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Spiritual Communion: ‘The Fountain of Living Water’ – A Poem by St John of the Cross

There are, of course, a great number of stories which could be recalled in this context. But the story which, for me, most stands out is the story of the imprisonment of the Carmelite poet and mystic St John of the Cross. Captured and taken from his priory, John was forced to live in appalling conditions, beaten regularly, and almost starved to death. He appealed to the authorities to be given permission to attend Mass, but this request was refused.

Astonishingly, it was in these dreadful conditions that John began to write what is arguably the greatest mystical poetry in the Catholic tradition. One of the poems speaks of the fountain of living water welling up in the heart of the believer, but always within the darkness of faith:

“How well I know the spring that brims and flows, although by night!” The poem’s brief concluding stanzas constitute a meditation on the Eucharist.

Paul Murray OP

Source: Crux

How well I know that fountain

How well I know that fountain’s rushing flow
Although by night

II

Its deathless spring is hidden. Even so
Full well I guess from whence its sources flow
Though it be night.

III

Its origin (since it has none) none knows:
But that all origin from it arose
Although by night.

IV

I know there is no other thing so fair
And earth and heaven drink refreshment there
Although by night

V

Full well I know its depth no man can sound
And that no ford to cross it can be found
Though by night.

VI

Its clarity unclouded still shall be:
Out of its comes the light by which we see
Though by night.

VII

Flush with its banks the stream so proudly swells;
I know its waters, nations, heavens, and hells

VIII

The current that is nourished by this source
I know to be omnipotent in force
Although by night.

IX

From source and current a new current swells
Which neither of the other twain excels
Though by night

X

The eternal source hides in the Livyng Bread
That we with life eternal may be fed
Though by night.

XI

Here to all creatures is crying, hark!
That they should drink their fill though in the dark,
For it is night.

XII

This living fount which is to me so dear
Within the bread of life I see it clear
Though it be night!

 

Qué bien sé yo la fonte

Qué bien sé yo la fonte que mana y corre,
aunque es de noche.

  1. Aquella eterna fonte está escondida,
    que bien sé yo do tiene su manida,
    aunque es de noche.
  2. Su origen no lo sé, pues no le tiene,
    mas sé que todo origen de ella tiene,
    aunque es de noche.
  3. Sé que no puede ser cosa tan bella,
    y que cielos y tierra beben de ella,
    aunque es de noche.
  4. Bien sé que suelo en ella no se halla,
    y que ninguno puede vadealla,
    aunque es de noche.
  5. Su claridad nunca es oscurecida,
    y sé que toda luz de ella es venida,
    aunque es de noche.
  6. Sé ser tan caudalosos sus corrientes.
    que infiernos, cielos riegan y las gentes,
    aunque es de noche.
  7. El corriente que nace de esta fuente
    bien sé que es tan capaz y omnipotente,
    aunque es de noche.
  8. El corriente que de estas dos procede
    sé que ninguna de ellas le precede,
    aunque es de noche.
  9. Aquesta eterna fonte está escondida
    en este vivo pan por darnos vida,
    aunque es de noche.
  10. Aquí se está llamando a las criaturas,
    y de esta agua se hartan, aunque a oscuras
    porque es de noche.
  11. Aquesta viva fuente que deseo,
    en este pan de vida yo la veo,
    aunque es de noche.

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