The photograph of Hawkshead is by my friend, Gill Henwood.
The quotation is by St John of the Cross whose feast day is December 14th.
John of the Cross was regarded as one of the greatest Spanish mystics of the sixteenth century.
His writings still nourish modern Christians in their hunger for a true experience in the spiritual life.
He was born in 1542 and became a Carmelite friar at the age of twenty-one. Four years later he met Teresa of Avila in one of those God-moment meetings were two souls are fused together by the love of God, for the greater good of Christianity.
Teresa was occupied in reforming the Carmelite Order, instilling renewed vision and discipline and founding many new Convents of Prayer throughout Spain. John of the Cross joined her in this work. He served as a spiritual guide to the nuns and to Teresa herself. He was one who encouraged her to write her teaching on Prayer. His prominence in the reform movement made him a target for those who preferred the more comfortable old ways and twice he was abducted and imprisoned. After Teresa died, he was again targeted, this time by his own superiors in the Reformed Carmelites. Their harshness contributed to his death in 1591.
Nothing, however, took him away from his love of God and he gladly accepted the hardships because he saw them as sharing in the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross. Hence his name.
Like Teresa, he experienced the presence of Christ in “intellectual visions.” His reflection upon these experiences issued, first of all, in poetry of extraordinary power and beauty. At the urging of his disciples, he selected a number of his poems and produced prose commentaries on them, which have become classics of mystical theology. This includes one of his most famous writings on The Dark Night of the Soul.
John united the vocation of a theologian with the experience of a mystic, and his writings are the good example of theology as the fruit of prayer.
The most lovely thing that was ever said about him was by St Teresa. “I cannot be in the presence of John without being lifted up into the presence of God.”
John said, himself, about God:
How gently and lovingly
You wake in my heart,
where in secret You dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory
how tenderly You dwell in my heart
from, The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross
and here is something for us to ponder over and pray about, applying it to ourself.
God is more pleased by one work, however small, done secretly, without desire that it be known,
than a thousand done with the desire that people know of them.
Those who work for God with purest love not only care nothing about whether others see their works,
but do not even seek that God himself know of them.
Such persons would not cease to render God the same services, with the same joy and purity of love,
even if God were never to know of these.”
― John of the Cross, The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross