“In darkness and certain”

Even in darkness, light resides in a concealed nook of myself, a 16th-century Carmelite friar teaches me today

St. John of the Cross, the 16th-century Carmelite friar and poet, took sensual and sexual intimacy between a woman and a man and used it as a language for relations between the human soul and God.

This is an update and a re-write, triggered by a recent dive into the Carmelite spirituality.

I want to pay tribute to the poem Noche oscura. In recent days, St John of the Cross has been present in various conversations and at one point I sang (badly) one his poems. I better write this time!

Noche oscura (dark night) is a metaphor for uncertainty, and the poem is an invitation to go through it, fully, letting ourselves be guided by a hidden light inside.

The only way to notice that light, the poem signals, is to quieten our own house, often filled with external pulls and noise.

We all seek fulfilment in life and, often, we look for it from external sources. We pursuit love and happiness in recognition, a career or someone else’s presence. We tend to identify these longings with essential needs, and that keeps us busy pursuing. 

The trap is that we get ourselves in a cycle of permanent need for external reassurance: the creative effort is not good until someone acknowledges it, acquiring a house or a car becomes a measurement of how well we are doing. We are not content until the one we love shows up and demonstrates his/her own love… 

This poem is a call to put my “house at rest”. Because I can only navigate darkness when I sense my inner light. And that light can only be felt and radiate into my path if I am quiet enough. The poem tells me that that guide (God, the infinite universe, the deepest presence) exists in a concealed nook of myself. 

What it takes is a moment of stillness, and let ourselves be guided to that place where we can love, and dance, and be immensely fulfilled. 

On a dark night,
with longings inflamed by love,
oh, joyous fortune!
I left unnoticed,
once my house was at rest.

In darkness and certain,
by the secret ladder in disguise, 
oh, joyous fortune!
In darkness and concealed,
once my house was at rest.

On a happy night,
in secret, when nobody saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light and guide,
but the one burning in my heart.

It guided me,
more surely than the midday light,
to where he waited,
who well I knew,
in a place where no one else appeared.

Oh night that guided me!
Oh, night more pleasing than the dawn!
Oh night that joined
Love with love,
Love in her lover transformed!

On my flowering breast,
all kept for him alone,
there he fell asleep,
and I gave myself,
and the cedar leaves were fanning gently.

The breeze coming from the battlements,
while I stroke his hair,
his gentle hand
wounded my neck,
and all my senses were suspended.

I stayed still and forgot myself,
I laid my face on my beloved,
everything stopped and I surrendered,
leaving all my cares
between the lilies, all forgotten.

Translation: Sergio Acosta

A new space
to reconnect

By Jesus Acosta

At heart, I am a story-teller. As a creative writer and designer, I tell stories on the web, on paper, and sometimes I scribble random lines on the dance floor.