Master Class on "Dark Night and Flame of Love: The Mysticism of John of the Cross"

Sep 22, 2018
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Bernard McGinnUniversity of Chicago

Registration is required. Open to current university students and faculty. A copy of John of the Cross: Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 1987) will be provided for registrants.

The Discalced Carmelite friar, Juan de la Cruz (1542-91), is one of the most famous of Catholic mystics. This one-time Master Class will present a synopsis of John’s mystical teaching as found in some of his noted poems, as well as the four prose works he composed as commentaries on these allusive and beautiful verses. John’s use of both poetry and prose raises issues about the relation of these two literary forms in mystical teaching (some of which will be addressed). The concentration, however, will be on the prose treatises as comprising one of the most influential summaries (summae) of mystical theology in the history of Christianity. In the popular mind, John is most famous for his treatment of the “dark night” (noche oscura) of the senses and spirit, the negative (apophatic) dimension of his doctrine; but for the Carmelite the suffering of the dark night was meant to lead to the positive (kataphatic) stage where the “living flame of love” (llama de amor viva) consumes and transforms the soul in God.

The Class will use the anthology of John’s writings found in Kieran Kavanaugh and Ernest Larkin, eds., John of the Cross. Selected Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1987. It is advisable for the participants to try to read the whole of this, but pages for special attention will be singled out in the syllabus. In addition, some outlines and charts will be handed out at the beginning of the class.


1:30: Welcome with Coffee and Tea
2:00-3:30: First Session
3:00-3:15: Break
3:15-5:15: Second Session
5:15-5:30: End with Reception

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about the history of apocalyptic thought, spirituality, and mysticism. McGinn's many books include Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with EvilThe Presence of Goda multivolume history of Western Christian mysticism, and most recently Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography.