John of the Cross: Desire, Transformation, and Selfhood

ISBN : 9780198863069

Sam Hole
240 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Nov 2020
Christian Theology in Context
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Through the 'dark night of the soul' to the depiction of the erotically-charged union of the soul and God, the poetry and prose works of the Spanish friar John of the Cross (1542-1591) offer a striking account of the transformation of the individual in the course of the Christian life. John of the Cross: Desire, Transformation, and Selfhood argues that these writings are animated by John's own creative and subtly conceptualized notion of erotic desire. John's understanding of desire has the potential to enrich recent theological discussion of the subject, but it has been curiously neglected in past scholarship. To correct this lacuna, this study undertakes a detailed historical analysis in three parts. Firstly, it attends to the patristic, medieval, and sixteenth-century Spanish influences on John's writings, showing how John reworks a long tradition of biblical, Christian, and Platonic reflection on the concept. Secondly, it traces the importance of desire through John's writings, demonstrating how he develops the theme through his poetry, his anthropology of the soul, and his account of the spiritual ascent. Thirdly, it explores the reception of his writings in the twentieth century, demonstrating how particular modern philosophical and theological commitments have prevented scholars from recognising the rich and distinctive shape of John's theological vision. John's account of the transformation of the self, with its hopeful vision of the graced transformation of the soul's desires, has significance beyond the constrained modern categories of systematic theology, Christian spirituality, pastoral theology, and mysticism-it is a vision that is worthy of recovery today.


A Note on Translations and Abbreviations
1 The neglect of desire: modern reception of John of the Cross
2 Desire and the spiritual ascent
3 Language, form and imagery in John's poetry
4 The 'dark night of the soul' and the purification of desire
5 Union in the Canticle and Flame

About the author: 

Sam Hole serves as a parish priest in the Church of England in Chelsea, London.

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