John of the Cross

John of the Cross
(1542–91)
   Mystic, Poet, Devotional Writer, Order Founder and Saint.
   John was born Juan de Yepez y Alvarez in Old Castile, Spain. He joined the Carmelites at the age of twenty-one and, after studying in Salamanca, he joined the new Discalced Order of Friars at Duruelo. From 1571 to 1572 he was master of the Discalced Carmelite College at Alala de Henares and then he became the spiritual advisor of the Convent of the Incarnation at Avila until 1577, where teresa was Prioress. He was imprisoned for nine months in Toledo by the opponents of reform and, after his escape, he became the first Rector of the College at Baeza, then Prior, first of Granada and then of Segovia. In 1591 he was banished to Andalusia and he died at Ubeda. He was a victim of the controversy over the severity of the Carmelite Rule and he and Teresa must be regarded as the founders of the reformed Discalced Order. However, he is mainly remembered for his mystical poems which are regarded as religious classics. They include ‘The dark night of the soul’, ‘The spiritual canticle’ and ‘The living flame of love’. They are accompanied by commentaries and describe the stages of purgation, illumination and union through which the soul achieves oneness with God.
   E.W.T. Dicken, The Crucible of Love: A Study of the Mysticism of St Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross (1963);
   E.A. Peers, Handbook of the Life and Times of St Teresa and St John of the Cross (1954).

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