SJC1 – The Hiding Place of the Beloved – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast
In this introductory episode, Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church. Fr. Haggerty helps the listener understand the nature of mystical contemplation and more specifically “What or who is a mystic?” He also helps us understand the dwelling of God in our souls and how can we enter into contemplative prayer.
Here is the excerpt from the Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross that Fr. Haggerty references in the podcast:
SONG OF THE SOUL AND THE BRIDEGROOM
Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved? You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill, If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.
In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.
O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved; O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone. This initial stanza of “The Spiritual Canticle” unlocks the bolt of a door, allowing us a first glimpse at the soul of Saint John of the Cross and his intense love for God. In these opening lines of a lengthy poem, we hear the agonized voice of a lover tormented by her solitude, in a terrible suffering after the departure of her Beloved. The piercing lament of the bride, wounded in the depth of her soul, is an image of the lover of God who seeks for his return after earlier enjoying his close presence. The mood of loneliness in the poem will shift over the course of its forty stanzas to a recognition of the Beloved’s presence even in his concealment. But for now, as the poem commences, the pain is strong and irremediable. Many of the stanzas of this exquisite poem, full of lush natural images, were composed by Saint John of the Cross without pen or paper, the stanzas kept in his memory, while he was locked in a windowless, six-by-ten-foot converted closet, with only a thin slit of light high up in a wall. That room served as a makeshift prison cell in the Calced Carmelite Friars’ monastery in Toledo, Spain, for nine months of his life, from December 1577 until August 1578. Only in the very last period of the nine months did he receive pen and paper from a sympathetic friar serving as his jailer and write down verses. He later recounted to Carmelite nuns that another important poem, “The Dark Night”, was completed before he left that prison cell.
Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 18-19). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
You find the book on which this series is based here