Friday, December 13, 2013

Portrait of St. John of the Cross


"About Me" is an interesting phrase to see when one is looking at blogs and facebook pages. St. John was never known to write anything about himself. Spiritual writers and scholars on St. John indicate that when he wrote about spiritual experiences in his major works, he was indirectly profiling his own spiritual experiences. We do have documented descriptions of John by the many people who knew him or lived with him. Through their words and witness, we can picture this saint and imagine his personality and character.

Physical Portrait
"The venerable Father was between small and medium in height, well proportioned in body, although thin from the rigorous penance he performed. His face was of brownish color, somewhat gaunt, more rounded than long; he was venerably bald with a little hair in front. The forehead was broad; the eyes black with a gentle gaze. The eyebrows were clearly formed. The mouth and lips, with the rest of the face and body were well proportioned. He allowed the beard to grow slightly so that with his short habit of coarse wool he seemed more venerable and edifying. " (Jeronimo de San Jose- early biographer).

Character
"He had a special demeanor, given by God".. "Our Lord God had given him a holy demeanor, which is all respected." "In all his being and and work, he breathed the air of a free and energetic man." "His life was one of detachment, not through mortification, but through vitality and freedom. Things were a hindrance to him when they were not necessary. He was kindhearted and understanding with others as he was sober and austere with himself." " Even before he had written his books, he was portrayed as profound and intelligent. This he was in his biblical interpretations, theological reasonings, and spiritual discernment. The professors in University of Baeza, after attending the academic reunions at the College of the Discalced Carmelites, presided over by Fray John, left saying: "What a profound man we have here!" "Joy was an ever-present facet of his spirit, behavior, and leadership style. But it was not an explosive kind of joy and laughter. He laughed on occasion, smiled a great deal. When he was superior, it pained him to see his brothers fall into sadness. He would take them into the country and try to alleviate their sadness. In caring for the sick where the atmosphere tended to be somewhat dismal, he multiplied his efforts to promote good humor by telling stories and even jokes. ""Fraternal was his predominant trait in his dealings with others. His office and prestige did not interfere with the simplicity of his relationships. . He was always lowering and depreciating himself. ""Saint John of the Cross was a combination of warmth of feeling and reserve. .. The affective component stands out in John's conduct and his writings. There was more than fraternal charity involved; he also possessed sensitivity, passion, feeling, and affection. He shows it at every step, but in a veiled form because of his moderate and reserved bearing. He was not greatly expressive in words and gesture. He showed this rather in his tone of confidence and familiarity, which by its strength of sentiments substituted for a more exuberant expression."(Fr. Frederico Ruiz, biographer)

I love to imagine St. John according to the descriptions of him. Somehow, they make him human and none of the austere and sad statue I see of him. When one reads his letters, his tender and affective side, even shows even more.

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