View Full Version : Stanza 2 (21-36)

October 4th, 2009, 01:53 AM
STANZA 2 (21-36)

21. Although that which the soul tastes in this touch of God is not perfect, it does in fact have a certain savor of eternal life, as was mentioned.8 And this is not incredible if we believe, as we should, that this is a touch of substances, that is, of the substance of God in the substance of the soul. Many saints have attained to this substantial touch during their lives on earth.

The delicateness of delight felt in this contact is inexpressible. I would desire not to speak of it so as to avoid giving the impression that it is no more than what I describe. There is no way to catch in words the sublime things of God that take place in these souls. The appropriate language for the persons receiving these favors is that they understand them, experience them within themselves, enjoy them, and be silent. One is conscious in this state that these things are in a certain way like the white pebble that St. John said would be given to the one who conquers: and on that pebble a new name written, which no one knows but the one who receives it [Rv. 2:17]. Thus one can only say, and truthfully, "that tastes of eternal life."

Although one does not have perfect fruition in this life as in glory, this touch, nevertheless, since it is a touch, tastes of eternal life. As a result the soul tastes here all the things of God, since God communicates to it fortitude, wisdom, love, beauty, grace, goodness, and so on. Because God is all these things, a person enjoys them in only one touch of God, and the soul rejoices within its faculties and within its substance.

22. Sometimes the unction of the Holy Spirit overflows into the body and all the sensory substance, all the members and bones and marrow rejoice, not in so slight a fashion as is customary, but with the feeling of great delight and glory, even in the outermost joints of the hands and feet. The body experiences so much glory in that of the soul that in its own way it magnifies God, feeling in its bones something similar to what David declares: All my bones shall say: God, who is like to you? [Ps. 35:10]. And because everything that can be said of this unction is less than what it is, it is sufficient to say in reference to both the bodily and the spiritual experience, "that tastes of eternal life."

and pays every debt!

23. The soul affirms this because in the taste of eternal life, which it here enjoys, it feels the reward for the trials it passed through in order to reach this state. It feels not only that it has been compensated and satisfied justly but that it has been rewarded exceedingly. It thoroughly understands the truth of the promise made by the Bridegroom in the Gospel that he would repay a hundredfold [Mt. 19:29]. It has endured no tribulation or penance or trial to which there does not correspond a hundredfold of consolation and delight in this life; and it can truly say: "and pays every debt."

24. To know the nature of these debts for which the soul feels compensated here, it should be noted that ordinarily no one can reach this high state and kingdom of espousal without first undergoing many tribulations and trials. As is said in the Acts of the Apostles, It is necessary to undergo many tribulations to enter the kingdom of heaven [Acts 14:22]. In this state these tribulations are ended; the soul being purified suffers no more.

25. The trials that those who are to reach this state suffer are threefold: trials, discomforts, fears, and temptations from the world; and these in many ways: temptations, aridities, and afflictions in the senses; and tribulations, darknesses, distress, abandonment, temptations, and other trials in the spirit. In this way a soul is purified in its sensory and spiritual parts, as we mentioned in discussing the fourth verse of the first stanza.

The reason these trials are necessary in order to reach this state is that this highest union cannot be wrought in a soul that is not fortified by trials and temptations, and purified by tribulations, darknesses, and distress, just as a superior quality liqueur is poured only into a sturdy flask that is prepared and purified. By these trials the sensory part of the soul is purified and strengthened, and the spiritual part is refined, purged, and disposed. Since unpurified souls must undergo the sufferings of fire in the next life to attain union with God in glory, so in this life they must undergo the fire of these sufferings to reach the union of perfection. This fire acts on some more vigorously than on others, and on some for a longer time than on others, according to the degree of union to which God wishes to raise them, and according to what they must be purged of.9

26. Through these trials in which God places the spirit and the senses, the soul in bitterness acquires virtues, strength, and perfection, for virtue is made perfect in weakness [2 Cor. 12:9] and refined through the endurance of suffering. Iron cannot serve for the artificer's plan, or be adapted to it without fire and the hammer; as Jeremiah says of the fire that gave him knowledge: You have sent fire into my bones and have instructed me [Lam. 1:13]. And Jeremiah also says of the hammer: You have chastised me, Lord, and I was instructed [Jer. 31:18]. Hence Ecclesiasticus says: What can anyone know who is not tried? And the one that has no experience knows little [Ecclus. 34:9-10].

27. And here it ought to be pointed out why so few reach this high state of perfect union with God. It should be known that the reason is not that God wishes only a few of these spirits to be so elevated; he would rather want all to be perfect, but he finds few vessels that will endure so lofty and sublime a work. Since he tries them in little things and finds them so weak that they immediately flee from work, unwilling to be subject to the least discomfort and mortification, it follows that not finding them strong and faithful in that little [Mt. 25:21, 23], in which he favored them by beginning to hew and polish them, he realizes that they will be much less strong in these greater trials. As a result he proceeds no further in purifying them and raising them from the dust of the earth through the toil of mortification. They are in need of greater constancy and fortitude than they showed.

There are many who desire to advance and persistently beseech God to bring them to this state of perfection. Yet when God wills to conduct them through the initial trials and mortifications, as is necessary, they are unwilling to suffer them and they shun them, flee from the narrow road of life [Mt. 7:14] and seek the broad road of their own consolation, which is that of their own perdition [Mt. 7:13]; thus they do not allow God to begin to grant their petition. They are like useless containers, for although they desire to reach the state of the perfect they do not want to be guided by the path of trials that leads to it. They hardly even begin to walk along this road by submitting to what is least, that is, to ordinary sufferings.10

We can answer them with Jeremiah's words: If you have grown weary running with footmen, how will you contend with horses? And if you have had quiet in the land of peace, what will you do in the swelling of the Jordan? [Jer. 12:5]. This is like saying: If by the common trials (on foot) that form part of human life, it seemed to you that you were running because there were so many, and you took such short steps, how will you keep up with the horse's stride, which signifies more than ordinary trials for which human strength and speed is not enough? And if you have not wanted to forego the peace and pleasure of your earth, which is your sensuality, or contradict it in anything or stir up a war, I do not know how you will desire to enter the impetuous waters of spiritual tribulations and trials that are deeper.

28. O souls who in spiritual matters desire to walk in security and consolation! If you but knew how much it behooves you to suffer in order to reach this security and consolation, and how without suffering you cannot attain to your desire but rather turn back, in no way would you look for comfort either from God or from creatures. You would instead carry the cross and, placed on it, desire to drink the pure gall and vinegar. You would consider it good fortune that, dying to this world and to yourselves, you would live to God in the delights of the spirit, and patiently and faithfully suffering exterior trials, which are small, you would merit that God fix his eyes on you and purge you more profoundly through deeper spiritual trials in order to give you more interior blessings.11

Those to whom God grants so signal a favor as to tempt them more interiorly must have performed many services for him, have had admirable patience and constancy for his sake, and in their life and works have been very acceptable to him. For he tries them in this way so as to make them advance in gifts and merits, as he did with holy Tobit to whom St. Raphael said: Since you were acceptable to God, he favored you by sending you temptation that he might try you more in order to exalt you more [Tb. 12:13]. After that temptation, all the rest of his life was in joy, as Sacred Scripture says [Tb. 14:4]. We also see in the life of holy Job that once God accepted his works in the sight of the good and evil spirits, he immediately favored him by sending those great trials so that subsequently he could extol him much more. And this he did, multiplying his goods, both spiritual and temporal [Jb. 1-2; 42:10, 12].

29. God acts similarly with those he wishes to lead on by means of what is most beneficial for them. He allows them to be tempted in order to elevate them as high as possible, that is, to union with divine wisdom, which, as David says, is silver examined in the fire, tried in the earth - that is, of our flesh - and purged seven times, which is all the purgation possible [Ps. 12:6]. There is no reason to be detained any longer in order to describe the nature of each of these seven purgations required to attain wisdom, or how the seven degrees of love correspond to them.12 To the soul this wisdom is still like the silver of which David speaks, however great may be the union; but in the other life it will be like gold to it.

30. People, then, should live with great patience and constancy in all the tribulations and trials God places on them, whether they be exterior or interior, spiritual or bodily, great or small, and they should accept them all as from God's hand as a good remedy and not flee from them, for they bring health. In this matter let them take the counsel of the Wise Man: If the spirit of him who has power descends upon you, do not abandon your place (the place and site of your probation, which is the trial he sends you), for the cure will make great sins cease [Eccl. 10:4]; that is, it will cut of the roots of your sins and imperfections - your evil habits. The combat of trials, distress, and temptations deadens the evil and imperfect habits of the soul and purifies and strengthens it. People should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends them, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state.

31. Returning to our explanation,13 the soul knows in this state that everything has ended well and that now sicut tenebrae ejus ita et lumen ejus [Ps. 139:12],14 and that, as it was a sharer of tribulations, it is now a sharer of consolations and of the kingdom [2 Cor. 1:7]. For God repays the interior and exterior trials very well with divine goods for the soul and body, so there is not a trial that does not have a corresponding and considerable reward. It proclaims this by saying with full satisfaction: "and pays every debt." It thanks God in this verse for having withdrawn it from trials, as David also did in his psalm: What great tribulations you have shown me, many and difficult, and you have freed me from them all, and have brought me back again from the abyss of the earth. You have multiplied your magnificence and turning to me you have comforted me [Ps. 71:20-21].

Before attaining to this state, the soul was like Mordecai who sat at the gates of the palace, wept in the square of Susan over the danger of his life, wore sackcloth, and was unwilling to receive a garment from Queen Esther [Est. 4:1-2, 4] because he had not obtained any reward for the services he had rendered the king or for his fidelity in defending the king's honor and life [Est. 6:3]. One day, just as with Mordecai, the soul is repaid for all its trials and services [Est. 6:10-11], and not only made to enter the palace and stand, clothed in royal garments, before the king, but also accorded the royal crown, scepter, and throne, and possession of the royal ring, so it might do anything it likes and omit anything it does not like in the kingdom of its Bridegroom [Est. 8: 1-2, 15]. Those who are in this state obtain everything they desire. Thus they are not merely paid, but even the Judeans, their enemies, the inordinate appetites, are dead, for these were eliminating the spiritual life in which it now lives through its faculties and appetites. Hence it subsequently says:

in killing you changed death to life.

32. For death is nothing else than the privation of life, because when life comes no vestige of death remains. Spiritually speaking, there are two kinds of life:

One is beatific, consisting in the vision of God, which must be attained by natural death, as St. Paul says: We know that if this our clay house is dissolved, we have a dwelling place of God in heaven [2 Cor. 5:1].

The other is the perfect spiritual life, the possession of God through union of love. This is acquired through complete mortification of all the vices and appetites and of one's own nature. Until this is achieved one cannot reach the perfection of the spiritual life of union with God, as the Apostle also declares in these words: If you live according to the flesh you shall die; yet if with the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh you shall live [Rom. 8:13].

33. Let it be known that what the soul calls death is all that goes to make up the old self: the entire engagement of the faculties (memory, intellect, and will) in the things of the world, and the indulgence of the appetites in the pleasures of creatures. All this is the activity of the old life, which is the death of the new spiritual life. The soul is unable to live perfectly in this new life if the old self does not die completely. The Apostle warns: Take off the old self and put on the new self who according to God is created in justice and holiness [Eph. 4:22-24]. In this new life that the soul lives when it has arrived at the perfect union with God here being discussed, all the inclinations and activity of the appetites and faculties - of their own the operation of death and the privation of the spiritual life - become divine.

34. Since every living being lives by its operations, as the philosophers say, and the soul's operations are in God though its union with him, it lives the life of God.15 Thus it changed its death to life, its animal life to spiritual life.

The intellect, which before this union understood naturally by the vigor of its natural light by means of the natural senses, is now moved and informed by another higher principle of supernatural divine light, and the senses are bypassed. Accordingly, the intellect becomes divine, because through its union with God's intellect both become one.

And the will, which previously loved in a base and deadly way with only its natural affection, is now changed into the life of divine love, for it loves in a lofty way with divine affection, moved by the strength of the Holy Spirit in which it now lives the life of love. By means of this union God's will and the soul's will are now one.

And the memory, which by itself perceived only the figures and phantasms of creatures, is changed through this union so as to have in its mind the eternal years mentioned by David [Ps. 77:5].

And the natural appetite that only had the ability and strength to relish creatures (which causes death), is changed now so that its taste and savor are divine, and it is moved and satisfied by another principle: the delight of God, in which it is more alive. And because it is united with him, it is no longer anything else than the appetite of God.

Finally all the movements, operations, and inclinations the soul had previously from the principle and strength of its natural life are now in this union dead to what they formerly were, changed into divine movements, and alive to God. For the soul, like a true daughter of God, is moved in all by the Spirit of God, as St. Paul teaches in saying that those who are moved by the Spirit of God are children of God himself [Rom. 8:14].16

Accordingly, the intellect of this soul is God's intellect; its will is God's will; its memory is the memory of God; and its delight is God's delight; and although the substance of this soul is not the substance of God, since it cannot undergo a substantial conversion into him, it has become God through participation in God, being united to and absorbed in him, as it is in this state. Such a union is wrought in this perfect state of the spiritual life, yet not as perfectly as in the next life. Consequently the soul is dead to all it was in itself, which was death to it, and alive to what God is in himself. Speaking of itself, the soul declares in this verse: "In killing you changed death to life."17

The soul can well repeat the words of St. Paul: I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me [Gal. 2:20]. The death of this soul is changed to the life of God. We can also apply the words of the Apostle absorpta est mors in victoria [1 Cor. 15:54],18 as well as those the prophet Hosea speaks in the person of God: O death, I will be your death [Hos. 13:14]. In other words: Since I am life, being the death of death, death will be absorbed in life.

35. The soul, then, is absorbed in divine life, withdrawn from its natural appetites and from all that is secular and temporal; it is brought into the king's cellars where it rejoices in its Beloved, remembering his breasts more than wine, saying: Although I am dark I am beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem [Sg. 1:4-5], for my natural black color was changed into the beauty of the heavenly king.

36. In this state of life so perfect, the soul always walks in festivity, inwardly and outwardly, and it frequently bears on its spiritual tongue a new song of great jubilation in God, a song always new, enfolded in a gladness and love arising from the knowledge the soul has of its happy state. Sometimes it walks in joy and fruition, expressing in its spirit those words of Job: My glory will ever be renewed, and I shall multiply my days as a palm tree [Jb. 29:20,18]. This is equivalent to declaring that God himself, always remaining the same, renews all things. As the Wise Man states: Being ever one in my glory, I will ever renew my glory [Wis. 7:27], that is, I will not let it grow old as it was before. And I will multiply my days as the palm tree, that is, raise my merits heavenward as the palm tree lifts its branches.

The merits of a person in this state are usually remarkable in number and quality, and ordinarily such a soul also sings in its spirit all that David proclaims in the psalm that begins: Exaltabo te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me,19 and especially in the last two lines: Convertisti planctum meum in gaudium mihi, and so on; conscidisti saccum meum, et circumdedisti me laetitia,20 to the end that my glory may sing to you and I may not regret; my Lord, God, I will praise you forever [Ps. 30:1,11-12].

There is no need to be amazed that the soul so frequently walks amid this joy, jubilance, fruition, and praise of God. Besides the knowledge it has of the favors received, it feels in this state that God is so solicitous in regaling it with precious, delicate, and enhancing words, and in extolling it by various favors, that he has no one else in the world to favor nor anything else to do, that everything is for the soul alone. With this feeling it proclaims like the bride in the Song of Songs: Dilectus meus mihi et ego illi [Sg. 2:16].21