from The Science of the Cross by Edith Stein (pg 37)
“God has created human souls for himself. He desires to unite them to himself and to give them the immeasurable fullness and in comprehensible bliss of his own divine life, already in this life. that is the goal to which he directs them and toward which they themselves should strive with all their might. But the way is narrow, steep, and difficult. Most people remain en route. a few manage to get beyond the first beginnings and a dwindling number arrive at the goal. That is due to the dangers on the say–worldly dangers, the evil enemy and one’s own nature–but also due to ignorance or lack of qualified guidance. Souls do not understand what is happening with them and seldom is someone to be found who could open their eyes to what is going on. To these, John offers himself as a competent guide. He pities the errant, and he is saddened to see God’s handiwork fail because of such obstacles. He is willing and able to help for he knows every highway and byway in the mysterious realm of the inner life. He is not at all able to say all he knows about it; he is constantly forced to apply the reins in order not to go beyond what the task requires.
“The saint did not write his works for everyone. Of course, he does not wish to exclude anyone. But he knows that for understanding he can count only on a determinate circle of persons, those who have a certain amount of experience of the inner life. He thinks, first of all, of the Carmelite friars and nuns who are particularly called to interior prayer. But he know that God’s grace isn’t tied to a religious habit or to cloister walls. After all, we owe the treatise on “The Living Flame of Love” to one of his spiritual daughters ‘in the world.’ So he writes for contemplative souls and, at a very particular point along the way, he wants to take them by the hand, at a crossroad where most halt, perplexed, not knowing quite how to proceed. Impassable barriers confront them on the way they have been traveling. But the new path that opens up before them leads through impenetrable darkness. Who has the courage to venture into it?
“The crossroad in question here that between meditation and contemplation. Previously, perhaps using an Ignatian method, one has exercised the spiritual powers in the hours of meditation–the senses, the imagination, understanding and will. But now they won’t work. All efforts are in vain. The spiritual practices that up to now have been a source of inner joy become a torment, intolerably dull and fruitless. But there is no tendency to occupy oneself with worldly things The soul desires more than all else to remain still, without bestirring herself, allowing all its faculties to rest. But this seems to them to be sloth and a waste of time. That is more or less the state of the soul when God wishes to lead it into the Dark Night. In usual Christian parlance such a condition will be called a ‘cross.’
“Even in earlier times there was talk that Cross and Night had something to do with one another. But it is of no help to us to reach the indeterminate conclusion that the meanings are similar. At some points in the writings of John, there is mention of the significance of the Cross in so determined a manner that it no doubt justifies our viewing his life and his doctrine as the ‘Science of the Cross.’ But these are relatively few points. The prevailing symbol in his poems as in the treatises is not the Cross but the Night. In the ‘Ascent of Mt Carmel’ and the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, it is the counterpoint throughout; there remains an echo of it in the Canticle and the Living Flame, which mainly treats of the condition beyond the Night. That is why it is necessary to give an exact account about the relationship between the Cross and the Night if one wishes to gain access to the Cross’s significance for our holy father John of the Cross.”