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The Dark Night of the Soul

Q. What is “the dark night of the soul”?

A. The phrase “dark night of the soul” has been given to an untitled poem written by St. John of the Cross, a Spanish Carmelite priest, mystic, and Doctor of the Church, whose memorial we celebrated this week (December 14). The poem describes how the soul seeking God must ascend through a “dark night” to union with Him after being purged of all that would hinder the journey. This imagery is one of the classic descriptions of purgation and union that is a hallmark of the Christian mystical tradition.