Carmelite Conversations

Mary in the Life and Writings of St. John of the Cross by Lynn Bete, OCDS

December 13, 2020

St. John of the Cross is known as one of the greatest Spanish Poets.  Thankfully, he was asked to expound upon his poems which resulted in the classics we may be familiar with…such as “The Spiritual Canticle,” “The Dark Night,” and “The Living Flame of Love.”  Someone new to St. John of the Cross may complain, however, that he didn’t write very much about the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This presentation by Lynn Bete, a professed Discalced Carmelite Secular in Dayton, OH, may change their perspective on that topic.  What were the major Marian influences in St. John of the Cross’s life?  How did our Blessed Mother draw him to come and to stay in Carmel?  What does he write about our dear Blessed Mother?  How can he be called totally Marian?



The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD

“The Mariology of Saint John of the Cross” by Br. John-Mary of Jesus Crucified, OCD

“Mary and the Holy Spirit in the Writings of John of the Cross” by Emmanuel J. Sullivan, OCD

Passages from St. John of the Cross:

God alone moves these souls [who have reached habitual union with God] toward those works that are in harmony with his will and ordinance, and they cannot be moved toward others. Thus the works and prayer of these souls always produce their effect.

Such were the prayer and the works of our Lady, the most glorious Virgin Raised from the very beginning to this high estate, she never had the form of any creature impressed in her soul, nor was she moved by any, for she was always moved by the Holy Spirit.

~ Ascent of Mount Carmel 3.2.10


The discreet lover does not care to ask for what she lacks and desires, but only indicates this need so the Beloved may do what he pleases. When the Blessed Virgin spoke to her beloved Son at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, she did not ask directly for the wine, but merely remarked: They have no wine.

~ Commentary on The Spiritual Canticle 2.8


You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire… 

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.

~ Sayings of Light and Love #27 and #28


Then he called 

the archangel Gabriel 

and sent him to 

the virgin Mary, 

at whose consent 

the mystery was wrought, 

in whom the Trinity 

clothed the Word with flesh. 

and though Three work this, 

it is wrought in the One; 

and the Word lived incarnate 

in the womb of Mary. 

And he who had only a Father 

now had a Mother too…

~ Romances 8


Christmas Refrain

The Virgin, weighed

with the Word of God,

comes down the road:

if only you'll shelter her.

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