John of the Cross – The Dark Night of the Soul – Book 1 – Introduction

A treatise on the night of the senses

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen
my house being now all stilled.

[Explanation]

1. In this first stanza, the soul speaks of the way it followed in its departure from love of both self and all things. Through a method of true mortification, it died to all these things and to itself. It did this so as to reach the sweet and delightful life of love with God. And it declares that this departure was a dark night. As we will explain later, this dark night signifies here purgative contemplation, which passively causes in the soul this negation of self and of all things.

2. The soul states that it was able to make this escape because of the strength and warmth gained from loving its Bridegroom in this obscure contemplation. It emphasizes its good fortune in having journeyed to God through this dark night. So great was the soul’s success that none of the three enemies (the world, the devil, and the flesh, which are always in opposition to the journey along this road) could impede it, for that night of purifying contemplation lulled to sleep and deadened all the inordinate movements of the passions and appetites in the house of sense. The verse then states: One dark night,

Copyright ICS Publications. Used with permission.

Go on to Book 1 Chapter 1.

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