- Lumen Fidei 36 -



- Evangelii Gaudium 11 -

T H E   M O U N T   C A R M E L

the drawing by St. John of the Cross

T H E   H U M A N   C A P A B L E   O F   G O D


1.   This is expressed by the draft of the Mount of perfection drawn by St. John of the Cross for Sister Magdalene of the Holy Spirit of the Convent of Beas, who declares: “there he drew the Mount and he did one of it for each of us for our breviary, although he then added and changed something”.


2.   Only in 1912 a legal copy of the drawing for Sr. Magdalene was found in a manuscript of the National Library in Madrid (Ms. 6296). We find this drawing in the Italian edition of the Works of St. John of the Cross by Father Ferdinando (Ed O.C.D., Rome 1963). Instead, in the 1618 first edition there is a drawing signed by Diego Astor that, more or less elaborate, appears in all or almost all the Spanish and foreigners editions of the Works published until 1912.

The legal copy is 255 X 185 mm big. At the base of the Mount there is the legal declaration. It is certainly a careful copy of that Mount that the Saint drew for his spiritual daughters of the Carmel of Beas and that these nuns kept in the breviary, as a teaching and a memory of the Father of their souls.


3.   Looking at the Mount as it is drawn in the Ms. 6296, certainly similar to that which the Saint himself drew, we can immediately notice that the Mount has got nothing, neither slope nor summit. It is a very imperfect circumference, nearly oval, with a lot of words written in different directions.

Within the circumference there are other vertical lines, and the two higher lines introduce into another smaller circumference composed by words and inscribed into the bigger one. Over the bigger external circumference is written Mount Carmel.
The Mount by St. John of the Cross is all here: words and lines. Rather than a Mount he drew the plain of the Mount, the circular plateau, and the steep ascent leading to the plateau, thanks to the vertical lines that climb from the outside nearly to the centre of the circumference.


4.   In the draft, the path of the nada prevails, which becoming narrower and steeper, climbs towards the large and green summit of the union with God, the todo.

In the Ascent the Saint recalls very often the drawing of the Mount (1S 13,10; 2S 8,7; ...)

The path of the nada, and only this, climbing the Mount Carmel in a steeply way, leads to the solitary plateau where "only the honour and the glory of God dwell".

But to reach the summit of the union we need to move away from the goods of the Earth, "del suelo", and also from the spiritual goods, "del cielo". We need to refuse all that is not God. Because when we search something that is not God, we seize the nothing: "the more I would have liked to have, the less I have found": so the soul that has done experience of it maintains. 

A S C E N T   O F   M O U N T   C A R M E L

Created for Love by God, the man is destined to the union with this Love, through a 'way' of 'recovery', of gradual internalization, that from the more exterior, the life of the senses, goes to the more interior, the life of the spirit, "in order - the Saint explains- that we may proceed from the lesser to the greater, and from the more exterior to the more interior until we reach the more interior recollection wherein the soul is united with God" (2S 12,1).

 The project of grace of the "Ascent of Mount Carmel"; is all here: in the "union with God" (1S 1,3), towards whom the soul prepares itself in "purity and love" (2S 5,8).


Through the "Ascent of Mount", divided into three books, St. John of the Cross shows us how God introduces and leads the mankind in His eternal mystery of love.

  • This project of supernatural communion occurs in the night or purification: in the active form of the sense (first book: 1S)
  • in the active form of the spirit (second and third book: 2-3S)
  • in the passive form of the "fourth" book, The Dark Night, where the Mystic Doctor explains the Divine effects that the perfect union produces in the soul.


The Ascent, therefore, is like a mystagogical walk or mystic path of purity and love that introduces into the mystery of God. A way that is a dark night for those, as the Mystic Doctor explains, "to whom God is granting the favour of setting them on the road to this Mount" (S, prologue, 9). The peak of the Mount that is the "summit of the union" (1S 13,10).