John of the Cross: Help When Christmas Feels Dark

Depression at Christmastime is a real thing, whether it comes from financial stress, busyness, loneliness, grief, or estrangement.

The wisdom of the great Spanish Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross, whose feast is celebrated December 14, can help you cope.

Praying in Darkness

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”

This one is true of both the Advent darkness everyone feels, and the specific darkness you feel in your depression. Hold on. Christ is coming!

“It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still so that God may speak.”

A great reminder that, when you have nothing to say to God, he still wants to talk to you. In fact …

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”

… the deprivation of the senses you feel in depression can be offered to God, fruitfully.

“Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”

If you have trouble praying, don’t worry. Just find a moment God to offer him your silent love.

Waiting in Loneliness

“Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you.”

If you are single by choice or by circumstances and Christmas is hard, remember what St. John says here.

“If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.”

This is for all those who aren’t expecting to get much for Christmas!

Living For Others

“Beloved, all that is harsh and difficult I want for myself, and all that is gentle and sweet for thee.”

Words for a Christmas mom to try out, if no one is helping like they should (but don’t be afraid to let them know how they should help).

“It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.”

A reminder to avoid gossip at the office Christmas party!

“In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.”

If you are depressed at Christmas, think of God as the Christmas star — or string of lights — whose light is out there whether you see it now or not.

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

Christmas is a time to give — gifts, time and love. And giving remains the best antidote to depression.

Image: El Greco’s landscape of Toledo depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old alcázar (fort) and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs, Wiki-media.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.