Monday, June 24, 2013

Stanzas Concerning An Ecstasy Experienced In High Contemplation -- Hippity Birthday to my 2nd Favorite Discalced Carmelite

His Converso father died young. His mother supported the family. As is often the case, education was the way out and up - he was given the basics through a church-run school, and promoted and then grandly and deeply educated, as one would expect of St. John of the Cross.  Trying to reform the Carmelites, as he and my favorite Discalced Carmelite, St. Teresa of Avila, did, was a bad move. He was imprisoned, but then again, lots suffering is good for maybe one in one million sufferers (the other 999,999 just suffer in torment and loneliness - no immortality as odd compensation). He was lashed in front of the community, weekly. (For instance.) There's lots more to him and the community and of course to St. Teresa. But let me not spoil birthday celebrations for this genius poet and enlightened theologian.

Stanzas Concerning An Ecstasy Experienced In High Contemplation

I entered into unknowing,
and there I remained unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

1. I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

2. That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.

3. I was so ‘whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

4. He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

5. The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

6. This knowledge in unknowing
is so overwhelming
that wise men disputing
can never overthrow it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to the understanding of not
transcending all knowledge.

7. And this supreme knowledge
is so exalted
that no power of man or learning
can grasp it;
he who masters himself
will, with knowledge in
always be transcending.

8. And if you should want to hear:
this highest knowledge lies
in the loftiest sense
of the essence of God;
this is a work of his mercy,
to leave one without
transcending all knowledge.

by St. John of the Cross, from The Works of St. John of the Cross
Copyright ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included.

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