St John of the Cross on the Trinity

“In the beginning was the Word,” the Gospel of John opens.  “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”

John opens his Gospel by peering behind the curtain of reality and seeing that the foundation of the Universe is in fact the generous, self-giving, “communal” life of God.  The Father who ever-begets the Son; the Son who continually delights before the face of the Father.  And of course as his Gospel progresses, we learn that there’s more… there is the also the Spirit, the gracious gift of the Father, leading the people of God into Truth (Jesus Himself), and opening up new possibilities for community.

I get lost (in a good way) thinking about this stuff.  The language lights my soul on fire.  Language, of course, is God’s great gift to us as human beings.  We use it both to shape AND to experience reality.  Which is why the Church has always fought like made to preserve truthful speech about God and his world, for without it we simply lose our way.

Lately I’ve been getting lost in the language of St. John of the Cross.  St. John, if you don’t know, was a 16th century Spanish mystic who wrote some of the most remarkable poetry ever penned on the mystery of God.  His language ascends to heights rarely touched by human beings.  In fact, so excellent is his poetry that it is said that many of the Spanish regard him as their greatest poet. Much of this poetry is captured in this book: “The Poems of St. John of the Cross“, beautifully translated by John Frederick Nims.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT TO YOU.  You’ll find yourself wanting to weep, pray, laugh, smile, and ultimately worship as you read it.

Without further ado, I leave you with one short poem of St. John’s, in which he also peers into the mystery of the Trinity.  Enjoy!

In the beginning the Word

lived in the being of God.

Happy ? yes infinitely !

Therein its happiness had.


Seeing it was God, the Word

(as the beginning we call).

In the beginning it lived ;

Had no beginning at all.


For the beginning it was ;

hence what it was, had not.

‘Son’ is the word for the Word

of the beginning begot.


The father, time out of mind

begetting, begets him today :

all he possesses, confers ;

giving, gives nothing away.


And where does he glory, this Son ?

In the light of the Father alone.

And the Father delights–? In the Son!

So each has come into his own,


as in the lover the loved–

one in the other is so.

This love interfusing the two

may in equality go


both with the one as the one–

level in pitch and degree.

Three are the persons, their love

wonderful one-among-three.


Only one love among three !

One love fathering three !

There where the loved is the lover,

life-giving life to the three !


Ponder the range of their power–

each has it all, and alone.

Each is in love with his loving

peers of the luminous zone.


Each is almighty and all,

each and alone is the tie

of the inscrutable union

staggering ‘wherefore’ and ‘why.’


Infinite love is the link

tying the trio above :

love, sole and yet triple

(such is the mystery thereof) ;

love, the more single and only

generates all the more love !

May you find yourself caught up in the glorious dance of Love that is the Trinity today.

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