¡Oh noche que me guiaste!
¡oh noche amable más que el aluorada!,
¡oh noche que juntaste
amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!
After nine months of torture and imprisonment, Spanish mystic of the middle ages, St. John of the Cross, established a model of contemplation. In a small, windowless cell and without human contact, St. John had only bread and water to sustain him. And though he had little to no human connection, he was acutely aware of God’s love and presence. In the now classic poem that spans the range of traditions, The Dark Night of the Soul, is a song with lyrics that describe the development of intimacy with the Divine.
The contemplative visionary’s dark night is less about difficult, doubting, lonely times (which is how it is interpreted today) and more about increasing faith and love. St. John of the Cross explains that faith is a practice that “gives light to the soul, which is in darkness”. According to juanist theology in his poem, the soul is on a journey to union with God: “Union of the soul with God is attained when the likeness that comes from love is produced”.
Embracing the dark night means getting acquainted with “the unknown and the experience of not knowing with an open and humble heart, much more full of wonder and willingness than fear”, writes Zen Buddhist monk, Deborah Eden Tull. Tull describes endarkenment as embodied and relational invitations to deep listening, slowing down, creativity, connection, and reciprocity. The dark night reminds us that we are dependent on each other and the more than human world, from our breath to the care we offer.
The dark night invites us to go slowly, gently and with self-compassion. When I muster the courage to explore the intimacy of the inner dark night of my soul, I feel more brave to pursue intimacy with the external world, including with distant and proximate relations as well as with the natural environment.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
~ Jeanette Banashak
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