John of the Cross: A Guide for Difficult Times

REL838
Spring 2017
Th 3:30pm - 5:20pm
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

Students will explore John of the Cross’ mystical teaching on the dark nights and the development of contemplative prayer, including mystical transformation or divinization through the process of prayer and life experiences. This will entail a close reading of the Spiritual Canticle, the Living Flame of Love, the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night.  We will interpret these texts not only within the 16th century framework of John of the Cross, but also consider key contemporary applications of this teaching in relationship to what some are interpreting as social experiences of dark night and impasse, and the way personal and social pain in our lives contributes to our interior transformation through participation in God.

Students will learn John’s teaching on the development of contemplation and the discernment criteria for the beginning of contemplative prayer.

Students will learn John’s teaching on the dark nights of sense and spirit and make applications to their own lives both within their contemplative experience and/or in relationship to social transformation

Students will examine and apply to their own lives contemporary reflection on John’s relevance for the difficult or dark times in which we live with particular emphasis on feminist and liberationist perspectives. 

Students will achieve some mastery over John’s comprehensive description and profound insights into the entire spiritual journey, including transforming union and the progressive development away from self-centeredness toward the transformation of all forms of love under the sway of grace.

Background Expected: 

An established prayer practice and the willingness to engage this spiritual classic from the perspective of the present as well as in its historical context.

Course Requirements: 

Careful reading of assigned texts:

The Collected Works of John of the Cross, Trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriquez

Essays by Constance Fitzgerald, (will be provided on Classes V-2)

A take-home mid-term exam on primary texts read up to that point

A final take-home exam covering the remainder of the primary texts.

Two personal essays that make applications of these teachings (5-8 pp)

 1) to the students development in prayer and

 2) to experiences of impasse or dark night in personal or societal situations.

Basis of Evaluation: 

Class Attendance and Participation in the discussion (More than 2 unexcused absences will result in non-credit for the course) More than 3 excused absences require making up the missed class work.

Control over the content of John of the Cross’s teaching through the exams

Demonstration in personal essays of having worked with some of the recommended texts.

Quality of writing and insight into the material