Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me to my sorrow, O my Beloved!
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

IN this first stanza the soul, enamored of the Word, the Son of God, the Bridegroom, desiring to be united to Him in the clear and substantial vision, sets before Him the anxieties of its love, complaining of His absence. And this the more so because, now pierced and wounded with love, for which it had abandoned all things, even itself, it has still to endure the absence of the Beloved, Who has not released it from its mortal flesh, that it might have the fruition of Him in the glory of eternity. Hence it cries out,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

2. It is as if the soul said, "Show me, O You the Word, my Bridegroom, the place where You are hidden." It asks for the revelation of the divine Essence; for the place where the Son of God is hidden is, according to St. John, "the bosom of the Father,"[18] which is the divine Essence, transcending all mortal vision, and hidden from all human understanding, as Isaiah says, speaking to God, "Verily You are a hidden God."[19] From this we learn that the communication and sense of His presence, however great they may be, and the most sublime and profound knowledge of God which the soul may have in this life, are not God essentially, neither have they any affinity with Him, for in very truth He is still hidden from the soul; and it is therefore expedient for it, amid all these grandeurs, always to consider Him as hidden, and to seek Him in His hiding place, saying,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

3. Neither sublime communications nor sensible presence furnish any certain proof of His gracious presence; nor is the absence thereof, and aridity, any proof of His absence from the soul. "If He come to me, I shall not see Him; if He depart, I shall not understand."[20] That is, if the soul have any great communication, or impression, or spiritual knowledge, it must not on that account persuade itself that what it then feels is to enjoy or see God clearly and in His Essence, or that it brings it nearer to Him, or Him to it, however deep such feelings may be. On the other hand, when all these sensible and spiritual communications fail it, and it is itself in dryness, darkness, and desolation, it must not on that account suppose that God is far from it; for in truth the former state is no sign of its being in a state of grace, nor is the latter a sign that it is not; for "man knows not whether he is worthy of love or hatred"[21] in the sight of God.

4. The chief object of the soul in these words is not to ask only for that affective and sensible devotion, wherein there is no certainty or evidence of the possession of the Bridegroom in this life; but principally for that clear presence and vision of His Essence, of which it longs to be assured and satisfied in the next. This, too, was the object of the bride who, in the divine song desiring to be united to the Divinity of the Bridegroom Word, prayed to the Father, saying, "Show me where You feed, where You lie in the midday."[22] For to ask to be shown the place where He fed was to ask to be shown the Essence of the Divine Word, the Son; because the Father feeds nowhere else but in His only begotten Son, Who is the glory of the Father. In asking to be shown the place where He lies in the midday, was to ask for the same thing, because the Son is the sole delight of the Father, Who lies in no other place, and is comprehended by no other thing, but in and by His beloved Son, in Whom He reposes wholly, communicating to Him His whole Essence, in the "midday," which is eternity, where the Father is ever begetting and the Son ever begotten.

5. This pasture, then, is the Bridegroom Word, where the Father feeds in infinite glory. He is also the bed of flowers whereupon He reposes with infinite delight of love, profoundly hidden from all mortal vision and every created thing. This is the meaning of the bride-soul when she says,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

6. That the thirsty soul may find the Bridegroom, and be one with Him in the union of love in this life -- so far as that is possible -- and quench its thirst with that drink which it is possible to drink of at His hands in this life, it will be as well -- since that is what the Soul asks of Him -- that we should answer for Him, and point out the special spot where He is hidden, that He may be found there in that perfection and sweetness of which this life is capable, and that the soul may not begin to loiter uselessly in the footsteps of its companions.

7. We must remember that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden in essence and in presence, in the inmost being of the soul. That soul, therefore, that will find Him, must go out from all things in will and affection, and enter into the profoundest self-recollection, and all things must be to it as if they existed not. Hence, St. Augustine says: "I found You not without, O Lord; I sought You without in vain, for You are within,"[23] God is therefore hidden within the soul, and the true contemplative will seek Him there in love, saying,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

8. O you soul, then, most beautiful of creatures, who so long to know the place where your Beloved is, that you may seek Him, and be united to Him, you know now that you are yourself that very tabernacle where He dwells, the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden. Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all your good and all your hope is so near you as to be within you; or, to speak more accurately, that you can not be without it, "for lo, the kingdom of God is within you."[24] So says the Bridegroom Himself, and His servant, St. Paul, adds: "You are the temple of the living God."[25] What joy for the soul to learn that God never abandons it, even in mortal sin; how much less in a state of grace![26]

9. What more can you desire, what more can you seek without, seeing that within you have your riches, your delight, your satisfaction, your fullness and your kingdom; that is, your Beloved, Whom you desire and seek? Rejoice, then, and be glad in Him with interior recollection, seeing that you have Him so near. Then love Him, then desire Him, then adore Him, and go not to seek Him out of yourself, for that will be but distraction and weariness, and you shall not find Him; because there is no fruition of Him more certain, more ready, or more intimate than that which is within.

10. One difficulty alone remains: though He is within, yet He is hidden. But it is a great matter to know the place of His secret rest, that He may be sought there with certainty. The knowledge of this is that which you ask for here, O soul, when with loving affection you cry,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

11. You will still urge and say, How is it, then, that I find Him not, nor feel Him, if He is within my soul? It is because He is hidden, and because you hide not yourself also that you may find Him and feel Him; for he that will seek that which is hidden must enter secretly into the secret place where it is hidden, and when he finds it, he is himself hidden like the object of his search. Seeing, then, that the Bridegroom whom you love is "the treasure hidden in the field"[27] of your soul, for which the wise merchant gave all that he had, so you, if you will find Him, must forget all that is yours, withdraw from all created things, and hide yourself in the secret retreat of the spirit, shutting the door upon yourself -- that is, denying your will in all things -- and praying to your Father in secret.[28] Then you, being hidden with Him, will be conscious of His presence in secret, and will love Him, possess Him in secret, and delight in Him in secret, in a way that no tongue or language can express.

12. Courage, then, O soul most beautiful, you know now that your Beloved, Whom you desire, dwells hidden within your breast; strive, therefore, to be truly hidden with Him, and then you shall embrace Him, and be conscious of His presence with loving affection. Consider also that He bids you, by the mouth of Isaiah, to come to His secret hiding-place, saying, "Go, . . . enter into your chambers, shut your doors upon you"; that is, all your faculties, so that no created thing shall enter: "be hid a little for a moment,"[29] that is, for the moment of this mortal life; for if now during this life which is short, you will "with all watchfulness keep your heart,"[30] as the wise man says, God will most assuredly give you, as He has promised by the prophet Isaiah, "hidden treasures and mysteries of secrets."[31] The substance of these secrets is God Himself, for He is the substance of the faith, and the object of it, and the faith is the secret and the mystery. And when that which the faith conceals shall be revealed and made manifest, that is the perfection of God, as St. Paul says, "When that which is perfect is come,"[32] then shall be revealed to the soul the substance and mysteries of these secrets.

13. Though in this mortal life the soul will never reach to the interior secrets as it will in the next, however much it may hide itself, still, if it will hide itself with Moses, "in the hole of the rock" -- which is a real imitation of the perfect life of the Bridegroom, the Son of God -- protected by the right hand of God, it will merit the vision of the "back parts";[33] that is, it will reach to such perfection here, as to be united, and transformed by love, in the Son of God, its Bridegroom. So effectually will this be wrought that the soul will feel itself so united to Him, so learned and so instructed in His secrets, that, so far as the knowledge of Him in this life is concerned, it will be no longer necessary for it to say: "Where have You hidden Yourself?"

14. You know then, O soul, how you are to demean yourself if you will find the Bridegroom in His secret place. But if you will hear it again, hear this one word full of substance and unapproachable truth: Seek Him in faith and love, without seeking to satisfy yourself in anything, or to understand more than is expedient for you to know; for faith and love are the two guides of the blind; they will lead you, by a way you know not, to the secret chamber of God. Faith, the secret of which I am speaking, is the foot that journeys onwards to God, and love is the guide that directs its steps. And while the soul meditates on the mysterious secrets of the faith, it will merit the revelation, on the part of love, of that which the faith involves, namely, the Bridegroom Whom it longs for, in this life by spiritual grace, and the divine union, as we said before,[34] and in the next in essential glory, face to face, hidden now.

15. But meanwhile, though the soul attains to union, the highest state possible in this life, yet inasmuch as He is still hidden from it in the bosom of the Father, as I have said, the soul longing for the fruition of Him in the life to come, ever cries, "Where have You hidden Yourself?"

16. You do well, then, O soul, in seeking Him always in His secret place; for you greatly magnify God, and draw near to Him, esteeming Him as far beyond and above all you can reach. Rest, therefore, neither wholly nor in part, on what your faculties can embrace; never seek to satisfy yourself with what you comprehend of God, but rather with what you comprehend not; and never rest on the love of, and delight in, that which you can understand and feel, but rather on that which is beyond your understanding and feeling: this is, as I have said, to seek Him by faith.

17. God is, as I said before,[35] inaccessible and hidden, and though it may seem that you have found Him, felt Him, and comprehended Him, yet you must ever regard Him as hidden, serve Him as hidden, in secret. Do not be like many unwise, who, with low views of God, think that when they cannot comprehend Him, or be conscious of His presence, that He is then farther away and more hidden, when the contrary is true, namely, that He is nearer to them when they are least aware of it; as the prophet David says, "He put darkness His covert,"[36] Thus, when you are near to Him, the very infirmity of your vision makes the darkness palpable; you do well, therefore, at all times, in prosperity as well as in adversity, spiritual or temporal, to look upon God as hidden, and to say to Him, "Where have You hidden Yourself?

And left me to my sorrow, O my Beloved?"

18. The soul calls Him "my Beloved," the more to move Him to listen to its cry, for God, when loved, most readily listens to the prayer of him who loves Him. Thus He speaks Himself: "If you abide in Me . . . you shall ask whatever thing you will, and it shall be done to you."[37] The soul may then with truth call Him Beloved, when it is wholly His, when the heart has no attachments but Him, and when all the thoughts are continually directed to Him. It was the absence of this that made Delilah say to Samson, "How do you say you love me when your mind is not with me?"[38] The mind comprises the thoughts and the feelings. Some there are who call the Bridegroom their Beloved, but He is not really beloved, because their heart is not wholly with Him. Their prayers are, therefore, not so effectual before God, and they shall not obtain their petitions until, persevering in prayer, they fix their minds more constantly upon God and their hearts more wholly in loving affection upon Him, for nothing can be obtained from God but by love.

19. The words, "And left me to my sorrow," tell us that the absence of the Beloved is the cause of continual sadness in him who loves; for as such a one loves none else, so, in the absence of the object beloved, nothing can console or relieve him. This is, therefore, a test to discern the true lover of God. Is he satisfied with anything less than God? Do I say satisfied? Yes, if a man possess all things, he cannot be satisfied; the greater his possessions the less will be his satisfaction, for the satisfaction of the heart is not found in possessions, but in detachment from all things and in poverty of spirit. This being so, the perfection of love in which we possess God, by a grace most intimate and special, lives in the soul in this life when it has reached it, with a certain satisfaction, which however is not full, for David, notwithstanding all his perfection, hoped for that in heaven saying, "I shall be satisfied when Your glory shall appear."[39]

20. Thus, then, the peace and tranquillity and satisfaction of heart to which the soul may attain in this life are not sufficient to relieve it from its groaning, peaceful and painless though it be, while it hopes for that which is still wanting. Groaning belongs to hope, as the Apostle says of himself and others, though perfect, "Ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God."[40] The soul groans when the heart is enamored, for where love wounds there is heard the groaning of the wounded one, complaining feelingly of the absence of the Beloved, especially when, after tasting of the sweet conversation of the Bridegroom, it finds itself suddenly alone, and in aridity, because He has gone away. That is why it cries,

"You have fled like the hart."

21. Here it is to be observed that in the Canticle of Canticles the bride compares the Bridegroom to the roe and the hart on the mountains -- "My Beloved is like a roe and to a fawn of harts"[41] -- not only because He is shy, solitary, and avoids companions as the hart, but also for his sudden appearance and disappearance. That is His way in His visits to devout souls in order to comfort and encourage them, and in the withdrawing and absence which He makes them feel after those visits in order to try, humble, and teach them. For that purpose He makes them feel the pain of His absence most keenly, as the following words show:

"Having wounded me."

22. It is as if it had said, "It was not enough that I should feel the pain and grief which Your absence causes, and from which I am continually suffering, but You must, after wounding me with the arrow of Your love, and increasing my longing and desire to see You, run away from me with the swiftness of the hart, and not permit me to lay hold of You, even for a moment."

23. For the clearer understanding of this we are to keep in mind that, beside the many kinds of God's visits to the soul, in which He wounds it with love, there are commonly certain secret touches of love, which, like a fiery arrow, pierce and penetrate the soul, and burn it with the fire of love. These are properly called the wounds of love, and it is of these the soul is here speaking. These wounds so inflame the will, that the soul becomes so enveloped with the fire of love as to appear consumed thereby. They make it go forth out of itself, and be renewed, and enter on another life, as the phoenix from the fire.

24. David, speaking of this, says, "My heart has been inflamed, and my reins have been changed; and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not."[42] The desires and affections, called the reins by the prophet, are all stirred and divinely changed in this burning of the heart, and the soul, through love, melted into nothing, knowing nothing but love. At this time the changing of the reins is a great pain, and longing for the vision of God; it seems to the soul that God treats it with intolerable severity, so much so that the severity with which love treats it seems to the soul unendurable, not because it is wounded -- for it considers such wounds to be its salvation -- but because it is thus suffering from its love, and because He has not wounded it more deeply so as to cause death, that it may be united to Him in the life of perfect love. The soul, therefore, magnifying its sorrows, or revealing them, says,

"Having wounded me."

25. The soul says in effect, "You have abandoned me after wounding me, and You have left me dying of love; and then You have hidden Yourself as a hart swiftly running away." This impression is most profound in the soul; for by the wound of love, made in the soul by God, the affections of the will lead most rapidly to the possession of the Beloved, whose touch it felt, and as rapidly also, His absence, and its inability to have the fruition of Him here as it desires. Thereupon succeed the groaning because of His absence; for these visitations of God are not like those which recreate and satisfy the soul, because they are rather for wounding than for healing -- more for afflicting than for satisfying it, seeing that they tend rather to quicken the knowledge, and increase the longing, and consequently pain with the longing for the vision of God. They are called the spiritual wounds of love, most sweet to the soul and desirable; and, therefore, when it is thus wounded the soul would willingly die a thousand deaths, because these wounds make it go forth out of itself, and enter into God, which is the meaning of the words that follow:

"I ran after You, crying; but You were gone."

26. There can be no remedy for the wounds of love but from Him who inflicted them. And so the wounded soul, urged by the vehemence of that burning which the wounds of love occasion, runs after the Beloved, crying to Him for relief. This spiritual running after God has a two-fold meaning. The first is a going forth from all created things, which is effected by hating and despising them; the second, a going forth out of oneself, by forgetting self, which is brought about by the love of God. For when the love of God touches the soul with that vividness of which we are here speaking, it so elevates it, that it goes forth not only out of itself by self-forgetfulness, but it is also drawn away from its own judgment, natural ways and inclinations, crying after God, "O my Bridegroom," as if saying, "By this touch of Yours and wound of love have You drawn me away not only from all created things, but also from myself -- for, in truth, soul and body seem now to part -- and raised me up to Yourself, crying after You in detachment from all things that I might be attached to You:

"You were gone."

27. As if saying, "When I sought Your presence, I found You not; and I was detached from all things without being able to cling to You -- borne painfully by the gales of love without help in You or in myself." This going forth of the soul in search of the Beloved is the rising of the bride in the Canticle: "I will rise and go about the city; in the streets and the high ways I will seek Him Whom my soul loves. I have sought Him and have not found . . . they wounded me."[43] The rising of the bride -- speaking spiritually -- is from that which is mean to that which is noble; and is the same with the going forth of the soul out of its own ways and inferior love to the ennobling love of God. The bride says that she was wounded because she found him not;[44] so the soul also says of itself that it is wounded with love and forsaken; that is, the loving soul is ever in pain during the absence of the Beloved, because it has given itself up wholly to Him hoping for the reward of its self-surrender, the Possession of the Beloved. Still the Beloved withholds Himself while the soul has lost all things, and even itself, for Him; it obtains no compensation for its loss, seeing that it is deprived of Him whom it loves.

28. This pain and sense of the absence of God is wont to be so oppressive in those who are going onwards to the state of perfection, that they would die if God did not interpose when the divine wounds are inflicted upon them. As they have the palate of the will wholesome, and the mind pure and disposed for God, and as they taste in some degree of the sweetness of divine love, which they supremely desire, so they also suffer supremely; for, having but a glimpse of an infinite good which they are not permitted to enjoy, that is to them an ineffable pain and torment.



O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
If you shall see
Him Whom I love,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

THE soul would now employ intercessors and mediators between itself and the Beloved, praying them to make its sufferings and afflictions known. One in love, when he cannot converse personally with the object of his love, will do so in the best way he can. Thus the soul employs its affections, desires, and groanings as messengers well able to manifest the secret of its heart to the Beloved. Accordingly, it calls upon them to do this, saying:

"O shepherds, you who go."

2. The shepherds are the affections, and desires, and groanings of the soul, for they feed it with spiritual good things. A shepherd is one who feeds: and by means of such God communicates Himself to the soul and feeds it in the divine pastures; for without these groans and desires He communicates but slightly with it.

"You who go."

You who go forth in pure love; for all desires and affections do not reach God, but only those which proceed from sincere love.

"Through the sheepcots up the hill."

3. The sheepcots are the heavenly hierarchies, the angelic choirs, by whose ministry, from choir to choir, our prayers and sighs ascend to God; that is, to the hill, "for He is the highest eminence, and because in Him, as on a hill, we observe and behold all things, the higher and the lower sheepcots." To Him our prayers ascend, offered by angels, as I have said; so the angel said to Tobit "When you prayed with tears, and buried the dead . . . I offered your prayer to the Lord."[45]

4. The shepherds also are the angels themselves, who not only carry our petitions to God, but also bring down the graces of God to our souls, feeding them like good shepherds, with the sweet communications and inspirations of God, Who employs them in that ministry. They also protect us and defend us against the wolves, which are the evil spirits. And thus, whether we understand the affections or the angels by the shepherds, the soul calls upon both to be its messengers to the Beloved, and thus addresses them all:

"If you shall see Him,"

That is to say:

5. If, to my great happiness you shall come into His presence, so that He shall see you and hear your words. God, indeed, knows all things, even the very thoughts of the soul, as He said to Moses,[46] but it is then He beholds our necessities when He relieves them, and hears our prayers when he grants them. God does not see all necessities and hear all petitions until the time appointed shall have come; it is then that He is said to hear and see, as we learn in the book of Exodus. When the children of Israel had been afflicted for four hundred years as serfs in Egypt, God said to Moses, "I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry, and . . . I am come down to deliver them."[47] And yet He had seen it always. So also St. Gabriel bade Zachariah not to fear, because God had heard his prayer, and would grant him the son, for whom he had been praying for many years;[48] yet God had always heard him. Every soul ought to consider that God, though He does not at once help us and grant our petitions, will still succor us in His own time, for He is, as David says, "a helper in due time in tribulation,"[49] if we do not become faint-hearted and cease to pray. This is what the soul means by saying, "If you shall see Him"; that is to say, if the time is come when it shall be His good pleasure to grant my petitions.

6. "Whom I love the most": that is, whom I love more than all creatures. This is true of the soul when nothing can make it afraid to do and suffer all things in His service. And when the soul can also truly say that which follows, it is a sign that it loves Him above all things:

"Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die."

7. Here the soul speaks of three things that distress it: namely, languor, suffering, and death; for the soul that truly loves God with a love in some degree perfect, suffers in three ways in His absence, in its three powers ordinarily -- the understanding, the will, and the memory. In the understanding it languishes because it does not see God, Who is the salvation of it, as the Psalmist says: "I am your salvation."[50] In the will it suffers, because it possesses not God, Who is its comfort and delight, as David also says: "You shall make them drink of the torrent of Your pleasure."[51] In the memory it dies, because it remembers its privation of all the blessings of the understanding, which are the vision of God, and of the delights of the will, which are the fruition of Him, and that it is very possible also that it may lose Him for ever, because of the dangers and chances of this life. In the memory, therefore, the soul labors under a sensation like that of death, because it sees itself without the certain and perfect fruition of God, Who is the life of the soul, as Moses says: "He is your life."[52]

8. Jeremiah also, in the Lamentations, speaks of these three things, praying to God, and saying: "Remember my poverty . . . the wormwood and the gall."[53] Poverty relates to the understanding, to which appertain the riches of the knowledge of the Son of God, "in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid."[54] The wormwood, which is a most bitter herb, relates to the will, to which appertains the sweetness of the fruition of God, deprived of which it abides in bitterness. We learn in the Revelation that bitterness appertains spiritually to the will, for the angel said to St. John: "Take the book and eat it up; and it shall make your belly bitter."[55] Here the belly signifies the will. The gall relates not only to the memory, but also to all the powers and faculties of the soul, for it signifies the death thereof, as we learn from Moses speaking of the damned: "Their wine is the gall of dragons, and the venom of asps, which is incurable."[56] This signifies the loss of God, which is the death of the soul.

9. These three things which distress the soul are grounded on the three theological virtues -- faith, charity, and hope, which relate, in the order here assigned them, to the three faculties of the soul -- understanding, will, and memory. Observe here that the soul does no more than represent its miseries and pain to the Beloved: for he who loves wisely does not care to ask for that which he wants and desires, being satisfied with hinting at his necessities, so that the beloved one may do what shall to him seem good. Thus the Blessed Virgin at the marriage feast of Cana asked not directly for wine, but only said to her Beloved Son, "They have no wine."[57] The sisters of Lazarus sent to Him, not to ask Him to heal their brother, but only to say that he whom He loved was sick: "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."[58]

10. There are three reasons for this. Our Lord knows what is expedient for us better than we do ourselves. Secondly, the Beloved is more compassionate towards us when He sees our necessities and our resignation. Thirdly, we are more secured against self-love and self-seeking when we represent our necessity, than when we ask for that which we think we need. It is in this way that the soul represents its three necessities; as if it said: "Tell my Beloved, that as I languish, and as He only is my salvation, to save me; that as I am suffering, and as He only is my joy, to give me joy; that as I am dying, and as He only is my life, to give me life."



In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

THE soul, observing that its sighs and prayers suffice not to find the Beloved, and that it has not been helped by the messengers it invoked in the first and second stanzas, will not, because its searching is real and its love great, leave undone anything itself can do. The soul that really loves God is not dilatory in its efforts to find the Son of God, its Beloved; and, even when it has done all it could it is still not satisfied, thinking it has done nothing. Accordingly, the soul is now, in this third stanza, actively seeking the Beloved, and saying how He is to be found; namely, in the practice of all virtue and in the spiritual exercises of the active and contemplative life; for this end it rejects all delights and all comforts; and all the power and wiles of its three enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, are unable to delay it or hinder it on the road.

"In search of my Love."

2. Here the soul makes it known that to find God it is not enough to pray with the heart and the tongue, or to have recourse to the help of others; we must also work ourselves, according to our power. God values one effort of our own more than many of others on our behalf; the soul, therefore, remembering the saying of the Beloved, "Seek and you shall find,"[59] is resolved on going forth, as I said just now, to seek Him actively, and not rest till it finds Him, as many do who will not that God should cost them anything but words, and even those carelessly uttered, and for His sake will do nothing that will cost them anything. Some, too, will not leave for His sake a place which is to their taste and liking, expecting to receive all the sweetness of God in their mouth and in their heart without moving a step, without mortifying themselves by the abandonment of a single pleasure or useless comfort.

3. But until they go forth out of themselves to seek Him, however loudly they may cry they will not find Him; for the bride in the Canticle sought Him in this way, but she found Him not until she went out to seek Him: "In my little bed in the nights I have sought Him Whom my soul loves: I have sought Him and have not found Him. I will rise and will go about the city: by the streets and highways I will seek Him Whom my soul loves."[60] She afterwards adds that when she had endured certain trials she "found Him."[61]

4. He, therefore, who seeks God, consulting his own ease and comfort, seeks Him by night, and therefore finds Him not. But he who seeks Him in the practice of virtue and of good works, casting aside the comforts of his own bed, seeks Him by day; such a one shall find Him, for that which is not seen by night is visible by day. The Bridegroom Himself teaches us this, saying, "Wisdom is clear and never fades away, and is easily seen of them that love her, and is found of them that seek her. She prevents them that covet her, that she first may show herself to them. He that awakes early to seek her shall not labor; for he shall find her sitting at his doors."[62] The soul that will go out of the house of its own will, and abandon the bed of its own satisfaction, will find the divine Wisdom, the Son of God, the Bridegroom waiting at the door without, and so the soul says:

"I will go over mountains and strands."

5. Mountains, which are lofty, signify virtues, partly on account of their height and partly on account of the toil and labor of ascending them; the soul says it will ascend to them in the practice of the contemplative life. Strands, which are low, signify mortifications, penances, and the spiritual exercises, and the soul will add to the active life that of contemplation; for both are necessary in seeking after God and in acquiring virtue. The soul says, in effect, "In searching after my Beloved I will practice great virtue, and abase myself by lowly mortifications and acts of humility, for the way to seek God is to do good works in Him, and to mortify the evil in ourselves, as it is said in the words that follow:

"I will gather no flowers."

6. He that will seek after God must have his heart detached, resolute, and free from all evils, and from all goods which are not simply God; that is the meaning of these words. The words that follow describe the liberty and courage which the soul must possess in searching after God. Here it declares that it will gather no flowers by the way -- the flowers are all the delights, satisfactions, and pleasures which this life offers, and which, if the soul sought or accepted, would hinder it on the road.

7. These flowers are of three kinds -- temporal, sensual, and spiritual. All of them occupy the heart, and stand in the way of the spiritual detachment required in the way of Christ, if we regard them or rest in them. The soul, therefore, says, that it will not stop to gather any of them, that it may seek after God. It seems to say, I will not set my heart upon riches or the goods of this world; I will not indulge in the satisfactions and ease of the flesh, neither will I consult the taste and comforts of my spirit, in order that nothing may detain me in my search after my Love on the toilsome mountains of virtue. This means that it accepts the counsel of the prophet David to those who travel on this road: "If riches abound, set not your heart upon them,"[63] This is applicable to sensual satisfactions, as well as to temporal goods and spiritual consolations.

8. From this we learn that not only temporal goods and bodily pleasures hinder us on the road to God, but spiritual delight and consolations also, if we attach ourselves to them or seek them; for these things are hindrances on the way of the cross of Christ, the Bridegroom. He, therefore, that will go onwards must not only not stop to gather flowers, but must also have the courage and resolution to say as follows:

"I will fear no wild beasts and I will go over the mighty and the frontiers."

Here we have the three enemies of the soul which make war against it, and make its way full of difficulties. The wild beasts are the world; the mighty, the devil; and the frontiers are the flesh.

9. The world is the wild beasts, because in the beginning of the heavenly journey the imagination pictures the world to the soul as wild beasts, threatening and fierce, principally in three ways. The first is, we must forfeit the world's favor, lose friends, credit, reputation, and property; the second is not less cruel: we must suffer the perpetual deprivation of all the comforts and pleasures of the world; and the third is still worse: evil tongues will rise against us, mock us, and speak of us with contempt. This strikes some persons so vividly that it becomes most difficult for them, I do not say to persevere, but even to enter on this road at all.

10. But there are generous souls who have to encounter wild beasts of a more interior and spiritual nature -- trials, temptations, tribulations, and afflictions of diverse kinds, through which they must pass. This is what God sends to those whom He is raising upwards to high perfection, proving them and trying them as gold in the fire; as David says: "Many are the tribulations of the just; and out of all these our Lord will deliver them."[64] But the truly enamored soul, preferring the Beloved above all things, and relying on His love and favor, finds no difficulty in saying:

"I will fear no wild beats" "and pass over the mighty and the frontiers."

11. Evil spirits, the second enemy of the soul, are called the mighty, because they strive with all their might to seize on the passes of the spiritual road; and because the temptations they suggest are harder to overcome, and the craft they employ more difficult to detect, than all the seductions of the world and the flesh; and because, also, they strengthen their own position by the help of the world and the flesh in order to fight vigorously against the soul. Hence the Psalmist calls them mighty, saying: "The mighty have sought after my soul."[65] The prophet Job also speaks of their might: "There is no power upon the earth that may be compared with him who was made to fear no man."[66]

12. There is no human power that can be compared with the power of the devil, and therefore the divine power alone can overcome him, and the divine light alone can penetrate his devices. No soul therefore can overcome his might without prayer, or detect his illusions without humility and mortification. Hence the exhortation of St. Paul to the faithful: "Put on the armor of God, that you may stand against the deceits of the devil: for our wrestling is not against flesh and blood."[67] Blood here is the world, and the armor of God is prayer and the cross of Christ, wherein consist the humility and mortification of which I have spoken.

13. The soul says also that it will cross the frontiers: these are the natural resistance and rebellion of the flesh against the spirit, for, as St. Paul says, the "flesh lusts against the spirit,"[68] and sets itself as a frontier against the soul on its spiritual road. This frontier the soul must cross, surmounting difficulties, and trampling underfoot all sensual appetites and all natural affections with great courage and resolution of spirit: for while they remain in the soul, the spirit will be by them hindered from advancing to the true life and spiritual delight. This is set clearly before us by St. Paul, saying: "If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live."[69] This, then, is the process which the soul in this stanza says it becomes it to observe on the way to seek the Beloved: which briefly is a firm resolution not to stoop to gather flowers by the way; courage not to fear the wild beasts, and strength to pass by the mighty and the frontiers; intent solely on going over the mountains and the strands of the virtues, in the way just explained.



O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

THE disposition requisite for entering on the spiritual journey, abstinence from joys and pleasure, being now described; and the courage also with which to overcome temptations and trials, wherein consists the practice of self-knowledge, which is the first step of the soul to the knowledge of God. Now, in this stanza the soul begins to advance through consideration and knowledge of creatures to the knowledge of the Beloved their Creator. For the consideration of the creature, after the practice of self-knowledge, is the first in order on the spiritual road to the knowledge of God, Whose grandeur and magnificence they declare, as the Apostle says: "For His invisible things from the creation of the world are seen, being understood by these things that are made."[70] It is as if he said, "The invisible things of God are made known to the soul by created things, visible and invisible."

2. The soul, then, in this stanza addresses itself to creatures inquiring after the Beloved. And we observe, as St. Augustine[71] says, that the inquiry made of creatures is a meditation on the Creator, for which they furnish the matter. Thus, in this stanza the soul meditates on the elements and the rest of the lower creation; on the heavens, and on the rest of created and material things which God has made therein; also on the heavenly Spirits, saying:

"O groves and thickets."

3. The groves are the elements, earth, water, air, and fire. As the most pleasant groves are studded with plants and shrubs, so the elements are thick with creatures, and here are called thickets because of the number and variety of creatures in each. The earth contains innumerable varieties of animals and plants, the water of fish, the air of birds, and fire concurs with all in animating and sustaining them. Each kind of animal lives in its proper element, placed and planted there, as in its own grove and soil where it is born and nourished; and, in truth, God so ordered it when He made them; He commanded the earth to bring forth herbs and animals; the waters and the sea, fish; and the air He gave as a habitation to birds. The soul, therefore, considering that this is the effect of His commandment, cries out,

"Planted by the hand of the Beloved."

4. That which the soul considers now is this: the hand of God the Beloved only could have created and nurtured all these varieties and wonderful things. The soul says deliberately, "by the hand of the Beloved," because God does many things by the hands of others, as of angels and men; but the work of creation has never been, and never is, the work of any other hand than His own. Thus the soul, considering the creation, is profoundly stirred up to love God the Beloved for it beholds all things to be the work of His hands, and goes on to say:

"O verdant meads."

5. These are the heavens; for the things which He has created in the heavens are of incorruptible freshness, which neither perish nor wither with time, where the just are refreshed as in the green pastures. The present consideration includes all the varieties of the stars in their beauty, and the other works in the heavens.

6. The Church also applies the term "verdure" to heavenly things; for while praying to God for the departing soul, it addresses it as follows: "May Christ, the Son of the living God, give you a place in the ever-pleasant verdure of His paradise."[72] The soul also says that this verdant mead is

"Enameled with flowers."

7. The flowers are the angels and the holy souls who adorn and beautify that place, as costly and fine enamel on a vase of pure gold.

"Tell me, has He passed by you?"

8. This inquiry is the consideration of the creature just spoken of, and is in effect: Tell me, what perfections has He created in you?



A thousand graces diffusing
He passed through the groves in haste,
And merely regarding them
As He passed,
Clothed them with His beauty.

THIS is the answer of the creatures to the soul which, according to St. Augustine, in the same place, is the testimony which they furnish to the majesty and perfections of God, for which it asked in its meditation on created things. The meaning of this stanza is, in substance, as follows: God created all things with great ease and rapidity, and left in them some tokens of Himself, not only by creating them out of nothing, but also by endowing them with innumerable graces and qualities, making them beautiful in admirable order and unceasing mutual dependence. All this He wrought in wisdom, by which He created them, which is the Word, His only begotten Son. Then the soul says;

"A thousand graces diffusing."

2. These graces are the innumerable multitude of His creatures. The term "thousand," which the soul makes use of, denotes not their number, but the impossibility of numbering them. They are called grace because of the qualities with which He has endowed them. He is said to diffuse them because He fills the whole world with them.

"He passed through the groves in haste."

3. To pass through the groves is to create the elements; here called groves, through which He is said to pass, diffusing a thousand graces, because He adorned them with creatures which are all beautiful. Moreover, He diffused among them a thousand graces, giving the power of generation and self-conservation. He is said to pass through, because the creatures are, as it were, traces of the passage of God, revealing His majesty, power, and wisdom, and His other divine attributes. He is said to pass in haste, because the creatures are the least of the works of God: He made them, as it were, in passing. His greatest works, wherein He is most visible and at rest, are the incarnation of the Word and the mysteries of the Christian faith, in comparison with which all His other works were works wrought in passing and in haste.

"And thereby regarding them As He passed, Clothed them with His beauty."

4. The son of God is, in the words of St. Paul, "the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance."[73] God saw all things only in the face of His Son. This was to give them their natural being, bestowing upon them many graces and natural gifts, making them perfect, as it is written in the book of Genesis: "God saw all the things that He had made: and they were very good."[74] To see all things very good was to make them very good in the Word, His Son. He not only gave them their being and their natural graces when He beheld them, but He also clothed them with beauty in the face of His Son, communicating to them a supernatural being when He made man, and exalted him to the beauty of God, and, by consequence, all creatures in him, because He united Himself to the nature of them all in man. For this cause the Son of God Himself said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things to Myself."[75] And thus in this exaltation of the incarnation of His Son, and the glory of His resurrection according to the flesh, the Father not only made all things beautiful in part, but also, we may well say, clothed them wholly with beauty and dignity.


BUT beyond all this -- speaking now of contemplation as it affects the soul and makes an impression on it -- in the vivid contemplation and knowledge of created things the soul beholds such a multiplicity of graces, powers, and beauty with which God has endowed them, that they seem to it to be clothed with admirable beauty and supernatural virtue derived from the infinite supernatural beauty of the face of God, whose beholding of them clothed the heavens and the earth with beauty and joy; as it is written: "You open Your hand and fill with blessing every living creature."[76] Hence the soul wounded with love of that beauty of the Beloved which it traces in created things, and anxious to behold that beauty which is the source of this visible beauty, sings as in the following stanza:




Oh! who can heal me?
Give me perfectly Yourself,
Send me no more
A messenger
Who cannot tell me what I wish.

AS created things furnish to the soul traces of the Beloved, and exhibit the impress of His beauty and magnificence, the love of the soul increases, and consequently the pain of His absence: for the greater the soul's knowledge of God the greater its desire to see Him, and its pain when it cannot; and as it sees there is no remedy for this pain except in the presence and vision of the Beloved, distrustful of every other remedy, it prays in this stanza for the fruition of His presence, saying: "Entertain me no more with any knowledge or communications or impressions of Your grandeur, for these do but increase my longing and the pain of Your absence; Your presence alone can satisfy my will and desire." The will cannot be satisfied with anything less than the vision of God, and therefore the soul prays that He may be pleased to give Himself to it in truth, in perfect love.

"O! who can heal me?"

2. That is, there is nothing in all the delights of the world, nothing in the satisfaction of the senses, nothing in the sweet taste of the spirit that can heal or content me, and therefore it adds:

"Give me at once Yourself."

3. No soul that really loves can be satisfied or content short of the fruition of God. For everything else, as I have just said, not only does not satisfy the soul, but rather increases the hunger and thirst of seeing Him as He us. Thus every glimpse of the Beloved, every knowledge and impression or communication from Him -- these are the messengers suggestive of Him -- increase and quicken the soul's desire after Him, as crumbs of food in hunger stimulate the appetite. The soul, therefore, mourning over the misery of being entertained by matters of so little moment, cries out:

"Give me perfectly Yourself."

4. Now all our knowledge of God in this life, however great it may be, is not a perfectly true knowledge of Him, because it is partial and incomplete; but to know Him essentially is true knowledge, and that is it which the soul prays for here, not satisfied with any other kind. Hence it says:

"Send me no more a messenger."

5. That is, grant that I may no longer know You in this imperfect way by the messengers of knowledge and impressions, which are so distant from that which my soul desires; for these messengers, as You well know, O my Bridegroom, do but increase the pain of Your absence. They renew the wound which You have inflicted by the knowledge of You which they convey, and they seem to delay Your coming. Henceforth send me no more of these inadequate communications, for if I have been hitherto satisfied with them, it was owing to the slightness of my knowledge and of my love: now that my love has become great, I cannot satisfy myself with them; therefore, give me at once Yourself.

6. This, more clearly expressed, is as follows: "O Lord my Bridegroom, Who gave me Yourself partially before, give me Yourself wholly now. You who showed glimpses of Yourself before, show Yourself clearly now. You who communicated Yourself hitherto by the instrumentality of messengers -- it was as if You mocked me -- give Yourself by Yourself now. Sometimes when You visited me You gave me the pearl of Your possession, and, when I began to examine it, lo, it was gone, for You had hidden it Yourself: it was like a mockery. Give me then Yourself in truth, Your whole self, that I may have You wholly to myself wholly, and send me no messengers again."

"Who cannot tell me what I wish."

7. "I wish for You wholly, and Your messengers neither know You wholly, nor can they speak of You wholly, for there is nothing in earth or heaven that can furnish that knowledge to the soul which it longs for. They cannot tell me, therefore, what I wish. Instead, then, of these messengers, be You the messenger and the message."



All they who serve are telling me
Of Your unnumbered graces;
And all wound me more and more,
And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.

THE soul describes itself in the foregoing stanza as wounded, or sick with love of the Bridegroom, because of the knowledge of Him which the irrational creation supplies, and in the present, as wounded with love because of the other and higher knowledge which it derives from the rational creation, nobler than the former; that is, angels and men. This is not all, for the soul says also that it is dying of love, because of that marvelous immensity not wholly but partially revealed to it through the rational creation. This it calls "I know not what," because it cannot be described, and because it is such that the soul dies of it.

2. It seems, from this, that there are three kinds of pain in the soul's love of the Beloved, corresponding to the three kinds of knowledge that can be had of Him. The first is called a wound; not deep, but slight, like a wound which heals quickly, because it comes from its knowledge of the creatures, which are the lowest works of God. This wounding of the soul, called also sickness, is thus spoken of by the bride in the Canticle: "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell Him that I languish with love."[77] The daughters of Jerusalem are the creatures.

3. The second is called a sore which enters deeper than a wound into the soul, and is, therefore, of longer continuance, because it is as a wound festering, on account of which the soul feels that it is really dying of love. This sore is the effect of the knowledge of the works of God, the incarnation of the Word, and the mysteries of the faith. These being the greatest works of God, and involving a greater love than those of creation, produce a greater effect of love in the soul. If the first kind of pain is as a wound, this must be like a festering, continuous sore. Of this speaks the Bridegroom, addressing Himself to the bride, saying: "You have wounded My heart, My sister, My bride; you have wounded My heart with one of your eyes, and with one hair of your neck."[78] The eye signifies faith in the incarnation of the Bridegroom, and the one hair is the love of the same.

4. The third kind of pain is like dying; it is as if the whole soul were festering because of its wound. It is dying a living death until love, having slain it, shall make it live the life of love, transforming it in love. This dying of love is affected by a single touch of the knowledge of the Divinity; it is the "I know not what," of which the creatures, as in the stanza is said, are speaking indistinctly. This touch is not continuous nor great, -- for then soul and body would part -- but soon over, and thus the soul is dying of love, and dying the more when it sees that it cannot die of love.[79] This is called impatient love, which is spoken of in the book of Genesis, where the Scripture says that Rachel's love of children was so great that she said to Jacob her husband, "Give me children, otherwise I shall die."[80] And the prophet Job said, "Who will grant that . . . He that has begun the same would cut me off."[81]

5. These two-fold pains of love -- that is, the wound and the dying -- are in the stanza said to be merely the rational creation. The wound, when it speaks of the unnumbered graces of the Beloved in the mysteries and wisdom of God taught by the faith. The dying, when it is said that the rational creation speaks indistinctly. This is a sense and knowledge of the Divinity sometimes revealed when the soul hears God spoken of. Therefore it says:

"All they who serve."

6. That is, the rational creation, angels and men; for these alone are they who serve God, understanding by that word intelligent service; that is to say, all they who serve God. Some serve Him by contemplation and fruition in heaven -- these are the angels; others by loving and longing for Him on earth -- these are men. And because the soul learns to know God more distinctly through the rational creation, whether by considering its superiority over the rest of creation, or by what it teaches us of God -- the angels interiorly by secret inspirations, and men exteriorly by the truths of Scripture -- it says:

"Telling me of Your unnumbered graces."

7. That is, they speak of the wonders of Your grace and mercy in the Incarnation, and in the truths of the faith which they show forth and are ever telling more distinctly; for the more they say, the more do they reveal Your graces.

"And all wound me more and more."

8. The more the angels inspire me, the more men teach me, the more do I love You; and thus all wound me more and more with love.

"And something leaves me dying, I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking."

9. It is as if it said: "But beside the wound which the creatures inflict when they tell me of Your unnumbered graces, there is yet something which remains to be told, one thing unknown to be uttered, a most clear trace of the footsteps of God revealed to the soul, which it should follow, a most profound knowledge of God, which is ineffable, and therefore spoken of as `I know not what.'" If that which I comprehend inflicts the wound and festering sore of love, that which I cannot comprehend but yet feel profoundly, kills me.

10. This happens occasionally to souls advanced, whom God favors in what they hear, or see, or understand -- and sometimes without these or other means -- with a certain profound knowledge, in which they feel or apprehend the greatness and majesty of God. In this state they think so highly of God as to see clearly that they know Him not, and in their perception of His greatness they recognize that not to comprehend Him is the highest comprehension. And thus, one of the greatest favors of God, bestowed transiently on the soul in this life, is to enable it to see so distinctly, and to feel so profoundly, that it clearly understands it cannot comprehend Him at all. These souls are herein, in some degree, like the saints in heaven, where they who know Him most perfectly perceive most clearly that He is infinitely incomprehensible, for those who have the less clear vision, do not perceive so distinctly as the others, how greatly He transcends their vision. This is clear to none who have not had experience of it. But the experienced soul, comprehending that there is something further of which it is profoundly sensible, calls it, "I know not what." As that cannot be understood, so neither can it be described, though it is felt, as I have said. Hence the soul says that the creatures speak indistinctly, because they cannot distinctly utter that which they would say: it is the speech of infants, who cannot explain distinctly or speak intelligibly that which they would convey to others.

11. The other creatures, also, are in some measure a revelation to the soul in this way, but not of an order so high, whenever it is the good pleasure of God to manifest to it their spiritual sense and significance; they are seemingly on the point of making us understand the perfections of God, and cannot compass it; it is as if one were about to explain a matter and the explanation is not given; and thus they stammer "I know not what." The soul continues to complain, and addresses its own life, saying, in the stanza that follows:



But how you persevere, O life!
Not living where you live;
The arrows bring death
Which you receive
From your conceptions of the Beloved.

THE soul, perceiving itself to be dying of love, as it has just said, and yet not dying so as to have the free enjoyment of its love, complains of the continuance of its bodily life, by which the spiritual life is delayed. Here the soul addresses itself to the life it is living upon earth, magnifying the sorrows of it. The meaning of the stanza therefore is as follows: "O life of my soul, how can you persevere in this life of the flesh, seeing that it is your death and the privation of the true spiritual life in God, in Whom you live in substance, love, and desire, more truly than in the body? And if this were not reason enough to depart, and free yourself from the body of this death, so as to live and enjoy the life of God, how can you still remain in a body so frail? Besides, these wounds of love made by the Beloved in the revelation of His majesty are by themselves alone sufficient to put an end to your life, for they are very deep; and thus all your feelings towards Him, and all you know of Him, are so many touches and wounds of love that kill,

"But how you persevere, O life! Not living where you live."

2. We must keep in mind, for the better understanding of this, that the soul lives there where it loves, rather than in the body which it animates. The soul does not live by the body, but, on the contrary, gives it life, and lives by love in that which it loves. For beside this life of love which it lives in God Who loves it, the soul has its radical and natural life in God, like all created things, according to the saying of St. Paul: "In Him we live, and move, and are;"[82] that is, our life, motion, and being is in God. St. John also says that all that was made was life in God: "That which was made, in Him was life."[83]

3. When the soul sees that its natural life is in God through the being He has given it, and its spiritual life also because of the love it bears Him, it breaks forth into lamentations, complaining that so frail a life in a mortal body should have the power to hinder it from the fruition of the true, real, and delicious life, which it lives in God by nature and by love. Earnestly, therefore, does the soul insist upon this: it tells us that it suffers between two contradictions -- its natural life in the body, and its spiritual life in God; contrary the one to the other, because of their mutual repugnance. The soul living this double life is of necessity in great pain; for the painful life hinders the delicious, so that the natural life is as death, seeing that it deprives the soul of its spiritual life, wherein is its whole being and life by nature, and all its operations and feelings by love. The soul, therefore, to depict more vividly the hardships of this fragile life, says:

"The arrows bring death which you receive."

4. That is to say: "Besides, how can you continue in the body, seeing that the touches of love -- these are the arrows -- with which the Beloved pierces your heart, are alone sufficient to deprive you of life?" These touches of love make the soul and heart so fruitful of the knowledge and love of God, that they may well be called conceptions of God, as in the words that follow:

"From your conceptions of the Beloved."

5. That is, of the majesty, beauty, wisdom, grace, and power, which you know to be His.


AS the hart wounded with a poisoned arrow cannot be easy and at rest, but seeks relief on all sides, plunging into the waters here and again there, while the poison spreads notwithstanding all attempts at relief, till it reaches the heart, and occasions death; so the soul, pierced by the arrow of love, never ceases from seeking to alleviate its pains. Not only does it not succeed, but its pains increase, let it think, and say, and do what it may; and knowing this, and that there is no other remedy but the resignation of itself into the hands of Him Who wounded it, that He may relieve it, and effectually slay it through the violence of its love; it turns towards the Bridegroom, Who is the cause of all, and says:



Why, after wounding
This heart, have You not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
Have You thus abandoned it,
And not carried away the stolen prey?

HERE the soul returns to the Beloved, still complaining of its pain; for that impatient love which the soul now exhibits admits of no rest or cessation from pain; so it sets forth its griefs in all manner of ways until it finds relief. The soul seeing itself wounded and lonely, and as no one can heal it but the Beloved Who has wounded it, asks why He, having wounded its heart with that love which the knowledge of Him brings, does not heal it in the vision of His presence; and why He thus abandons the heart which He has stolen through the love Which inflames it, after having deprived the soul of all power over it. The soul has now no power over its heart -- for he who loves has none -- because it is surrendered to the Beloved, and yet He has not taken it to Himself in the pure and perfect transformation of love in glory.

"Why, after wounding this heart, have You not healed it?"

2. The enamored soul is complaining not because it is wounded, for the deeper the wound the greater the joy, but because, being wounded, it is not healed by being wounded to death. The wounds of love are so deliciously sweet, that if they do not kill, they cannot satisfy the soul. They are so sweet that it desires to die of them, and hence it is that it says, "Why, after wounding this heart, have You not healed it?" That is, "Why have You struck it so sharply as to wound it so deeply, and yet not healed it by killing it utterly with love? As You are the cause of its pain in the affliction of love, be You also the cause of its health by a death from love; so the heart, wounded by the pain of Your absence, shall be healed in the delight and glory of Your Sweet presence." Therefore it goes on:

"And why, after stealing it, have You thus abandoned it?"

3. Stealing is nothing else but the act of a robber in dispossessing the owner of his goods, and possessing them himself. Here the soul complains to the Beloved that He has robbed it of its heart lovingly, and taken it out of its power and possession, and then abandoned it, without taking it into His own power and possession as the thief does with the goods he steals, carrying them away with him. He who is in love is said to have lost his heart, or to have it stolen by the object of his love; because it is no longer in his own possession, but in the power of the object of his love, and so his heart is not his own, but the property of the person he loves.

4. This consideration will enable the soul to determine whether it loves God simply or not. If it loves Him it will have no heart for itself, nor for its own pleasure or profit, but for the honor, glory, and pleasure of God; because the more the heart is occupied with self, the less is it occupied with God. Whether God has really stolen the heart, the soul may ascertain by either of these two signs: Is it anxiously seeking after God? and has it no pleasure in anything but in Him, as the soul here says? The reason of this is that the heart cannot rest in peace without the possession of something; and when its affections are once placed, it has neither the possession of itself nor of anything else; neither does it perfectly possess what it loves. In this state its weariness is in proportion to its loss, until it shall enter into possession and be satisfied; for until then the soul is as an empty vessel waiting to be filled, as a hungry man eager for food, as a sick man sighing for health, and as a man suspended in the air.

"And not carried away the stolen prey?"

5. "Why do You not carry away the heart which Your love has stolen, to fill it, to heal it, and to satiate it giving it perfect rest in Yourself?"

6. The loving soul, for the sake of greater conformity with the Beloved, cannot cease to desire the recompense and reward of its love for the sake of which it serves the Beloved, otherwise it could not be true love, for the recompense of love is nothing else, and the soul seeks nothing else, but greater love, until it reaches the perfection of love; for the sole reward of love is love, as we learn from the prophet Job, who, speaking of his own distress, which is that of the soul now referred to, says: "As a servant longs for the shade, as the hireling looks for the end of his work; so I also have had empty months, and have numbered to myself wearisome nights. If I sleep, I say, When shall I arise? and again, I shall look for the evening, and shall be filled with sorrows even till darkness."[84]

7. Thus, then, the soul on fire with the love of God longs for the perfection and consummation of its love, that it may be completely refreshed. As the servant wearied by the heat of the day longs for the cooling shade, and as the hireling looks for the end of his work, so the soul for the end of its own. Observe, Job does not say that the hireling looks for the end of his labor, but only for the end of his work. He teaches us that the soul which loves looks not for the end of its labor, but for the end of its work; because its work is to love, and it is the end of this work, which is love, that it hopes for, namely, the perfect love of God. Until it attains to this, the words of Job will be always true of it -- its months will be empty, and its nights wearisome and tedious. It is clear, then, that the soul which loves God seeks and looks for no other reward of its services than to love God perfectly.


THE soul, having reached this degree of love, resembles a sick man exceedingly wearied, whose appetite is gone, and to whom his food is loathsome, and all things annoyance and trouble. Amidst all things that present themselves to his thoughts, or feelings, or sight, his only wish and desire is health; and everything that does not contribute to it is weariness and oppressive. The soul, therefore, in pain because of its love of God, has three peculiarities. Under all circumstances, and in all affairs, the thought of its health -- that is, the Beloved -- is ever present to it; and though it is obliged to attend to them because it cannot help it, its heart is ever with Him. The second peculiarity, namely, a loss of pleasure in everything, arises from the first. The third also, a consequence of the second, is that all things become wearisome, and all affairs full of vexation and annoyance.

2. The reason is that the palate of the will having touched and tasted of the food of the love of God, the will instantly, under all circumstances, regardless of every other consideration, seeks the fruition of the Beloved. It is with the soul now as it was with Mary Magdalene, when in her burning love she sought Him in the garden. She, thinking Him to be the gardener, spoke to Him without further reflection, saying: "If you have taken Him hence, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."[85] The soul is under the influence of a like anxiety to find Him in all things, and not finding Him immediately, as it desires -- but rather the very reverse -- not only has no pleasure in them, but is even tormented by them, and sometimes exceedingly so: for such souls suffer greatly in their intercourse with men and in the transactions of the world, because these things hinder rather than help them in their search.

3. The bride in the Canticle shows us that she had these three peculiarities when seeking the Bridegroom. "I sought Him and found Him not; the keepers that go about the city found me, they struck me and wounded me: the keepers of the walls took away my cloak."[86] The keepers that go about the city are the affairs of this world, which, when they "find" a soul seeking after God, inflict upon it much pain, and grief, and loathing; for the soul not only does not find in them what it seeks, but rather a hindrance. They who keep the wall of contemplation, that the soul may not enter -- that is, evil spirits and worldly affairs -- take away the cloak of peace and the quiet of loving contemplation. All this inflicts infinite vexation on the soul enamored of God; and while it remains on earth without the vision of God, there is no relief, great or small, from these afflictions, and the soul therefore continues to complain to the Beloved, saying:



Quench my troubles,
For no one else can soothe them;
And let my eyes behold You,
For You are their light,
And I will keep them for You alone.

HERE the soul continues to beseech the Beloved to put an end to its anxieties and distress -- none other than He can do so -- and that in such a way that its eyes may behold Him; for He alone is the light by which they see, and there is none other but He on whom it will look.

"Quench my troubles."

2. The desire of love has this property, that everything said or done which does not become that which the will loves, wearies and annoys it, and makes it peevish when it sees itself disappointed in its desires. This and its weary longing after the vision of God is here called "troubles." These troubles nothing can remove except the possession of the Beloved; hence the soul prays Him to quench them with His presence, to cool their feverishness, as the cooling water him who is wearied by the heat. The soul makes use of the expression "quench," to denote its sufferings from the fire of love.

"For no one else can soothe them."

3. The soul, in order to move and persuade the Beloved to grant its petition, says, "As none other but You can satisfy my needs, You quench my troubles." Remember here that God is then close at hand, to comfort the soul and to satisfy its wants, when it has and seeks no satisfaction or comfort out of Him. The soul that finds no pleasure out of God cannot be long unvisited by the Beloved.

"And let my eyes behold You."

4. Let me see You face to face with the eyes of the soul,

"For you are their light."

5. God is the supernatural light of the soul, without which it abides in darkness. And now, in the excess of its affection, it calls Him the light of its eyes, as an earthly lover, to express his affection, calls the object of his love the light of his eyes. The soul says in effect in the foregoing terms, "Since my eyes have no other light, either of nature or of love, but You, let them behold You, Who in every way are their light." David was regretting this light when he said in his trouble, "The light of my eyes, and the same is not with me;"[87] and Tobit, when he said, "What manner of joy shall be to me who sit in darkness, and see not the light of heaven?"[88] He was longing for the clear vision of God; for the light of heaven is the Son of God; as St. John says in the Revelation: "And the city needs not sun, nor moon to shine in it; for the glory of God has illuminated it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof."[89]

"And I will keep them for You alone."

6. The soul seeks to constrain the Bridegroom to let it see the light of its eyes, not only because it would be in darkness without it, but also because it will not look upon anything but on Him. For as that soul is justly deprived of this divine light if it fixes the eyes of the will on any other light, proceeding from anything that is not God, for then its vision is confined to that object; so also the soul, by a certain fitness, deserves the divine light, if it shuts its eyes against all objects whatever, to open them only for the vision of God.


BUT the loving Bridegroom of souls cannot bear to see them suffer long in the isolation of which I am speaking, for, as He says by the mouth of Zachariah, "He that shall touch you, touches the apple of My eye;"[90] especially when their sufferings, as those of this soul, proceed from their love for Him. Therefore does He speak through Isaiah, "It shall be before they call, I will hear; as they are yet speaking, I will hear."[91] And the wise man says that the soul that seeks Him as treasure shall find Him.[92] God grants a certain spiritual presence of Himself to the fervent prayers of the loving soul which seeks Him more earnestly than treasure, seeing that it has abandoned all things, and even itself, for His sake.

2. In that presence He shows certain profound glimpses of His divinity and beauty, whereby He still increases the soul's anxious desire to behold Him. For as men throw water on the coals of the forge to cause intenser heat, so our Lord in His dealings with certain souls, in the intermission of their love, makes some revelations of His majesty, to quicken their fervor, and to prepare them more and more for those graces which He will give them afterwards. Thus the soul, in that obscure presence of God, beholding and feeling the supreme good and beauty hidden there, is dying in desire of the vision, saying in the stanza that follows:

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