John of the Cross is so well known for his emphasis on the dark and purifying experiences of the night and often suggests this experience is a participation in the cross of the Lord. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord we might ask “How does John relate to the Gospel’s emphasis on the resurrection?”
Very well indeed! The dark night parallels the passion and leads to newness of life in the resurrection to union in love. John calls Jesus’ passion “the death of love” (L. 11), and it prepares us for the resurrected life of union. “It is fitting that the soul be in this sepulcher of dark death in order that it attain the spiritual resurrection for which it hopes” (N.2. 6.1). John asserts that any evil tendency that needs to be uprooted “impedes the inner resurrection of the Spirit who dwells within” (L. 7). Not only do individuals enjoy this resurrection following purification, but so too does the whole world, and so John speaks of “this elevation of all things. . . through the glory of his resurrection” (C. 5.4).
John insists that there is no easy way to mystical union; it is a journey that goes through the passion. For each of us our own daily living of the passion consists in our journey through the dark nights. John lived at a time when the passion of the Lord was the primary focus in piety, but he leads us beyond the suffering to what follows in newness of life. Few have been so practical in indicating just what the passion really means for us, and few have been so clear in describing how wonderful the resurrection can be as John does in the Living Flame.