"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)


the spiritual canticle

The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 2 – Reflection


Stanza 2:

Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.


… in this verse the soul does no more than disclose to the Beloved her need and suffering. The discreet lover does not care to ask for what she lacks and desires, but only indicates this need so the Beloved may do what he pleases…

There are three reasons for this: First, the Lord knows what is suitable for us better than we do; second, the Beloved has more compassion when he beholds the need and resignation of a soul that loves him; third, the soul is better safeguarded against self-love and possessiveness by indicating its lack, rather than asking for what in its opinion is wanting.

– St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

I know that I have needs that are unfulfilled. Often times though I do not know what they are. The Lord knows my needs more than I do. And so, I do not trust myself to ask the Lord for specific things. All I want is His will, so all I ask is for that. I know that the Lord’s will is for me to be fully alive, for my needs to be met. So I trust in His will alone and not my own will.

Bishop Robert Barron mentions in this video that repressed needs will not go away, they will simply resurface in a distorted way.

What areas of my life are a disordered manifestation of repressed needs? The earthly goods of wealth, honor, pleasure and power. I procrastinate turning to God in order to indulge further in these earthly goods. As a result, a disordered desire for these goods grow and grow because I become more and more convinced that they can fill my needs. I need more and more of them because they can never meet the needs that I have. And so these can become an addiction; I can’t turn away from them even if I wanted to.

The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 1 – Reflection

secret garden

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

St. John accompanies every stanza in his ‘Spiritual Canticle’ with beautiful commentary.


… the absence of the Beloved causes continual moaning in the lover. Since she loves nothing outside of him, she finds no rest or relief in anything. This is how we recognize persons who truly love God: if they are content with nothing less than God. But what am I saying, if they are content? Even if they possess everything they will not be content; in fact the more they have, the less satisfied they will be. Satisfaction of heart is not found in the possession of things, but in being stripped of them all and in poverty of spirit. Since perfection consists in this poverty of spirit, in which God is possessed by a very intimate and special grace, the soul, having attained it, lives in this life with some satisfaction, although not complete. For David, in spite of all his perfection, hoped to have this fullness in heaven, saying: When your glory appears, I shall be filled [Ps. 17:15].

As a result, the peace, tranquility, and satisfaction of heart attainable in this life is insufficient to prevent the soul from moaning within itself – although this moan may be tranquil and painless – hoping for what it lacks. Moaning is connected with hope, and the Apostle affirmed that he and others moaned even though they were perfect: We ourselves who have the first fruits of the spirit moan within ourselves, hoping for the adoption of the children of God [Rom. 8:23].

The soul, then, bears this moan within herself, in her enamored heart. For there where love wounds is the moan rising from the wound, and it ever cries out in the feeling of his absence; especially when the soul, after the taste of some sweet and delightful communication of the Bridegroom, suffers his absence and is left alone and dry.

St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

In recent times, God has graciously drawn me closer to Himself not because of my own merit but because of His providence. In this time, I have felt more and more keenly that I am content with nothing less than God.

I still try to substitute God with the 4 categories of worldly things; wealth, pleasure, honor and power. I do this daily in fact. But each time I do, I find no rest or relief in anything but God. The Lord has made my heart for Himself, and so I am restless until I rest in Him.

It is so difficult to express what my soul is going through. All I can say are using the words that the Lord gives me. Even these don’t scratch the surface of how things really are; beyond even my understanding.

A concept/word that St. John brings up in his commentary of Stanza 1 however, resonates with me. My soul is moaning within itself because I find no rest and no relief in worldly things. Only my Lord can quench my thirst and sate my hunger.

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