This poem of St John of the Cross is his shortest complete work, but it contains the fullness of his teaching on the union of the soul with God – our hope and our goal. It is the quest of being united and transformed by love… an invitation of the Trinity to join them in this journey. The poem was originally given to a lay person, Doña Ana de Peñalosa, which indicates that it is meant for everyone.
The experience of the union of the soul with God is a way of life. We become the presence of God to others. But it is God’s initiative as God loved us first.
In the “wound”, God shows us our unworthiness… how we are limited, helpless and self-centred. We need to have the courage to say ‘yes’ to purification.
There is also the hiddenness transcendence of God. Faith, hope and love are the only way to God, and this is because it is the way he came to us. Because of his faith, hope and love in us, he never gives up on us. We come to be like him through these three theological virtues. We need to continuously listen to God as we continue our journey on earth:
The imagery of “fire” is the revelation of the living God. It is a consuming fire, painful because of our attachments. But the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to be martyred.
We experience God’s hiddenness because of our attachments. But God does not move; he is always fully present. So, we need self-knowledge and purification because we do not want to see him as he really is.
The “flame”, or our cross, is now seen as sweet because of our faith, hope and love in God. So, because we know God loves us, we see our cross in a different way.