Night more lovely than the dawn


“Perhaps you believe that if a certain enemy who persecutes you disappeared, you would find peace and finally be able to pray. But God uses just this person to deepen your peace, so it is no longer dependent on external circumstances, but finds its foundation in God.”
― Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

When I was writing my dissertation on St. John of the Cross (in 2007), I stayed at a friend’s beach shack. Alone. I was awake all night one night reading John’s Dark Night. I finished it just before dawn, and there was a violent thunderstorm. It was transcendent. Before going to sleep, I wrote a brief meditation. Here’s an excerpt:


Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved! — St John of the Cross

The dark night wrests control out of our clenched fists, calling us to surrender to Him. I carry with me a thousand “security” tethers — from thick ropes to fragile threads — that keep me safely in control, at liberty to constrain God’s freedom within me. For John, contemplation is when we finally abandon control of our prayer and embrace whatever He wishes to do. I realize to abandon is consent, a fiat to Fire, a Yes to the God who takes no bribes.

He’s so interior to me. He knows the slightest movement of my heart, is more interior to me than the very act of existence, as He gives me existence at every nanosecond. It’s unnerving, especially in this vast ocean of silence [I had no TV, radio, Internet, iPhone]. In silence you feel your addictions screaming for a fix.

Within and without, I am beset by trials and hardships, irritations and inconveniences, cravings and compulsions, worries and fears, disappointments and distractions, dryness and blah blah blah. I am consumed with myself. This “buzzing, blooming noise” keeps me from attentiveness to the here, from mindfulness of the now, from worthy ingestion of the Sacrament of the present moment. There God tears the veil, runs wildly about, seeks out slaves to free. To consume that Sacrament is to ingest eternal love. Only here, only now, God is about the business of His jubilee, shattering chains, severing the threads and slashing the ropes, so I might be free…

…to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke.
To share my bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into my house;
when I see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide myself from my own kin. (cf Isaiah 58:6-7)

In other words, I want to be free to receive love so to be free to love. My spiritual director said to me the last time I spoke with him before his death: “I have a secret. I want to die poor. Go to God empty handed. I asked God for this in Assisi after I was ordained. Not because I’ll have nothing to offer Him, but because the only worthy return is spending what I was given.” Dispossessed by love. “And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him” (Matt. 8:14-15).

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In the dark night of surrender I am liberated to liberate, loved to love, forgiven to forgive, fed to feed, blessed to bless, filled to empty, enlightened to illumine, enriched to enrich, die to become life-giving.

Really to make that total surrender, we need the freedom of poverty, and we must experience the joy of poverty, that freedom, that having nothing in possessing. It is extraordinary how God uses us when we have nothing and how He penetrates the souls of people when He draws them to Himself when they have nothing. — Mother Teresa

Yet I am so far, O Lord. Caught up, bound up. Clinging, clenching. Sing in me a new song of Freedom. Amen.

7 comments on “Night more lovely than the dawn

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is exceptionally magnificent! To read this is to stand on Holy ground. Thank you, profoundly, for sharing this incredible insight of God-with-us with us. I have no comment but to praise and glorify our God and marvel at His wonderous, conquering, passionate desire to rescue his beloveds. Thank you for sharing your words here.

  2. Louise says:

    “…..keeps me from attentiveness to the here, from mindfulness of the now, from worthy ingestion of the Sacrament of the present moment. There God tears the veil, runs wildly about, seeks out slaves to free.” Tom – how I love that image! Thank you so much for sharing your struggles and humaness with us – it is very inspiring. Now, if I could just let go of all possessions…….I pray for God to run wildly around in my life slashing the tethers I have! Awesome!

  3. Nos says:

    Humility abounds my friend, May it transfer from your loving heart to all of us …

  4. DismasDancing says:

    “In the dark night of surrender I am liberated to liberate, loved to love, forgiven to forgive, fed to feed, blessed to bless, filled to empty, enlightened to illumine, enriched to enrich, die to become life-giving.”

    “Oh! Lord, my God, when I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hand hath made…” immerse my wretched soul into a world of poverty and darkness that only You can enrich with Your infinite love, mercy, and light. Guide me to embrace the Cross of my salvation, reject the mansions of the world’s luxury, seeking to come to You totally devoid of anything the world, the flesh, and Satan offer. Jesus, I trust in You.

    Love you, bro! Thanks for the beautiful post. I needed that. What Jen said!


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