The living flame of love - PDF book by John of the Cross

The living flame of love 

The living flame of love
The living flame of love by John of the Cross 

From the introduction:
It is now many years ago, long before the episcopal burthen pressed upon his shoulders, that the author enjoyed the pleasure of knowing, and frequently conversing with, the estimable Gorres at Munich. 
One day the conversation turned on a remark in that deep writer s Philosophy of Mysticism, to the effect that saints most remarkable for their mystical learning and piety were far from exhibiting, in their features and expression, the characteristics usually attributed to them. 

They are popularly considered, and by artists represented, as soft, fainting, and perhaps hysterical persons; whereas their portraits present to us countenances of men, or women, of a practical, business-like, working character. 

The author asked Gorres if he had ever seen an original likeness of St. Teresa, in whom he had thought these remarks were particularly exemplified. He replied that he never had; and the writer, on returning to Rome, fulfilled the promise which he had made the philosopher, by procuring a sketch of an authentic portrait of that saint, preserved with great care in the Monastery of St. Sylvester, near Tusculum. 

It was painted for Philip II. by a concealed artist, while he was conversing with her. This portrait confirms most strongly the theory of Gorres, as the author wrote to him with the drawing; for while no mystical saint has ever been more idealised by artists, or represented as living in a continual swoon than St. Teresa, her true portraits all represent her with strong, firmly set, and almost masculine features, with forms and lines that denoted vigour, resolution, and strong sense. Her handwriting perfectly suggests the same conclusion. 

Still, more does the successful activity of her life, in her many painful struggles, under every possible disadvantage, and her final and complete triumph, strengthen this idea of her. And then, her almost superhuman prudence, by which she guided so many minds, and prosperously conducted so many complicated interests and affairs, and her wonderful influence over men of high education and position, and of great powers, is further evidence of her strong, commanding nature; such as, in the world, might have claimed an almost unexampled pre-eminence. 

It is not improbable that some who take up these volumes or dip into them here and there may conceive that they were written by a dreamy ascetic, who passed his life in hazy contemplation of things unreal and unpractical. 

Yet it was quite the contrary. Twin-saint, it may be said, to St. Teresa sharer in her labours and in her sufferings, St. John of the Cross, actively and unflinchingly pursued their joint object, that of reforming and restoring to its primitive purity and observance the religious Order of Carmelites, and founding, throughout Spain, a severer branch, known as discalced, or barefooted Carmelites; or more briefly, as Teresians. 

We do not possess any autobiography of St. John, as we do of St. Teresa, or the more active portion and character of his life would be at once apparent. Moreover, only very few of his letters have been preserved not twenty, in fact or we should undoubtedly have had sufficient evidence of his busy and active life. But, even as it is, proofs glance out from his epistles of this important element in his composition. In his [third] letter he thus writes to the religious of Veas, a highly favoured foundation: What is wanting in you, if, indeed, anything be wanting, is ... silence and work. For, whereas speaking distracts, silence and action collect the thoughts and strengthen the spirit/ And again: 

To arrest this evil, and to preserve our spirit, as I have said, there is no surer remedy than to suffer, to work, to be silent/ It was not, therefore, a life of visionary or speculative meditation that St. John taught even the nuns to pursue, but one of activity and operative occupation. But we may judge of his own practice by a passage in another of his letters. Thus he writes: I have been waiting to finish these visitations and foundations which our Lord has hastened forward in such wise that there has been no time to spare. 

The friars have been received at Cordova with the greatest joy and solemnity on the part of the whole city. ... I am now busied at Seville with the removal of the nuns, who have bought one of the principal houses at a cost of about 14,000 ducats, being worth more than 20,000. They are now established there. Before my departure, I intend to establish another house of friars here, so that there will be two of our Order in Seville. Before the feast of St. John, I shall set forth to Ecija, where, with the Divine blessing, we shall found another; thence to Malaga

An essay on st. John of the cross, by Cardinal Wiseman. Ix
Introduction, by rev. Benedict Zimmerman. Xliii
The living flame of love
Prologue I
Stanzas .3
Stanza I 4
Stanza ii . 31
Stanza iii 56
Stanza iv 118
Instructions and precautions 131
Letters .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. 143
Spiritual maxims.  183
Poems 251
Index to passages from holy scriptures .. .. .. 311
Index . . 315 

the book details :
  • Author: John of the Cross: The Spanish Carmelite St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) is the most important mystical writer in the Catholic tradition. He also played a leading role in the 16th-century reform of the Carmelites. ... His father died when Juan was 2 years old and left the family of three children penniless.
  • Translator: David Lewis,
  • An essay by Nicholas Patric Wiseman, 
  • Annotation and introduction: Benedict  Zimmerman
  • Publication date:1919
  • Company:London: Thomas Baker

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