Son, satisfies me,
save your company.

“When a thing is sweet,
through you alone do I taste it.
The more of you I savor,
the more do I smile.

"What is unlike you,
is flavorless to me.
You alone are my joy,
life of my life!

"You are the fire of my fire,
my knowing.
You are the form of my substance.
In you am I well pleased.

"Whoever gives his love to you, my Son,
to him I give myself.
Him I fill
with the love I feel for you
just for making you beloved,
my Beloved."

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This is a deep meditation on the Christian concept of the Trinity. The poem takes the form of a conversation that delves into the relationship between the Father and the Son, and extending out to all of creation.

Does this feel a bit too "Christian" or "Catholic" for you? Let's see if we can remove some of the crust of dogma in order to see that a more universal esoteric truth is being touched on here.

The Father can be understood as the Eternal aspect of God. The Absolute. The Mystery. Beyond form. Beyond name or concept. To call this aspect of God "Father" reflects a limitation of language, since it has nothing to do with gender. We are not talking about some bearded old man in the sky. We are talking about the Source, the Fountain of Being. Other cultures just as naturally name this "Mother". We could use the more neutral and inclusive "Parent."

In Hinduism, the Father is usually called Brahman, the Absolute, or sometimes the transcendent aspect of Shiva, Krishna, Kali... In Islam, the Eternal is Allah. In Buddhism, this might be identified with the spaciousness of Nirvana. Every tradition has the Father, for that is the source and goal of all.

The notion of the "Son" has a particularly Christian feel, but when properly understood, this aspect of God is found in all religions, as well. The Son is the Beloved. This is the personal aspect of God. When the individual yearns for an engaged and compassionate form of God, it is the Son we reach for. This is the face of God that comes to us when we cry out in anguish, whose smile melts all fear and separation, whose story inspires us. The Son is the intimate mask of God.

Through the Son we learn to conceive of the Eternal because the Divine has become in some way like us. This is why we have the Christian formulation that one comes to know the Father through the Son. Through the personal form of God, we learn to recognize the Eternal.

In Christianity, the Son is, of course, understood to be Christ. Regardless of what dogmatists assert, a mystic knows that the face of God smiles through many masks and is found in all religions. The personal form of God can be recognized as Krishna, Rama, Shiva... The Son blesses through bodhisattvas and guides through prophets. The Son, by connecting the Absolute with the endless diversity of creation, necessarily wears an endless variety of masks, bears countless names, and equally fills church, temple, mosque, grove, and every heart.

The Son understood this way is the point at which tangible creation touches intangible Spirit. It is where heaven meets earth. It is the bridge. The intersection, the crossroads, the center of the cross.

Through this intermediary, the Infinite touches the individual, and vice versa. By presenting a personal face, Pure Essence becomes specific, and proclaims, "You are the form of my substance." Through the medium of the Son, the Eternal witnesses and experiences the drama of creation, declaring, "You are... my knowing."

The Beloved is the medium through which the devout experience the Eternal: "Whoever gives his love to you, my Son, / to him I give myself." But this personal form of God is also the medium through which the Eternal participates in creation: “When a thing is sweet, / through you alone do I taste it."

This gives us a two-way relationship: Between the individual and the Son, the individual is lover and the Son is the Beloved, leading the individual to the Ultimate. But between the Father and Son, the Father is lover and the Son is the Beloved, connecting the Ultimate with creation. The Son, the Beloved is the spiritual nexus, where manifestation and the Absolute become One.

And what about the third "Person" of the Trinity? We already have lover and Beloved. What is left? Love itself! The third aspect of this Trinity is the “immense love" that is constantly flowing in all directions. It is the “sweet delight" and "joy." It is the substance that bathes and fills everything, and subtly interweaves all of being in a vast, fluid unity.

Try reading that gorgeous final verse again, and see what it says to you now:

"Whoever gives his love to you, my Son,
to him I give myself,
and him I fill
with the love I feel for you
just for making you beloved,
my Beloved."

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