St. John of the Cross on Scripture

john of the crossA frightening thing happened in the modern age. Sometime between 1700 and today – the Council of Trent (1545-63) is certainly not to blame, as anyone who reads it can attest – Catholics got the funny idea that Scripture is a Protestant thing.

Just as one little example, I offer St. John of the Cross’s opening to The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the first part of his two-part writing on “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It is a nice example, because, at first glance, John of the Cross seems so very experiential. Well, that isn’t how he thought of his own work:

In order to say a little about this dark night, I shall trust neither to experience nor to knowledge, since both may fail and deceive; but, while not omitting to make such use as I can of these two things, I shall avail myself, in all that, with the Divine favour, I have to say, or at the least, in that which is most important and dark to the understanding, of Divine Scripture; for, if we guide ourselves by this, we shall be unable to stray, since He Who speaks therein is the Holy Spirit.

And if aught I stray, whether through my imperfect understanding of that which is said in it or of matters uncollected with it, it is not my intention to depart from the sound sense and doctrine of our Holy Mother the Catholic Church; for in such a case I submit and resign myself wholly, not only to her command, but to whatever better judgment she may pronounce concerning it.


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