The biography of St. John of the Cross reads with more twists and turns than a complex novel. It would be foolish of me to try to capsulize it here. Suffice it for me to say that the play of light and darkness was the constant of his years as I yield to other sources for comment.
Americancatholic.org summarizes his life in the following way: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (MK 8:34b) is the story of John’s life. The Paschal Mystery – through death to life – strongly marks John as reformer, mystic-poet, and theologian priest. Thomas Merton said of John: “Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified.” As John himself expressed it: “Never was a fount so clear, undimmed and bright; from it alone I know proceeds all light although ’tis night.”
Only one note would I add to these intimations of the seamlessness of seeming opposites in his life, that being the value of feminine influence, most visibly of St. Teresa of Avila, for his spiritual development and understanding of the unity of all things in God. The contribution to the mystical stream and religious life of Christianity by these two saints is vast, something to celebrate with all Carmelite monks and nuns in the world on this feast of John of the Cross.