Here are a couple of stanzas from St John’s poem, ‘The Dark Night’: ‘Hidden in that glad night, / regarding nothing as I stole away, / no one to see my flight, / no other guide or light /
save one that in my heart burned bright as day. // Surer than noonday sun, / guiding me from the start this radiant light / led me to that dear One / waiting for me, well-known, / somewhere apart where no one came in sight’.

Pope St John Paul II wrote of him: ‘The Mystical Doctor appeals today to many believers and non-believers because he describes the dark night as an experience which is typically human and Christian. Our age has known times of anguish which have made us understand this expression better and which have furthermore given it a kind of collective character. Our age speaks of the silence or absence of God. It has known so many calamities, so much suffering inflicted by wars and by the destruction of so many innocent beings. The term dark night is now used of all of life and not just of a phase of the spiritual journey. The Saint’s doctrine is now invoked in response to this unfathomable mystery of human suffering. … Physical, moral and spiritual suffering, like sickness—like the plagues of hunger, like war, injustice, solitude, the lack of meaning in life, the very fragility of human existence, the sorrowful knowledge of sin, the seeming absence of God—are for the believer all purifying experiences which might be called night of faith. To this experience St. John of the Cross has given the symbolic and evocative name dark night, and he makes it refer explicitly to the light and obscurity of the mystery of faith. He does not try to give to the appalling problem of suffering an answer in the speculative order; but in the light of the Scripture and of experience he discovers and sifts out something of the marvellous transformation which God effects in the darkness, since “He knows how to draw good from evil so wisely and beautifully”. In the final analysis, we are faced with living the mystery of death and resurrection in Christ in all truth.

As we apply these words to the suffering of our own era, St John of the Cross can be a sure guide. May he pray for us, and may God bless you this day.