Sunday, September 18, 2011

Loreena Mc Kennitt: St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul

Dali-- Christ of St. John of the Cross

The dark night of the soul is an experience of deep Christian spirituality, described by the desert fathers two millennia ago and recounted in poetry and prose with such beauty by St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila in the 16th century. Blessed Mother Theresa had a profound experience of it in the latter part of her life. It is the penultimate experience of contemplatives on their journey to God, and may in more subtle forms be experienced by all Christians. It is a spiritual emptying of our conceptions of God, to allow Him to enter our soul without accoutrement, to enter as He is. It is experienced by the contemplative as a profound spiritual dryness, and emptiness, as the absence of God. But it is the very presence of God, working in the soul, clearing out our human conceptions of Him that must be purged if He is to live within us and we are to know Him as He is.

The great mystics understand the dryness and the pain of the darkened night, and the joy that follows with the union with the Lord.

This song is an extraordinarily beautiful adaptation of St. John of the Cross' The Dark Night of the Soul by Canadian singer/musician Loreena Mc Kennitt. She does astonishing justice to the most beautiful poem of Spain's national poet.

A love song to God.

Loreena McKennitt - The dark night of the soul

Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night
and by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead


Oh night thou was my guide
oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come


Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
And by the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow


I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lovers breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair


  1. Loreena is one of my Favourites, Mike.
    We are very proud of her here in Ontario.
    I have met her several times over the years at Various folk festivals etc.
    She is from Stratford on Avon, just about an hour from my home. It is a beautiful little town, named after the Old Stratford in England and dedicated - as you might guess - to the arts of Theatre and Music.
    Awesome stuff.
    A really nice Sunday morning treat.
    God be with you, your kin, and us all this Sabbath.

  2. Again, a really marvelous and inspiring post, Dr. Egnor.

  3. Beautiful! Thank you for this commentary on St. John of the Cross' work.