Hide yourself, O my Beloved!
Turn Your face to the mountains,
Do not speak,
But regard the companions
Of her who is traveling amidst strange islands.

HERE the bride presents four petitions to the Bridegroom. She prays that He would be pleased to converse with her most interiorly in the secret chamber of the soul. The second, that He would invest and inform her faculties with the glory and excellence of His Divinity. The third, that He would converse with her so profoundly as to surpass all knowledge and expression, and in such a way that the exterior and sensual part may not perceive it. The fourth, that He would love the many virtues and graces which He has implanted in her, adorned with which she is ascending upwards to God in the highest knowledge of the Divinity, and in transports of love most strange and singular, surpassing those of ordinary experience.

"Hide Yourself, O my Beloved!"

2. "O my Bridegroom, most beloved, hide Yourself in the inmost depths of my soul, communicating Yourself to it in secret, and manifesting Your hidden wonders which no mortal eyes may see.

"Turn Your face to the mountains."

3. The face of God is His divinity. The mountains are the powers of the soul, memory, understanding, and will. Thus the meaning of these words is: Enlighten my understanding with Your Divinity, and give it the divine intelligence, fill my will with divine love, and my memory with divine possession of glory. The bride here prays for all that may be prayed for; for she is not content with that knowledge of God once granted to Moses[173] -- the knowledge of Him by His works -- for she prays to see the face of God, which is the essential communication of His Divinity to the soul, without any intervening medium, by a certain knowledge thereof in the Divinity. This is something beyond sense, and divested of accidents, inasmuch as it is the contact of pure substances -- that is, of the soul and the Divinity.

"Do not speak."

4. That is, do not speak as before, when Your conversation with me was known to the outward senses, for it was once such as to be comprehended by them; it was not so profound but they could fathom it. Now let Your conversation with me be so deep and so substantial, and so interior, as to be above the reach of the senses; for the substance of the spirit is incommunicable to sense, and the communication made through the senses, especially in this life, cannot be purely spiritual, because the senses are not capable of it. The soul, therefore, longing for that substantial and essential communication of God, of which sense cannot be cognizant, prays the Bridegroom not to speak: that is to say, let the deep secret of the spiritual union be such as to escape the notice of the senses, like the secret which St. Paul heard, and which it is not lawful for a man to speak.[174]

"But regard the companions."

5. The regard of God is love and grace. The companions here are the many virtues of the soul, its gifts, perfections, and other spiritual graces with which God has endowed it; pledges, tokens, and presents of its betrothal. Thus the meaning of the words seems to be this: "Turn Your face to the interior of my soul, O my Beloved; be enamored of the treasures which You have laid up there, so that, enamored of them, You may hide Yourself among them and there dwell; for in truth, though they are Yours, they are mine also, because You have given them."

"Of her who travels amidst strange islands."

6. That is, "Of my soul tending towards You through strange knowledge of You, by strange ways" -- strange to sense and to the ordinary perceptions of nature. It is as if the bride said, by way of constraining Him to yield: "Seeing that my soul is tending towards You through knowledge which is spiritual, strange, unknown to sense, also communicate Yourself to it so interiorly and so profoundly that the senses may not observe it."


IN order to the attainment of a state of perfection so high as this of the spiritual marriage, the soul that aims at it must not only be purified and cleansed from all the imperfections, rebellions, and imperfect habits of the inferior part, which is now -- the old man being put away -- subject and obedient to the higher, but it must also have great courage and most exalted love for so strong and close an embrace of God. For in this state the soul not only attains to exceeding pureness and beauty, but also acquires a terrible strength by reason of that strict and close bond which in this union binds it to God. The soul, therefore, in order to reach this state must have purity, strength, and adequate love. The Holy Spirit, the author of this spiritual union, desirous that the soul should attain thus far in order to merit it, addresses Himself to the Father and the Son, saying: "Our sister is little, and has no breasts. What shall we do to our sister in the day when she is to be spoken to? If she is a wall, let us build upon it bulwarks of silver; if she is a door, let us join it together with boards of cedar."[175]

2. The "bulwarks of silver" are the strong heroic virtues comprised in the faith, which is signified by silver, and these heroic virtues are those of the spiritual marriage, which are built upon the soul, signified by the wall, relying on the strength of which, the peaceful Bridegroom reposes undisturbed by any infirmities. The "boards of cedar" are the affections and accessories of this deep love which is signified by the cedar-tree, and this is the love of the spiritual marriage. In order "to join it together," that is, to adorn the bride, it is necessary she should be the door for the Bridegroom to enter through, keeping the door of the will open in a perfect and true consent of love, which is the consent of the betrothal given previous to the spiritual marriage. The breasts of the bride are also this perfect love which she must have in order to appear in the presence of Christ her Bridegroom for the perfection of such a state.

3. It is written in the Canticle that the bride in her longing for this presence immediately replied, saying: "I am a wall: and my breasts are as a tower" -- that is, "My soul is strong, and my love most deep" -- that He may not fail her on that ground. The bride, too, had expressed as much in the preceding stanzas, out of the fullness of her longing for the perfect union and transformation, and particularly in the last, wherein she set before the Bridegroom all the virtues, graces, and good dispositions with which she was adorned by Him, and that with the object of making Him the prisoner of her love.

4. Now the Bridegroom, to bring this matter to a close, replies in the two stanzas that follow, which describe Him as perfectly purifying the soul, strengthening and disposing it, both as to its sensual and spiritual part, for this state, and charging all resistance and rebellion, both of the flesh and of the devil, to cease, saying:




Light-winged birds,
Lions, fawns, bounding does,
Mountains, valleys, strands,
Waters, winds, heat,
And the terrors that keep watch by night;
By the soft lyres
And the siren strains, I adjure you,
Let your fury cease,
And touch not the wall,
That the bride may sleep in greater security.

HERE the Son of God, the Bridegroom, leads the bride into the enjoyment of peace and tranquillity in the conformity of her lower to her higher nature, purging away all her imperfections, subjecting the natural powers of the soul to reason, and mortifying all her desires, as it is expressed in these two stanzas, the meaning of which is as follows. In the first place the Bridegroom adjures and commands all vain distractions of the fancy and imagination from henceforth to cease, and controls the irascible and concupiscible faculties which were previously the sources of so much affliction. He brings, so far as it is possible in this life, the three powers of memory, understanding, and will to the perfection of their objects, and then adjures and commands the four passions of the soul, joy, hope, grief, and fear, to be still, and bids them from henceforth be moderate and calm.

2. All these passions and faculties are comprehended under the expressions employed in the first stanza, the operations of which, full of trouble, the Bridegroom subdues by that great sweetness, joy, and courage which the bride enjoys in the spiritual surrender of Himself to her which God makes at this time; under the influence of which, because God transforms the soul effectually in Himself, all the faculties, desires, and movements of the soul lose their natural imperfection and become divine.

"Light-winged birds."

3. These are the distractions of the imagination, light and rapid in their flight from one subject to another. When the will is tranquilly enjoying the sweet conversation of the Beloved, these distractions produce weariness, and in their swift flight quench its joy. The Bridegroom adjures them by the soft lyres. That is, now that the sweetness of the soul is so abundant and so continuous that they cannot interfere with it, as they did before when it had not reached this state, He adjures them, and bids them cease from their disquieting violence. The same explanation is to be given of the rest of the stanza.

"Lions, fawns, bounding does."

4. By the lions is meant the raging violence of the irascible faculty, which in its acts is bold and daring as a lion. The "fawns and bounding does" are the concupiscible faculty -- that is, the power of desire, the qualities of which are two, timidity and rashness. Timidity betrays itself when things do not turn out according to our wishes, for then the mind retires within itself discouraged, and in this respect the soul resembles the fawns. For as fawns have the concupiscible faculty stronger than many other animals, so are they more retiring and more timid. Rashness betrays itself when we have our own way, for the mind is then neither retiring nor timid, but desires boldly, and gratifies all its inclinations. This quality of rashness is compared to the does, who so eagerly seek what they desire that they not only run, but even leap after it; hence they are described as bounding does.

5. Thus the Bridegroom, in adjuring the lions, restrains the violence and controls the fury of rage; in adjuring the fawns, He strengthens the concupiscible faculty against timidity and irresolution; and in adjuring the does He satisfies and subdues the desires which were restless before, leaping, like deer, from one object to another, to satisfy that concupiscence which is now satisfied by the soft lyres, the sweetness of which it enjoys, and by the siren strains, in the delight of which it revels.

6. But the Bridegroom does not adjure anger and concupiscence themselves, because these passions never cease from the soul -- but their vexations and disorderly acts, signified by the "lions, fawns, and bounding does," for it is necessary that these disorderly acts should cease in this state.

"Mountains, valleys, strands."

7. These are the vicious and disorderly actions of the three faculties of the soul -- memory, understanding, and will. These actions are disorderly and vicious when they are in extremes, or, if not in extreme, tending to one extreme or other. Thus the mountains signify those actions which are vicious in excess, mountains being high; the valleys, being low, signify those which are vicious in the extreme of defect. Strands, which are neither high nor low, but, inasmuch as they are not perfectly level, tend to one extreme or other, signify those acts of the three powers of the soul which depart slightly in either direction from the true mean and equality of justice. These actions, though not disorderly in the extreme, as they would be if they amounted to mortal sin, are nevertheless disorderly in part, tending towards venial sin or imperfection, however slight that tendency may be, in the understanding, memory, and will. He adjures also all these actions which depart from the true mean, and bids them cease before the soft lyres and the siren strains, which so effectually charm the powers of the soul as to occupy them completely in their true and proper functions, so that they avoid not only all extremes, but also the slightest tendency to them.

"Waters, winds, heat, and the terrors that keep watch by night."

8. These are the affections of the four passions, grief, hope, joy, and fear. The waters are the affections of grief which afflict the soul, for they rush into it like water. "Save me, O God," says the Psalmist, "for the waters have come in even to my soul."[176] The winds are the affections of hope, for they rush forth like wind, desiring what which is not present but hoped for, as the Psalmist says: "I opened my mouth and drew breath: because I longed for Your commandments."[177] That is, "I opened the mouth of my hope, and drew in the wind of desire, because I hoped and longed for Your commandments." Heat is the affections of joy which, like fire, inflame the heart, as it is written: "My heart waxed hot within me; and in my meditation a fire shall burn";[178] that is, "while I meditate I shall have joy."

9. The "terrors that keep watch by night" are the affections of fear, which in spiritual persons who have not attained to the state of spiritual marriage are usually exceedingly strong. They come sometimes from God when He is going to bestow certain great graces upon souls, as I said before;[179] He is wont then to fill the mind with dread, to make the flesh tremble and the senses numb, because nature is not made strong and perfect and prepared for these graces. They come also at times from the evil spirit, who, out of envy and malignity, when he sees a soul sweetly recollected in God, labors to disturb its tranquillity by exciting horror and dread, in order to destroy so great a blessing, and sometimes utters his threats, as it were in the interior of the soul. But when he finds that he cannot penetrate within the soul, because it is so recollected, and so united with God, he strives at least in the province of sense to produce exterior distractions and inconstancy, sensible pains and horrors, if perchance he may in this way disturb the soul in the bridal chamber.

10. These are called terrors of the night, because they are the work of evil spirits, and because Satan labors, by the help thereof, to involve the soul in darkness, and to obscure the divine light wherein it rejoices. These terrors are called watchers, because they awaken the soul and rouse it from its sweet interior slumber, and also because Satan, their author, is ever on the watch to produce them. These terrors strike the soul of persons who are already spiritual, passively, and come either from God or the evil spirit. I do not refer to temporal or natural terrors, because spiritual men are not subject to these, as they are to those of which I am speaking.

11. The Beloved adjures the affections of these four passions, compels them to cease and to be at rest, because He supplies the bride now with force, and courage, and satisfaction, by the soft lyres of His sweetness and the siren strains of His delight, so that not only they shall not domineer over the soul, but shall not occasion it any distaste whatever. Such is the grandeur and stability of the soul in this state, that, although formerly the waters of grief overwhelmed it, because of its own or other men's sins -- which is what spiritual persons most feel -- the consideration of them now excites neither pain nor annoyance; even the sensible feeling of compassion no longer exists, though the effects of it continue in perfection. The weaknesses of its virtues are no longer in the soul, for they are now constant, strong, and perfect. As the angels perfectly appreciate all sorrowful things without the sense of pain, and perform acts of mercy without the sentiment of pity, so the soul in this transformation of love. God, however, dispenses sometimes, on certain occasions, with the soul in this matter, allowing it to feel and suffer, that it may become more fervent in love, and grow in merit, or for some other reasons, as He dispensed with His Virgin Mother, St. Paul, and others. This, however, is not the ordinary condition of this state.

12. Neither do the desires of hope afflict the soul now, because, satisfied in its union with God, so far as it is possible in this life, it has nothing of this world to hope for, and nothing spiritual to desire, seeing that it feels itself to be full of the riches of God, though it may grow in charity, and thus, whether living or dying, it is conformed to the will of God, saying with the sense and spirit, "Your will be done," free from the violence of inclination and desires; and accordingly even its longing for the beatific vision is without pain.

13. The affections of joy, also, which were wont to move the soul with more or less vehemence, are not sensibly diminished; neither does their abundance occasion any surprise. The joy of the soul is now so abundant that it is like the sea, which is not diminished by the rivers that flow out of it, nor increased by those that empty themselves into it; for the soul is now that fountain of which our Lord said that it is "springing up into life everlasting."[180]

14. I have said that the soul receives nothing new or unusual in this state of transformation; it seems to lose all accidental joy, which is not withheld even from the glorified. That is, accidental joys and sweetness are indeed no strangers to this soul; indeed, those which it ordinarily has cannot be numbered; yet, for all this, as to the substantial communication of the spirit, there is no increase of joy, for that which may occur anew the soul possesses already, and thus what the soul has already within itself is greater than anything that comes anew. Hence, then, whenever any subject of joy and gladness, whether exterior or spiritually interior, presents itself to the soul, the soul immediately starts rejoicing in the riches it possesses already within itself, and the joy it has in them is far greater than any which these new accessions minister, because, in a certain sense, God is become its possession, Who, though He delights in all things, yet in nothing so much as in Himself, seeing that He has all good eminently in Himself. Thus all accessions of joy serve to remind the soul that its real joy is in its interior possessions, rather than in these accidental causes, because, as I have said, the former are greater than the latter.

15. It is very natural for the soul, even when a particular matter gives it pleasure, that, possessing another of greater worth and gladness, it should remember it at once and take its pleasure in it. The accidental character of these spiritual accessions, and the new impressions they make on the soul, may be said to be as nothing in comparison with that substantial source which it has within itself: for the soul which has attained to the perfect transformation, and is full-grown, grows no more in this state by means of these spiritual accessions, as those souls do who have not yet advanced so far. It is a marvelous thing that the soul, while it receives no accessions of delight, should still seem to do so and also to have been in possession of them. The reason is that it is always tasting them anew, because they are ever renewed; and thus it seems to be continually the recipient of new accessions, while it has no need of them whatever.

16. But if we speak of that light of glory which in this, the soul's embrace, God sometimes produces within it, and which is a certain spiritual communion wherein He causes it to behold and enjoy at the same time the abyss of delight and riches which He has laid up within it, there is no language to express any degree of it. As the sun when it shines upon the sea illumines its great depths, and reveals the pearls, and gold, and precious stones therein, so the divine sun of the Bridegroom, turning towards the bride, reveals in a way the riches of her soul, so that even the angels behold her with amazement and say: "Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as the army of a camp set in array."[181] This illumination adds nothing to the grandeur of the soul, notwithstanding its greatness, because it merely reveals that which the soul already possessed in order that it might rejoice in it.

17. Finally, the terrors that keep watch by night do not come close to her, because of her pureness, courage, and confident trust in God; the evil spirits cannot shroud her in darkness, nor alarm her with terrors, nor disturb her with their violent assaults. Thus nothing can approach her, nothing can molest her, for she has escaped from all created things and entered into God, to the fruition of perfect peace, sweetness, and delight, so far as that is possible in this life. It is to this state that the words of Solomon are applicable: "A secure mind is as it were a continual feast."[182] As in a feast we have the savor of all meat, and the sweetness of all music, so in this feast, which the bride keeps in the bosom of her Beloved, the soul rejoices in all delight, and has the taste of all sweetness. All that I have said, and all that may be said, on this subject, will always fall short of that which passes in the soul which has attained to this blessed state. For when it shall have attained to the peace of God, "which," in the words of the Apostle, "surpasses all understanding,"[183] no description of its state is possible.

"By the soft lyres and the siren strains I adjure you."

18. The soft lyres are the sweetness which the Bridegroom communicates to the soul in this state, and by which He makes all its troubles to cease. As the music of lyres fills the soul with sweetness and delight, carries it rapturously out of itself, so that it forgets all its weariness and grief, so in like manner this sweetness so absorbs the soul that nothing painful can reach it. The Bridegroom says, in substance: "By that sweetness which I give you, let all your bitterness cease." The siren strains are the ordinary joys of the soul. These are called siren strains because, as it is said, the music of the sirens is so sweet and delicious that he who hears it is so rapt and so carried out of himself that he forgets everything. In the same way the soul is so absorbed in, and refreshed by, the delight of this union that it becomes, as it were, charmed against all the vexations and troubles that may assail it; it is to these the next words of the stanza refer:

"Let your fury cease."

19. This is the troubles and anxieties which flow from unruly acts and affections. As anger is a certain violence which disturbs peace, overlapping its bounds, so also all these affections in their motions transgress the bounds of the peace and tranquillity of the soul, disturbing it whenever they touch it. Hence the Bridegroom says:

"And touch not the wall."

20. The wall is the territory of peace and the fortress of virtue and perfections, which are the defenses and protection of the soul. The soul is the garden wherein the Beloved feeds among the flowers, defended and guarded for Him alone. Hence it is called in the Canticle "a garden enclosed."[184] The Bridegroom bids all disorderly emotions not to touch the territory and wall of His garden.

21. "That the bride may sleep in greater security." That is, that she is delighting herself with more sweetness in the tranquillity and sweetness she has in the Beloved. That is to say, that now no door is shut against the soul, and that it is in its power to abandon itself whenever it wills to this sweet sleep of love, according to the words of the Bridegroom in the Canticle, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and the harts of the fields, that you raise not up nor make the beloved to awake till herself will."[185]


THE Bridegroom was so anxious to rescue His bride from the power of the flesh and the devil and to set her free, that, having done so, He rejoices over her like the good shepherd who, having found the sheep that was lost, laid it upon his shoulders rejoicing; like the woman who, having found the money she had lost, after lighting a candle and sweeping the house, called "together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me."[186] So this loving Shepherd and Bridegroom of souls shows a marvelous joy and delight when He beholds a soul gained to perfection lying on His shoulders, and by His hands held fast in the longed-for embrace and union. He is not alone in His joy, for He makes the angels and the souls of the blessed partakers of His glory, saying, as in the Canticle, "Go forth, you daughters of Zion, and see king Solomon in the diadem with which his mother crowned him in the day of his betrothal, and in the day of the joy of his heart."[187] He calls the soul His crown, His bride, and the joy of His heart: He carries it in His arms, and as a bridegroom leads it into His bridal chamber, as we shall see in the following stanza:



The bride has entered
The pleasant and desirable garden,
And there reposes to her heart's content;
Her neck reclining
On the sweet arms of the Beloved.

THE bride having done what she could in order that the foxes may be caught, the north wind cease, the nymphs, hindrances to the desired joy of the state of spiritual marriage, forgo their troublesome importunities, and having also invoked and obtained the favorable wind of the Holy Spirit, which is the right disposition and means for the perfection of this state, it remains for me now to speak of it in the stanza in which the Bridegroom calls the soul His bride, and speaks of two things: 1. He says that the soul, having gone forth victoriously, has entered the delectable state of spiritual marriage, which they had both so earnestly desired. 2. He enumerates the properties of that state, into the fruition of which the soul has entered, namely, perfect repose, and the resting of the neck on the arms of the Beloved.

"The bride has entered."

2. For the better understanding of the arrangement of these stanzas, and of the way by which the soul advances till it reaches the state of spiritual marriage, which is the very highest, and of which, by the grace of God, I am now about to treat, we must keep in mind that the soul, before it enters it, must be tried in tribulations, in sharp mortifications, and in meditation on spiritual things. This is the subject of this canticle till we come to the fifth stanza, beginning with the words, "A thousand graces diffusing." Then the soul enters on the contemplative life, passing through those ways and straits of love which are described in the course of the canticle, till we come to the thirteenth, beginning with "Turn them away, O my Beloved!" This is the moment of the spiritual betrothal; and then the soul advances by the unitive way, the recipient of many and very great communications, jewels and gifts from the Bridegroom as to one betrothed, and grows into perfect love, as appears from the stanzas which follow that beginning with "Turn them away, O my Beloved!" (the moment of betrothal), to the present, beginning with the words:

"The bride has entered."

3. The spiritual marriage of the soul and the Son of God now remains to be accomplished. This is, beyond all comparison, a far higher state than that of betrothal, because it is a complete transformation into the Beloved; whereby they surrender each to the other the entire possession of themselves in the perfect union of love, wherein the soul becomes divine, and, by participation, God, so far as it is in this life. I believe that no soul ever attains to this state without being confirmed in grace, for the faithfulness of both is confirmed; that of God being confirmed in the soul. Hence it follows, that this is the very highest state possible in this life. As by natural marriage there are "two in one flesh,"[188] so also in the spiritual marriage between God and the soul there are two natures in one spirit and love, as we learn from St. Paul, who made use of the same metaphor, saying, "He that cleaves to the Lord is one spirit."[189] So, when the light of a star, or of a candle, is united to that of the sun, the light is not that of the star, nor of the candle, but of the sun itself, which absorbs all other light in its own.

4. It is of this state that the Bridegroom is now speaking, saying, "The bride has entered"; that is, out of all temporal and natural things, out of all spiritual affections, ways, and methods, having left on one side, and forgotten, all temptations, trials, sorrows, anxieties and cares, transformed in this embrace.

"The pleasant and desirable garden."

5. That is, the soul is transformed in God, Who is here called the pleasant garden because of the delicious and sweet repose which the soul finds in Him. But the soul does not enter the garden of perfect transformation, the glory and the joy of the spiritual marriage, without passing first through the spiritual betrothal, the mutual faithful love of the betrothed. When the soul has lived for some time as the bride of the Son, in perfect and sweet love, God calls it and leads it into His flourishing garden for the celebration of the spiritual marriage. Then the two natures are so united, what is divine is so communicated to what is human, that, without undergoing any essential change, each seems to be God -- yet not perfectly so in this life, though still in a manner which can neither be described nor conceived.

6. We learn this truth very clearly from the Bridegroom Himself in the Canticle, where He invites the soul, now His bride, to enter this state, saying: "I am come into my garden, O My sister, My bride: I have gathered My myrrh with My aromatic spices."[190] He calls the soul His sister, His bride, for it is such in love by that surrender which it has made of itself before He had called it to the state of spiritual marriage, when, as He says, He gathered His myrrh with His aromatic spices; that is, the fruits of flowers now ripe and made ready for the soul, which are the delights and grandeurs communicated to it by Himself in this state, that is Himself, and for which He is the pleasant and desirable garden.

7. The whole aim and desire of the soul and of God, in all this, is the accomplishment and perfection of this state, and the soul is therefore never weary till it reaches it; because it finds there a much greater abundance and fullness in God, a more secure and lasting peace, and a sweetness incomparably more perfect than in the spiritual betrothal, seeing that it reposes between the arms of such a Bridegroom, Whose spiritual embraces are so real that it, through them, lives the life of God. Now is fulfilled what St. Paul referred to when he said: "I live; now not I, but Christ lives in me."[191] And now that the soul lives a life so happy and so glorious as this life of God, consider what a sweet life it must be -- a life where God sees nothing displeasing, and where the soul finds nothing irksome, but rather the glory and delight of God in the very substance of itself, now transformed in Him.

"And there reposes to her heart's content; her neck reclining on the sweet arms of the Beloved."

8. The neck is the soul's strength, by means of which its union with the Beloved is wrought; for the soul could not endure so close an embrace if it had not been very strong. And as the soul has labored in this strength, practiced virtue, overcome vice, it is fitting that it should rest there from its labors, "her neck reclining on the sweet arms of the Beloved."

9. This reclining of the neck on the arms of God is the union of the soul's strength, or, rather, of the soul's weakness, with the strength of God, in Whom our weakness, resting and transformed, puts on the strength of God Himself. The state of spiritual matrimony is therefore most fitly designated by the reclining of the neck on the sweet arms of the Beloved; seeing that God is the strength and sweetness of the soul, Who guards and defends it from all evil and gives it to taste of all good.

10. Hence the bride in the Canticle, longing for this state, says to the Bridegroom: "Who shall give to me You my brother, sucking the breast of my mother, that I may find You without, and kiss You, and now no man may despise me."[192] By addressing Him as her Brother she shows the equality between them in the betrothal of love, before she entered the state of spiritual marriage. "Sucking the breast of my mother" signifies the drying up of the passions and desires, which are the breasts and milk of our mother Eve in our flesh, which are a bar to this state. The "finding Him without" is to find Him in detachment from all things and from self when the bride is in solitude, spiritually detached, which takes place when all the desires are quenched. "And kiss You" -- that is, be united with the Bridegroom, alone with Him alone.

11. This is the union of the nature of the soul, in solitude, cleansed from all impurity, natural, temporal, and spiritual, with the Bridegroom alone, with His nature, by love only -- that of love which is the only love of the spiritual marriage, wherein the soul, as it were, kisses God when none despises it nor makes it afraid. For in this state the soul is no longer molested, either by the devil, or the flesh, or the world, or the desires, seeing that here is fulfilled what is written in the Canticle: "Winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land."[193]


WHEN the soul has been raised to the high state of spiritual marriage, the Bridegroom reveals to it, as His faithful consort, His own marvelous secrets most readily and most frequently, for he who truly and sincerely loves hides nothing from the object of his affections. The chief matter of His communications are the sweet mysteries of His incarnation, the ways and means of redemption, which is one of the highest works of God, and so is to the soul one of the sweetest. Though He communicates many other mysteries, He speaks in the following stanza of His incarnation only, as being the chief; and thus addresses the soul in the words that follow:



Beneath the apple-tree
There were you betrothed;
There I gave you My hand,
And you were redeemed
Where your mother was corrupted.

THE Bridegroom tells the soul of the wondrous way of its redemption and betrothal to Himself, by referring to the way in which the human race was lost. As it was by the forbidden tree of paradise that our nature was corrupted in Adam and lost, so it was by the tree of the Cross that it was redeemed and restored. The Bridegroom there stretched forth the hand of His grace and mercy, in His death and passion, "making void the law of commandments"[194] which original sin had placed between us and God.

"Beneath the apple-tree,"

2. That is the wood of the Cross, where the Son of God was conqueror, and where He betrothed our human nature to Himself, and, by consequence, every soul of man. There, on the Cross, He gave us grace and pledges of His love.

"There were you betrothed, there I gave you My hand."

3. "Help and grace, lifting you up out of your base and miserable condition to be My companion and My bride."

"And you were redeemed where your mother was corrupted."

4. "Your mother, human nature, was corrupted in her first parents beneath the forbidden tree, and you were redeemed beneath the tree of the Cross. If your mother at that tree sentenced you to die, I from the Cross have given you life." It is thus that God reveals the order and dispositions of His wisdom: eliciting good from evil, and turning that which has its origin in evil to be an instrument of greater good. This stanza is nearly word for word what the Bridegroom in the Canticle says to the bride: "Under the apple-tree I raised you up: there your mother was corrupted; there she was deflowered that bare you."[195]

5. It is not the betrothal of the Cross that I am speaking of now -- that takes place, once for all, when God gives the first grace to the soul in baptism. I am speaking of the betrothal in the way of perfection, which is a progressive work. And though both are but one, yet there is a difference between them. The latter is effected in the way of the soul, and therefore slowly: the former in the way of God, and therefore at once.

6. The betrothal of which I am speaking is that of which God speaks Himself by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, saying: "You were cast out upon the face of the earth in the abjection of your soul, in the day that you were born. And passing by you, I saw that you were trodden under foot in your blood; and I said to you when you were in your blood: Live: I said to you, I say; in your blood live. Multiplied as the spring of the field have I made you; and you were multiplied and made great, and you went in, and came to the ornaments of woman; your breasts swelled and your hair budded: and you were naked and full of confusion. And I passed by you and saw you, and behold, your time, the time of lovers; and I spread My garment over you and covered your ignominy. And I swore to you; and I entered a covenant with you, says the Lord God; and you were made Mine. And I washed you with water, and made clean your blood from off you: and I anointed you with oil. And I clothed you with diverse colors, and shod you with hyacinth, and I girded you with silk and clothed you with fine garments. And I adorned you with ornaments, and put bracelets on your hands, and a chain about your neck. And I put a jewel upon your forehead and rings in your ears, and a crown of beauty on your head. And you were adorned with gold and silver, and were clothed with silk, and embroidered work, and many colors: you ate fine flour, and honey, and oil, and were made beautiful exceedingly, and advanced to be a queen. And your name went forth among the nations because of your beauty."[196] These are the words of Ezekiel, and this is the state of that soul of which I am now speaking.


AFTER the mutual surrender to each other of the bride and the Beloved, comes their bed. Thereon the bride enters into the joy of Christ. Thus the present stanza refers to the bed, which is pure and chaste, and divine, and in which the bride is pure, divine, and chaste. The bed is nothing else but the Bridegroom Himself, the Word, the Son of God, in Whom, through the union of love, the bride reposes. This bed is said to be of flowers, for the Bridegroom is not only that, but, as He says Himself of Himself, "I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys."[197] The soul reposes not only on the bed of flowers, but on that very flower which is the Son of God, and which contains in itself the divine odor, fragrance, grace, and beauty, as He says by the mouth of David, "With me is the beauty of the field."[198] The soul, therefore, in the stanza that follows, celebrates the properties and beauties of its bed, saying:




Our bed is of flowers
By dens of lions encompassed,
Hung with purple,
Made in peace,
And crowned with a thousand shields of gold.

IN two of the foregoing stanzas -- the fourteenth and the fifteenth -- the bride-soul celebrated the grace and magnificence of the Beloved, the Son of God. In the present stanza she not only pursues the same subject, but also sings of her high and blessed state, and her own security in it. She then proceeds to the virtues and rich gifts with which she is endowed and adorned in the chamber of the Bridegroom; for she says that she is in union with Him, and is strong in virtue. Next she says that she has attained to the perfection of love, and then that she enjoys perfect spiritual peace, endowed and adorned with gifts and graces, so far as it is possible to have them in this life. The first subject of the stanza is the joy which the bride feels in her union with the Beloved, saying:

"Our bed is of flowers."

2. I have already said that this bed of the soul is the bosom and love of the Son of God, full of flowers to the soul, which now united to God and reposing in Him, as His bride, shares the bosom and love of the Beloved. That is, the soul is admitted to a knowledge of the wisdom, secrets and graces, and gifts and powers of God, whereby it is made so beautiful, so rich, so abounding in delights that it seems to be lying on a bed of many-colored divine flowers, the touch of which makes it thrill with joy, and the odors of which refresh it.

3. This union of love with God is therefore most appropriately called a bed of flowers, and is so called by the bride in the Canticle, saying to the Beloved, "Our bed is of flowers."[199] She speaks of it as ours, because the virtues and the love, one and the same, of the Beloved are common to both together, and the delight of both is one and the same; as it is written: "My delights were to be with the children of men."[200] The bed is said to be of flowers, because in this state the virtues in the soul are perfect and heroic, which they could not be until the bed had flowered in perfect union with God.

"By dens of lions encompassed."

4. The dens of lions signify the virtues with which the soul is endowed in the state of union. The dens of lions are safe retreats, protected from all other animals, who, afraid of the boldness and strength of the lion within, are afraid not only to enter, but even to appear in sight. So each virtue of the soul in the state of perfection is like a den of lions where Christ dwells united to the soul in that virtue; and in every one of them as a strong lion. The soul also, united to Him in those very virtues, is as a strong lion, because it then partakes of the perfections of God.

5. Thus, then, the perfect soul is so defended, so strong in virtue, and in all virtues together, reposing on the flowery bed of its union with God, that the evil spirits are not only afraid to assault it, but even dare not appear before it; such is their dread of it, when they behold it strong, courageous, and mature in its perfect virtues, on the bed of the Beloved. The evil spirits fear a soul transformed in the union of love as much as they fear the Beloved Himself, and they dare not look upon it, for Satan is in great fear of that soul which has attained to perfection.

6. The soul's bed is encompassed by virtues: they are the dens, for when the soul has advanced to perfection, its virtues are so perfectly ordered, and so joined together and bound up one with another, each supporting the other, that no part of it is weak or exposed. Not only is Satan unable to penetrate within it, but even worldly things, whether great or little, fail to disturb or annoy it, or even move it; for being now free from all molestation of natural affections, and a stranger to the worry of temporal anxieties, it enjoys in security and peace the participation of God.

7. This is that for which the bride longed when she said, "Who shall give to me You my brother, sucking the breast of my mother, that I may find You without, and kiss You, and now no man may despise me?"[201] The "kiss" here is the union of which I am speaking, whereby the soul, by love, becomes in a sense the equal of God. This is the object it desires when it says, "Who shall give to me You my brother?" That means and makes equality. "Sucking the breast of my mother"; that is, destroying all the imperfections and desires of nature which the soul inherits from its mother Eve. "That I may find You without"; that is, "be united to You alone, away from all things, in detachment of the will and desires." "And now no man may despise me"; that is, the world, the devil, and the flesh will not venture to assail it, for being free and purified, and also united to God, none of these can molest it. Thus, then, the soul is in the enjoyment now of habitual sweetness and tranquillity that never fail it.

8. But beside this habitual contentment and peace, the flowers of the virtues of this garden so open in the soul and diffuse their odors that it seems to be, and is, full of the delights of God. I say that the flowers open; because the soul, though filled with the virtues in perfection, is not always in the actual fruition of them, notwithstanding its habitual perception of the peace and tranquillity which they produce. We may say of these virtues that they are in this life like the budding flowers of a garden; they offer a most beautiful sight -- opening under the inspirations of the Holy Spirit -- and diffuse most marvelous perfumes in great variety.

9. Sometimes the soul will discern in itself the mountain flowers -- the fullness, grandeur, and beauty of God -- intermingled with the lilies of the valley -- rest, refreshment, and defense; and again among them, the fragrant roses of the strange islands -- the strange knowledge of God; and further, the perfume of the water lilies of the roaring torrents -- the majesty of God filling the whole soul. And amid all this, it enjoys the exquisite fragrance of the jasmine, and the whisper of the amorous gales, the fruition of which is granted to the soul in the estate of union, and in the same way all the other virtues and graces, the calm knowledge, silent music, murmuring solitude, and the sweet supper of love; and the joy of all this is such as to make the soul say in truth, "Our bed is of flowers, by dens of lions encompassed." Blessed is that soul which in this life deserves at times to enjoy the perfume of these divine flowers.

"Hung with purple."

10. Purple in Holy Scripture means charity, and kings are clad in it, and for that reason the soul says that the bed of flowers is hung with purple, because all the virtues, riches, and blessings of it are sustained, flourish, and are delighted only in charity and love of the King of heaven; without that love the soul can never delight in the bed nor in the flowers thereof. All these virtues, therefore, are, in the soul, as if hung on the love of God, as on that which preserves them, and they are, as it were, bathed in love; for all and each of them always make the soul love God, and on all occasions and in all actions they advance in love to a greater love of God. That is what is meant by saying that the bed is hung with purple.

11. This is well expressed in the sacred Canticle: "King Solomon has made himself a litter of the wood of Lebanon; the pillars thereof he has made of silver, the seat of gold, the going up of purple; the midst he has paved with charity."[202] The virtues and graces which God lays in the bed of the soul are signified by the wood of Lebanon: the pillars of silver and the seat of gold are love, for, as I have said, the virtues are maintained by love, and by the love of God and of the soul are ordered and bring forth fruit.

"Made in peace."

12. This is the fourth excellence of the bed, and depends on the third, of which I have just spoken. For the third is perfect charity, the property of which is, as the Apostle says, to cast out fear;[203] hence the perfect peace of the soul, which is the fourth excellence of this bed. For the clearer understanding of this we must keep in mind that each virtue is in itself peaceful, gentle, and strong, and consequently, in the soul which possesses them, produces peace, gentleness, and fortitude. Now, as the bed is of flowers, formed of the flowers of virtues, all of which are peaceful, gentle, and strong, it follows that the bed is wrought in peace, and the soul is peaceful, gentle, and strong, which are three qualities unassailable by the world, Satan, and the flesh. The virtues preserve the soul in such peace and security that it seems to be wholly built up in peace. The fifth property of this bed of flowers is explained in the following words:

"Crowned with a thousand shields of gold."

13. The shields are the virtues and graces of the soul, which, though they are also the flowers, serve for its crown, and the reward of the toil by which they are acquired. They serve also, like strong shields, as a protection against the vices, which it overcame by the practice of them; and the bridal bed of flowers therefore -- that is, the virtues, the crown and defense -- is adorned with them by way of reward, and protected by them as with a shield. The shields are said to be of gold, to show the great worth of the virtues. The bride in the Canticle sets forth the same truth, saying: "Three score valiant men of the most valiant of Israel surround the little bed of Solomon, all holding swords; . . . every man's sword upon his thigh, because of fears in the night."[204]

14. Thus in this stanza the bride speaks of a thousand shields, to express the variety of the virtues, gifts, and graces with which God has endowed the soul in this state. The Bridegroom also in the Canticle has employed the same expression, in order to show forth the innumerable virtues of the soul, saying: "Your neck is as the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks; a thousand shields hang upon it, all the armor of valiant men."[205]


THE soul, having attained to perfection, is not satisfied with magnifying and extolling the excellencies of the Beloved, the Son of God, nor with recounting and giving thanks for the graces received at His hands and the joy into which it has entered, but recounts also the graces conferred on other souls. In this blessed union of love the soul is able to contemplate both its own and others' graces; thus praising Him and giving Him thanks for the many graces bestowed upon others, it sings as in the following stanza:



In Your footsteps
The young ones run Your way;
At the touch of the fire
And by the spiced wine,
The divine balsam flows.

HERE the bride gives thanks to her Beloved for three graces which devout souls receive from Him, by which they encourage and excite themselves to love God more and more. She speaks of them here because she has had experience of them herself in this state of union. The first is sweetness, which He gives them, and which is so efficacious that it makes them run swiftly on the road of perfection. The second is a visit of love, by which they are suddenly set on fire with love. The third is overflowing charity infused into them, with which He so inebriates them that they are as much excited by it as by the visit of love, to utter the praises of God, and to love Him with all sweetness.

"In Your footsteps."

2. These are the marks on the ground by which we trace the course of one we seek. The sweetness and knowledge of Himself which God communicates to the soul that seeks Him are the footsteps by which it traces and recognizes Him. Thus the soul says to the Word, the Bridegroom, "In Your footsteps" -- "in the traces of Your sweetness which You diffuse, and the odors which You scatter."

"The young ones run Your way."

3. "Devout souls run with youthful vigor in the sweetness which Your footsteps communicate." They run in many ways and in various directions -- each according to the spirit which God bestows and the vocation He has given -- in the diversified forms of spiritual service on the road of everlasting life, which is evangelical perfection, where they meet the Beloved in the union of love, in spiritual detachment from all things.

4. This sweetness and impression of Himself which God leaves in the soul render it light and active in running after Him; for the soul then does little or nothing in its own strength towards running along this road, being rather attracted by the divine footsteps, so that it not only advances, but even runs, as I said before, in many ways. The bride in the Canticle, therefore, prays for the divine attraction, saying, "Draw me, we will run after You to the odor of Your ointments";[206] and David says, "I have run the way of Your commandments, when You dilated my heart."[207]

"At the touch of the fire, and by the spiced wine, the divine balsam flows."

5. I said, while explaining the previous lines, that souls run in His footsteps in the way of exterior works. But the three lines I have just quoted refer to the interior acts of the will, when souls are under the influence of the other two graces, and interior visits of the Beloved. These are the touch of fire, and spiced wine; and the interior act of the will, which is the result of these visits, is the flowing of the divine balsam. The contact of the fire is that most delicate touch of the Beloved which the soul feels at times even when least expecting it, and which sets the heart on fire with love, as if a spark of fire had fallen upon it and made it burn. Then the will, in an instant, like one roused from sleep, burns with the fire of love, longs for God, praises Him and gives Him thanks, worships and honors Him, and prays to Him in the sweetness of love.

6. This is the flowing of the divine balsam, which obeys the touch of the fire that issues forth from the consuming love of God which that fire kindled; the divine balsam which comforts the soul and heals it with its odor and its substance.

7. The bride in the Canticle speaks of this divine touch, saying, "My Beloved put His hand through the opening, and my belly trembled at His touch."[208] The touch of the Beloved is the touch of love, and His hand is the grace He bestows upon the soul, and the opening through which He puts His hand is the vocation and the perfection, at least the degree of perfection of the soul; for accordingly will His touch be heavier or lighter, in proportion to its spiritual state. The belly that trembled is the will, in which the touch is effected, and the trembling is the stirring up of the desires and affections to love, long for, and praise God, which is the flowing of the balsam from this touch.

8. "The spiced wine" is that exceedingly great grace which God sometimes bestows upon advanced souls, when the Holy Spirit inebriates them with the sweet, luscious, and strong wine of love. Hence it is here called spiced wine, for as such wine is prepared by fermentation with many and diverse aromatic and strengthening herbs; so this love, the gift of God to the perfect, is in the soul prepared and seasoned with the virtues already acquired. This love, seasoned with the precious spices, communicates to the soul such a strong, abundant inebriation when God visits it that it pours forth with great effect and force those acts of rapturous praise, love, and worship which I referred to before, and that with a marvelous longing to labor and to suffer for Him.

9. This sweet inebriation and grace, however, do not pass quickly away, like the touch of the fire, for they are of longer continuance. The fire touches and passes, but the effects abide often; and sometimes the spiced wine continues for a considerable time, and its effects also; this is the sweet love of the soul, and continues occasionally a day or two, sometimes even many days together, though not always in the same degree of intensity, because it is not in the power of the soul to control it. Sometimes the soul, without any effort of its own, is conscious of a most sweet interior inebriation, and of the divine love burning within, as David says, "My heart waxed hot within me, and in my meditation a fire shall burn."[209]

10. The outpourings of this inebriation last sometimes as long as the inebriation itself. At other times there are no outpourings; and they are more or less intense when they occur, in proportion to the greater or less intensity of the inebriation itself. But the outpourings, or effects of the fire, generally last longer than the fire which caused them; indeed the fire leaves them behind in the soul, and they are more vehement than those which proceed from the inebriation, for sometimes this divine fire burns up and consumes the soul in love.

11. As I have mentioned fermented wine, it will be well to touch briefly upon the difference between it, when it is old, and new wine; the difference between old wine and new wine is the same, and will furnish a little instruction for spiritual men. New wine has not settled on the lees, and is therefore fermenting; we cannot ascertain its quality or worth before it has settled, and the fermentation has ceased, for until then there is great risk of its corruption. The taste of it is rough and sharp, and an immoderate draught of it intoxicates. Old wine has settled on the lees, and ferments no more like new wine; the quality of it is easily ascertained and it is now very safe from corruption, for all fermentation which might have proved pernicious has entirely ceased. Well-fermented wine is very rarely spoiled, the taste of it is pleasant, and its strength is in its own substance, not in the taste, and drinking it produces health and a sound constitution.

12. New lovers are compared to new wine; these are beginners in the service of God, because the fervor of their love manifests itself outwardly in the senses; because they have not settled on the lees of sense, frail and imperfect; and because they measure the strength of love by the sweetness of it, for it is sensible sweetness that ordinarily gives them their strength for good works, and it is by this they are influenced; we must, therefore, place no confidence in this love till the fermentation has subsided, with the coarse satisfaction of sense.

13. For as these fervors and sensible warmth may incline men to good and perfect love, and serve as an excellent means to it, when the lees of imperfections are cleared; so also is it very easy at first, when sensible sweetness is fresh, for the wine of love to fail, and the sweetness of the new to vanish. New lovers are always anxious, sensibly tormented by their love; it is necessary for them to put some restraint upon themselves, for if they are very active in the strength of this wine, their natural powers will be ruined with these anxieties and fatigues of the new wine, which is rough and sharp, and not made sweet in the perfect fermentation, which then takes place when the anxieties of love are over, as I shall show immediately.

14. The Wise Man employs the same illustration; saying, "A new friend is as new wine; it shall grow old, and you shall drink it with pleasure."[210] Old lovers, therefore, who have been tried and proved in the service of the Bridegroom, are like old wine settled on the lees; they have no sensible emotions, nor outbursts of exterior zeal, but they taste the sweetness of the wine of love, now thoroughly fermented, not sweet to the senses as was that of the love of beginners, but rather settled within the soul in the substance and sweetness of the spirit, and in perfect good works. Such souls as these do not seek after sensible sweetness and fervors, neither do they wish for them, lest they should suffer from loathing and weariness; for he who gives the reins to his desires in matters of sense must of necessity suffer pain and loathing, both in mind and body.

15. Old lovers, therefore, free from that spiritual sweetness which has its roots in the senses, suffer neither in sense nor spirit from the anxieties of love, and thus scarcely ever prove faithless to God, because they have risen above that which might be an occasion of falling, namely, the flesh. These now drink of the wine of love, which is not only fermented and free from the lees, but spiced also with the aromatic herbs of perfect virtues, which will not allow it to corrupt, as may happen to new wine.

16. For this cause an old friend is of great price in the eyes of God: "Forsake not an old friend, for the new will not be like to him."[211] It is through this wine of love, tried and spiced, that the divine Beloved produces in the soul that divine inebriation, under the influence of which it sends forth to God the sweet and delicious outpourings. The meaning of these three lines, therefore, is as follows: "At the touch of the fire, by which You stir up the soul, and by the spiced wine with which You do so lovingly inebriate it, the soul pours forth the acts and movements of love which are Your work within it."


SUCH, then, is the state of the blessed soul in the bed of flowers, where all these blessings, and many more, are granted it. The seat of that bed is the Son of God, and the hangings of it are the charity and love of the Bridegroom Himself. The soul now may say, with the bride, "His left hand is under my head,"[212] and we may therefore say, in truth, that such a soul is clothed in God, and bathed in the Divinity, and that, not as it were on the surface, but in the interior spirit, and filled with the divine delights in the abundance of the spiritual waters of life; for it experiences that which David says of those who have drawn near to God: "They shall be inebriated with the plenty of Your house, and You shall make them drink of the torrent of Your pleasure, for with You is the fountain of life."[213]

2. This fullness will be in the very being of the soul, seeing that its drink is nothing else but the torrent of delights, and that torrent the Holy Spirit, as it is written: "And he showed me a river of living water, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb."[214] This water, being the very love itself of God, flows into the soul, so that it drinks of the torrent of love, which is the spirit of the Bridegroom infused into the soul in union. Thence the soul in the overflowing of its love sings the following stanza:



In the inner cellar
Of my Beloved have I drunk; and when I went forth
Over all the plain
I knew nothing,
And lost the flock I followed before.

HERE the soul speaks of that sovereign grace of God in taking it to Himself into the house of His love, which is the union, or transformation of love in God. It describes two effects proceeding therefrom: forgetfulness of, and detachment from, all the things of this world, and the mortification of its tastes and desires.

"In the inner cellar."

2. In order to explain in any degree the meaning of this, I have need of the special help of the Holy Spirit to direct my hand and guide my pen. The cellar is the highest degree of love to which the soul may attain in this life, and is therefore said to be the inner. It follows from this that there are other cellars not so interior; that is, the degrees of love by which souls reach this, the last. These cellars are seven in number, and the soul has entered into them all when it has in perfection the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, so far as it is possible for it. When the soul has the spirit of fear in perfection, it has in perfection also the spirit of love, inasmuch as this fear, the last of the seven gifts, is filial fear, and the perfect fear of a son proceeds from his perfect love of his father. Thus when the Holy Scripture speaks of one as having perfect charity, it says of him that he fears God. So the prophet Isaiah, announcing the perfections of Christ, says of Him, "The spirit of the fear of the Lord shall replenish him."[215] Holy Simeon also is spoken of by the Evangelist as a "just man full of fear,"[216] and the same applies to many others.

3. Many souls reach and enter the first cellar, each according to the perfection of its love, but the last and inmost cellar is entered by few in this world, because therein is wrought the perfect union with God, the union of the spiritual marriage, of which the soul is now speaking. What God communicates to the soul in this intimate union is utterly ineffable, beyond the reach of all possible words -- just as it is impossible to speak of God Himself so as to convey any idea of what He is -- because it is God Himself who communicates Himself to the soul now in the marvelous bliss of its transformation. In this state God and the soul are united, as the window is with the light, or coal with the fire, or the light of the stars with that of the sun, yet, however, not so essentially and completely as it will be in the life to come. The soul, therefore, to show what it received from the hands of God in the cellar of wine, says nothing else, and I do not believe that anything could be said but the words which follow:

"Of my Beloved have I drunk."

4. As a draught diffuses itself through all the members and veins of the body, so this communication of God diffuses itself substantially in the whole soul, or rather, the soul is transformed in God. In this transformation the soul drinks of God in its very substance and its spiritual powers. In the understanding it drinks wisdom and knowledge, in the will the sweetest love, in the memory refreshment and delight in the thought and sense of its bliss. That the soul receives and drinks delight in its very substance, appears from the words of the bride in the Canticle: "My soul melted as He spoke"[217] -- that is, when the Bridegroom communicated Himself to the soul.

5. That the understanding drinks wisdom is evident from the words of the bride longing and praying for the kiss of union: "There You shall teach me, and I will give you a cup of spiced wine."[218] "You shall teach me wisdom and knowledge in love, and I will give You a cup of spiced wine -- that is, my love mingled with Yours." The bride says that the will also drinks of love, saying: "He brought me into the cellar of wine; He has ordered in me charity,"[219] -- that is, "He gave me His love, embracing me, to drink of love"; or, to speak more clearly, "He ordered in me His charity, tempering His charity and to the purpose making it mine." This is to give the soul to drink of the very love of its Beloved, which the Beloved infuses into it.

6. There is a common saying that the will cannot love that of which the understanding has no knowledge. This, however, is to be understood in the order of nature, it being impossible, in a natural way, to love anything unless we first know what it is we love. But in a supernatural way God can certainly infuse love and increase it without infusing and increasing distinct knowledge, as is evident from the texts already quoted. Yes, many spiritual persons have experience of this; their love of God burns more and more, while their knowledge does not grow. Men may know little and love much, and on the other hand, know much and love but little.

7. In general, those spiritual persons whose knowledge of God is not very great are usually very rich in all that belongs to the will, and infused faith suffices them for this knowledge, by means of which God infuses and increases charity in them and the acts thereof, which are to love Him more and more though knowledge is not increased. Thus the will may drink of love while the understanding drinks in no fresh knowledge. In the present instance, however, all the powers of the soul together, because of the union in the inner cellar, drink of the Beloved.

8. As to the memory, it is clear that the soul drinks of the Beloved in it, because it is enlightened with the light of the understanding in remembering the blessings it possesses and enjoys in union with the Beloved.

"And when I went forth."

9. That is, after this grace: the divine draught having so deified the soul, exalted it, and inebriated it in God. Though the soul is always in the high estate of marriage ever since God has placed it there, nevertheless actual union in all its powers is not continuous, though the substantial union is. In this substantial union the powers of the soul are most frequently in union, and drink of His cellar, the understanding by knowledge, the will by love, etc. We are not, therefore, to suppose that the soul, when saying that it went out, has ceased from its substantial or essential union with God, but only from the union of its faculties, which is not, and cannot be, permanent in this life; it is from this union, then, it went forth when it wandered over all the plain -- that is, through the whole breadth of the world.

"I knew nothing."

10. This draught of God's most deep wisdom makes the soul forget all the things of this world, and consider all its previous knowledge, and the knowledge of the whole world besides, as pure ignorance in comparison with this knowledge.

11. For a clearer understanding of this, we must remember that the most regular cause of the soul's ignoring the things of the world, when it has ascended to this high state, is that it is informed by a supernatural knowledge, in the presence of which all natural and worldly knowledge is ignorance rather than knowledge. For the soul in possession of this knowledge, which is most profound, learns from it that all other knowledge not included in this knowledge is not knowledge, but ignorance, and worthless. We have this truth in the words of the Apostle when he said that "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."[220]

12. This is the reason why the soul says it knows nothing, now that it has drunk of the divine wisdom. The truth is that the wisdom of men and of the whole world is mere ignorance, and not deserving any attention, but it is a truth that can be learned only in that truth of the presence of God in the soul communicating to it His wisdom and making it strong by this draught of love that it may see it distinctly. This is taught us by Solomon, saying: "The vision that the man spoke, with whom God is, and who being strengthened by God abiding with him, said: I am the most foolish of men, and the wisdom of men is not with me."[221]

13. When the soul is raised to this high wisdom of God, the wisdom of man is in its eyes the lowest ignorance: all natural science and the works of God, if accompanied by ignorance of Him, are as ignorance; for where He is not known, there nothing is known. "The deep things of God are foolishness to men."[222] Thus the divinely wise and the worldly wise are fools in the estimation of each other; for the latter cannot understand the wisdom and science of God, nor the former those of the world, for the wisdom of the world is ignorance in comparison with the wisdom of God; and the wisdom of God is ignorance with respect to that of the world.

14. Moreover, this deification and elevation of the spirit in God, whereby the soul is, as it were, rapt and absorbed in love, one with God, suffer it not to dwell upon any worldly matter. The soul is now detached, not only from all outward things, but even from itself: it is, as it were, undone, assumed by, and dissolved in, love -- that is, it passes out of itself into the Beloved. Thus the bride, in the Canticle, after speaking of her own transformation by love into the Beloved, expresses her state of ignorance by the words "I knew not."[223] The soul is now, in a certain sense, like Adam in paradise, who knew no evil. It is so innocent that it sees no evil; neither does it consider anything to be amiss. It will hear much that is evil, and will see it with its eyes, and yet it shall not be able to understand it, because it has no evil habits whereby to judge of it. God has rooted out of it those imperfect habits and that ignorance resulting from the evil of sin, by the perfect habit of true wisdom. Thus, also, the soul knows nothing on this subject.

15. Such a soul will scarcely intermeddle with the affairs of others, because it forgets even its own; for the work of the Spirit of God in the soul in which He dwells is to incline it to ignore those things which do not concern it, especially such as do not minister to edification. The Spirit of God abides within the soul to withdraw it from outward things rather than to lead it among them; and thus the soul knows nothing as it knew it formerly. We are not, however, to suppose that it loses the habits of knowledge previously acquired, for those habits are improved by the more perfect habit of supernatural knowledge infused, though these habits are not so powerful as to necessitate knowledge through them, and yet there is no reason why they should not do so occasionally.

16. In this union of the divine wisdom, these habits are united with the higher wisdom of other knowledge, as a little light with another which is great; it is the great light that shines, overwhelming the less, yet the latter is not therefore lost, but rather perfected, though it is not the light which shines pre-eminently. Thus, I imagine, will it be in heaven; the acquired habits of knowledge in the just will not be destroyed, though they will be of no great importance there, seeing that the just will know more in the divine wisdom than by the habits acquired on earth.

17. But the particular notions and forms of things, acts of the imagination, and every other apprehension having form and figure are all lost and ignored in this absorbing love, and this for two reasons. First, the soul cannot actually attend to anything of the kind, because it is actually absorbed by this draught of love. Secondly, and this is the principal reason, its transformation in God so conforms it to His purity and simplicity -- for there is no form or imaginary figure in Him -- as to render it pure, cleansed and empty of all the forms and figures it entertained before, being now purified and enlightened in simple contemplation. All spots and stains in the glass become invisible when the sun shines upon it, but they appear again as soon as the light of the sun is withheld.

18. So is it with the soul; while the effects of this act of love continue, this ignorance continues also, so that it cannot observe anything in particular until these effects have ceased. Love has set the soul on fire and transmuted it into love, has annihilated it and destroyed it as to all that is not love, according to the words of David: "My heart has been inflamed, and my reins have been changed; and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not."[224] The changing of the reins, because the heart is inflamed, is the changing of the soul, in all its desires and actions, in God, into a new manner of life, the utter undoing and annihilation of the old man, and therefore the prophet said that he was brought to nothing and knew not.

19. These are the two effects of drinking the wine of the cellar of God; not only is all previous knowledge brought to nothing and made to vanish, but the old life also with its imperfections is destroyed, and into the new man renewed; this is the second of the two effects described in the words that follow:

"And lost the flock I followed before."

20. Until the soul reaches the state of perfection, however spiritual it may be, there always remains a troop of desires, likings, and other imperfections, sometimes natural, sometimes spiritual, after which it runs, and which it tries to feed while following and satisfying them. With regard to the understanding, there are certain imperfections of the desire of knowledge. With regard to the will, certain likings and peculiar desires, at times in temporal things, as the wish to possess certain trifles, and attachment to some things more than to others, certain prejudices, considerations, and punctilios, with other vanities, still savoring of the world: and again in natural things, such as eating and drinking, the preference of one kind of food over another, and the choice of the best: at another time, in spiritual things, such as seeking for sweetness, and other follies of spiritual persons not yet perfect, too numerous to recount here. As to the memory, there are many inconsistencies, anxieties, unseemly reminiscences, which drag the soul captive after them.

21. The four passions of the soul also involve it in many useless hopes, joys, griefs, and fears, after which it runs. As to this flock, some men are more influenced by it than others; they run after and follow it, until they enter the inner cellar, where they lose it altogether, being then transformed in love. In that cellar the flock of imperfections is easily destroyed, as rust and mold on metal in the fire. Then the soul feels itself free from the pettiness of self-likings and the vanities after which it ran before, and may well say, "I have lost the flock which I followed before."


GOD communicates Himself to the soul in this interior union with a love so intense that the love of a mother, who so tenderly caresses her child, the love of a brother, or the affection of a friend bear no likeness to it, for so great is the tenderness, and so deep is the love with which the Infinite Father comforts and exalts the humble and loving soul. O wonders worthy of all awe and reverence! He humbles Himself in reality before that soul that He may exalt it, as if He were its servant, and the soul His lord. He is as anxious to comfort it as if He were a slave, and the soul God. So great is the humility and tenderness of God. In this communion of love He renders in a certain way those services to the soul which He says in the Gospel He will perform for the elect in heaven. "Amen, I say to you, that He will gird Himself and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister to them."[225]

2. This very service He renders now to the soul, comforting and cherishing it, as a mother her child whom she nurtures in her bosom. And the soul recognizes herein the truth of the words of Isaiah, "You shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you."[226] What must the feelings of the soul be amid these sovereign graces? How it will melt away in love, beholding the bosom of God opened for it with such overflowing love. When the soul perceives itself in the midst of these delights, it surrenders itself wholly to God, gives to Him the breasts of its own will and love, and under the influence thereof addresses the Beloved in the words of the bride in the Canticle, saying: "I to my Beloved, and His turning is towards me. Come, my Beloved, let us go forth into the field, let us abide in the villages. Let us rise early to the vineyards, let us see if the vineyard flourish, if the flowers are ready to bring forth fruits, if the pomegranates flourish; there will I give You my breasts"[227] -- that is, "I will employ all the joy and strength of my will in the service of Your love." This mutual surrender in this union of the soul and God is the subject of the stanza which follows:

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