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Maxims on Love

Taken from Minor Works of St. John of the Cross

Commentaries by Fr. Bruno Cocuzzi, ocd


Maxims 1 & 2

(Sayings of Light & Love #80 & 81)


1.  Bridle your tongue and your thoughts very much, direct your affection habitually toward God, and your spirit will be divinely enkindled.


2.  Feed not your spirit on anything but God.  Cast off concern about things, and bear peace and recollection in your heart.



Maxims 3 & 4

(Sayings of Light & Love #82 & 83)


3.  Keep spiritually tranquil in a loving attentiveness to God, and when it is necessary to speak, let it be with the same calm and peace.


4.  Preserve a habitual remembrance of eternal life, recalling that those who hold themselves the lowest and poorest and least of all will enjoy the highest dominion and glory in God.


Maxim 5

(Sayings of Light & Love #84)


5.  Rejoice habitually in God, Who is your salvation, and reflect that it is good to suffer in  any way for Him Who is good.


Maxim 6


(Sayings of Light & Love #85)


6.  Let them reflect how necessary it is to be enemies of self and to walk to perfection by the path of holy rigor, and let them understand that every word spoken without the order of obedience is laid to their account by God.



Maxims 7 & 8

(Sayings of Light & Love #86 & 87)


7.  Have an intimate desire that His Majesty grant you what He knows you lack for His honor.


8.  Crucified inwardly and outwardly with Christ, you will live in this life with fullness and satisfaction of soul, and possess your soul in patience.


Maxims 9, 10, 11

(Sayings of Light & Love #88, 89, 90)


9.  Preserve a loving attentiveness to God with no desire to feel or understand any particular thing concerning Him.


10.  Habitual confidence in God, esteeming in yourself and in your sisters those things which God most values, which are spiritual goods.


11.  Enter into yourself and work in the presence of your Spouse, Who is ever present loving you.


Maxims 12 & 13

(Sayings of Light & Love #91 & 92)


12.  Be hostile to admitting into your soul things that of themselves have no spiritual substance, lest they make you lose your liking for devotion and recollection.


13.  Let Christ crucified be enough for you, and with Him suffer and take your rest, and hence annihilate yourself in all inward and outward things.


Maxims 14 & 15

(Sayings of Light & Love #93 & 94)


14.  Endeavor always that things be not for you, nor you for them, but forgetful of all, abide in recollection with your Spouse.


15.  Have great love for trials and think of them as but a small way of pleasing your Spouse, Who did not hesitate to die for you.


Maxims 16 & 17

(Sayings of Light & Love #95 & 96)


16.  Bear fortitude in your heart against all things that move you to that which is not God, and be a friend of the passion of Christ.


17.  Be interiorly detached from all things and do not seek pleasure in any temporal thing, and your soul will concentrate on goods you do not know.

Maxim 18

(Sayings of Light & Love #97)


18.  The soul that walks in love neither rests nor grows tired.


Maxim 19

(Sayings of Light & Love #98)


19.  The poor man who is naked will be clothed, and the soul that is naked of desires and whims will be clothed by God with His purity, satisfaction, and will.


Maxims 20 & 21

(Sayings of Light & Love # 99 & 100)


20.  There are souls that wallow in the mire like animals, and there are others that soar like birds, which purify and cleanse themselves in the air.


21.  The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and in silence must It be heard by the soul.


Maxim 22

(Sayings of Light & Love #101)


22.  We must adjust our trials to ourselves, and not ourselves to our trials.


Maxim 23

(Sayings of Light & Love #102)


23.  He who seeks not the cross of Christ seeks not the glory of Christ.


Maxim 24

(Sayings of Light & Love #103)


24.  To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look upon its greatness, but upon the greatness of its humility.


Maxim 25 & 26

(Sayings of Light & Love #104 & 105)


25.  "He who is ashamed to confess Me before men, I shall be ashamed to confess him before My Father," says the Lord. (Mt. 10:32: Luke 9:26).


26.  Frequent combing gives the hair more luster and makes it easier to comb; a soul that frequently examines its thoughts, words, and deeds, which are its hair, doing all things for the love of God, will have lustrous hair.  Then the Spouse will look upon the neck of the bride and thereby be captivated, and will be wounded by one of her eyes, that is, by the purity of intention she has in all she does.  If in combing hair one wants it to have luster, one begins from the crown.  All our works must begin from the crown (the love of God) if we wish them to be pure and lustrous.


Maxim 27 & 28

(Sayings of Light & Love #106 & 107)


27.  Heaven is stable and is not subject to generation, and souls of a heavenly nature are stable and not subject to the engendering of desires or of anything else, for in their way resemble God Who does not move forever.


28.  Eat not in forbidden pastures (those of this life), because blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice sake, for they shall be filled.  (Mt. 5:6)  What God seeks, He being Himself God by nature, is to make us gods through participation, just as fire converts all things into fire.


Maxim 29

(Sayings of Light & Love #108)


29.  All the goodness we possess is lent to us, and God considers it His own work. 

God and His work is God.


Maxim 30A

(Sayings of Light & Love #109)


30.  Wisdom enters through love, silence, and mortification.


Maxim 30B, 31 & 32

(Sayings of Light & Love #109, 110, 111)


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.


31.  All for me and nothing for You.


32.  All for You and nothing for me.


Maxim 33

(Sayings of Light & Love #112)


33.  Allow yourself to be taught, allow yourself to receive orders, allow yourself to be subjected and despised, and you will be perfect.


Maxim 34

(Sayings of Light & Love #113)


34.  Any appetite causes five kinds of harm in the soul: first, disquiet; second, turbidity; third, defilement; fourth, weakness; fifth, obscurity.


Maxim 35

(Sayings of Light & Love #114)


35.  Perfection does not lie in the virtues which the soul knows it has, but in the virtues which Our Lord sees in it.  Thus is a closed book, and hence one has no reason for presumption, but must remain prostrate on the ground with respect to self.


Maxim 36

(Sayings of Light & Love #115)


36.  Love consists not in feeling great things but in having great detachment and in suffering for the Beloved.


Maxim 37 & 38

(Sayings of Light & Love #116 & 117)


37.  The entire world is not worthy of a man's thought, for this belongs to God alone; any thought, therefore, not centered on God is stolen from Him.


38.  Not all the faculties and senses have to be employed in things, but only those which are required; as for the others leave them unoccupied for God.


Maxim 39

(Sayings of Light & Love #118)


39.  Not observing the imperfections of others, preserving silence and a continual communion with God will eradicate great imperfections from the soul and make it the possessor of great virtues.


Maxim 40

(Sayings of Light & Love #119)


40.  There are three signs of inner recollection:  first, a lack of satisfaction in passing things; second, a liking for solitude and silence and an attentiveness to all that is more perfect; third, the considerations, meditations, and acts which formerly helped the soul now hinder it, and it brings to prayer no other support than faith, hope, and love.


Maxims 41 & 42

(Sayings of Light & Love #120 & 121)


41.  If a person has more patience in suffering and more forbearance in going without satisfaction, it is a sign that he is more proficient in virtue.


42.  The traits of the solitary bird are five: first, it seeks the highest place; second, it withstands no company; it holds its beak in the air; fourth, it has no definite color; fifth, it sings sweetly.  These traits must be possessed by the contemplative soul.  It must rise above passing things, paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist.  It must likewise be so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature.  It must hold its beak in the air of the Holy Spirit, responding to His inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of His company.  It must have no definite color, desiring to do nothing definite other than the will of God.  It must sing sweetly in the contemplation and love of its Spouse.


Maxim 43

(Sayings of Light & Love #122)


43.  Habitual voluntary imperfections which are never completely overcome not only hinder the divine union, but also the attainment of perfection.  Such imperfections are:  the habit of much talking; some small unconquered attachment, such as to a person, an article of clothing, a cell, a book, or some kind of food, or other conversations and little satisfactions in tasting things, and knowing, and hearing, and the like.



Maxim 44

(Sayings of Light & Love #123)


44.  If you wish to glory in yourself, but do not wish to appear ignorant and foolish, discard the things that are not yours and you will have glory in what remains.  But certainly if you discard all that is not yours, nothing will be left, since you must not glory in anything if you do not want to fall into vanity.  But let us descend now especially to those graces, the gifts of which make men pleasing in God's sight.  It is certain that you must not glory in these gifts, for you do not even know if you possess them.


Maxim 45

(Sayings of Light & Love #124)


45.  Oh, how sweet Your presence will be to me, You Who are the supreme good!  I must draw near You in silence and uncover my feet before You that You may be pleased to unite me to You in marriage (Ruth 3:7), and I will not rest until I rejoice in Your arms.  Now I ask You, Lord, not to abandon me at any time in my recollection, for I am a squanderer of my soul.


Maxim 46A

(Sayings of Light & Love #125)


46.  Detached from the exterior, dispossessed of the interior, disappropriated of the things of God --neither will prosperity detain you nor adversity hinder you.


Maxim 46B, & 47

(Sayings of Light & Love #125 & 126)

46.  Detached from the exterior, dispossessed of the interior, disappropriated of the things of God --neither will prosperity detain you nor adversity hinder you.


47.  The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God Himself.


Maxim 48A

(Sayings of Light & Love #127)


48.  The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.


Maxim 48B

(Sayings of Light & Love #127)

48.  The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.


Maxim 49

(Sayings of Light & Love #128)


49.  The soul that desires God to surrender Himself to it entirely must surrender itself entirely to Him without keeping anything for itself.




Maxims 50 & 51

(Sayings of Light & Love #129 & 130)


50.  The soul that has reached the union of love does not even experience the first motions of sin.


51.  Old friends of God scarcely ever fail Him, for they stand above all that can make them fail.


Maxims 52 & 53

(Sayings of Light & Love #131 & 132)


52.  My Beloved, all that is rugged and toilsome I desire for myself, and all that is sweet and delightful I desire for You.


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

Maxims 54 & 55

(Sayings of Light & Love #133 & 134)


54.  Simple faith is necessary in seeking God.  In outward things, light helps to prevent one from falling; but in the things of God just the opposite is true:  it is better for the soul not to see if it is to be more secure.


55.  More is gained in one hour from God's good things than in a whole lifetime from our own.



Maxim 56

(Sayings of Light & Love #135


56.  Love is unknown both by yourself and by others.  Never look at the good or evil of others.


Maxim 57

(Sayings of Light & Love #136

57.  Walk in solitude with God; act according to the just measure; hide the blessings of God.


Maxim 58

(Sayings of Light & Love #137)


58.  To lose always and let everyone else win is a trait of valiant souls, generous spirits, and unselfish hearts; it is their manner to give rather than receive even to the extent of giving themselves.  They consider it a heavy burden to possess themselves and it pleases them more to be possessed by others and withdrawn from themselves, since we belong more to that infinite Good than we do to ourselves.


Maxim 59

(Sayings of Light & Love #138)


59.  It is a serious evil to have more regard for God's blessings than for God Himself:  prayer and detachment.



Maxim 60

(Sayings of Light & Love #139)


60.  Look at that infinite knowledge and that hidden secret.  What peace, what love, what silence is in that divine bosom!  How lofty the science God teaches there, which is what we call the anagogical acts that so enkindle the heart.


Maxims 61 & 62

(Sayings of Light & Love # 140 & 141)


61.  Secrecy of conscience is considerably harmed and damaged as often as a person manifest its fruit to men, for then he receives as his reward the fruit of fleeting fame.


62.  Speak little and do not meddle in matters about which you are not asked.


Maxims 63 & 64

(Sayings of Light & Love #142 & 143)


63.  Strive always to keep God present and to preserve within yourself the purity He teaches you.


64.  Do not excuse yourself nor refuse to be corrected by all;  listen to every reproof with a serene countenance; think that God utters it.


Maxims 65 & 66

(Sayings of Light & Love #144 & 145)


65.  Live as though only God and yourself were in this world so that your heart may not be detained by anything human.


66.  Consider it the mercy of God that someone occasionally speak a good word to you, for you deserve none.


Maxims 67 & 68

(Sayings of Light & Love #146 & 147)


67.  Never allow yourself to pour out your heart, even though it be but for the space of a creed.


68.  Never listen to talk about the faults of others, and if someone complains of another, you can tell him humbly to say nothing of it to you.


Maxim 69

(Sayings of Light & Love #148)


69.  Do not complain about anyone, nor ask for anything; and if it is necessary for you to ask, let it be with few words.


Maxims 70 & 71

(Sayings of Light & Love #149 & 150)


70.  Do not refuse work even though it seems that you cannot do it.  Let all find compassion in you.


71.  Do not contradict; in no manner speak words that are not pure.


Maxims 72 & 73

(Sayings of Light & Love # 151 & 152)


72.  Let your speech be such that no one may be offended, and let it concern things which would not cause you regret were all to know of them.


73.  Do not refuse anything you possess, even though you may need it.


Maxims 74 & 75

(Sayings of Light & Love #153 & 154)


74.  Be silent concerning what God may have given you and recall that saying of the bride:  My secret for myself. (Is. 24:16)


75.  Strive to preserve your heart in peace and let no event of this world disturb it.  Reflect that all must come to an end.


Maxims 76 & 77

(Sayings of Light & Love #155 & 156)


76.  Take neither great nor little notice of who is with you or against you and try always to please God.  Ask Him that His will be done in you.  Love Him intensely, as He deserves to be loved.


77.  Twelve stars for reaching the highest perfection:  love of god, love of neighbor, obedience, chastity, poverty, attendance at choir, penance, humility, mortification, prayer, silence, peace.


Maxim 77B

(Sayings of Light & Love #156)

77.  Twelve stars for reaching the highest perfection:  love of god, love of neighbor, obedience, chastity, poverty, attendance at choir, penance, humility, mortification, prayer, silence, peace.

Maxim 77C

(Sayings of Light & Love #156)

77.  Twelve stars for reaching the highest perfection:  love of god, love of neighbor, obedience, chastity, poverty, attendance at choir, penance, humility, mortification, prayer, silence, peace.



Maxim 77D

(Sayings of Light & Love #156)

77.  Twelve stars for reaching the highest perfection:  love of god, love of neighbor, obedience, chastity, poverty, attendance at choir, penance, humility, mortification, prayer, silence, peace.



Maxims 78 & 79

(Sayings of Light & Love #157 & 158)


78.  Never take a man for your example in the tasks you have to perform, however holy he may be, for the devil will set his imperfection before you.  But imitate Christ, who is supremely perfect and supremely holy, and you will never err.


79.  Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation.


Maxim 80


80.  Once being asked how one becomes enraptured, the Venerable Father Fray John of the Cross, replied:  by denying one's own will and doing the will of god; for an ecstasy is nothing else than going out of self and being caught up in God; and this is what he who obeys does; he leaves himself and his desire, and thus unburdened plunges himself in God.


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