John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian, Christian poetry, Catholic poetry,  poetry,  poetry John of the Cross
Spain (1542 - 1591) Timeline
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Poems by John of the Cross
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John of the Cross was born Juan de Ypes in a village near Avila, Spain. His father died when he was young, and he was raised in poverty with his two brothers by his widowed mother.

In his early 20s, John entered the Carmelite order and moved to Salamanca to further his studies. Among his other teachers was the well-known mystic and poet Fray Luis de Leon.

Still in his 20s, the young John of the Cross first met the woman who would become his mentor, Teresa of Avila, who was in her 50s at the time. Teresa of Avila was a mystic, a writer, a social activist, and a founder of several monasteries. She had begun a reform movement within the Carmelite Order, advocating a return to simplicity and the essential spirituality that should be at the heart of any monastic order. John of the Cross joined her movement of Discalced Carmelites and quickly became a leading figure himself.

Members of the unreformed Carmelites felt threatened by the critique from this new movement, and they turned to force, imprisoning and even torturing John of the Cross. He was held in a tiny cell in Toledo for nine months, until he escaped.

As terrible as this experience must have been, it was during his time of imprisonment that John's spirituality and poetry began to blossom. The experience of losing everything, of being supremely vulnerable, seems to have brought John of the Cross to a profound state of openness and spiritual insight.

It was during his imprisonment that John began to write poetry.

Once he escaped from prison, John continued his work with Teresa of Avila, founding new monasteries and advocating for their spiritual reforms. He spent the rest of his life as a spiritual director among the Discalced Carmelites.

His two best known works, the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul, are considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry and esoteric Christianity. Besides these, he wrote many other short poems, along with extensive commentaries on the meaning of his poetry as they relate to the soul's experience of divine reality.

Poems by John of the Cross

Recommended Books: John of the Cross

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West St. John of the Cross: Alchemist of the Soul: His Life, His Poetry (Bilingual), His Prose The Poems of St. John of the Cross A Bilingual Edition of Poems By ST. John of the Cross; Spiritual Songs and Ballads.
Ascent of Mount Carmel: St. John of the Cross Collected Works of St. John of the Cross: St. John of the Cross Dark Night of the Soul Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel, on Prayer John of the Cross: The Ascent of Joy
John of the Cross: Doctor of Light and Love John of the Cross: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila: A Study in Mystical Psychology The Poems of St. John of the Cross Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of St. John of the Cross
Dark Night of the Soul: A Masterpiece in the Literature of Mysticism

Related Links

Christian Classics Etherial Library: St. John of the Cross

Several works by John of the Cross in PDF format, including the Dark Night of the Soul and Spiritual Canticle. Some links to articles about him, as well.
John of the Cross