23 Feb 2013

Lenten Reflections

Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591)


I live yet do not live in me,
am waiting as my life goes by,
and die because I do not die.


No longer do I live in me,
and without God I cannot live;
to him or me I cannot give
my self, so what can living be?
A thousand deaths my agony
waiting as my life goes by,
dying because I do not die.


This life I live alone I view
as robbery of life, and so
it is a constant death — with no
way out until I live with you.
God, hear me, what I say is true:
I do not want this life of mine,
and die because I do not die.


Being so removed from you I say
what kind of life can I have here
but death so ugly and severe
and worse than any form of pain?
I pity me — and yet my fate
is that I must keep up this lie,
and die because I do not die.


The fish taken out of the sea
is not without a consolation:
his dying is of brief duration
and ultimately brings relief.
Yet what convulsive death can be
as bad as my pathetic life?
The more I live the more I die.


When I begin to feel relief
on seeing you in the sacrament,
I sink in deeper discontent,
deprived of your sweet company.
Now everything compels my grief:
I want — yet can’t — see you nearby,
and die because I do not die.


Although I find my pleasure, Sir,
in hope of someday seeing you,
I see that I can lose you too,
which makes my pain doubly severe,
and so I live in darkest fear,
and hope, wait as life goes by,
dying because I do not die.


Deliver me from death, my God,
and give me life; now you have wound
a rope about me; harshly bound
I ask you to release the cord.
See how I die to see you, Lord,
and I am shattered where I lie,
dying because I do not die.


My death will trigger tears in me,
and I shall mourn my life: a day
annihilated by the way
I fail and sin relentlessly.
O Father God, when will it be
that I can say without a lie:
I live because I do not die?


St. John of the Crosstranslated by Willis Barnstonefound in “Poems of St. John of the Cross”

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