"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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 St John of the Cross   (1542 - 1591)

 

THE SPIRITUAL CANTICLE (cont)

 

by St John of the Cross

 

Stanza 5


Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.

Commentary

1. In this stanza the creatures answer the soul. Their answer, as St. Augustine also declares in that same place, is the testimony they in themselves give the soul of God's grandeur and excellence.1 It is for this testimony that she asked in her reflections. The substance of this stanza is: God created all things with remarkable ease and brevity, and in them he left some trace of who he is, not only in giving all things being from nothing, but even by endowing them with innumerable graces and qualities, making them beautiful in a wonderful order and unfailing dependence on one another. All of this he did through his own Wisdom, the Word, his only begotten Son by whom he created them. She then says:

Pouring out a thousand graces,

2. These "thousand graces" she says he was pouring out refer to the numberless multitude of creatures. She records the high number, a thousand, to indicate their multitude. She calls them graces because of the many graces he has endowed creatures with. Pouring these out, that is, stocking the whole world with them,

he passed these groves in haste;

3. To "pass the groves" is to create the elements, which are here termed "groves." She declares that he passed by them pouring out a thousand graces because he adorned them with all the creatures, for these groves are favored with graces. And, in addition, he poured out on them a thousand graces by giving them the power to concur in generation and conservation.

And she says "he passed" because creatures are like a trace of God's passing. Through them one can track down his grandeur, might, wisdom, and other divine attributes.

She declares that this passing was "in haste." Creatures are the lesser works of God because he made them as though in passing. The greater works, in which he manifested himself more and to which he gave greater attention, were those of the Incarnation of the Word and the mysteries of the Christian faith. Compared to these, all the others were done as though in passing and with haste.

and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.

4. St. Paul says: the Son of God is the splendor of his glory and the image of his substance [Heb. 1:3]. It should be known that only with this figure, his Son, did God look at all things, that is, he communicated to them their natural being and many natural graces and gifts, and made them complete and perfect, as is said in Genesis: God looked at all things that he made, and they were very good [Gn. 1:31]. To look and behold that they were very good was to make them very good in the Word, his Son.

Not only by looking at them did he communicate natural being and graces, as we said, but also, with this image of his Son alone, he clothed them in beauty by imparting to them supernatural being. This he did when he took on our human nature and elevated it in the beauty of God, and consequently all creatures, since in human nature he was united with them all. Accordingly, the Son of God proclaimed: Si ego exaltatus a terra fuero omnia traham ad me ipsum (If I be lifted up from the earth, I will elevate all things to myself) [Jn. 12:32]. And in this elevation of all things through the Incarnation of his Son and through the glory of his resurrection according to the flesh not only did the Father beautify creatures partially, but, we can say, he clothed them entirely in beauty and dignity.
 

 
   
 
   
   
   
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