It’s probably no coincidence that I chose the poem “The Dark Night” composed by Carmelite mystic John of the Cross as the topic of my senior thesis back when I was a religious studies major in college.
The poem is about a soul’s movement into contemplation and perfect union with God via spiritual purification.
My advisor, who is still a good friend, made me memorize the stanzas so that the words lived in me.
I read them today and wondered how a Spanish mystic from the 16th century could express so eloquently the voyage from darkness to light that those suffering from depression make.
Here are the first five stanzas:
“One dark night, fired with love’s urgent longings – ah, the sheer grace! – I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised,- ah, the sheer grace! – in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled.
On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart.
This guided me more surely than the light of noon to where he was awaiting me- him I knew so well – there in a place where no one appeared.
O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united the Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover.”