There He gave me His breasts,
There He taught me the science full of sweetness.
And there I gave to Him
Myself without reserve;
There I promised to be His bride.

HERE the soul speaks of the two contracting parties in this spiritual betrothal, itself and God. In the inner cellar of love they both met together, God giving to the soul the breasts of His love freely, whereby He instructs it in His mysteries and wisdom, and the soul also actually surrendering itself, making no reservation whatever either in its own favor or in that of others, promising to be His for ever.

"There He gave me His breasts."

2. To give the breast to another is to love and cherish him and communicate one's secrets to him as a friend. The soul says here that God gave it His breasts -- that is, He gave it His love and communicated His secrets to it. It is thus that God deals with the soul in this state, and more, too, as it appears from the words that follow:

"There He taught me the science full of sweetness."

3. This science is mystical theology, which is the secret science of God, and which spiritual men call contemplation. It is most full of sweetness because it is knowledge by love, love is the master of it, and it is love that renders it all so sweet. Inasmuch as this science and knowledge are communicated to the soul in that love with which God communicates Himself, it is sweet to the understanding, because knowledge belongs to it, and sweet to the will, because it comes by love which belongs to the will.

"There I gave to Him myself without reserve"

4. The soul in this sweet draught of God, surrenders itself wholly to Him most willingly and with great sweetness; it desires to be wholly His, and never to retain anything which is unbecoming His Majesty. God is the author of this union, and of the purity and perfection requisite for it; and as the transformation of the soul in Himself makes it His, He empties it of all that is alien to Himself. Thus it comes to pass that, not in will only, but in act as well, the whole soul is entirely given to God without any reserve whatever, as God has given Himself freely to it. The will of God and of the soul are both satisfied, each given up to the other, in mutual delight, so that neither fails the other in the faith and constancy of the betrothal; therefore the soul says:

"There I promised to be His bride."

5. As a bride does not give her love to another, and as all her thoughts and actions are directed to her bridegroom only, so the soul now has no affections of the will, no acts of the understanding, neither object nor occupation of any kind which it does not wholly refer to God, together with all its desires. The soul is, as it were, absorbed in God, and even its first movements have nothing in them -- so far as it can comprehend them -- which is at variance with the will of God. The first movements of an imperfect soul in general are, at least, inclined to evil, in the understanding, the memory, the will, the desires and imperfections; but those of the soul which has attained to the spiritual state of which I am speaking are ordinarily directed to God, because of the great help and courage it derives from Him, and its perfect conversion to goodness. This is set forth with great clearness by David, when he says: "Shall not my soul be subject to God? For from Him is my salvation. For He is my God and my Savior; He is my protector, I shall be moved no more."[228] "He is my protector" means that the soul, being now received under the protection of God and united to Him, is no longer subject to any movements contrary to God.

6. It is quite clear from this that the soul which has attained the spiritual betrothal knows nothing else but the love of the Bridegroom and the delights thereof, because it has arrived at perfection, the form and substance of which is love, according to St. Paul.[229] The more a soul loves, the more perfect it is in its love, and hence it follows that the soul which is already perfect is, if we may say so, all love, all its actions are love, all its energies and strength are occupied in love. It gives up all it has, like the wise merchant,[230] for this treasure of love which it finds hidden in God, and which is so precious in His sight, and the Beloved cares for nothing else but love; the soul, therefore, anxious to please Him perfectly, occupies itself wholly in pure love for God, not only because love does so occupy it, but also because the love wherein it is united influences it towards love of God in and through all things. As the bee draws honey from all plants, and makes use of them only for that end, so the soul most easily draws the sweetness of love from all that happens to it; makes all things subserve it towards loving God, whether they are sweet or bitter; and being animated and protected by love, has no sense, feeling, or knowledge, because, as I have said, it knows nothing but love, and in all its occupations, its joy is its love of God. This is explained by the following stanza.


I HAVE said that God is pleased with nothing but love; but before I explain this, it will be as well to set forth the grounds on which the assertion rests. All our works, and all our labors, however grand they may be, are nothing in the sight of God, for we can give Him nothing, neither can we by them fulfill His desire, which is the growth of our soul. As to Himself He desires nothing of this, for He has need of nothing, and so, if He is pleased with anything it is with the growth of the soul; and as there is no way in which the soul can grow but in becoming in a manner equal to Him, for this reason He is only pleased with our love. It is the property of love to place him who loves on an equality with the object of his love. Hence the soul, because of its perfect love, is called the bride of the Son of God, which signifies equality with Him. In this equality and friendship all things are common, as the Bridegroom Himself said to His disciples: "I have called you friends, because all things, whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you."[231]



My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I any other employment:
My sole occupation is love.

THE soul, or rather the bride having given herself wholly to the Bridegroom without any reserve whatever, now recounts to the Beloved how she fulfills her task. "My soul and body," she says, "all my abilities and all my capacities, are occupied not with other matters, but with those pertaining to the service of the Bridegroom." She is therefore not seeking her own proper satisfaction, nor the gratification of her own inclinations, neither does she occupy herself in anything whatever which is alien to God; yes, even her communion with God Himself is nothing else but acts of love, inasmuch as she has changed her former mode of conversing with Him into loving.

"My soul is occupied."

2. This refers to the soul's surrender of itself to the Beloved in this union of love, wherein it devotes itself, with all its faculties, understanding, will, and memory, to His service. The understanding is occupied in considering what most tends to His service, in order that it might be accomplished; the will in loving all that is pleasing to God, and in desiring Him in all things; the memory in recalling what ministers to Him, and what may be more pleasing to Him.

"And all my substance in His service."

3. By substance here is meant all that relates to the sensual part of the soul, which includes the body, with all its powers, interior and exterior, together with all its natural capacities -- that is, the four passions, the natural desires, and the whole substance of the soul, all of which is employed in the service of the Beloved, as well as the rational and spiritual part, as I explained in the previous section. As to the body, that is now ordered according to God in all its interior and exterior senses, all the acts of which are directed to God; the four passions of the soul are also under control in Him; for the soul's joy, hope, fear, and grief are conversant with God only; all its appetites, and all its anxieties also, are directed to Him only.

4. The whole substance of the soul is now so occupied with God, so intent upon Him, that its very first movements, even inadvertently, have God for their object and their end. The understanding, memory, and will tend directly to God; the affections, senses, desires and longings, hope and joy, the whole substance of the soul, rise instantly towards God, though the soul is making no conscious efforts in that direction. Such a soul is very often doing the work of God, intent upon Him and the things of God, without thinking or reflecting on what it is doing for Him. The constant and habitual practice of this has deprived it of all conscious reflection, and even of that fervor which it usually had when it began to act. The whole substance of the soul being thus occupied, what follows cannot be but true also.

"Now I guard no flock."

5. "I do not now go after my likings and desires; for having fixed them upon God, I no longer feed or guard them." The soul not only does not guard them now, but has no other occupation than to wait upon God.

"Nor have I any other employment."

6. Before the soul succeeded in effecting this gift and surrender of itself, and of all that belongs to it, to the Beloved, it was entangled in many unprofitable occupations, by which it sought to please itself and others, and it may be said that its occupations of this kind were as many as its habits of imperfection.

7. To these habits belong that of speaking, thinking, and the doing of things that are useless; and likewise, the not making use of these things according to the requirements of the soul's perfection; other desires also the soul may have, with which it ministers to the desires of others, to which may be referred display, compliments, flattery, human respect, aiming at being well thought of, and the giving pleasure to people, and other useless actions, by which it labored to content them, wasting its efforts herein, and finally all its strength. All this is over, says the soul here, for all its words, thoughts, and works are directed to God, and, conversant with Him, freed from their previous imperfections. It is as if it said: "I follow no longer either my own or other men's likings, neither do I occupy or entertain myself with useless pastimes, or the things of this world."

"My sole occupation is love."

8. "All my occupation now is the practice of the love of God, all the powers of soul and body, memory, understanding, and will, interior and exterior senses, the desires of spirit and of sense, all work in and by love. All I do is done in love; all I suffer, I suffer in the sweetness of love." This is the meaning of David when he said, "I will keep my strength to You."[232]

9. When the soul has arrived at this state all the acts of its spiritual and sensual nature, whether active or passive, and of whatever kind they may be, always occasion an increase of love and delight in God: even the act of prayer and communion with God, which was once carried on by reflections and diverse other methods, is now wholly an act of love. So much so is this the case that the soul may always say, whether occupied with temporal or spiritual things, "My sole occupation is love." Happy life! happy state! and happy the soul which has attained to it! where all is the very substance of love, the joyous delights of the betrothal, when it may truly say to the Beloved with the bride in the Canticle, "The new and the old, my Beloved, have I kept for You"[233] "All that is bitter and painful I keep for Your sake, all that is sweet and pleasant I keep for You." The meaning of the words, for my purpose, is that the soul, in the state of spiritual betrothal, is for the most part living in the union of love -- that is, the will is habitually waiting lovingly on God.


IN truth the soul is now lost to all things, and gained only to love, and the mind is no longer occupied with anything else. It is, therefore, deficient in what concerns the active life, and other exterior duties, that it may apply in earnest to the one thing which the Bridegroom has pronounced necessary;[234] and that is waiting upon God, and the continuous practice of His love. So precious is this in the eyes of God that He rebuked Martha because she would withdraw Mary from His feet to occupy her actively in the service of our Lord. Martha thought that she was doing everything herself, and that Mary at the feet of Christ was doing nothing. But it was far otherwise: for there is nothing better or more necessary than love. Thus, in the Canticle, the Bridegroom protects the bride, adjuring the daughters of Jerusalem -- that is, all created things -- not to disturb her spiritual sleep of love, nor to waken her, nor to let her open her eyes to anything till she pleased. "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you do not stir up, nor awake my beloved till she please."[235]

2. Observe, however, that if the soul has not reached the state of unitive love, it is necessary for it to make acts of love, as well in the active as in the contemplative life. But when it has reached it, it is not requisite it should occupy itself in other and exterior duties -- unless they are matters of obligation -- which might hinder, were it but for a moment, the life of love in God, though they may minister greatly to His service; because an instant of pure love is more precious in the eyes of God and the soul, and more profitable to the Church, than all other good works together, though it may seem as if nothing were done. Thus, Mary Magdalene, though her preaching was most edifying, and might have been still more so afterwards, out of the great desire she had to please God and benefit the Church, hid herself, nevertheless, in the desert thirty years, that she might surrender herself entirely to love; for she considered that she would gain more in that way, because an instant of pure love is so much more profitable and important to the Church.

3. When the soul, then, in any degree possesses the spirit of solitary love, we must not interfere with it. We should inflict a grievous wrong upon it, and upon the Church also, if we were to occupy it, were it only for a moment, in exterior or active duties, however important they might be. When God Himself adjures all not to waken it from its love, who shall venture to do so, and be blameless? In a word, it is for this love that we are all created. Let those men of zeal, who think by their preaching and exterior works to convert the world, consider that they would be much more edifying to the Church, and more pleasing to God -- setting aside the good example they would give -- if they would spend at least one half their time in prayer, even though they may have not attained to the state of unitive love. Certainly they would do more, and with less trouble, by one single good work than by a thousand: because of the merit of their prayer, and the spiritual strength it supplies. To act otherwise is to beat the air, to do little more than nothing, sometimes nothing and occasionally even mischief; for God may give up such persons to vanity, so that they may seem to have done something, when in reality their outward occupations bear no fruit; for it is quite certain that good works cannot be done but in the power of God. O how much might be written on this subject! this, however, is not the place for it.

4. I have said this to explain the stanza that follows, in which the soul replies to those who call in question its holy tranquillity, who will have it wholly occupied with outward duties, that its light may shine before the world: these persons have no conception of the fibers and the unseen root whence the sap is drawn, and which nourish the fruit.



If then on the common land
I am no longer seen or found,
You will say that I am lost;
That, being enamored,
I lost myself; and yet was found.

THE soul replies here to a tacit reproach. Worldly people are in the habit of censuring those who give themselves up in earnest to God, regarding them as extravagant, in their withdrawal from the world, and in their manner of life. They say also of them that they are useless for all matters of importance, and lost to everything the world prizes and respects! This reproach the soul meets in the best way; boldly and courageously despising it with everything else that the world can lay to its charge. Having attained to a living love of God, it makes little account of all this; and that is not all: it confesses it itself in this stanza, and boasts that it has committed that folly, and that it is lost to the world and to itself for the Beloved.

2. That which the soul is saying here, addressing itself to the world, is in substance this: "If you see me no longer occupied with the subjects that engrossed me once, with the other pastimes of the world, say and believe that I am lost to them, and a stranger to them, yes, that I am lost of my own choice, seeking my Beloved whom I so greatly love." But that they may see that the soul's loss is gain, and not consider it folly and delusion, it adds that its loss was gain, and that it therefore lost itself deliberately.

"If then on the common I am no longer seen or found."

3. The common is a public place where people assemble for recreation, and where shepherds feed their flocks. By the common here is meant the world in general, where men amuse themselves and feed the herd of their desires. The soul says to the worldly-minded: "If you see me no more where I used to be before I gave myself up wholly to God, look upon me as lost, and say so": the soul rejoices in that and would have men so speak of it.

"Say that I am lost."

4. He who loves is not ashamed before men of what he does for God, neither does he hide it through shame though the whole world should condemn it. He who shall be ashamed to confess the Son of God before men, neglecting to do His work, the Son of God also will be ashamed to acknowledge him before His Father. "He that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father Who is in heaven."[236] The soul, therefore, in the courage of its love, glories in what ministers to the honor of the Beloved, in that it has done anything for Him and is lost to the things of the world.

5. But few spiritual persons arrive at this perfect courage and resolution in their conduct. For though some attempt to practice it, and some even think themselves proficient therein, they never entirely lose themselves on certain points connected with the world or self, so as to be perfectly detached for the sake of Christ, despising appearances and the opinion of the world. These can never answer, "Say that I am lost," because they are not lost to themselves, and are still ashamed to confess Christ before men through human respect; these do not therefore really live in Christ.

"That being enamored,"

That is, practicing virtues for the love of God,

"I lost myself; and yet was found."

6. The soul remembers well the words of the Bridegroom in the Gospel: "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other,"[237] and therefore, in order not to lose God, loses all that is not God, that is, all created things, even itself, being lost to all things for the love of Him. He who truly loves makes a shipwreck of himself in all else that he may gain the more in the object of his love. Thus the soul says that it has lost itself -- that is, deliberately, of set purpose.

7. This loss occurs in two ways. The soul loses itself, making no account whatever of itself, but of the Beloved, resigning itself freely into His hands without any selfish views, losing itself deliberately, and seeking nothing for itself. Secondly, it loses itself in all things, making no account of anything save that which concerns the Beloved. This is to lose oneself -- that is, to be willing that others should have all things. Such is he that loves God; he seeks neither gain nor reward, but only to lose all, even himself, according to God's will; this is what such a one counts gain. This is real gain, for the Apostle says, "to die is gain"[238] -- that is, to die for Christ is my gain and profit spiritually. This is why the soul says that it "was found"; for he who does not know how to lose, does not find, but rather loses himself, as our Savior teaches us in the Gospel, saying, "He that will save his life shall lose it; and he that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it."[239]

8. But if we wish to know the deeper spiritual meaning of this line, and its peculiar fitness here, it is as follows: When a soul has advanced so far on the spiritual road as to be lost to all the natural methods of communing with God; when it seeks Him no longer by meditation, images, impressions, nor by any other created ways, or representations of sense, but only by rising above them all, in the joyful communion with Him by faith and love, then it may be said to have found God of a truth, because it has truly lost itself as to all that is not God, and also as to its own self.


THE soul being thus gained, all its works are gain, for all its powers are exerted in the spiritual intercourse of most sweet interior love with the Beloved. The interior communications between God and the soul are now so delicious, so full of sweetness, that no mortal tongue can describe them, nor human understanding comprehend them. As a bride on the day of her betrothal attends to nothing but to the joyous festival of her love, and brings forth all her jewels and ornaments for the pleasure of the bridegroom, and as he too in the same way exhibits his own magnificence and riches for the pleasure of his bride, so is it in the spiritual betrothal where the soul feels that which the bride says in the Canticle, "I to my Beloved and my Beloved to me."[240] The virtues and graces of the bride-soul, the grandeur and magnificence of the Bridegroom, the Son of God, come forth into the light, for the celebration of the bridal feast, communicating each to the other the goods and joys with the wine of sweet love in the Holy Spirit. The present stanza, addressed to the Bridegroom by the soul, has this for its subject.



Of emeralds, and of flowers
In the early morning gathered,
We will make the garlands,
Flowering in Your love,
And bound together with one hair of my head.

THE bride now turns to the Bridegroom and addresses Him in the intercourse and comfort of love; the subject of the stanza being the solace and delight which the bride-soul and the Son of God find in the possession of the virtues and gifts of each other, and in the exercise thereof, both rejoicing in their mutual love. Thus the soul, addressing the Beloved, says that they will make garlands rich in graces and acquired virtues, obtained at the fitting and convenient season, beautiful and lovely in the love He bears the soul, and kept together by the love which it itself has for Him. This rejoicing in virtue is what is meant by making garlands, for the soul and God rejoice together in these virtues bound up as flowers in a garland, in the common love which each bears the other.

"Of emeralds, and of flowers."

2. The flowers are the virtues of the soul; the emeralds are the gifts it has received from God. Then of these flowers and emeralds

"In the early morning gathered."

3. That is, acquired in youth, which is the early morning of life. They are said to be gathered because the virtues which we acquire in youth are most pleasing to God; because youth is the season when our vices most resist the acquisition of them, and when our natural inclinations are most prone to lose them. Those virtues also are more perfect which we acquire in early youth. This time of our life is the early morning; for as the freshness of the spring morning is more agreeable than any other part of the day, so also are the virtues acquired in our youth more pleasing in the sight of God.

4. By the fresh morning we may understand those acts of love by which we acquire virtue, and which are more pleasing to God than the fresh morning is to the sons of men; good works also, wrought in the season of spiritual dryness and hardness; this is the freshness of the winter morning, and what we then do for God in dryness of spirit is most precious in His eyes. Then it is that we acquire virtues and graces abundantly; and what we then acquire with toil and labor is for the most part better, more perfect and lasting than what we acquire in comfort and spiritual sweetness; for virtue sends forth its roots in the season of dryness, toil, and trial: as it is written, "Virtue is made perfect in infirmity."[241] It is with a view to show forth the excellence of these virtues, of which the garland is wrought for the Beloved, that the soul says of them that they have been gathered in the early morning; because it is these flowers alone, with the emeralds of virtue, the choice and perfect graces, and not the imperfect, which are pleasing to the Beloved, and so the bride says:

"We will make the garlands."

5. All the virtues and graces which the soul, and God in it, acquire are as a garland of diverse flowers with which the soul is marvelously adorned as with a vesture of rich embroidery. As material flowers are gathered, and then formed into a garland, so the spiritual flowers of virtues and graces are acquired and set in order in the soul: and when the acquisition is complete, the garland of perfection is complete also. The soul and the Bridegroom rejoice in it, both beautiful, adorned with the garland, as in the state of perfection.

6. These are the garlands which the soul says they will make. That is, it will wreathe itself with this variety of flowers, with the emeralds of virtues and perfect gifts, that it may present itself worthily before the face of the King, and be on an equality with Him, sitting as a queen on His right hand; for it has merited this by its beauty. Thus David says, addressing himself to Christ: "The queen stood on Your right hand in vestments of gold, girt with variety."[242] That is, at His right hand, clad in perfect love, girt with the variety of graces and perfect virtues.

7. The soul does not say, "I will make garlands," nor "You will make them," but, "We will make them," not separately, but both together; because the soul cannot practice virtues alone, nor acquire them alone, without the help of God; neither does God alone create virtue in the soul without the soul's concurrence. Though it is true, as the Apostle says, that "every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, descending from the Father of lights,"[243] still they enter into no soul without that soul's concurrence and consent. Thus the bride in the Canticle says to the Bridegroom; "Draw me; we will run after you."[244] Every inclination to good comes from God alone, as we learn here; but as to running, that is, good works, they proceed from God and the soul together, and it is therefore written, "We will run" -- that is, both together, but not God nor the soul alone.

8. These words may also be fittingly applied to Christ and His Church, which, as His bride, says to Him, "We will make the garlands." In this application of the words the garlands are the holy souls born to Christ in the Church. Every such soul is by itself a garland adorned with the flowers of virtues and graces, and all of them together a garland for the head of Christ the Bridegroom.

9. We may also understand by these beautiful garlands the crowns formed by Christ and the Church, of which there are three kinds. The first is formed of the beauty and white flowers of the virgins, each one with her virginal crown, and forming altogether one crown for the head of the Bridegroom Christ. The second, of the brilliant flowers of the holy doctors, each with his crown of doctor, and all together forming one crown above that of the virgins on the head of Christ. The third is composed of the purple flowers of the martyrs, each with his own crown of martyrdom, and all united into one, perfecting that on the head of Christ. Adorned with these garlands He will be so beautiful, and so lovely to behold, that heaven itself will repeat the words of the bride in the Canticle, saying: "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."[245] The soul then says we will make garlands.

"Flowering in Your love."

10. The flowering of good works and virtues is the grace and power which they derive from the love of God, without which they not only flower not, but even become dry, and worthless in the eyes of God, though they may be humanly perfect. But if He gives His grace and love they flourish in His love.

"And bound together with one hair of my head."

11. The hair is the will of the soul, and the love it bears the Beloved. This love performs the function of the thread that keeps the garland together. For as a thread binds the flowers of a garland, so loves knits together and sustains virtues in the soul. "Charity" -- that is, love -- says the Apostle, "is the bond of perfection."[246] Love, in the same way, binds the virtues and supernatural gifts together, so that when love fails by our departure from God, all our virtue perishes also, just as the flowers drop from the garland when the thread that bound them together is broken. It is not enough for God's gift of virtues that He should love us, but we too must love Him in order to receive them, and preserve them.

12. The soul speaks of one hair, not of many, to show that the will by itself is fixed on God, detached from all other hairs; that is, from strange love. This points out the great price and worth of these garlands of virtues; for when love is single, firmly fixed on God, as here described, the virtues also are entire, perfect, and flowering in the love of God; for the love He bears the soul is beyond all price, and the soul also knows it well.

13. Were I to attempt a description of the beauty of that binding of the flowers and emeralds together, or of the strength and majesty which their harmonious arrangement furnishes to the soul, or the beauty and grace of its embroidered vesture, expressions and words would fail me; for if God says of the evil spirit, "His body is like molten shields, shut close up with scales pressing upon one another, one is joined to another, and not so much as any air can come between them";[247] if the evil spirit is so strong, clad in malice thus compacted together -- for the scales that cover his body like molten shields are malice, and malice is in itself but weakness -- what must be the strength of the soul that is clothed in virtues so compacted and united together that no impurity or imperfection can penetrate between them; each virtue severally adding strength to strength, beauty to beauty, wealth to wealth, and to majesty, dominion and grandeur?

14. What a marvelous vision will be that of the bride-soul, when it shall sit on the right hand of the Bridegroom-King, crowned with graces! "How beautiful are your steps in shoes, O prince's daughter!"[248] The soul is called a prince's daughter because of the power it has; and if the beauty of the steps in shoes is great, what must be that of the whole vesture? Not only is the beauty of the soul crowned with admirable flowers, but its strength also, flowing from the harmonious order of the flowers, intertwined with the emeralds of its innumerable graces, is terrible: "Terrible as the army of a camp set in array."[249] For, as these virtues and gifts of God refresh the soul with their spiritual perfume, so also, when united in it, do they, out of their substance, minister strength. Thus, in the Canticle, when the bride was weak, languishing with love -- because she had not been able to bind together the flowers and the emeralds with the hair of her love -- and anxious to strengthen herself by that union of them, cries out: "Stay me with flowers, compass me about with apples; because I languish with love."[250] The flowers are the virtues, and the apples are the other graces.


I BELIEVE I have now shown how the intertwining of the garlands and their lasting presence in the soul explain the divine union of love which now exists between the soul and God. The Bridegroom, as He says Himself, is the "flower of the field and the lily of the valleys,"[251] and the soul's love is the hair that unites to itself this flower of flowers. Love is the most precious of all things, because it is the "bond of perfection," as the Apostle says,[252] and perfection is union with God. The soul is, as it were, a sheaf of garlands, for it is the subject of this glory, no longer what it was before, but the very perfect flower of flowers in the perfection and beauty of all; for the thread of love binds so closely God and the soul, and so unites them, that it transforms them and makes them one by love; so that, though in essence different, yet in glory and appearance the soul seems God and God the soul. Such is this marvelous union, baffling all description.

2. We may form some conception of it from the love of David and Jonathan, whose "soul was knit with the soul of David."[253] If the love of one man for another can be thus strong, so as to knit two souls together, what must that love of God be which can knit the soul of man to God the Bridegroom? God Himself is here the suitor Who in the omnipotence of His unfathomable love absorbs the soul with greater violence and efficacy than a torrent of fire a single drop of the morning dew which resolves itself into air. The hair, therefore, which accomplishes such a union must, of necessity, be most strong and subtle, seeing that it penetrates and binds together so effectually the soul and God. In the present stanza the soul declares the qualities of this hair.


By that one hair
You have observed fluttering on my neck,
And on my neck regarded,
You were captivated;
And wounded by one of my eyes.

THERE are three things mentioned here. The first is, that the love by which the virtues are bound together is nothing less than a strong love; for in truth it need be so in order to preserve them. The second is, that God is greatly taken by this hair of love, seeing it to be alone and strong. The third is, that God is deeply enamored of the soul, beholding the purity and integrity of its faith.

"By that one hair You have observed fluttering on my neck."

2. The neck signifies that strength in which, it is said, fluttered the hair of love, strong love, which bound the virtues together. It is not sufficient for the preservation of virtues that love be alone, it must be also strong so that no contrary vice may anywhere destroy the perfection of the garland; for the virtues so are bound up together in the soul by the hair, that if the thread is once broken, all the virtues are lost; for where one virtue is, all are, and where one fails, all fail also. The hair is said to flutter on the neck, because its love of God, without any hindrance whatever, flutters strongly and lightly in the strength of the soul.

3. As the air causes hair to wave and flutter on the neck, so the breath of the Holy Spirit stirs the strong love that it may fly upwards to God; for without this divine wind, which excites the powers of the soul to the practice of divine love, all the virtues the soul may possess become ineffectual and fruitless. The Beloved observed the hair fluttering on the neck -- that is, He considered it with particular attention and regard; because strong love is a great attraction for the eyes of God.

"And on my neck regarded."

4. This shows us that God not only esteems this love, seeing it alone, but also loves it, seeing it strong; for to say that God regards is to say that He loves, and to say that He observes is to say that He esteems what He observes. The word "neck" is repeated in this line, because it, being strong, is the cause why God loves it so much. It is as if the soul said, "You have loved it, seeing it strong without weakness or fear, and without any other love, and flying upwards swiftly and fervently."

5. Until now God had not looked upon this hair so as to be captivated by it, because He had not seen it alone, separate from the others, withdrawn from other loves, feelings, and affections, which hindered it from fluttering alone on the neck of strength. Afterwards, however, when mortifications and trials, temptations and penance had detached it, and made it strong, so that nothing whatever could break it, then God beholds it, and is taken by it, and binds the flowers of the garlands with it; for it is now so strong that it can keep the virtues united together in the soul.

6. But what these temptations and trials are, how they come, and how far they reach, that the soul may attain to that strength of love in which God unites it to Himself, I have described in the "Dark Night,"[254] and in the explanation of the four stanzas[255] which begin with the words, "O living flame of love!" The soul having passed through these trials has reached a degree of love so high that it has merited the divine union.

"You were captivated."

7. O joyful wonder! God captive to a hair. The reason of this capture so precious is that God was pleased to observe the fluttering of the hair on the soul's neck; for where God regards He loves. If He in His grace and mercy had not first looked upon us and loved us,[256] as St. John says, and humbled Himself, He never could have been taken by the fluttering of the hair of our miserable love. His flight is not so low as that our love could lay hold of the divine bird, attract His attention, and fly so high with a strength worthy of His regard, if He had not first looked upon us. He, however, is taken by the fluttering of the hair; He makes it worthy and pleasing to Himself, and then is captivated by it. "You have seen it on my neck, You were captivated by it." This renders it credible that a bird which flies low may capture the royal eagle in its flight, if the eagle should fly so low and be taken by it willingly.

"And wounded by one of my eyes."

8. The eye is faith. The soul speaks of but one, and that this has wounded the Beloved. If the faith and trust of the soul in God were not one, without admixture of other considerations, God never could have been Wounded by love. Thus the eye that wounds, and the hair that binds, must be one. So strong is the love of the Bridegroom for the bride, because of her simple faith, that, if the hair of her love binds Him, the eye of her faith imprisons Him so closely as to wound Him through that most tender affection He bears her, which is to the bride a further progress in His love.

9. The Bridegroom Himself speaks in the Canticle of the hair and the eyes, saying to the bride, "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."[257] He says twice that His heart is wounded, that is, with the eye and the hair, and therefore the soul in this stanza speaks of them both, because they signify its union with God in the understanding and the will; for the understanding is subdued by faith, signified by the eye, and the will by love. Here the soul exults in this union, and gives thanks to the Bridegroom for it, it being His gift; accounting it a great matter that He has been pleased to requite its love, and to become captive to it. We may also observe here the joy, happiness, and delight of the soul with its prisoner, having been for a long time His prisoner, enamored of Him.


GREAT is the power and courage of love, for God is its prisoner. Blessed is the soul that loves, for it has made a captive of God Who obeys its good pleasure. Such is the nature of love that it makes those who love do what is asked of them, and, on the other hand, without love the utmost efforts will be fruitless, but one hair will bind those that love. The soul, knowing this, and conscious of blessings beyond its merits, in being raised up to so high a degree of love, through the rich endowments of graces and virtues, attributes all to the Beloved, saying:



When You regarded me,
Yours eyes imprinted in me Your grace:
For this You loved me again,
And thereby my eyes merited
To adore what in You they saw.

IT is the nature of perfect love to seek or accept nothing for itself, to attribute nothing to itself, but to refer all to the Beloved. If this is true of earthly love, how much more so of the love of God, the reason of which is so constraining. In the two foregoing stanzas the bride seemed to attribute something to herself; for she said that she would make garlands with her Beloved, and bind them with a hair of her head; that is a great work, and of no slight importance and worth: afterwards she said that she exulted in having captivated Him by a hair, and wounded Him with one of her eyes. All this seems as if she attributed great merits to herself. Now, however, she explains her meaning, and removes the wrong impression with great care and fear, lest any merit should be attributed to herself, and therefore less to God than His due, and less also than she desired. She now refers all to Him, and at the same time gives Him thanks, saying that the cause of His being the captive of the hair of her love, and of His being wounded by the eye of her faith, was His mercy in looking lovingly upon her, thereby rendering her lovely and pleasing in His sight; and that the loveliness and worth she received from Him merited His love, and made her worthy to adore her Beloved, and to bring forth good works worthy of His love and favor.

"When You regarded me."

2. That is, with loving affection, for I have already said, that where God regards there He loves.

"Yours eyes imprinted in me Your grace."

3. The eyes of the Bridegroom signify here His merciful divinity, which, mercifully inclined to the soul, imprints or infuses in it the love and grace by which He makes it beautiful, and so elevates it that He makes it the partaker of His divinity. When the soul sees to what height of dignity God has raised it, it says:

"For this You loved me again."

4. To love again is to love much; it is more than simple love, it is a twofold love, and for two reasons. Here the soul explains the two motives of the Bridegroom's love; He not only loved it because captivated by the hair, but He loved it again, because He was wounded with one of its eyes. The reason why He loved it so deeply is that He would, when He looked upon it, give it the grace to please Him, endowing it with the hair of love, and animating with His charity the faith of the eye. And therefore the soul says:

"For this You loved me again."

5. To say that God shows favor to the soul is to say that He renders it worthy and capable of His love. It is therefore as if the soul said, "Having shown Your favor to me, worthy pledges of Your love, You have therefore loved me again"; that is, "You have given me grace upon grace"; or, in the words of St. John, "grace for grace";[258] grace for the grace He has given, that is more grace, for without grace we cannot merit His grace.

6. If we could clearly understand this truth, we must keep in mind that, as God loves nothing beside Himself, so loves He nothing more than Himself, because He loves all things with reference to Himself. Thus love is the final cause, and God loves nothing for what it is in itself. Consequently, when we say that God loves such a soul, we say, in effect, that He brings it in a manner to Himself, making it His equal, and thus it is He loves that soul in Himself with that very love with which He loves Himself. Every good work, therefore, of the soul in God is meritorious of God's love, because the soul in His favor, thus exalted, merits God Himself in every act.

"And thereby my eyes merited."

7. That is, "By the grace and favor which the eyes of Your compassion have wrought, when You looked upon me, rendering me pleasing in Your sight and worthy of Your regard."

"To adore what in You they saw."

8. That is: "The powers of my soul, O my Bridegroom, the eyes by which I can see You, although once fallen and miserable in the vileness of their mean occupations, have merited to look upon You." To look upon God is to do good works in His grace. Thus the powers of the soul merit in adoring because they adore in the grace of God, in which every act is meritorious. Enlightened and exalted by grace, they adored what in Him they saw, and what they saw not before, because of their blindness and meanness. What, then, have they now seen? The greatness of His power, His overflowing sweetness, infinite goodness, love, and compassion, innumerable benefits received at His hands, as well now when so near Him as before when far away. The eyes of the soul now merit to adore, and by adoring merit, for they are beautiful and pleasing to the Bridegroom. Before they were unworthy, not only to adore or behold Him, but even to look upon Him at all: great indeed is the stupidity and blindness of a soul without the grace of God.

9. It is a melancholy thing to see how far a soul departs from its duty when it is not enlightened by the love of God. For being bound to acknowledge these and other innumerable favors which it has every moment received at His hands, temporal as well as spiritual, and to worship and serve Him unceasingly with all its faculties, it not only does not do so, but is unworthy even to think of Him; nor does it make any account of Him whatever. Such is the misery of those who are living, or rather who are dead, in sin.


FOR the better understanding of this and of what follows, we must keep in mind that the regard of God benefits the soul in four ways: it cleanses, adorns, enriches, and enlightens it, as the sun, when it shines, dries, warms, beautifies, and brightens the earth. When God has visited the soul in the three latter ways, whereby He renders it pleasing to Himself, He remembers its former uncleanness and sin no more: as it is written, "All the iniquities that he has wrought, I will not remember."[259]

God having once done away with our sin and uncleanness, He will look upon them no more; nor will He withhold His mercy because of them, for He never punishes twice for the same sin, according to the words of the prophet: "There shall not rise a double affliction."[260]

Still, though God forgets the sin He has once forgiven, we are not for that reason to forget it ourselves; for the Wise Man says, "Be not without fear about sin forgiven."[261] There are three reasons for this. We should always remember our sin, that we may not presume, that we may have a subject of perpetual thanksgiving, and because it serves to give us more confidence that we shall receive greater favors; for if, when we were in sin, God showed Himself to us so merciful and forgiving, how much greater mercies may we not hope for when we are clean from sin, and in His love?

The soul, therefore, calling to mind all the mercies it has received, and seeing itself united to the Bridegroom in such dignity, rejoices greatly with joy, thanksgiving, and love. In this it is helped exceedingly by the recollection of its former condition, which was so mean and filthy that it not only did not deserve that God should look upon it, but was unworthy that He should even utter its name, as He says by the mouth of the prophet David: "Nor will I be mindful of their names by My lips."[262] Thus the soul, seeing that there was, and that there can be, nothing in itself to attract the eyes of God, but that all comes from Him of pure grace and goodwill, attributes its misery to itself, and all the blessings it enjoys to the Beloved; and seeing further that because of these blessings it can merit now what it could not merit before, it becomes bold with God, and prays for the divine spiritual union, wherein its mercies are multiplied. This is the subject of the following stanza:



Despise me not,
For if I was swarthy once,
You can regard me now;
Since You have regarded me,
Grace and beauty have You given me.

THE soul now is becoming bold, and respects itself, because of the gifts and endowments which the Beloved has bestowed upon it. It recognizes that these things, while itself is worthless and underserving, are at least means of merit, and consequently it ventures to say to the Beloved, "Do not disregard me now, or despise me"; for if before it deserved contempt because of the filthiness of its sin, and the meanness of its nature, now that He has once looked upon it, and thereby adorned it with grace and beauty, He may well look upon it a second time and increase its grace and beauty. That He has once done so, when the soul did not deserved it, and had no attractions for Him, is reason enough why He should do so again and again.

"Despise me not."

2. The soul does not say this because it desires in any way to be esteemed -- for contempt and insult are of great price, and occasions of joy to the soul that truly loves God -- but because it acknowledges that in itself it merits nothing else, were it not for the gifts and graces it has received from God, as it appears from the words that follow.

"For if I was swarthy once."

3. "If, before You graciously looked upon me You found me in my filthiness, black with imperfections and sins, and naturally mean and vile,"

"You can regard me now; since You have regarded me."

4. After once looking upon me, and taking away my swarthy complexion, defiled by sin and disagreeable to look upon, when You rendered me lovely for the first time, You may well look upon me now -- that is, now I may be looked on and deserve to be regarded, and thereby to receive further favors at Your hands. For Your eyes, when they first looked upon me, not only took away my swarthy complexion, but rendered me also worthy of Your regard; for in Your look of love, --

"Grace and beauty have You given me."

5. The two preceding lines are a commentary on the words of St. John, "grace for grace,"[263] for when God beholds a soul that is lovely in His eyes He is moved to bestow more grace upon it because He dwells well-pleased within it. Moses knew this, and prayed for further grace: he would, as it were, constrain God to grant it because he had already received so much "You have said: I know you by name, and you have found favor in My sight: if therefore I have found favor in Your sight, show me Your face, that I may know You, and may find grace before Yours eyes."[264]

6. Now a soul which in the eyes of God is thus exalted in grace, honorable and lovely, is for that reason an object of His unutterable love. If He loved that soul before it was in a state of grace, for His own sake, He loves it now, when in a state of grace, not only for His own sake, but also for itself. Thus enamored of its beauty, through its affections and good works, now that it is never without them, He bestows upon it continually further grace and love, and the more honorable and exalted He renders that soul, the more is He captivated by it, and the greater His love for it.

7. God Himself sets this truth before us, saying to His people, by the mouth of the prophet, "since you became honorable in My eyes, and glorious, I have loved you."[265] That is, "Since I have cast My eyes upon you, and thereby showed you favor, and made you glorious and honorable in My sight, you have merited other and further favors"; for to say that God loves, is to say that He multiplies His grace. The bride in the Canticle speaks to the same effect, saying, "I am black, but beautiful, O you daughters of Jerusalem."[266] and the Church adds,[267] saying, "Therefore has the King loved me, and brought me into His secret chamber." This is as much as saying: "O you souls who have no knowledge nor understanding of these favors, do not marvel that the heavenly King has shown such mercy to me as to plunge me in the depths of His love, for, though I am swarthy, He has so regarded me, after once looking upon me, that He could not be satisfied without betrothing me to Himself, and calling me into the inner chamber of His love."

8. Who can measure the greatness of the soul's exaltation when God is pleased with it? No language, no imagination is sufficient for this; for in truth God does this as God, to show that it is He who does it. The dealings of God with such a soul may in some degree be understood; but only in this way, namely, that He gives more to him who has more, and that His gifts are multiplied in proportion to the previous endowments of the soul. This is what He teaches us Himself in the Gospel, saying; "He that has to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but he that has not, from him shall be taken away even that which he has."[268]

9. Thus the talent of that servant, not then in favor with his lord, was taken from him and given to another who had gained others, so that the latter might have all, together with the favor of his lord.[269] God heaps the noblest and the greatest favors of His house, which is the Church militant as well as the Church triumphant, upon him who is most His friend, ordaining it thus for His greater honor and glory, as a great light absorbs many little lights. This is the spiritual sense of those words, already cited,[270] the prophet Isaiah addressed to the people of Israel: "I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior: I have given Egypt for your atonement and Seba for you. I will give men for you, and people for your life."[271]

10. Well may You then, O God, gaze upon and prize that soul which You regard, for You have made it precious by looking upon it, and given it graces which in Your sight are precious, and by which You are captivated. That soul, therefore, deserves that You should regard it not only once, but often, seeing that You have once looked upon it; for so is it written in the book of Esther by the Holy Spirit: "This honor is he worthy of, whom the king has a mind to honor."[272]


THE gifts of love which the Bridegroom bestows on the soul in this state are inestimable; the praises and endearing expressions of divine love which pass so frequently between them are beyond all utterance. The soul is occupied in praising Him, and in giving Him thanks; and He in exalting, praising, and thanking the soul, as we see in the Canticle, where He thus speaks to the bride: "Behold, you are fair, O My love, behold, you are fair; your eyes are as those of doves." The bride replies: "Behold, you are fair, my Beloved, and comely."[273] These, and other like expressions, are addressed by them each to the other.

2. In the previous stanza the soul despised itself, and said it was swarthy and unclean, praising Him for His beauty and grace, Who, by looking upon the soul, rendered it gracious and beautiful. He, Whose way it is to exalt the humble, fixing His eyes upon the soul, as He was entreated to do, praises it in the following stanza. He does not call it swarthy, as the soul calls itself, but He addresses it as His white dove, praising it for its good dispositions, those of a dove and a turtle-dove.




The little white dove
Has returned to the ark with the bough;
And now the turtle-dove
Its desired mate
On the green banks has found.

IT is the Bridegroom Himself who now speaks. He celebrates the purity of the soul in its present state, the rich rewards it has gained, in having prepared itself, and labored to come to Him. He also speaks of its blessedness in having found the Bridegroom in this union, and of the fulfillment of all its desires, the delight and joy it has in Him now that all the trials of life and time are over.

"The little white dove."

2. He calls the soul, on account of its whiteness and purity -- effects of the grace it has received at the hands of God -- a dove, "the little white dove," for this is the term He applies to it in the Canticle, to mark its simplicity, its natural gentleness, and its loving contemplation. The dove is not only simple, and gentle without gall, but its eyes are also clear, full of love. The Bridegroom, therefore, to point out in it this character or loving contemplation, wherein it looks upon God, says of it that its eyes are those of a dove: "Your eyes are dove's eyes."[274]

"Has returned to the ark with the bough."

3. Here the Bridegroom compares the soul to the dove of Noah's ark, the going and returning of which is a figure of what befalls the soul. For as the dove went forth from the ark, and returned because it found no rest for its feet on account of the waters of the deluge, until the time when it returned with the olive branch in its mouth -- a sign of the mercy of God in drying the waters which had covered the earth -- so the soul went forth at its creation out of the ark of God's omnipotence, and having traversed the deluge of its sins and imperfections, and finding no rest for its desires, flew and returned on the air of the longings of its love to the ark of its Creator's bosom; but it only effected an entrance when God had dried the waters of its imperfections. Then it returned with the olive branch, that is, the victory over all things by His merciful compassion, to this blessed and perfect recollection in the bosom of the Beloved, not only triumphant over all its enemies, but also rewarded for its merits; for both the one and the other are symbolized by the olive bough. Thus the dove-soul returns to the ark of God not only white and pure as it went forth when He created it, but with the olive branch of reward and peace obtained by the conquest of itself.

"And now the turtle dove its desired mate on the green banks has found."

4. The Bridegroom calls the soul the turtle-dove, because when it is seeking after the Beloved it is like the turtle-dove when it cannot find its desired mate. It is said of the turtle-dove, when it cannot find its mate, that it will not sits on the green boughs, nor drink of the cool refreshing waters, nor retire to the shade, nor mingle with companions; but when it finds its mate then it does all this.

5. Such, too, is the condition of the soul, and necessarily, if it is to attain to union with the Bridegroom. The soul's love and anxiety must be such that it cannot rest on the green boughs of any joy, nor drink of the waters of this world's honor and glory, nor recreate itself with any temporal consolation, nor shelter itself in the shade of created help and protection: it must repose nowhere, it must avoid the society of all its inclinations, mourn in its loneliness, until it shall find the Bridegroom to its perfect contentment.

6. And because the soul, before it attained to this estate, sought the Beloved in great love, and was satisfied with nothing short of Him, the Bridegroom here speaks of the end of its labors, and the fulfillment of its desires, saying: "Now the turtle-dove its desired mate on the green banks has found." That is: Now the bride-soul sits on the green bough, rejoicing in her Beloved, drinks of the clear waters of the highest contemplation and of the wisdom of God; is refreshed by the consolations it finds in Him, and is also sheltered under the shadow of His favor and protection, which she had so earnestly desired. There is she deliciously and divinely comforted, refreshed and nourished, as she says in the, Canticle: "I sat down under His shadow Whom I desired, and His fruit was sweet to my palate."[275]


THE Bridegroom proceeds to speak of the satisfaction which He derives from the happiness which the bride has found in that solitude wherein she desired to live -- a stable peace and unchangeable good. For when the bride is confirmed in the tranquillity of her soul and solitary love of the Bridegroom, she reposes so sweetly in the love of God, and God also in her, that she requires no other means or masters to guide her in the way of God; for God Himself is now her light and guide, fulfilling in her what He promised by the mouth of Hosea, saying: "I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart."[276] That is, it is in solitude that He communicates Himself, and unites Himself, to the soul, for to speak to the heart is to satisfy the heart, and no heart can be satisfied with less than God. And so the Bridegroom Says: 



In solitude she lived,
And in solitude built her nest;
And in solitude, alone
Has the Beloved guided her,
In solitude also wounded with love.

IN this stanza the Bridegroom is doing two things: one is, He is praising the solitude in which the soul once lived, for it was the means whereby it found the Beloved, and rejoiced in Him, away from all its former anxieties and troubles. For, as the soul abode in solitude, abandoning all created help and consolation, in order to obtain the fellowship and union of the Beloved, it deserved thereby possession of the peace of solitude in the Beloved, in Whom it reposes alone, undisturbed by any anxieties.

2. The second is this: the Bridegroom is saying that, inasmuch as the soul has desired to be alone, far away, for His sake, from all created things, He has been enamored of it because of its loneliness, has taken care of it, held it in His arms, fed it with all good things, and guided it to the deep things of God. He does not merely say that He is now the soul's guide, but that He is its only guide, without any intermediate help, either of angels or of men, either of forms or of figures; for the soul in this solitude has attained to true liberty of spirit, and is wholly detached from all subordinate means.

"In solitude she lived."

3. The turtle-dove, that is, the soul, lived in solitude before she found the Beloved in this state of union; for the soul that longs after God derives no consolation from any other companionship, -- yes, until it finds Him everything does but increase its solitude.

"And in solitude built her nest."

4. The previous solitude of the soul was its voluntary privation of all the comforts of this world, for the sake of the Bridegroom -- as in the instance of the turtledove -- its striving after perfection, and acquiring that perfect solitude wherein it attains to union with the Word, and in consequence to complete refreshment and repose. This is what is meant by "nest"; and the words of the stanza may be thus explained: "In that solitude, wherein the bride formerly lived, tried by afflictions and troubles, because she was not perfect, there, in that solitude, has she found refreshment and rest, because she has found perfect rest in God." This, too, is the spiritual sense of these words of the Psalmist: "The sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself, where she may lay her young ones;[277] that is, a sure stay in God, in Whom all the desires and powers of the soul are satisfied."

"And in solitude."

5. In the solitude of perfect detachment from all things, wherein it lives alone with God -- there He guides it, moves it, and elevates it to divine things. He guides the understanding in the perception of divine things, because it is now detached from all strange and contrary knowledge, and is alone. He moves the will freely to love Himself, because it is now alone, disencumbered from all other affections. He fills the memory with divine knowledge, because that also is now alone, emptied of all imaginations and fancies. For the instant the soul clears and empties its faculties of all earthly objects, and from attachments to higher things, keeping them in solitude, God immediately fills them with the invisible and divine; it being God Himself Who guides it in this solitude. St. Paul says of the perfect, that they "are led by the Spirit of God,"[278] and that is the same as saying "In solitude has He guided her."

"Alone has the Beloved guided her."

6. That is, the Beloved not only guides the soul in its solitude, but it is He alone Who works in it directly and immediately. It is of the nature of the soul's union with God in the spiritual marriage that God works directly, and communicates Himself immediately, not by the ministry of angels or by the help of natural capacities. For the exterior and interior senses, all created things, and even the soul itself, contribute very little towards the reception of those great supernatural favors which God bestows in this state; indeed, inasmuch as they do not fall within the cognizance of natural efforts, ability and application, God effects them alone.

7. The reason is, that He finds the soul alone in its solitude, and therefore will not give it another companion, nor will He entrust His work to any other than Himself.

8. There is a certain fitness in this; for the soul having abandoned all things, and passed through all the ordinary means, rising above them to God, God Himself becomes the guide, and the way to Himself. The soul in solitude, detached from all things, having now ascended above all things, nothing now can profit or help it to ascend higher except the Bridegroom Word Himself, Who, because enamored of the bride, will Himself alone bestow these graces on the soul. And so He says:

"In solitude also wounded with love."

9. That is, the love of the bride; for the Bridegroom not only loves greatly the solitude of the soul, but is also wounded with love of her, because the soul would abide in solitude and detachment, on account of its being itself wounded with love of Him. He will not, therefore, leave it alone; for being wounded with love because of the soul's solitude on His account, and seeing that nothing else can satisfy it, He comes Himself to be alone its guide, drawing it to, and absorbing it in, Himself. But He would not have done so if He had not found it in this spiritual solitude.


IT is a strange characteristic of persons in love that they take a much greater pleasure in their loneliness than in the company of others. For if they meet together in the presence of others with whom they need have no intercourse, and from whom they have nothing to conceal, and if those others neither address them nor interfere with them, yet the very fact of their presence is sufficient to rob the lovers of all pleasure in their meeting. The cause of this lies in the fact that love is the union of two persons, who will not communicate with each other if they are not alone. And now the soul, having reached the summit of perfection, and liberty of spirit in God, all the resistance and contradictions of the flesh being subdued, has no other occupation or employment than indulgence in the joys of its intimate love of the Bridegroom. It is written of holy Tobit, after the trials of his life were over, that God restored his sight, and that "the rest of his life was in joy."[279] So is it with the perfect soul, it rejoices in the blessings that surround it.

2. The prophet Isaiah says of the soul which, having been tried in the works of perfection has arrived at the goal desired: "Your light shall arise up in darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. And the Lord will give you rest always, and will fill your soul with brightness, and deliver your bones, and you shall be as a watered garden and as a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail. And the deserts of the world shall be built in you: you shall raise up the foundations of generation and generation; and you shall be called the builder of the hedges, turning the paths into rest. If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your will in My holy day, and call the Sabbath delicate, and the Holy of our Lord glorious, and glorify Him while you do not your own ways, and your will be not found, to speak a word: then shall you be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift you up above the heights of the earth, and will feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father,"[280] Who is God Himself. The soul, therefore, has nothing else to do now but to rejoice in the delights of this pasture, and one thing only to desire -- the perfect fruition of it in everlasting life. Thus, in the next and the following stanzas it implores the Beloved to admit it into this beatific pasture in the clear vision of God, and says:

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