A SPIRITUAL CANTICLE

OF THE SOUL
AND
THE BRIDEGROOM CHRIST
BY
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
TRANSLATED BY
DAVID LEWIS
WITH CORRECTIONS AND AN INTRODUCTION
BY
BENEDICT ZIMMERMAN, O.C.D.
Prior of St. Luke’s, Wincanton
June 28, 1909
Scanned and Edi ted by Harry Pl anti nga, 1993
Language has been moder ni zed i n the el ectr oni c edi ti on
by the el i mi nati on of the ar chai c si ngul ar case.
Thi s el ectr oni c text i s i n the publ i c domai n.
I NTRODUCTI ON
THE pr esent vol ume of the wor ks of St. John of the Cr oss contai ns the expl anati on
of the “Spi r i tual Canti cl e of the Soul and the Br i degr oom Chr i st.” The two ear l i er
wor ks, the “Ascent of Mount Car mel ” and the “Dar k Ni ght of the Soul ,” deal t wi th
the cl eansi ng of the soul , the unr emi ttant war agai nst even the smal l est
i mper fecti ons standi ng i n the way of uni on wi th God; i mper fecti ons whi ch must
be removed, partl y by stri ct sel f-di sci pl i ne, partl y by the di rect i nterventi on of God,
Who, sear chi ng “the r ei ns and hear ts” by means of heavy i nter i or and exter i or
tr i al s, pur ges away whatever i s di spl easi ng to Hi m. Al though some stanzas r efer
to thi s pr el i mi nar y state, the chi ef object of the “Spi r i tual Canti cl e” i s to pi ctur e
under the Bi bl i cal si mi l e of Espousal s and Matr i mony the bl essedness of a soul
that has ar r i ved at uni on wi th God.
The Canti cl e was composed dur i ng the l ong i mpr i sonment St. John under went at
Tol edo from the begi nni ng of December 1577 ti l l the mi ddl e of August of the
fol l owi ng year . Bei ng one of the pr i nci pal suppor ter s of the Refor m of St. Ter esa,
he was al so one of the vi cti ms of the war waged agai nst her wor k by the Super i or s
of the ol d br anch of the Or der . St. John’s pr i son was a nar r ow, sti fl i ng cel l , wi th
no wi ndow, but onl y a smal l l oophol e thr ough whi ch a r ay of l i ght enter ed for a
shor t ti me of the day, just l ong enough to enabl e hi m to say hi s offi ce, but
affor di ng l i ttl e faci l i ty for r eadi ng or wr i ti ng. However , St. John stood i n no need
of books. Havi ng for many year s medi tated on ever y wor d of Hol y Scr i ptur e, the
Wor d of God was deepl y wr i tten i n hi s hear t, suppl yi ng abundant food for
conver sati on wi th God dur i ng the whol e per i od of hi s i mpr i sonment. Fr om ti me
to ti me he pour ed for th hi s soul i n poetr y; after war ds he communi cated hi s ver ses
to fr i ends.
One of these poeti cal wor ks, the fr ui t of hi s i mpr i sonment, was the “Spi r i tual
Canti cl e,” whi ch, as the r eader wi l l noti ce, i s an abr i dged par aphr ase of the
Canti cl e of Canti cl es, the Song of Sol omon, wher ei n under the i mage of
passi onate l ove ar e descr i bed the mysti cal suffer i ngs and l ongi ngs of a soul
enamor ed wi th God.
Fr om the ear l i est ti mes the Father s and Doctor s of the Chur ch had r ecogni zed the
mysti cal char acter of the Canti cl e, and the Chur ch had l ar gel y uti l i zed i t i n her
l i turgy. But as there i s nothi ng so hol y but that i t may be abused, the Canti cl e
al most mor e than any other por ti on of Hol y Scr i ptur e, had been mi si nter pr eted by
a fal se Mysti ci sm, such as was r ampant i n the mi ddl e of the si xteenth centur y. I t
had come to pass, sai d the l ear ned and sai ntl y Augusti ni an, Fr ay Lui s de Leon,
that that whi ch was gi ven as a medi ci ne was tur ned i nto poi son,
1
so that the
Eccl esi asti cal authori ty, by the I ndex of 1559, forbade the ci rcul ati on of the Bi bl e or
par ts of the Bi bl e i n any but the or i gi nal l anguages, Hebr ew, Gr eek, and Lati n;
and no one knew better than Lui s de Leon hi msel f how r i gor ousl y these r ul es
wer e enfor ced, for he had to expi ate by near l y fi ve year s’ i mpr i sonment the
audaci ty of havi ng tr ansl ated i nto Casti l i an the Canti cl e of Canti cl es.
2
1
‘Los nombr es de Cr i sto.’ I ntr oducti on.
2
Thi s excepti onal l y sever e l egi sl ati on, justi fi ed by the danger s of the ti me, onl y hel d good for
iii
iv Introduction
Agai n, one of the confessor s of St. Ter esa, commonl y thought to have been the
Domi ni can, Fr ay Di ego de Yanguas, on l ear ni ng that the Sai nt had wr i tten a book
on the Canti cl e, or der ed her to thr ow i t i nto the fi r e, so that we now onl y possess a
few fr agments of her wor k, whi ch, unknown to St. Ter esa, had been copi ed by a
nun.
I t wi l l now be under stood that St. John’s poeti cal par aphr ase of the Canti cl e must
have been wel come to many contempl ati ve soul s who desi r ed to ki ndl e thei r
devoti on wi th the wor ds of Sol omon, but wer e unabl e to r ead them i n Lati n. Yet
the text al one, wi thout expl anati on, woul d have hel ped them l i ttl e; and as no one
was better qual i fi ed than the author to thr ow l i ght on the myster i es hi dden under
or i ental i mager y, the Vener abl e Ann of Jesus, Pr i or ess of the Car mel i te convent
at Gr anada, r equested St. John to wr i te a commentar y on hi s ver ses.
1
He at fi rst
excused hi msel f, sayi ng that he was no l onger i n that state of spi r i tual
exuber ance i n whi ch he had been when composi ng the Canti cl e, and that ther e
onl y r emai ned to hi m a confused r ecol l ecti on of the wonder ful oper ati ons of Di vi ne
gr ace dur i ng the per i od of hi s i mpr i sonment. Ann of Jesus was not sati sfi ed wi th
thi s answer ; she not onl y knew that St. John had l ost nothi ng of hi s fer vor , though
he mi ght no l onger exper i ence the same feel i ngs, but she r emember ed what had
happened to St. Ter esa under si mi l ar ci r cumstances, and bel i eved the same thi ng
mi ght happen to St. John. When St. Ter esa was obl i ged to wr i te on some mysti cal
phenomena, the natur e of whi ch she di d not ful l y under stand, or whose effect she
had for gotten, God gr anted her unexpectedl y a r epeti ti on of her for mer
experi ences so as to enabl e her to ful l y study the matter and report on i t.
2
Vener abl e Ann of Jesus fel t sur e that i f St. John under took to wr i te an
expl anati on of the Canti cl e he woul d soon fi nd hi msel f i n the same mental
atti tude as when he composed i t.
St. John at l ast consented, and wr ote the wor k now befor e us. The fol l owi ng l etter ,
whi ch has l atel y come to l i ght, gi ves some val uabl e i nfor mati on of i ts composi ti on.
The wr i ter , Magdal en of the Hol y Spi r i t, nun of Veas, wher e she was pr ofessed on
August 6, 1577, was i nti matel y acquai nted wi th the Sai nt.
“When the hol y father escaped fr om pr i son, he took wi th hi m a book of poetr y he
had wr i tten whi l e ther e, contai ni ng the ver ses commenci ng ‘I n the begi nni ng
was the Wor d,’ and those other s: ‘I know the fountai n wel l whi ch fl ows and r uns,
Spai n and the Spani sh col oni es, and has l ong si nce been r evi sed. I t di d not i ncl ude the Epi stl es
and Gospel s, Psal ms, Passi on, and other par ts of the dai l y ser vi ce.
1
Ann de Lobera, born at Medi na del Campo, November 25, 1545, was a deaf-mute unti l her ei ghth
year . When she appl i ed for admi ssi on to the Car mel i te convent at Avi l a St. Ter esa pr omi sed to
recei ve her not so much as a novi ce, but as her compani on and future successor; she took the habi t
August 1, 1570, and made her professi on at Sal amanca, October 21, 1571. She became the fi rst
pr i or ess of Veas, and was entr usted by St. Ter esa wi th the foundati on of Gr anada (Januar y 1582),
where she found St. John of the Cross, who was pri or of the convent of The Martyrs (wel l known to
vi si tor s of the Al hambr a al though no l onger a convent). St. John not onl y became the di r ector and
confessor of the convent of nuns, but r emai ned the most fai thful hel per and the staunchest fr i end of
Mother Ann throughout the heavy tri al s whi ch marred many years of her l i fe. I n 1604 she went to
Pari s, to found the fi rst convent of her Order i n France, and i n 1607 she proceeded to Brussel s,
where she remai ned unti l her death, March 4, 1621, The heroi c nature of her vi rtues havi ng been
acknowl edged, she was decl ar ed ‘Vener abl e’ i n 1878, and i t i s hoped that she wi l l soon be beati fi ed.
2 See ‘Li fe of St. Ter esa’: ed. Baker (London, I 904), ch. xi v. 12, xvi . 2, xvi i i . 10.
Introduction v
though i t i s ni ght,’ and the canti cl e, ‘Wher e have you hi dden your sel f?’ as far as
‘O nymphs of Judea’ (stanza XVI I I .). The r emai ni ng ver ses he composed l ater on
whi l e rector of the col l ege of Baeza (1579—81), whi l e some of the expl anati ons
wer e wr i tten at Veas at the r equest of the nuns, and other s at Gr anada. The Sai nt
wr ote thi s book i n pr i son and after war ds l eft i t at Veas, wher e i t was handed to
me to make some copi es of i t. Later on i t was taken away fr om my cel l , and I
never knew who took i t. I was much str uck wi th the vi vi dness and the beauty and
subtl ety of the wor ds. One day I asked the Sai nt whether God had gi ven hi m these
wor ds whi ch so admi r abl y expl ai n those myster i es, and He answer ed: ‘Chi l d,
someti mes God gave them to me, and at other ti mes I sought them mysel f.’”
1
The autogr aph of St. John’s wor k whi ch i s pr eser ved at Jaén bear s the fol l owi ng
ti tl e:
“Expl anati on of Stanzas treati ng of the exerci se of l ove between the soul and
Jesus Chr i st i ts Spouse, deal i ng wi th and commenti ng on cer tai n poi nts
and effects of pr ayer ; wr i tten at the r equest of Mother Ann of Jesus,
pr i or ess of the Di scal ced Car mel i te nuns of St. Joseph’s convent, Gr anada,
1584.”
As mi ght be expected, the author dedi cated the book to Ann of Jesus, at whose
r equest he had wr i tten i t. Thus, he began hi s Pr ol ogue wi th the fol l owi ng wor ds:
“ I nasmuch as thi s canti cl e, Reverend Mother (Religiosa Madre), seems to have
been wr i tten,” etc. A l i ttl e fur ther on he sai d: “The stanzas that fol l ow, havi ng
been wr i tten under the i nfl uence of that l ove whi ch pr oceeds fr om the over fl owi ng
mysti cal i ntel l i gence, cannot be ful l y expl ai ned. I ndeed, I do not pur pose any
such thi ng, for my sol e pur pose i s to thr ow some gener al l i ght over them, si nce
Your Reverence has asked me to do so, and si nce thi s, i n my opi ni on too, i s the
better cour se.” And agai n: “ I shal l , however , pass over the mor e or di nar y (effects
of pr ayer ), and tr eat br i efl y of the mor e extr aor di nar y to whi ch they ar e subject
who, by the mer cy of God, have advanced beyond the state of begi nner s. Thi s I do
for two r easons: the fi r st i s that much i s al r eady wr i tten concer ni ng begi nner s;
and the second i s that I am addr essi ng mysel f to Your Reverence at your own
bidding; for you have r ecei ved fr om Our Lor d the gr ace of bei ng l ed on fr om the
el ementar y state and l ed i nwar ds to the bosom of Hi s di vi ne l ove.” He conti nues
thus: “I ther efor e tr ust, though I may di scuss some poi nts of schol asti c theol ogy
r el ati ng to the i nter i or commer ce of the soul wi th God, that I am not usi ng such
l anguage al together i n vai n, and that i t wi l l be found pr ofi tabl e for pur e
spi r i tual i ty. For though Your Reverence is ignorant of scholastic theology, you are
by no means i gnor ant of mysti cal theol ogy, the sci ence of l ove, etc.”
From these passages i t appears qui te cl earl y that the Sai nt wrote the book for
Vener abl e Ann of Jesus and the nuns of her convent. Wi th the excepti on of an
edi ti on publ i shed at Br ussel s i n 1627, these per sonal al l usi ons have di sappear ed
fr om both the Spani sh text and the tr ansl ati ons,
2
nor ar e they to be found i n Mr .
Lewi s’s ver si on. Ther e cannot be the l east doubt that they r epr esent St. John’s
own i ntenti on, for they ar e to be found i n hi s or i gi nal manuscr i pt. Thi s,
contai ni ng, i n sever al par ts, besi des the Expl anati on of the Spi r i tual Canti cl e,
var i ous poems by the Sai nt, was gi ven by hi m to Ann of Jesus, who i n her tur n
1 ‘Manuel Ser r ano y Sanz,’ Apuntos para una Biblioteca de Escritores españoles. (1903, p. 399).
2
Cf. Ber thol d-I gnace de Sai nte Anne, ‘Vi e de l a Mèr e Anne de Jésui ’ (Mal i nes, 1876), I . 343 ff.
vi Introduction
commi tted i t to the car e of one of her nuns, I sabel l e of the I ncar nati on, who took i t
wi th her to Baeza, wher e she r emai ned el even year s, and after war ds to Jaén,
wher e she founded a convent of whi ch she became the fi r st pr i or ess. She ther e
caused the pr eci ous manuscr i pt to be bound i n r ed vel vet wi th si l ver cl asps and
gi l t edges. I t sti l l was ther e i n 1876, and, for al l we know, r emai ns to the pr esent
day i n the keepi ng of the sai d convent. I t i s a pi ty that no photographi c edi ti on of
the wr i ti ngs of St. John (so far as the or i gi nal s ar e pr eser ved) has yet been
attempted, for ther e i s need for a cr i ti cal edi ti on of hi s wor ks.
The fol l owi ng i s the di vi si on of the wor k: Stanzas I . to I V. ar e i ntr oductor y; V. to
XI I . r efer to the contempl ati ve l i fe i n i ts ear l i er stages; XI I I . to XXI ., deal i ng wi th
what the Sai nt cal l s the Espousal s, apper tai n to the Uni ti ve way, wher e the soul i s
fr equentl y, but not habi tual l y, admi tted to a tr ansi ent uni on wi th God; and XXI I .
to the end descr i be what he cal l s Matr i mony, the hi ghest per fecti on a soul can
attai n thi s si de of the gr ave. The r eader wi l l fi nd an epi tome of the whol e system of
mysti cal theol ogy i n the expl anati on of Stanza XXVI .
Thi s wor k di ffer s i n many r espects fr om the “Ascent” and the “Dar k Ni ght.”
Wher eas these ar e str i ctl y systemati c, pr ecedi ng on the l i ne of r el entl ess l ogi c, the
“Spi r i tual Canti cl e,” as a poeti cal wor k ought to do, soar s hi gh above the di vi si ons
and di sti ncti ons of the schol asti c method. Wi th a bol dness aki n to that of hi s
Patr on Sai nt, the Evangel i st, St. John r i ses to the hi ghest hei ghts, touchi ng on a
subject that shoul d onl y be handl ed by a Sai nt, and whi ch the r eader , wer e he a
Sai nt hi msel f, wi l l do wel l to tr eat cauti ousl y: the par taki ng by the human soul of
the Di vi ne Natur e, or , as St. John cal l s i t, the Dei fi cati on of the soul (Stanza
XXVI . sqq.), These ar e r egi ons wher e the or di nar y mi nd thr eatens to tur n; but St.
John, wi th the knowl edge of what he hi msel f had exper i enced, not once but many
ti mes, what he had obser ved i n other s, and what, above al l , he had r ead of i n Hol y
Scr i ptur e, does not shr i nk fr om l i fti ng the vei l mor e compl etel y than pr obabl y any
Cathol i c wr i ter on mysti cal theol ogy has done. To pass i n si l ence the l ast wonder s
of God’s l ove for fear of bei ng mi sunder stood, woul d have been tantamount to
i gnor i ng the ver y end for whi ch soul s ar e l ed al ong the way of per fecti on; to r eveal
these myster i es i n human l anguage, and say al l that can be sai d wi th not a wor d
too much, not an uncer tai n or mi sl eadi ng l i ne i n the pi ctur e: thi s coul d onl y have
been accompl i shed by one whom the Chur ch has al r eady decl ar ed to have been
taught by God Hi msel f (divinitus instructus), and whose books She tel l s us ar e
fi l l ed wi th heavenl y wi sdom (coelesti sapientia refertos). I t i s hoped that sooner or
l ater She wi l l pr ocl ai m hi m (what many gr ave author i ti es thi nk hi m to be) a
Doctor of the Chur ch, namel y, the Doctor of Mysti cal theol ogy.
1
As has al r eady been noti ced i n the I ntr oducti on to the “Ascent,” the whol e of the
teachi ng of St. John i s di r ectl y der i ved fr om Hol y Scr i ptur e and fr om the
psychol ogi cal pr i nci pl es of St. Thomas Aqui nas. Ther e i s no tr ace to be found of
an i nfl uence of the Mysti cs of the Mi ddl e Age, wi th whose wr i ti ngs St. John does
not appear to have been acquai nted. But thr oughout thi s tr eati se ther e ar e many
obvi ous al l usi ons to the wr i ti ngs of St. Ter esa, nor wi l l the r eader fai l to noti ce the
encour agi ng r emar k about the publ i cati on of her wor ks (stanza xi i i , sect. 8). The
fact i s that the same Vener abl e Ann of Jesus who was r esponsi bl e for the
composi ti on of St. John’s tr eati se was at the same ti me maki ng pr epar ati ons for
1
On thi s subject see Fray Eul ogi o de San José, ‘Doctorado de Santa Teresa de Jesús y de San Juan
de l a Cruz.’ Córdoba, 1896.
Introduction vii
the edi ti on of St. Ter esa’s wor ks whi ch a few year s l ater appear ed at Sal amanca
under the edi tor shi p of Fr ay Lui s de Leon, al r eady menti oned.
Those of hi s r eader s who have been str uck wi th, not to say fr i ghtened by, the
exacti ons of St. John i n the “Ascent” and the “Dar k Ni ght,” wher e he demands
compl ete r enunci ati on of ever y ki nd of sati sfacti on and pl easur e, however
l egi ti mate i n themsel ves, and an enti r e mor ti fi cati on of the senses as wel l as the
facul ti es and power s of the soul , and who have been wonder i ng at hi s sel f-
abnegati on whi ch caused hi m not onl y to accept, but even to cour t contempt, wi l l
fi nd her e the cl ue to thi s al most i nhuman atti tude. I n hi s r esponse to the questi on
of Our Lor d, “What shal l I gi ve you for al l you have done and suffer ed for Me?”
“Lor d, to suffer and be despi sed for You”—he was not ani mated by gr i m
mi santhr opy or stoi c i ndi ffer ence, but he had l ear ned that i n pr opor ti on as the
human hear t i s empti ed of Sel f, after havi ng been empti ed of al l cr eated thi ngs, i t
i s open to the i nfl ux of Di vi ne gr ace. Thi s he ful l y pr oves i n the “Spi r i tual
Canti cl e.” To be made “par taker of the Di vi ne Natur e,” as St. Peter says, human
natur e must under go a r adi cal tr ansfor mati on. Those who ear nestl y study the
teachi ng of St. John i n hi s ear l i er tr eati ses and endeavor to put hi s
r ecommendati ons i nto pr acti ce, wi l l see i n thi s and the next vol ume an
unexpected per specti ve openi ng befor e thei r eyes, and they wi l l begi n to
under stand how i t i s that the suffer i ngs of thi s ti me—whether vol untar y or
i nvol untar y—ar e not wor thy to be compar ed wi th the gl or y to come that shal l be
r eveal ed i n us.
Mr . Lewi s’s master l y tr ansl ati on of the wor ks of St. John of the Cr oss appear ed i n
1864 under the auspi ces of Car di nal Wi seman. I n the second edi ti on, of 1889, he
made numer ous changes, wi thout, however , l eavi ng a r ecor d of the pr i nci pl es
that gui ded hi m. Someti mes, i ndeed, the r evi sed edi ti on i s ter ser than the fi r st,
but just as often the ol d one seems cl ear er . I t i s mor e di ffi cul t to under stand the
reasons that l ed hi m to al ter very extensi vel y the text of quotati ons from Hol y
Scr i ptur e. I n the fi r st edi ti on he had near l y al ways str i ctl y adher ed to the Douay
ver si on, whi ch i s the one i n offi ci al use i n the Cathol i c Chur ch i n Engl i sh-
speaki ng countr i es. I t may not al ways be as per fect as one woul d wi sh i t to be, but
i t must be acknowl edged that the whol esal e al ter ati on i n Mr . Lewi s’s second
edi ti on i s, to say the l east, puzzl i ng. Even the Stanzas have under gone many
changes i n the second edi ti on, and i t wi l l be noti ced that ther e ar e some var i ants
i n thei r text as set forth at the begi nni ng of the book, and as repeated at the
headi ng of each chapter .
The pr esent edi ti on, al l owi ng for some sl i ght cor r ecti ons, i s a r epr i nt of that of
1889.
BENEDI CT ZI MMERMAN, PRI OR, O.C.D.
ST. LUKES, WI NCANTON, SOMERSET,
Feast of St. Si mon Stock,
May 16, 1909.

A SPIRITUAL CANTICLE OF THE SOUL
AND THE BRIDEGROOM CHRIST
1
PROLOGUE
I NASMUCH as thi s canti cl e seems to have been wr i tten wi th some fer vor of l ove of
God, whose wi sdom and l ove ar e, as i s sai d i n the book of Wi sdom,
2
so vast that
they r each “fr om end to end,” and as the soul , taught and moved by Hi m,
mani fests the same abundance and str ength i n the wor ds i t uses, I do not pur pose
her e to set for th al l that gr eatness and ful l ness the spi r i t of l ove, whi ch i s fr ui tful ,
embodi es i n i t. Yes, r ather i t woul d be fool i shness to thi nk that the l anguage of
l ove and the mysti cal i ntel l i gence—and that i s what these stanzas ar e—can be at
al l expl ai ned i n wor ds of any ki nd, for the Spi r i t of our Lor d who hel ps our
weakness—as St. Paul says
3
—dwel l i ng i n us makes peti ti ons for us wi th
gr oani ng unutter abl e for that whi ch we cannot wel l under stand or gr asp so as to
be abl e to make i t known. “The Spi r i t hel ps our i nfi r mi ty . . . the Spi r i t Hi msel f
r equests for us wi th gr oani ngs unspeakabl e.” For who can descr i be that whi ch He
shows to l ovi ng soul s i n whom He dwel l s? Who can set for th i n wor ds that whi ch
He makes them feel ? and, l astl y, who can expl ai n that for whi ch they l ong?
2. Assur edl y no one can do i t; not even they themsel ves who exper i ence i t. That i s
the r eason why they use fi gur es of speci al compar i sons and si mi l i tudes; they hi de
somewhat of that whi ch they feel and i n the abundance of the Spi r i t utter secr et
myster i es r ather than expr ess themsel ves i n cl ear wor ds.
3. And i f these si mi l i tudes ar e not r ecei ved i n the si mpl i ci ty of a l ovi ng mi nd, and
i n the sense i n whi ch they ar e utter ed, they wi l l seem to be effusi ons of fol l y r ather
than the l anguage of r eason; as anyone may see i n the di vi ne Canti cl e of Sol omon,
and i n other s of the sacr ed books, wher ei n the Hol y Spi r i t, because or di nar y and
common speech coul d not convey Hi s meani ng, utter ed Hi s myster i es i n str ange
ter ms and si mi l i tudes. I t fol l ows fr om thi s, that after al l that the hol y doctor s
have sai d, and may say, no wor ds of thei r s can expl ai n i t; nor can wor ds do i t; and
so, i n gener al , al l that i s sai d fal l s far shor t of the meani ng.
4. The stanzas that fol l ow havi ng been wr i tten under i nfl uence of that l ove whi ch
pr oceeds fr om the over fl owi ng mysti cal i ntel l i gence, cannot be ful l y expl ai ned.
I ndeed I do not pur pose any such thi ng, for my sol e object i s to thr ow some
gener al l i ght over them, whi ch i n my opi ni on i s the better cour se. I t i s better to
l eave the outpour i ngs of l ove i n thei r own ful l ness, that ever yone may appl y them
accor di ng to the measur e of hi s spi r i t and power , than to par e them down to one
par ti cul ar sense whi ch i s not sui ted to the taste of ever yone. And though I do put
1
[Thi s canti cl e was made by the Sai nt when he was i n the pri son of the Mi ti gati on, i n Tol edo. I t
came i nto the hands of the Venerabl e Anne of Jesus, at whose request he wrote the fol l owi ng
commentar y on i t, and addr essed i t to her .]
2
Wi sdom 8:1
3
Rom. 8:26
1
A Spiritual Canticle 2
for th a par ti cul ar expl anati on, sti l l other s ar e not to be bound by i t. The mysti cal
wi sdom—that i s, the l ove, of whi ch these stanzas speak—does not r equi r e to be
di sti nctl y under stood i n or der to pr oduce the effect of l ove and tender ness i n the
soul , for i t i s i n thi s r espect l i ke fai th, by whi ch we l ove God wi thout a cl ear
compr ehensi on of Hi m.
5. I shal l ther efor e be ver y conci se, though now and then unabl e to avoi d some
pr ol i xi ty wher e the subject r equi r es i t, and when the oppor tuni ty i s offer ed of
di scussi ng and expl ai ni ng cer tai n poi nts and effects of pr ayer : many of whi ch
bei ng r efer r ed to i n these stanzas, I must di scuss some of them. I shal l , however ,
pass over the mor e or di nar y ones, and tr eat br i efl y of the mor e extr aor di nar y to
whi ch they ar e subject who, by the mer cy of God, have advanced beyond the state
of begi nner s. Thi s I do for two r easons: the fi r st i s, that much i s al r eady wr i tten
concer ni ng begi nner s; and the second i s, that I am addr essi ng those who have
r ecei ved fr om our Lor d the gr ace of bei ng l ed on fr om the el ementar y state and ar e
l ed i nwar ds to the bosom of Hi s di vi ne l ove.
6. I ther efor e tr ust, though I may di scuss some poi nts of schol asti c theol ogy
r el ati ng to the i nter i or commer ce of the soul wi th God, that I am not usi ng such
l anguage al together i n vai n, and that i t wi l l be found pr ofi tabl e for pur e
spi r i tual i ty. For though some may be al together i gnor ant of schol asti c theol ogy by
whi ch the di vi ne ver i ti es ar e expl ai ned, yet they ar e not i gnor ant of mysti cal
theol ogy, the sci ence of l ove, by whi ch those veri ti es are not onl y l earned, but at the
same ti me ar e r el i shed al so.
7. And i n or der that what I am goi ng to say may be the better r ecei ved, I submi t
mysel f to hi gher judgments, and unr eser vedl y to that of our hol y mother the
Chur ch, i ntendi ng to say nothi ng i n r el i ance on my own per sonal exper i ence, or
on what I have obser ved i n other spi r i tual per sons, nor on what I have hear d
them say—though I i ntend to pr ofi t by al l thi s—unl ess I can confi r m i t wi th the
sancti on of the di vi ne wr i ti ngs, at l east on those poi nts whi ch ar e most di ffi cul t of
compr ehensi on.
8. The method I pr opose to fol l ow i n the matter i s thi s: fi r st of al l , to ci te the wor ds
of the text and then to gi ve that expl anati on of them whi ch bel ongs to the subject
befor e me. I shal l now tr anscr i be al l the stanzas and pl ace them at the begi nni ng
of thi s tr eati se. I n the next pl ace, I shal l take each of them separ atel y, and
expl ai n them l i ne by l i ne, each l i ne i n i ts pr oper pl ace befor e the expl anati on.
SONG OF THE SOUL AND THE BRI DEGROOM
I
THE BRI DE
Where have You hi dden Yoursel f,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.
I I
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
I f you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.
I I I
I n search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.
I V
O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?
V
ANSWER OF THE CREATURES
A thousand graces diffusing
He passed through the groves in haste,
And merel y regardi ng them
As He passed
Clothed them with His beauty.
VI
THE BRI DE
3
4 A Spiritual Canticle
Oh! who can heal me?
Give me at once Yourself,
Send me no more
A messenger
Who cannot tell me what I wish.
VI I
All they who serve are telling me
Of Your unnumbered graces;
And all wound me more and more,
And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.
VI I I
But how you persevere, O life,
Not living where you live;
The arrows bring death
Whi ch you recei ve
From your conceptions of the Beloved.
I X
Why, after wounding
This heart, have You not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
Have You thus abandoned it,
And not carried away the stolen prey?
X
Quench my troubles,
For no one else can soothe them;
And let my eyes behold You,
For You are their light,
And I will keep them for You alone.
XI
Reveal Your presence,
And let the vision and Your beauty kill me,
Behold the malady
Of love is incurable
Except in Your presence and before Your face.
XI I
O crystal well!
Oh that on Your silvered surface
You would mirror forth at once
Those eyes desired
A Spiritual Canticle 5
Which are outlined in my heart!
XI I I
Turn them away, O my Beloved!
I am on the wing:
THE BRI DEGROOM
Return, My Dove!
The wounded hart
Looms on the hill
I n the air of your flight and is refreshed.
XI V
My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
XV
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The si l ent musi c,
The murmuri ng sol i tude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.
XVI
Catch us the foxes,
For our vineyard has flourished;
While of roses
We make a nosegay,
And let no one appear on the hill.
XVI I
O killing north wind, cease!
Come, south wind, that awakens love!
Blow through my garden,
And let its odors flow,
And the Beloved shall feed among the flowers.
XVI I I
O nymphs of J udea!
While amid the flowers and the rose-trees
The amber sends forth its perfume,
6 A Spiritual Canticle
Tarry in the suburbs,
And touch not our thresholds.
XI X
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.
XX
THE BRI DEGROOM
Light-winged birds,
Lions, fawns, bounding does,
Mountains, valleys, strands,
Waters, winds, heat,
And the terrors that keep watch by night;
XXI
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.
XXI I
The bride has entered
The pleasant and desirable garden,
And there reposes to her heart’s content;
Her neck recl i ni ng
On the sweet arms of the Beloved.
XXI I I
Beneath the apple-tree
There were you betrothed;
There I gave you My hand,
And you were redeemed
Where your mother was corrupted.
XXI V
THE BRI DE
Our bed is of flowers
By dens of lions encompassed,
Hung with purple,
A Spiritual Canticle 7
Made in peace,
And crowned with a thousand shields of gold.
XXV
I n Your footsteps
The young ones run Your way;
At the touch of the fire
And by the spiced wine,
The divine balsam flows.
XXVI
I n the i nner cel l ar
Of my Beloved have I drunk; and when I went forth
Over all the plain
I knew nothi ng,
And lost the flock I followed before.
XXVI I
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.
XXVI I I
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.
XXI X
I f, 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.
XXX
Of emeralds, and of flowers
I n the early morning gathered,
We will make the garlands,
Flowering in Your love,
And bound together with one hair of my head.
XXXI
8 A Spiritual Canticle
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.
XXXI I
When You regarded me,
Your eyes i mpri nted i n me Your grace:
For this You loved me again,
And thereby my eyes merited
To adore what in You they saw
XXXI I I
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.
XXXI V
THE BRI DEGROOM
The little white dove
Has returned to the ark with the bough;
And now the turtle-dove
I ts desired mate
On the green banks has found.
XXXV
I n solitude she lived,
And in solitude built her nest;
And in solitude, alone
Has the Beloved guided her,
I n solitude also wounded with love.
XXXVI
THE BRI DE
Let us rejoice, O my Beloved!
Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty,
To the mountain and the hill,
Where the pure water flows:
Let us enter into the heart of the thicket.
XXXVI I
A Spiritual Canticle 9
We shall go at once
To the deep caverns of the rock
Which are all secret,
There we shall enter in
And taste of the new wine of the pomegranate.
XXXVI I I
There you will show me
That which my soul desired;
And there You will give at once,
O You, my life!
That which You gave me the other day.
XXXI X
The breathing of the air,
The song of the sweet nightingale,
The grove and its beauty
I n the serene ni ght,
With the flame that consumes, and gives no pains.
XL
None saw it;
Neither did Aminadab appear
The siege was intermitted,
And the cavalry dismounted
At the sight of the waters.
10 A Spiritual Canticle
ARGUMENT
THESE stanzas descr i be the car eer of a soul fr om i ts fi r st entr ance on the ser vi ce of
God ti l l i t comes to the fi nal state of per fecti on—the spi r i tual mar r i age. They r efer
accor di ngl y to the thr ee states or ways of the spi r i tual tr ai ni ng—the pur gati ve,
i l l umi nati ve, and uni ti ve ways, some pr oper ti es and effects of whi ch they expl ai n.
The fi r st stanzas r el ate to begi nner s—to the pur gati ve way. The second to the
advanced—to the state of spi r i tual betr othal ; that i s, the i l l umi nati ve way. The
next to the uni ti ve way—that of the per fect, the spi r i tual Mar r i age. The uni ti ve
way, that of the per fect, fol l ows the i l l umi nati ve, whi ch i s that of the advanced.
The l ast stanzas treat of the beati fi c state, whi ch onl y the al ready perfect soul
ai ms at.
EXPLANATI ON OF THE STANZAS
NOTE
THE soul , consi der i ng the obl i gati ons of i ts state, seei ng that “the days of man ar e
shor t;”
1
that the way of eternal l i fe i s strai ght;
2
that “the just man shal l scar cel y
be saved;”
3
that the thi ngs of thi s wor l d ar e empty and decei tful ; that al l di e and
per i sh l i ke water pour ed on the gr ound;
4
that ti me i s uncer tai n, the l ast account
str i ct, per di ti on most easy, and sal vati on most di ffi cul t; and r ecogni zi ng al so, on
the other hand, the great debt that i s owi ng to God, Who has created i t sol el y for
Hi msel f, for whi ch the ser vi ce of i ts whol e l i fe i s due, Who has r edeemed i t for
Hi msel f al one, for whi ch i t owes Hi m al l el se, and the cor r espondence of i ts wi l l to
Hi s l ove; and r emember i ng other i nnumer abl e bl essi ngs for whi ch i t
acknowl edges i tsel f i ndebted to God even before i t was born: and al so that a great
part of i ts l i fe has been wasted, and that i t wi l l have to render an account of i t al l
fr om begi nni ng to the end, to the payment of “the l ast far thi ng,”
5
when God shal l
“ sear ch Jer usal em wi th l amps;”
6
that i t i s al ready l ate, and perhaps the end of
the day:
7
i n or der to r emedy so gr eat an evi l , especi al l y when i t i s consci ous that
God i s gr i evousl y offended, and that He has hi dden Hi s face fr om i t, because i t
woul d for get Hi m for the cr eatur e,–the soul , now touched wi th sor r ow and
i nwar d si nki ng of the hear t at the si ght of i ts i mmi nent r i sks and r ui n,
r enounci ng ever ythi ng and casti ng them asi de wi thout del ayi ng for a day, or even
an hour , wi th fear and gr oani ngs utter ed fr om the hear t, and wounded wi th the
l ove of God, begi ns to i nvoke the Bel oved and says:
1
Job 14:5
2
Matt. 7:14
3
1 Pet. 4:18
4
2 Ki ngs 14:14
5
Matt. 5:26
6
Sophon, 1. 12.
7
Matt. 20:6
STANZA I
THE BRI DE
Where have You hi dden Yoursel f,
And abandoned me to my sorrow, O my Beloved!
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.
I N thi s fi r st stanza the soul , enamor ed of the Wor d, the Son of God, the
Br i degr oom, desi r i ng to be uni ted to Hi m i n the cl ear and substanti al vi si on, sets
befor e Hi m the anxi eti es of i ts l ove, compl ai ni ng of Hi s absence. And thi s the
mor e so because, now pi er ced and wounded wi th l ove, for whi ch i t had abandoned
al l thi ngs, even i tsel f, i t has sti l l to endure the absence of the Bel oved, Who has not
r el eased i t fr om i ts mor tal fl esh, that i t mi ght have the fr ui ti on of Hi m i n the gl or y
of eter ni ty. Hence i t cr i es out,
“Where have You hi dden Yoursel f?”
2. I t i s as i f the soul sai d, “Show me, O You the Wor d, my Br i degr oom, the pl ace
wher e You ar e hi dden.” I t asks for the r evel ati on of the di vi ne Essence; for the
pl ace wher e the Son of God i s hi dden i s, accor di ng to St. John, “the bosom of the
Father ,”
1
whi ch i s the di vi ne Essence, tr anscendi ng al l mor tal vi si on, and hi dden
fr om al l human under standi ng, as I sai ah says, speaki ng to God, “ Ver i l y You ar e
a hi dden God.”
2
Fr om thi s we l ear n that the communi cati on and sense of Hi s
pr esence, however gr eat they may be, and the most subl i me and pr ofound
knowl edge of God whi ch the soul may have i n thi s l i fe, ar e not God essenti al l y,
nei ther have they any affi ni ty wi th Hi m, for i n ver y tr uth He i s sti l l hi dden fr om
the soul ; and i t i s ther efor e expedi ent for i t, ami d al l these gr andeur s, al ways to
consi der Hi m as hi dden, and to seek Hi m i n Hi s hi di ng pl ace, sayi ng,
“Where have You hi dden Yoursel f?”
3. Nei ther subl i me communi cati ons nor sensi bl e pr esence fur ni sh any cer tai n
pr oof of Hi s gr aci ous pr esence; nor i s the absence ther eof, and ar i di ty, any pr oof of
Hi s absence fr om the soul . “I f He come to me, I shal l not see Hi m; i f He depar t, I
shal l not under stand.”
3
That i s, i f the soul have any gr eat communi cati on, or
i mpr essi on, or spi r i tual knowl edge, i t must not on that account per suade i tsel f
that what i t then feel s i s to enjoy or see God cl earl y and i n Hi s Essence, or that i t
br i ngs i t near er to Hi m, or Hi m to i t, however deep such feel i ngs may be. On the
other hand, when al l these sensi bl e and spi r i tual communi cati ons fai l i t, and i t i s
i tsel f i n dr yness, dar kness, and desol ati on, i t must not on that account suppose
that God i s far fr om i t; for i n tr uth the for mer state i s no si gn of i ts bei ng i n a state
of gr ace, nor i s the l atter a si gn that i t i s not; for “man knows not whether he i s
1
John 1:18
2
I sa. 45:15
3
Job 9:11
11
12 A Spiritual Canticle
worthy of l ove or hatred”
1
i n the si ght of God.
4. The chi ef object of the soul i n these words i s not to ask onl y for that affecti ve and
sensi bl e devoti on, wher ei n ther e i s no cer tai nty or evi dence of the possessi on of the
Br i degr oom i n thi s l i fe; but pr i nci pal l y for that cl ear pr esence and vi si on of Hi s
Essence, of whi ch i t l ongs to be assur ed and sati sfi ed i n the next. Thi s, too, was
the object of the bri de who, i n the di vi ne song desi ri ng to be uni ted to the Di vi ni ty of
the Br i degr oom Wor d, pr ayed to the Father , sayi ng, “Show me wher e You feed,
wher e You l i e i n the mi dday.”
2
For to ask to be shown the pl ace where He fed was
to ask to be shown the Essence of the Di vi ne Word, the Son; because the Father
feeds nowher e el se but i n Hi s onl y begotten Son, Who i s the gl or y of the Father . I n
aski ng to be shown the pl ace wher e He l i es i n the mi dday, was to ask for the same
thi ng, because the Son i s the sol e del i ght of the Father , Who l i es i n no other pl ace,
and i s compr ehended by no other thi ng, but i n and by Hi s bel oved Son, i n Whom
He r eposes whol l y, communi cati ng to Hi m Hi s whol e Essence, i n the “ mi dday,”
whi ch i s eterni ty, where the Father i s ever begetti ng and the Son ever begotten.
5. Thi s pastur e, then, i s the Br i degr oom Wor d, wher e the Father feeds i n i nfi ni te
gl or y. He i s al so the bed of fl ower s wher eupon He r eposes wi th i nfi ni te del i ght of
l ove, pr ofoundl y hi dden fr om al l mor tal vi si on and ever y cr eated thi ng. Thi s i s the
meani ng of the br i de-soul when she says,
“Where have You hi dden Yoursel f?”
6. That the thi r sty soul may fi nd the Br i degr oom, and be one wi th Hi m i n the
uni on of l ove i n thi s l i fe—so far as that i s possi bl e—and quench i ts thi r st wi th that
dr i nk whi ch i t i s possi bl e to dr i nk of at Hi s hands i n thi s l i fe, i t wi l l be as wel l —
si nce that i s what the Soul asks of Hi m—that we shoul d answer for Hi m, and
poi nt out the speci al spot where He i s hi dden, that He may be found there i n that
per fecti on and sweetness of whi ch thi s l i fe i s capabl e, and that the soul may not
begi n to l oi ter usel essl y i n the footsteps of i ts compani ons.
7. We must r emember that the Wor d, the Son of God, together wi th the Father and
the Hol y Spi r i t, i s hi dden i n essence and i n pr esence, i n the i nmost bei ng of the
soul . That soul , ther efor e, that wi l l fi nd Hi m, must go out fr om al l thi ngs i n wi l l
and affecti on, and enter i nto the pr ofoundest sel f-r ecol l ecti on, and al l thi ngs must
be to i t as i f they exi sted not. Hence, St. Augusti ne says: “I found You not wi thout,
O Lor d; I sought You wi thout i n vai n, for You ar e wi thi n,”
3
God i s ther efor e
hi dden wi thi n the soul , and the tr ue contempl ati ve wi l l seek Hi m ther e i n l ove,
sayi ng,
“Where have You hi dden Yoursel f?”
8. O you soul , then, most beauti ful of cr eatur es, who so l ong to know the pl ace
wher e your Bel oved i s, that you may seek Hi m, and be uni ted to Hi m, you know
now that you ar e your sel f that ver y taber nacl e wher e He dwel l s, the secr et
chamber of Hi s r etr eat wher e He i s hi dden. Rejoi ce, ther efor e, and exul t, because
al l your good and al l your hope i s so near you as to be wi thi n you; or , to speak
1
Eccl es. 9:1
2
Cant. 1:6
3
‘Sol i l oq.,’ c. 31. Opp. Ed. Ben. tom. vi . app. p. 98.
Stanza I 13
mor e accur atel y, that you can not be wi thout i t, “for l o, the ki ngdom of God i s
wi thi n you.”
1
So says the Br i degr oom Hi msel f, and Hi s ser vant, St. Paul , adds:
“You ar e the templ e of the l i vi ng God.”
2
What joy for the soul to l earn that God
never abandons i t, even i n mor tal si n; how much l ess i n a state of gr ace!
3
9. What mor e can you desi r e, what mor e can you seek wi thout, seei ng that wi thi n
you have your r i ches, your del i ght, your sati sfacti on, your ful l ness and your
ki ngdom; that i s, your Bel oved, Whom you desi r e and seek? Rejoi ce, then, and be
gl ad i n Hi m wi th i nter i or r ecol l ecti on, seei ng that you have Hi m so near . Then
l ove Hi m, then desi r e Hi m, then ador e Hi m, and go not to seek Hi m out of
your sel f, for that wi l l be but di str acti on and wear i ness, and you shal l not fi nd
Hi m; because ther e i s no fr ui ti on of Hi m mor e cer tai n, mor e r eady, or mor e
i nti mate than that whi ch i s wi thi n.
10. One di ffi cul ty al one r emai ns: though He i s wi thi n, yet He i s hi dden. But i t i s a
great matter to know the pl ace of Hi s secret rest, that He may be sought there wi th
cer tai nty. The knowl edge of thi s i s that whi ch you ask for her e, O soul , when wi th
l ovi ng affecti on you cr y,
“Where have You hi dden Yoursel f?”
11. You wi l l sti l l ur ge and say, How i s i t, then, that I fi nd Hi m not, nor feel Hi m,
i f He i s wi thi n my soul ? I t i s because He i s hi dden, and because you hi de not
your sel f al so that you may fi nd Hi m and feel Hi m; for he that wi l l seek that whi ch
i s hi dden must enter secr etl y i nto the secr et pl ace wher e i t i s hi dden, and when
he fi nds i t, he i s hi msel f hi dden l i ke the object of hi s sear ch. Seei ng, then, that the
Br i degr oom whom you l ove i s “the tr easur e hi dden i n the fi el d”
4
of your soul , for
whi ch the wi se mer chant gave al l that he had, so you, i f you wi l l fi nd Hi m, must
for get al l that i s your s, wi thdr aw fr om al l cr eated thi ngs, and hi de your sel f i n the
secr et r etr eat of the spi r i t, shutti ng the door upon your sel f—that i s, denyi ng your
wi l l i n al l thi ngs—and pr ayi ng to your Father i n secr et.
5
Then you, bei ng hi dden
wi th Hi m, wi l l be consci ous of Hi s pr esence i n secr et, and wi l l l ove Hi m, possess
Hi m i n secr et, and del i ght i n Hi m i n secr et, i n a way that no tongue or l anguage
can expr ess.
12. Cour age, then, O soul most beauti ful , you know now that your Bel oved, Whom
you desi r e, dwel l s hi dden wi thi n your br east; str i ve, ther efor e, to be tr ul y hi dden
wi th Hi m, and then you shal l embr ace Hi m, and be consci ous of Hi s pr esence
wi th l ovi ng affecti on. Consi der al so that He bi ds you, by the mouth of I sai ah, to
come to Hi s secr et hi di ng-pl ace, sayi ng, “ Go, . . . enter i nto your chamber s, shut
your door s upon you”; that i s, al l your facul ti es, so that no cr eated thi ng shal l
enter : “be hi d a l i ttl e for a moment,”
6
that i s, for the moment of thi s mor tal l i fe; for
i f now dur i ng thi s l i fe whi ch i s shor t, you wi l l “wi th al l watchful ness keep your
hear t,”
7
as the wi se man says, God wi l l most assur edl y gi ve you, as He has
1
Luke 17:21
2
2 Cor. 6:16
3
‘Mt. Car mel ,’ Bk. 2, c. 5. sect. 3.
4
Matt. 13:44
5
Matt. 6:6
6
I sa. 26:20
7
Prov. 4:23
14 A Spiritual Canticle
pr omi sed by the pr ophet I sai ah, “hi dden tr easur es and myster i es of secr ets.”
1
The
substance of these secr ets i s God Hi msel f, for He i s the substance of the fai th, and
the object of i t, and the fai th i s the secr et and the myster y. And when that whi ch
the fai th conceal s shal l be r eveal ed and made mani fest, that i s the per fecti on of
God, as St. Paul says, “When that whi ch i s per fect i s come,”
2
then shal l be
r eveal ed to the soul the substance and myster i es of these secr ets.
13. Though i n thi s mor tal l i fe the soul wi l l never r each to the i nter i or secr ets as i t
wi l l i n the next, however much i t may hi de i tsel f, sti l l , i f i t wi l l hi de i tsel f wi th
Moses, “i n the hol e of the r ock”—whi ch i s a r eal i mi tati on of the per fect l i fe of the
Br i degr oom, the Son of God—pr otected by the r i ght hand of God, i t wi l l mer i t the
vi si on of the “back par ts”;
3
that i s, i t wi l l r each to such per fecti on her e, as to be
uni ted, and tr ansfor med by l ove, i n the Son of God, i ts Br i degr oom. So effectual l y
wi l l thi s be wr ought that the soul wi l l feel i tsel f so uni ted to Hi m, so l ear ned and
so i nstr ucted i n Hi s secr ets, that, so far as the knowl edge of Hi m i n thi s l i fe i s
concer ned, i t wi l l be no l onger necessar y for i t to say: “Wher e have You hi dden
Your sel f?”
14. You know then, O soul , how you ar e to demean your sel f i f you wi l l fi nd the
Br i degr oom i n Hi s secr et pl ace. But i f you wi l l hear i t agai n, hear thi s one wor d
ful l of substance and unappr oachabl e tr uth: Seek Hi m i n fai th and l ove, wi thout
seeki ng to sati sfy your sel f i n anythi ng, or to under stand mor e than i s expedi ent
for you to know; for fai th and l ove are the two gui des of the bl i nd; they wi l l l ead
you, by a way you know not, to the secret chamber of God. Fai th, the secret of
whi ch I am speaki ng, i s the foot that jour neys onwar ds to God, and l ove i s the
gui de that di r ects i ts steps. And whi l e the soul medi tates on the myster i ous
secrets of the fai th, i t wi l l meri t the revel ati on, on the part of l ove, of that whi ch
the fai th i nvol ves, namel y, the Br i degr oom Whom i t l ongs for , i n thi s l i fe by
spi r i tual gr ace, and the di vi ne uni on, as we sai d befor e,
4
and i n the next i n
essenti al gl or y, face to face, hi dden now.
15. But meanwhi l e, though the soul attai ns to uni on, the hi ghest state possi bl e i n
thi s l i fe, yet i nasmuch as He i s sti l l hi dden fr om i t i n the bosom of the Father , as I
have sai d, the soul l ongi ng for the fr ui ti on of Hi m i n the l i fe to come, ever cr i es,
“ Wher e have You hi dden Your sel f?”
16. You do wel l , then, O soul , i n seeki ng Hi m al ways i n Hi s secr et pl ace; for you
gr eatl y magni fy God, and dr aw near to Hi m, esteemi ng Hi m as far beyond and
above al l you can r each. Rest, ther efor e, nei ther whol l y nor i n par t, on what your
facul ti es can embr ace; never seek to sati sfy your sel f wi th what you compr ehend of
God, but r ather wi th what you compr ehend not; and never r est on the l ove of, and
del i ght i n, that whi ch you can under stand and feel , but r ather on that whi ch i s
beyond your under standi ng and feel i ng: thi s i s, as I have sai d, to seek Hi m by
fai th.
17. God i s, as I sai d befor e,
5
i naccessi bl e and hi dden, and though i t may seem that
1
I sa. 45:3
2
1 Cor. 13:10
3
Exod. 33:22,23
4
Sect. 4.
5
Sect. 2.
Stanza I 15
you have found Hi m, fel t Hi m, and compr ehended Hi m, yet you must ever r egar d
Hi m as hi dden, ser ve Hi m as hi dden, i n secr et. Do not be l i ke many unwi se, who,
wi th l ow vi ews of God, thi nk that when they cannot compr ehend Hi m, or be
consci ous of Hi s pr esence, that He i s then far ther away and mor e hi dden, when
the contr ar y i s tr ue, namel y, that He i s near er to them when they ar e l east awar e
of i t; as the pr ophet Davi d says, “He put dar kness Hi s cover t,”
1
Thus, when you
ar e near to Hi m, the ver y i nfi r mi ty of your vi si on makes the dar kness pal pabl e;
you do wel l , ther efor e, at al l ti mes, i n pr osper i ty as wel l as i n adver si ty, spi r i tual
or tempor al , to l ook upon God as hi dden, and to say to Hi m, “Wher e have You
hi dden Your sel f?
And left me to my sorrow, O my Beloved?”
18. The soul cal l s Hi m “my Bel oved,” the mor e to move Hi m to l i sten to i ts cr y, for
God, when l oved, most r eadi l y l i stens to the pr ayer of hi m who l oves Hi m. Thus
He speaks Hi msel f: “I f you abi de i n Me . . . you shal l ask whatever thi ng you wi l l ,
and i t shal l be done to you.”
2
The soul may then wi th tr uth cal l Hi m Bel oved,
when i t i s whol l y Hi s, when the hear t has no attachments but Hi m, and when al l
the thoughts ar e conti nual l y di r ected to Hi m. I t was the absence of thi s that made
Del i l ah say to Samson, “How do you say you l ove me when your mi nd i s not wi th
me?”
3
The mi nd compr i ses the thoughts and the feel i ngs. Some ther e ar e who cal l
the Bri degroom thei r Bel oved, but He i s not real l y bel oved, because thei r heart i s
not whol l y wi th Hi m. Thei r pr ayer s ar e, ther efor e, not so effectual befor e God, and
they shal l not obtai n thei r peti ti ons unti l , per sever i ng i n pr ayer , they fi x thei r
mi nds mor e constantl y upon God and thei r hear ts mor e whol l y i n l ovi ng affecti on
upon Hi m, for nothi ng can be obtai ned fr om God but by l ove.
19. The words, “And l eft me to my sorrow,” tel l us that the absence of the Bel oved
i s the cause of conti nual sadness i n hi m who l oves; for as such a one l oves none
el se, so, i n the absence of the object bel oved, nothi ng can consol e or r el i eve hi m.
Thi s i s, ther efor e, a test to di scer n the tr ue l over of God. I s he sati sfi ed wi th
anythi ng l ess than God? Do I say sati sfi ed? Yes, i f a man possess al l thi ngs, he
cannot be sati sfi ed; the gr eater hi s possessi ons the l ess wi l l be hi s sati sfacti on, for
the sati sfacti on of the hear t i s not found i n possessi ons, but i n detachment fr om
al l thi ngs and i n pover ty of spi r i t. Thi s bei ng so, the per fecti on of l ove i n whi ch we
possess God, by a gr ace most i nti mate and speci al , l i ves i n the soul i n thi s l i fe
when i t has r eached i t, wi th a cer tai n sati sfacti on, whi ch however i s not ful l , for
Davi d, notwi thstandi ng al l hi s per fecti on, hoped for that i n heaven sayi ng, “I
shal l be sati sfi ed when Your gl or y shal l appear .”
4
20. Thus, then, the peace and tr anqui l l i ty and sati sfacti on of hear t to whi ch the
soul may attai n i n thi s l i fe ar e not suffi ci ent to r el i eve i t fr om i ts gr oani ng,
peaceful and pai nl ess though i t be, whi l e i t hopes for that whi ch i s sti l l wanti ng.
Gr oani ng bel ongs to hope, as the Apostl e says of hi msel f and other s, though
per fect, “Our sel ves al so, who have the fi r st fr ui ts of the Spi r i t, even we our sel ves
gr oan wi thi n our sel ves, wai ti ng for the adopti on of the sons of God.”
5
The soul
1
Ps. 17:12
2
John 15:7
3
Judg. 16:15
4
Ps. 16:15
5
Rom. 8:23
16 A Spiritual Canticle
gr oans when the hear t i s enamor ed, for wher e l ove wounds ther e i s hear d the
gr oani ng of the wounded one, compl ai ni ng feel i ngl y of the absence of the Bel oved,
especi al l y when, after tasti ng of the sweet conver sati on of the Br i degr oom, i t fi nds
i tsel f suddenl y al one, and i n ar i di ty, because He has gone away. That i s why i t
cr i es,
“You have fled like the hart.”
21. Here i t i s to be observed that i n the Canti cl e of Canti cl es the bri de compares the
Br i degr oom to the r oe and the har t on the mountai ns—“My Bel oved i s l i ke a r oe
and to a fawn of har ts”
1
—not onl y because He i s shy, sol i tar y, and avoi ds
compani ons as the har t, but al so for hi s sudden appear ance and di sappear ance.
That i s Hi s way i n Hi s vi si ts to devout soul s i n or der to comfor t and encour age
them, and i n the wi thdr awi ng and absence whi ch He makes them feel after those
vi si ts i n or der to tr y, humbl e, and teach them. For that pur pose He makes them
feel the pai n of Hi s absence most keenl y, as the fol l owi ng wor ds show:
“Having wounded me.”
22. I t i s as i f i t had sai d, “I t was not enough that I shoul d feel the pai n and gr i ef
whi ch Your absence causes, and fr om whi ch I am conti nual l y suffer i ng, but You
must, after woundi ng me wi th the ar r ow of Your l ove, and i ncr easi ng my l ongi ng
and desi r e to see You, r un away fr om me wi th the swi ftness of the har t, and not
per mi t me to l ay hol d of You, even for a moment.”
23. For the cl ear er under standi ng of thi s we ar e to keep i n mi nd that, besi de the
many ki nds of God’s vi si ts to the soul , i n whi ch He wounds i t wi th l ove, ther e ar e
commonl y cer tai n secr et touches of l ove, whi ch, l i ke a fi er y ar r ow, pi er ce and
penetr ate the soul , and bur n i t wi th the fi r e of l ove. These ar e pr oper l y cal l ed the
wounds of l ove, and i t i s of these the soul i s her e speaki ng. These wounds so
i nfl ame the wi l l , that the soul becomes so envel oped wi th the fi re of l ove as to
appear consumed ther eby. They make i t go for th out of i tsel f, and be r enewed, and
enter on another l i fe, as the phoeni x fr om the fi r e.
24. Davi d, speaki ng of thi s, says, “My hear t has been i nfl amed, and my r ei ns have
been changed; and I am br ought to nothi ng, and I knew not.”
2
The desi r es and
affecti ons, cal l ed the r ei ns by the pr ophet, ar e al l sti r r ed and di vi nel y changed i n
thi s bur ni ng of the hear t, and the soul , thr ough l ove, mel ted i nto nothi ng,
knowi ng nothi ng but l ove. At thi s ti me the changi ng of the r ei ns i s a gr eat pai n,
and l ongi ng for the vi si on of God; i t seems to the soul that God treats i t wi th
i ntol erabl e severi ty, so much so that the severi ty wi th whi ch l ove treats i t seems to
the soul unendur abl e, not because i t i s wounded—for i t consi der s such wounds to
be i ts sal vati on—but because i t i s thus suffer i ng fr om i ts l ove, and because He has
not wounded i t more deepl y so as to cause death, that i t may be uni ted to Hi m i n
the l i fe of per fect l ove. The soul , ther efor e, magni fyi ng i ts sor r ows, or r eveal i ng
them, says,
“Having wounded me.”
1
Cant. 2:9
2
Ps. 72:21,22
Stanza I 17
25. The soul says i n effect, “You have abandoned me after woundi ng me, and You
have l eft me dyi ng of l ove; and then You have hi dden Your sel f as a har t swi ftl y
r unni ng away.” Thi s i mpr essi on i s most pr ofound i n the soul ; for by the wound of
l ove, made i n the soul by God, the affecti ons of the wi l l l ead most rapi dl y to the
possessi on of the Bel oved, whose touch i t fel t, and as r api dl y al so, Hi s absence,
and i ts i nabi l i ty to have the fr ui ti on of Hi m her e as i t desi r es. Ther eupon succeed
the gr oani ng because of Hi s absence; for these vi si tati ons of God ar e not l i ke those
whi ch r ecr eate and sati sfy the soul , because they ar e r ather for woundi ng than
for heal i ng—mor e for affl i cti ng than for sati sfyi ng i t, seei ng that they tend r ather
to qui cken the knowl edge, and i ncr ease the l ongi ng, and consequentl y pai n wi th
the l ongi ng for the vi si on of God. They ar e cal l ed the spi r i tual wounds of l ove,
most sweet to the soul and desi r abl e; and, ther efor e, when i t i s thus wounded the
soul woul d wi l l i ngl y di e a thousand deaths, because these wounds make i t go
for th out of i tsel f, and enter i nto God, whi ch i s the meani ng of the wor ds that
fol l ow:
“I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.”
26. Ther e can be no r emedy for the wounds of l ove but fr om Hi m who i nfl i cted
them. And so the wounded soul , ur ged by the vehemence of that bur ni ng whi ch
the wounds of l ove occasi on, r uns after the Bel oved, cr yi ng to Hi m for r el i ef. Thi s
spi r i tual r unni ng after God has a two-fol d meani ng. The fi r st i s a goi ng for th
fr om al l cr eated thi ngs, whi ch i s effected by hati ng and despi si ng them; the
second, a goi ng for th out of onesel f, by for getti ng sel f, whi ch i s br ought about by
the l ove of God. For when the l ove of God touches the soul wi th that vi vi dness of
whi ch we are here speaki ng, i t so el evates i t, that i t goes forth not onl y out of i tsel f
by sel f-for getful ness, but i t i s al so dr awn away fr om i ts own judgment, natur al
ways and i ncl i nati ons, cr yi ng after God, “O my Br i degr oom,” as i f sayi ng, “By thi s
touch of Your s and wound of l ove have You dr awn me away not onl y fr om al l
cr eated thi ngs, but al so fr om mysel f—for , i n tr uth, soul and body seem now to
par t—and r ai sed me up to Your sel f, cr yi ng after You i n detachment fr om al l
thi ngs that I mi ght be attached to You:
“You were gone.”
27. As i f sayi ng, “ When I sought Your pr esence, I found You not; and I was
detached fr om al l thi ngs wi thout bei ng abl e to cl i ng to You—bor ne pai nful l y by the
gal es of l ove wi thout hel p i n You or i n mysel f.” Thi s goi ng for th of the soul i n
sear ch of the Bel oved i s the r i si ng of the br i de i n the Canti cl e: “I wi l l r i se and go
about the ci ty; i n the str eets and the hi gh ways I wi l l seek Hi m Whom my soul
l oves. I have sought Hi m and have not found . . . they wounded me.”
1
The r i si ng of
the br i de—speaki ng spi r i tual l y—i s fr om that whi ch i s mean to that whi ch i s
nobl e; and i s the same wi th the goi ng for th of the soul out of i ts own ways and
i nfer i or l ove to the ennobl i ng l ove of God. The br i de says that she was wounded
because she found hi m not;
2
so the soul al so says of i tsel f that i t i s wounded wi th
l ove and for saken; that i s, the l ovi ng soul i s ever i n pai n dur i ng the absence of the
Bel oved, because i t has gi ven i tsel f up whol l y to Hi m hopi ng for the r ewar d of i ts
sel f-sur r ender , the Possessi on of the Bel oved. Sti l l the Bel oved wi thhol ds Hi msel f
whi l e the soul has l ost al l thi ngs, and even i tsel f, for Hi m; i t obtai ns no
1
Cant. 3:2, 5:7
2
Cant. 5:6,7
18 A Spiritual Canticle
compensati on for i ts l oss, seei ng that i t i s depr i ved of Hi m whom i t l oves.
28. Thi s pai n and sense of the absence of God i s wont to be so oppressi ve i n those
who are goi ng onwards to the state of perfecti on, that they woul d di e i f God di d not
i nter pose when the di vi ne wounds ar e i nfl i cted upon them. As they have the
pal ate of the wi l l whol esome, and the mi nd pur e and di sposed for God, and as
they taste i n some degr ee of the sweetness of di vi ne l ove, whi ch they supr emel y
desi r e, so they al so suffer supr emel y; for , havi ng but a gl i mpse of an i nfi ni te good
whi ch they ar e not per mi tted to enjoy, that i s to them an i neffabl e pai n and
tor ment.
STANZA II
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
I f you shall see
Him Whom I love,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.
THE soul woul d now empl oy i nter cessor s and medi ator s between i tsel f and the
Bel oved, pr ayi ng them to make i ts suffer i ngs and affl i cti ons known. One i n l ove,
when he cannot conver se per sonal l y wi th the object of hi s l ove, wi l l do so i n the
best way he can. Thus the soul empl oys i ts affecti ons, desi r es, and gr oani ngs as
messengers wel l abl e to mani fest the secret of i ts heart to the Bel oved.
Accor di ngl y, i t cal l s upon them to do thi s, sayi ng:
“O shepherds, you who go.”
2. The shepher ds ar e the affecti ons, and desi r es, and gr oani ngs of the soul , for
they feed i t wi th spi r i tual good thi ngs. A shepher d i s one who feeds: and by means
of such God communi cates Hi msel f to the soul and feeds i t i n the di vi ne pastur es;
for wi thout these gr oans and desi r es He communi cates but sl i ghtl y wi th i t.
“You who go.”
You who go for th i n pur e l ove; for al l desi r es and affecti ons do not r each God, but
onl y those whi ch pr oceed fr om si ncer e l ove.
“Through the sheepcots up the hill.”
3. The sheepcots ar e the heavenl y hi er ar chi es, the angel i c choi r s, by whose
mi ni str y, fr om choi r to choi r , our pr ayer s and si ghs ascend to God; that i s, to the
hi l l , “for He i s the hi ghest emi nence, and because i n Hi m, as on a hi l l , we obser ve
and behol d al l thi ngs, the hi gher and the l ower sheepcots.” To Hi m our pr ayer s
ascend, offer ed by angel s, as I have sai d; so the angel sai d to Tobi t “When you
pr ayed wi th tear s, and bur i ed the dead . . . I offer ed your pr ayer to the Lor d.”
1
4. The shepher ds al so ar e the angel s themsel ves, who not onl y car r y our peti ti ons
to God, but al so br i ng down the gr aces of God to our soul s, feedi ng them l i ke good
shepher ds, wi th the sweet communi cati ons and i nspi r ati ons of God, Who
empl oys them i n that mi ni str y. They al so pr otect us and defend us agai nst the
wol ves, whi ch ar e the evi l spi r i ts. And thus, whether we under stand the
affecti ons or the angel s by the shepherds, the soul cal l s upon both to be i ts
messenger s to the Bel oved, and thus addr esses them al l :
“I f you shall see Him,”
That i s to say:
1
Tob. 12:12
19
20 A Spiritual Canticle
5. I f, to my gr eat happi ness you shal l come i nto Hi s pr esence, so that He shal l see
you and hear your wor ds. God, i ndeed, knows al l thi ngs, even the ver y thoughts of
the soul , as He sai d to Moses,
1
but i t i s then He behol ds our necessi ti es when He
r el i eves them, and hear s our pr ayer s when he gr ants them. God does not see al l
necessi ti es and hear al l peti ti ons unti l the ti me appoi nted shal l have come; i t i s
then that He i s sai d to hear and see, as we l ear n i n the book of Exodus. When the
chi l dr en of I sr ael had been affl i cted for four hundr ed year s as ser fs i n Egypt, God
sai d to Moses, “I have seen the affl i cti on of my peopl e i n Egypt, and I have hear d
thei r cr y, and . . . I am come down to del i ver them.”
2
And yet He had seen i t
al ways. So al so St. Gabr i el bade Zachar i ah not to fear , because God had hear d hi s
pr ayer , and woul d gr ant hi m the son, for whom he had been pr ayi ng for many
year s;
3
yet God had al ways hear d hi m. Ever y soul ought to consi der that God,
though He does not at once hel p us and gr ant our peti ti ons, wi l l sti l l succor us i n
Hi s own ti me, for He i s, as Davi d says, “a hel per i n due ti me i n tr i bul ati on,”
4
i f we
do not become fai nt-hear ted and cease to pr ay. Thi s i s what the soul means by
sayi ng, “I f you shal l see Hi m”; that i s to say, i f the ti me i s come when i t shal l be
Hi s good pl easur e to gr ant my peti ti ons.
6. “Whom I l ove the most”: that i s, whom I l ove mor e than al l cr eatur es. Thi s i s
tr ue of the soul when nothi ng can make i t afr ai d to do and suffer al l thi ngs i n Hi s
ser vi ce. And when the soul can al so tr ul y say that whi ch fol l ows, i t i s a si gn that
i t l oves Hi m above al l thi ngs:
“Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.”
7. Her e the soul speaks of thr ee thi ngs that di str ess i t: namel y, l anguor ,
suffer i ng, and death; for the soul that tr ul y l oves God wi th a l ove i n some degr ee
per fect, suffer s i n thr ee ways i n Hi s absence, i n i ts thr ee power s or di nar i l y—the
under standi ng, the wi l l , and the memor y. I n the under standi ng i t l angui shes
because i t does not see God, Who i s the sal vati on of i t, as the Psal mi st says: “I am
your sal vati on.”
5
I n the wi l l i t suffer s, because i t possesses not God, Who i s i ts
comfor t and del i ght, as Davi d al so says: “You shal l make them dr i nk of the
tor r ent of Your pl easur e.”
6
I n the memor y i t di es, because i t r emember s i ts
pr i vati on of al l the bl essi ngs of the under standi ng, whi ch ar e the vi si on of God,
and of the del i ghts of the wi l l , whi ch ar e the fr ui ti on of Hi m, and that i t i s ver y
possi bl e al so that i t may l ose Hi m for ever , because of the danger s and chances of
thi s l i fe. I n the memor y, ther efor e, the soul l abor s under a sensati on l i ke that of
death, because i t sees i tsel f wi thout the cer tai n and per fect fr ui ti on of God, Who i s
the l i fe of the soul , as Moses says: “He i s your l i fe.”
7
8. Jer emi ah al so, i n the Lamentati ons, speaks of these thr ee thi ngs, pr ayi ng to
God, and sayi ng: “Remember my pover ty . . . the wor mwood and the gal l .”
8
1
Deut. 31:21
2
Exod. 3:7,8
3
Luke 1:13
4
Ps. 9:10
5
Ps. 34:3
6
Ps. 35:9
7
Deut. 30:20
8
Lam. 3:19
Stanza II 21
Pover ty r el ates to the under standi ng, to whi ch apper tai n the r i ches of the
knowl edge of the Son of God, “i n whom al l the tr easur es of wi sdom and knowl edge
ar e hi d.”
1
The wor mwood, whi ch i s a most bi tter her b, r el ates to the wi l l , to whi ch
apper tai ns the sweetness of the fr ui ti on of God, depr i ved of whi ch i t abi des i n
bi tterness. We l earn i n the Revel ati on that bi tterness appertai ns spi ri tual l y to the
wi l l , for the angel sai d to St. John: “Take the book and eat i t up; and i t shal l make
your bel l y bi tter.”
2
Here the bel l y si gni fi es the wi l l . The gal l rel ates not onl y to the
memor y, but al so to al l the power s and facul ti es of the soul , for i t si gni fi es the
death ther eof, as we l ear n fr om Moses speaki ng of the damned: “Thei r wi ne i s the
gal l of dr agons, and the venom of asps, whi ch i s i ncur abl e.”
3
Thi s si gni fi es the
l oss of God, whi ch i s the death of the soul .
9. These thr ee thi ngs whi ch di str ess the soul ar e gr ounded on the thr ee
theol ogi cal vi r tues—fai th, char i ty, and hope, whi ch r el ate, i n the or der her e
assi gned them, to the thr ee facul ti es of the soul —under standi ng, wi l l , and
memor y. Obser ve her e that the soul does no mor e than r epr esent i ts mi ser i es and
pai n to the Bel oved: for he who l oves wi sel y does not care to ask for that whi ch he
wants and desi r es, bei ng sati sfi ed wi th hi nti ng at hi s necessi ti es, so that the
bel oved one may do what shal l to hi m seem good. Thus the Bl essed Vi r gi n at the
mar r i age feast of Cana asked not di r ectl y for wi ne, but onl y sai d to her Bel oved
Son, “They have no wi ne.”
4
The si ster s of Lazar us sent to Hi m, not to ask Hi m to
heal thei r br other , but onl y to say that he whom He l oved was si ck: “Lor d, behol d,
he whom You l ove i s si ck.”
5
10. Ther e ar e thr ee r easons for thi s. Our Lor d knows what i s expedi ent for us
better than we do our sel ves. Secondl y, the Bel oved i s mor e compassi onate towar ds
us when He sees our necessi ti es and our r esi gnati on. Thi r dl y, we ar e mor e
secur ed agai nst sel f-l ove and sel f-seeki ng when we r epr esent our necessi ty, than
when we ask for that whi ch we thi nk we need. I t i s i n thi s way that the soul
r epr esents i ts thr ee necessi ti es; as i f i t sai d: “Tel l my Bel oved, that as I l angui sh,
and as He onl y i s my sal vati on, to save me; that as I am suffer i ng, and as He onl y
i s my joy, to gi ve me joy; that as I am dyi ng, and as He onl y i s my l i fe, to gi ve me
l i fe.”
1
Col . 2:3
2
Rev. 10:9
3
Deut. 32:33
4
John 2:3
5
John 11:3
STANZA III
I n search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.
THE soul , obser vi ng that i ts si ghs and pr ayer s suffi ce not to fi nd the Bel oved, and
that i t has not been hel ped by the messengers i t i nvoked i n the fi rst and second
stanzas, wi l l not, because i ts sear chi ng i s r eal and i ts l ove gr eat, l eave undone
anythi ng i tsel f can do. The soul that real l y l oves God i s not di l atory i n i ts efforts to
fi nd the Son of God, i ts Bel oved; and, even when i t has done al l i t coul d i t i s sti l l
not sati sfi ed, thi nki ng i t has done nothi ng. Accor di ngl y, the soul i s now, i n thi s
thi r d stanza, acti vel y seeki ng the Bel oved, and sayi ng how He i s to be found;
namel y, i n the pr acti ce of al l vi r tue and i n the spi r i tual exer ci ses of the acti ve and
contempl ati ve l i fe; for thi s end i t r ejects al l del i ghts and al l comfor ts; and al l the
power and wi l es of i ts thr ee enemi es, the wor l d, the devi l , and the fl esh, ar e
unabl e to del ay i t or hi nder i t on the road.
“I n search of my Love.”
2. Here the soul makes i t known that to fi nd God i t i s not enough to pray wi th the
hear t and the tongue, or to have r ecour se to the hel p of other s; we must al so wor k
our sel ves, accor di ng to our power . God val ues one effor t of our own mor e than
many of other s on our behal f; the soul , ther efor e, r emember i ng the sayi ng of the
Bel oved, “Seek and you shal l fi nd,”
1
i s r esol ved on goi ng for th, as I sai d just now,
to seek Hi m acti vel y, and not r est ti l l i t fi nds Hi m, as many do who wi l l not that
God shoul d cost them anythi ng but wor ds, and even those car el essl y utter ed, and
for Hi s sake wi l l do nothi ng that wi l l cost them anythi ng. Some, too, wi l l not l eave
for Hi s sake a pl ace whi ch i s to thei r taste and l i ki ng, expecti ng to r ecei ve al l the
sweetness of God i n thei r mouth and i n thei r hear t wi thout movi ng a step,
wi thout mor ti fyi ng themsel ves by the abandonment of a si ngl e pl easur e or usel ess
comfor t.
3. But unti l they go forth out of themsel ves to seek Hi m, however l oudl y they may
cr y they wi l l not fi nd Hi m; for the br i de i n the Canti cl e sought Hi m i n thi s way,
but she found Hi m not unti l she went out to seek Hi m: “I n my l i ttl e bed i n the
ni ghts I have sought Hi m Whom my soul l oves: I have sought Hi m and have not
found Hi m. I wi l l r i se and wi l l go about the ci ty: by the str eets and hi ghways I wi l l
seek Hi m Whom my soul l oves.”
2
She after war ds adds that when she had endur ed
cer tai n tr i al s she “ found Hi m.”
3
4. He, ther efor e, who seeks God, consul ti ng hi s own ease and comfor t, seeks Hi m
by ni ght, and ther efor e fi nds Hi m not. But he who seeks Hi m i n the pr acti ce of
1
Luke 11:9
2
Cant. 3:1
3
Cant. 3:4
22
Stanza III 23
vi r tue and of good wor ks, casti ng asi de the comfor ts of hi s own bed, seeks Hi m by
day; such a one shal l fi nd Hi m, for that whi ch i s not seen by ni ght i s vi si bl e by
day. The Br i degr oom Hi msel f teaches us thi s, sayi ng, “ Wi sdom i s cl ear and never
fades away, and i s easi l y seen of them that l ove her , and i s found of them that seek
her . She pr events them that covet her , that she fi r st may show her sel f to them. He
that awakes ear l y to seek her shal l not l abor ; for he shal l fi nd her si tti ng at hi s
door s.”
1
The soul that wi l l go out of the house of i ts own wi l l , and abandon the bed
of i ts own sati sfacti on, wi l l fi nd the di vi ne Wi sdom, the Son of God, the
Br i degr oom wai ti ng at the door wi thout, and so the soul says:
“I will go over mountains and strands.”
5. Mountai ns, whi ch ar e l ofty, si gni fy vi r tues, par tl y on account of thei r hei ght
and par tl y on account of the toi l and l abor of ascendi ng them; the soul says i t wi l l
ascend to them i n the pr acti ce of the contempl ati ve l i fe. Str ands, whi ch ar e l ow,
si gni fy mor ti fi cati ons, penances, and the spi r i tual exer ci ses, and the soul wi l l
add to the acti ve l i fe that of contempl ati on; for both are necessary i n seeki ng after
God and i n acqui r i ng vi r tue. The soul says, i n effect, “ I n sear chi ng after my
Bel oved I wi l l pr acti ce gr eat vi r tue, and abase mysel f by l owl y mor ti fi cati ons and
acts of humi l i ty, for the way to seek God i s to do good wor ks i n Hi m, and to mor ti fy
the evi l i n our sel ves, as i t i s sai d i n the wor ds that fol l ow:
“I will gather no flowers.”
6. He that wi l l seek after God must have hi s hear t detached, r esol ute, and fr ee
fr om al l evi l s, and fr om al l goods whi ch ar e not si mpl y God; that i s the meani ng
of these wor ds. The wor ds that fol l ow descr i be the l i ber ty and cour age whi ch the
soul must possess i n sear chi ng after God. Her e i t decl ar es that i t wi l l gather no
fl ower s by the way—the fl ower s ar e al l the del i ghts, sati sfacti ons, and pl easur es
whi ch thi s l i fe offer s, and whi ch, i f the soul sought or accepted, woul d hi nder i t
on the r oad.
7. These fl ower s ar e of thr ee ki nds—tempor al , sensual , and spi r i tual . Al l of them
occupy the hear t, and stand i n the way of the spi r i tual detachment r equi r ed i n the
way of Chr i st, i f we r egar d them or r est i n them. The soul , ther efor e, says, that i t
wi l l not stop to gather any of them, that i t may seek after God. I t seems to say, I
wi l l not set my hear t upon r i ches or the goods of thi s wor l d; I wi l l not i ndul ge i n
the sati sfacti ons and ease of the fl esh, nei ther wi l l I consul t the taste and comfor ts
of my spi r i t, i n or der that nothi ng may detai n me i n my sear ch after my Love on
the toi l some mountai ns of vi r tue. Thi s means that i t accepts the counsel of the
pr ophet Davi d to those who tr avel on thi s r oad: “I f r i ches abound, set not your
hear t upon them,”
2
Thi s i s appl i cabl e to sensual sati sfacti ons, as wel l as to
tempor al goods and spi r i tual consol ati ons.
8. Fr om thi s we l ear n that not onl y tempor al goods and bodi l y pl easur es hi nder us
on the r oad to God, but spi r i tual del i ght and consol ati ons al so, i f we attach
our sel ves to them or seek them; for these thi ngs ar e hi ndr ances on the way of the
cr oss of Chr i st, the Br i degr oom. He, ther efor e, that wi l l go onwar ds must not onl y
not stop to gather fl ower s, but must al so have the cour age and r esol uti on to say as
1
Wi sd. 6:13
2
Ps. 61:11
24 A Spiritual Canticle
fol l ows:
“I will fear no wild beasts and I will go over
the mighty and the frontiers.”
Her e we have the thr ee enemi es of the soul whi ch make war agai nst i t, and make
i ts way ful l of di ffi cul ti es. The wi l d beasts ar e the wor l d; the mi ghty, the devi l ; and
the fr onti er s ar e the fl esh.
9. The wor l d i s the wi l d beasts, because i n the begi nni ng of the heavenl y jour ney
the i magi nati on pi ctur es the wor l d to the soul as wi l d beasts, thr eateni ng and
fi er ce, pr i nci pal l y i n thr ee ways. The fi r st i s, we must for fei t the wor l d’s favor ,
l ose fr i ends, cr edi t, r eputati on, and pr oper ty; the second i s not l ess cr uel : we must
suffer the per petual depr i vati on of al l the comfor ts and pl easur es of the wor l d;
and the thi r d i s sti l l wor se: evi l tongues wi l l r i se agai nst us, mock us, and speak
of us wi th contempt. Thi s str i kes some per sons so vi vi dl y that i t becomes most
di ffi cul t for them, I do not say to persevere, but even to enter on thi s road at al l .
10. But ther e ar e gener ous soul s who have to encounter wi l d beasts of a mor e
i nter i or and spi r i tual natur e—tr i al s, temptati ons, tr i bul ati ons, and affl i cti ons of
di ver se ki nds, thr ough whi ch they must pass. Thi s i s what God sends to those
whom He i s r ai si ng upwar ds to hi gh per fecti on, pr ovi ng them and tr yi ng them as
gol d i n the fi r e; as Davi d says: “Many ar e the tr i bul ati ons of the just; and out of al l
these our Lor d wi l l del i ver them.”
1
But the tr ul y enamor ed soul , pr efer r i ng the
Bel oved above al l thi ngs, and r el yi ng on Hi s l ove and favor , fi nds no di ffi cul ty i n
sayi ng:
“I will fear no wild beats”
“and pass over the mighty and the frontiers.”
11. Evi l spi r i ts, the second enemy of the soul , ar e cal l ed the mi ghty, because they
str i ve wi th al l thei r mi ght to sei ze on the passes of the spi r i tual r oad; and because
the temptati ons they suggest ar e har der to over come, and the cr aft they empl oy
mor e di ffi cul t to detect, than al l the seducti ons of the wor l d and the fl esh; and
because, al so, they str engthen thei r own posi ti on by the hel p of the wor l d and the
fl esh i n or der to fi ght vi gor ousl y agai nst the soul . Hence the Psal mi st cal l s them
mi ghty, sayi ng: “ The mi ghty have sought after my soul .”
2
The prophet Job al so
speaks of thei r mi ght: “Ther e i s no power upon the ear th that may be compar ed
wi th hi m who was made to fear no man.”
3
12. Ther e i s no human power that can be compar ed wi th the power of the devi l ,
and ther efor e the di vi ne power al one can over come hi m, and the di vi ne l i ght al one
can penetr ate hi s devi ces. No soul ther efor e can over come hi s mi ght wi thout
pr ayer , or detect hi s i l l usi ons wi thout humi l i ty and mor ti fi cati on. Hence the
exhortati on of St. Paul to the fai thful : “Put on the armor of God, that you may
stand agai nst the decei ts of the devi l : for our wr estl i ng i s not agai nst fl esh and
bl ood.”
4
Bl ood her e i s the wor l d, and the ar mor of God i s pr ayer and the cr oss of
1
Ps. 33:20
2
Ps. 53:5
3
Job 41:24
4
Eph. 6:11
Stanza III 25
Chr i st, wher ei n consi st the humi l i ty and mor ti fi cati on of whi ch I have spoken.
13. The soul says al so that i t wi l l cr oss the fr onti er s: these ar e the natur al
r esi stance and r ebel l i on of the fl esh agai nst the spi r i t, for , as St. Paul says, the
“fl esh l usts agai nst the spi r i t,”
1
and sets i tsel f as a fr onti er agai nst the soul on i ts
spi r i tual r oad. Thi s fr onti er the soul must cr oss, sur mounti ng di ffi cul ti es, and
tr ampl i ng under foot al l sensual appeti tes and al l natur al affecti ons wi th gr eat
cour age and r esol uti on of spi r i t: for whi l e they r emai n i n the soul , the spi r i t wi l l
be by them hi nder ed fr om advanci ng to the tr ue l i fe and spi r i tual del i ght. Thi s i s
set cl earl y before us by St. Paul , sayi ng: “I f by the spi ri t you morti fy the deeds of
the fl esh, you shal l l i ve.”
2
Thi s, then, i s the pr ocess whi ch the soul i n thi s stanza
says i t becomes i t to observe on the way to seek the Bel oved: whi ch bri efl y i s a fi rm
resol uti on not to stoop to gather fl owers by the way; courage not to fear the wi l d
beasts, and str ength to pass by the mi ghty and the fr onti er s; i ntent sol el y on goi ng
over the mountai ns and the str ands of the vi r tues, i n the way just expl ai ned.
1
Gal . 5:17
2
Rom. 8:13
STANZA IV
O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?
THE di sposi ti on r equi si te for enter i ng on the spi r i tual jour ney, absti nence fr om
joys and pl easur e, bei ng now descr i bed; and the cour age al so wi th whi ch to
over come temptati ons and tr i al s, wher ei n consi sts the pr acti ce of sel f-knowl edge,
whi ch i s the fi r st step of the soul to the knowl edge of God. Now, i n thi s stanza the
soul begi ns to advance thr ough consi der ati on and knowl edge of cr eatur es to the
knowl edge of the Bel oved thei r Cr eator . For the consi der ati on of the cr eatur e, after
the pr acti ce of sel f-knowl edge, i s the fi r st i n or der on the spi r i tual r oad to the
knowl edge of God, Whose gr andeur and magni fi cence they decl ar e, as the Apostl e
says: “For Hi s i nvi si bl e thi ngs fr om the cr eati on of the wor l d ar e seen, bei ng
under stood by these thi ngs that ar e made.”
1
I t i s as i f he sai d, “The i nvi si bl e
thi ngs of God ar e made known to the soul by cr eated thi ngs, vi si bl e and i nvi si bl e.”
2. The soul , then, i n thi s stanza addr esses i tsel f to cr eatur es i nqui r i ng after the
Bel oved. And we obser ve, as St. Augusti ne
2
says, that the i nqui r y made of
cr eatur es i s a medi tati on on the Cr eator , for whi ch they fur ni sh the matter . Thus,
i n thi s stanza the soul medi tates on the el ements and the r est of the l ower
cr eati on; on the heavens, and on the r est of cr eated and mater i al thi ngs whi ch
God has made ther ei n; al so on the heavenl y Spi r i ts, sayi ng:
“O groves and thickets.”
3. The gr oves ar e the el ements, ear th, water , ai r , and fi r e. As the most pl easant
gr oves ar e studded wi th pl ants and shr ubs, so the el ements ar e thi ck wi th
cr eatur es, and her e ar e cal l ed thi ckets because of the number and var i ety of
cr eatur es i n each. The ear th contai ns i nnumer abl e var i eti es of ani mal s and
pl ants, the water of fi sh, the ai r of bi r ds, and fi r e concur s wi th al l i n ani mati ng
and sustai ni ng them. Each ki nd of ani mal l i ves i n i ts pr oper el ement, pl aced and
pl anted ther e, as i n i ts own gr ove and soi l wher e i t i s bor n and nour i shed; and, i n
tr uth, God so or der ed i t when He made them; He commanded the ear th to br i ng
for th her bs and ani mal s; the water s and the sea, fi sh; and the ai r He gave as a
habi tati on to bi r ds. The soul , ther efor e, consi der i ng that thi s i s the effect of Hi s
commandment, cr i es out,
“Planted by the hand of the Beloved.”
4. That whi ch the soul consi der s now i s thi s: the hand of God the Bel oved onl y
coul d have cr eated and nur tur ed al l these var i eti es and wonder ful thi ngs. The
soul says del i ber atel y, “by the hand of the Bel oved,” because God does many thi ngs
1
Rom. 1:20
2
Conf. 10. 6.
26
Stanza IV 27
by the hands of other s, as of angel s and men; but the wor k of cr eati on has never
been, and never i s, the wor k of any other hand than Hi s own. Thus the soul ,
consi der i ng the cr eati on, i s pr ofoundl y sti r r ed up to l ove God the Bel oved for i t
behol ds al l thi ngs to be the wor k of Hi s hands, and goes on to say:
“O verdant meads.”
5. These ar e the heavens; for the thi ngs whi ch He has cr eated i n the heavens ar e
of i ncor r upti bl e fr eshness, whi ch nei ther per i sh nor wi ther wi th ti me, wher e the
just ar e r efr eshed as i n the gr een pastur es. The pr esent consi der ati on i ncl udes
al l the var i eti es of the star s i n thei r beauty, and the other wor ks i n the heavens.
6. The Chur ch al so appl i es the ter m “ver dur e” to heavenl y thi ngs; for whi l e
pr ayi ng to God for the depar ti ng soul , i t addr esses i t as fol l ows: “May Chr i st, the
Son of the l i vi ng God, gi ve you a pl ace i n the ever -pl easant ver dur e of Hi s
par adi se.”
1
The soul al so says that thi s ver dant mead i s
“Enameled with flowers.”
7. The fl ower s ar e the angel s and the hol y soul s who ador n and beauti fy that
pl ace, as costl y and fi ne enamel on a vase of pur e gol d.
“Tell me, has He passed by you?”
8. Thi s i nqui r y i s the consi der ati on of the cr eatur e just spoken of, and i s i n effect:
Tel l me, what per fecti ons has He cr eated i n you?
1
Or do commendati oni s ani mae.
STANZA V
ANSWER OF THE CREATURES
A thousand graces diffusing
He passed through the groves in haste,
And merel y regardi ng them
As He passed,
Clothed them with His beauty.
THI S i s the answer of the cr eatur es to the soul whi ch, accor di ng to St. Augusti ne,
i n the same pl ace, i s the testi mony whi ch they fur ni sh to the majesty and
per fecti ons of God, for whi ch i t asked i n i ts medi tati on on cr eated thi ngs. The
meani ng of thi s stanza i s, i n substance, as fol l ows: God cr eated al l thi ngs wi th
gr eat ease and r api di ty, and l eft i n them some tokens of Hi msel f, not onl y by
cr eati ng them out of nothi ng, but al so by endowi ng them wi th i nnumer abl e
gr aces and qual i ti es, maki ng them beauti ful i n admi r abl e or der and unceasi ng
mutual dependence. Al l thi s He wr ought i n wi sdom, by whi ch He cr eated them,
whi ch i s the Wor d, Hi s onl y begotten Son. Then the soul says;
“A thousand graces diffusing.”
2. These gr aces ar e the i nnumer abl e mul ti tude of Hi s cr eatur es. The ter m
“thousand,” whi ch the soul makes use of, denotes not thei r number , but the
i mpossi bi l i ty of number i ng them. They ar e cal l ed gr ace because of the qual i ti es
wi th whi ch He has endowed them. He i s sai d to di ffuse them because He fi l l s the
whol e wor l d wi th them.
“He passed through the groves in haste.”
3. To pass thr ough the gr oves i s to cr eate the el ements; her e cal l ed gr oves,
thr ough whi ch He i s sai d to pass, di ffusi ng a thousand gr aces, because He
ador ned them wi th cr eatur es whi ch ar e al l beauti ful . Mor eover , He di ffused
among them a thousand gr aces, gi vi ng the power of gener ati on and sel f-
conser vati on. He i s sai d to pass thr ough, because the cr eatur es ar e, as i t wer e,
tr aces of the passage of God, r eveal i ng Hi s majesty, power , and wi sdom, and Hi s
other di vi ne attr i butes. He i s sai d to pass i n haste, because the cr eatur es ar e the
l east of the wor ks of God: He made them, as i t wer e, i n passi ng. Hi s gr eatest
wor ks, wher ei n He i s most vi si bl e and at r est, ar e the i ncar nati on of the Wor d and
the myster i es of the Chr i sti an fai th, i n compar i son wi th whi ch al l Hi s other
wor ks wer e wor ks wr ought i n passi ng and i n haste.
“And thereby regarding them
As He passed,
Clothed them with His beauty.”
4. The son of God i s, i n the wor ds of St. Paul , “the br i ghtness of Hi s gl or y and the
28
Stanza V 29
fi gur e of Hi s substance.”
1
God saw al l thi ngs onl y i n the face of Hi s Son. Thi s was
to gi ve them thei r natur al bei ng, bestowi ng upon them many gr aces and natur al
gi fts, maki ng them per fect, as i t i s wr i tten i n the book of Genesi s: “God saw al l the
thi ngs that He had made: and they wer e ver y good.”
2
To see al l thi ngs very good
was to make them ver y good i n the Wor d, Hi s Son. He not onl y gave them thei r
bei ng and thei r natur al gr aces when He behel d them, but He al so cl othed them
wi th beauty i n the face of Hi s Son, communi cati ng to them a super natur al bei ng
when He made man, and exal ted hi m to the beauty of God, and, by consequence,
al l cr eatur es i n hi m, because He uni ted Hi msel f to the natur e of them al l i n man.
For thi s cause the Son of God Hi msel f sai d, “And I , i f I be l i fted up fr om the ear th
wi l l dr aw al l thi ngs to Mysel f.”
3
And thus i n thi s exal tati on of the i ncar nati on of
Hi s Son, and the gl or y of Hi s r esur r ecti on accor di ng to the fl esh, the Father not
onl y made al l thi ngs beauti ful i n par t, but al so, we may wel l say, cl othed them
whol l y wi th beauty and di gni ty.
NOTE
BUT beyond al l thi s—speaki ng now of contempl ati on as i t affects the soul and
makes an i mpr essi on on i t—i n the vi vi d contempl ati on and knowl edge of cr eated
thi ngs the soul behol ds such a mul ti pl i ci ty of gr aces, power s, and beauty wi th
whi ch God has endowed them, that they seem to i t to be cl othed wi th admi r abl e
beauty and super natur al vi r tue der i ved fr om the i nfi ni te super natur al beauty of
the face of God, whose behol di ng of them cl othed the heavens and the ear th wi th
beauty and joy; as i t i s wr i tten: “You open Your hand and fi l l wi th bl essi ng ever y
l i vi ng cr eatur e.”
4
Hence the soul wounded wi th l ove of that beauty of the Bel oved
whi ch i t tr aces i n cr eated thi ngs, and anxi ous to behol d that beauty whi ch i s the
sour ce of thi s vi si bl e beauty, si ngs as i n the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Heb. 1:3
2
Gen. 1:31
3
John 12:32
4
Ps. 144:16
STANZA VI
THE BRI DE
Oh! who can heal me?
Gi ve me perfectl y Yoursel f,
Send me no more
A messenger
Who cannot tell me what I wish.
AS cr eated thi ngs fur ni sh to the soul tr aces of the Bel oved, and exhi bi t the
i mpr ess of Hi s beauty and magni fi cence, the l ove of the soul i ncr eases, and
consequentl y the pai n of Hi s absence: for the gr eater the soul ’s knowl edge of God
the gr eater i ts desi r e to see Hi m, and i ts pai n when i t cannot; and as i t sees ther e
i s no r emedy for thi s pai n except i n the pr esence and vi si on of the Bel oved,
di str ustful of ever y other r emedy, i t pr ays i n thi s stanza for the fr ui ti on of Hi s
pr esence, sayi ng: “ Enter tai n me no mor e wi th any knowl edge or communi cati ons
or i mpr essi ons of Your gr andeur , for these do but i ncr ease my l ongi ng and the
pai n of Your absence; Your pr esence al one can sati sfy my wi l l and desi r e.” The
wi l l cannot be sati sfi ed wi th anythi ng l ess than the vi si on of God, and ther efor e
the soul prays that He may be pl eased to gi ve Hi msel f to i t i n truth, i n perfect l ove.
“O! who can heal me?”
2. That i s, ther e i s nothi ng i n al l the del i ghts of the wor l d, nothi ng i n the
sati sfacti on of the senses, nothi ng i n the sweet taste of the spi r i t that can heal or
content me, and ther efor e i t adds:
“Give me at once Yourself.”
3. No soul that real l y l oves can be sati sfi ed or content short of the frui ti on of God.
For ever ythi ng el se, as I have just sai d, not onl y does not sati sfy the soul , but
r ather i ncr eases the hunger and thi r st of seei ng Hi m as He us. Thus ever y
gl i mpse of the Bel oved, ever y knowl edge and i mpr essi on or communi cati on fr om
Hi m—these ar e the messenger s suggesti ve of Hi m—i ncr ease and qui cken the
soul ’s desi r e after Hi m, as cr umbs of food i n hunger sti mul ate the appeti te. The
soul , ther efor e, mour ni ng over the mi ser y of bei ng enter tai ned by matter s of so
l i ttl e moment, cr i es out:
“Gi ve me perfectl y Yoursel f.”
4. Now al l our knowl edge of God i n thi s l i fe, however gr eat i t may be, i s not a
per fectl y tr ue knowl edge of Hi m, because i t i s par ti al and i ncompl ete; but to know
Hi m essenti al l y i s tr ue knowl edge, and that i s i t whi ch the soul pr ays for her e, not
sati sfi ed wi th any other ki nd. Hence i t says:
“Send me no more a messenger.”
5. That i s, gr ant that I may no l onger know You i n thi s i mper fect way by the
30
Stanza VI 31
messenger s of knowl edge and i mpr essi ons, whi ch ar e so di stant fr om that whi ch
my soul desi r es; for these messenger s, as You wel l know, O my Br i degr oom, do
but i ncr ease the pai n of Your absence. They r enew the wound whi ch You have
i nfl i cted by the knowl edge of You whi ch they convey, and they seem to del ay Your
comi ng. Hencefor th send me no mor e of these i nadequate communi cati ons, for i f
I have been hi ther to sati sfi ed wi th them, i t was owi ng to the sl i ghtness of my
knowl edge and of my l ove: now that my l ove has become gr eat, I cannot sati sfy
mysel f wi th them; ther efor e, gi ve me at once Your sel f.
6. Thi s, mor e cl ear l y expr essed, i s as fol l ows: “ O Lor d my Br i degr oom, Who gave
me Your sel f par ti al l y befor e, gi ve me Your sel f whol l y now. You who showed
gl i mpses of Your sel f befor e, show Your sel f cl ear l y now. You who communi cated
Your sel f hi ther to by the i nstr umental i ty of messenger s—i t was as i f You mocked
me—gi ve Your sel f by Your sel f now. Someti mes when You vi si ted me You gave
me the pear l of Your possessi on, and, when I began to exami ne i t, l o, i t was gone,
for You had hi dden i t Your sel f: i t was l i ke a mocker y. Gi ve me then Your sel f i n
tr uth, Your whol e sel f, that I may have You whol l y to mysel f whol l y, and send me
no messenger s agai n.”
“Who cannot tell me what I wish.”
7. “ I wi sh for You whol l y, and Your messenger s nei ther know You whol l y, nor
can they speak of You whol l y, for ther e i s nothi ng i n ear th or heaven that can
fur ni sh that knowl edge to the soul whi ch i t l ongs for . They cannot tel l me,
ther efor e, what I wi sh. I nstead, then, of these messenger s, be You the messenger
and the message.”
STANZA VII
All they who serve are telling me
Of Your unnumbered graces;
And all wound me more and more,
And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.
THE soul descr i bes i tsel f i n the for egoi ng stanza as wounded, or si ck wi th l ove of
the Br i degr oom, because of the knowl edge of Hi m whi ch the i r r ati onal cr eati on
suppl i es, and i n the pr esent, as wounded wi th l ove because of the other and
hi gher knowl edge whi ch i t der i ves fr om the r ati onal cr eati on, nobl er than the
for mer ; that i s, angel s and men. Thi s i s not al l , for the soul says al so that i t i s
dyi ng of l ove, because of that mar vel ous i mmensi ty not whol l y but par ti al l y
r eveal ed to i t thr ough the r ati onal cr eati on. Thi s i t cal l s “I know not what,”
because i t cannot be descr i bed, and because i t i s such that the soul di es of i t.
2. I t seems, fr om thi s, that ther e ar e thr ee ki nds of pai n i n the soul ’s l ove of the
Bel oved, cor r espondi ng to the thr ee ki nds of knowl edge that can be had of Hi m.
The fi r st i s cal l ed a wound; not deep, but sl i ght, l i ke a wound whi ch heal s qui ckl y,
because i t comes fr om i ts knowl edge of the cr eatur es, whi ch ar e the l owest wor ks
of God. Thi s woundi ng of the soul , cal l ed al so si ckness, i s thus spoken of by the
br i de i n the Canti cl e: “I adjur e you, O daughter s of Jer usal em, i f you fi nd my
Bel oved, that you tel l Hi m that I l angui sh wi th l ove.”
1
The daughter s of
Jer usal em ar e the cr eatur es.
3. The second i s cal l ed a sor e whi ch enter s deeper than a wound i nto the soul , and
i s, ther efor e, of l onger conti nuance, because i t i s as a wound fester i ng, on account
of whi ch the soul feel s that i t i s real l y dyi ng of l ove. Thi s sore i s the effect of the
knowl edge of the wor ks of God, the i ncar nati on of the Wor d, and the myster i es of
the fai th. These bei ng the gr eatest wor ks of God, and i nvol vi ng a gr eater l ove than
those of cr eati on, pr oduce a gr eater effect of l ove i n the soul . I f the fi r st ki nd of
pai n i s as a wound, thi s must be l i ke a fester i ng, conti nuous sor e. Of thi s speaks
the Br i degr oom, addr essi ng Hi msel f to the br i de, sayi ng: “You have wounded My
hear t, My si ster , My br i de; you have wounded My hear t wi th one of your eyes, and
wi th one hai r of your neck.”
2
The eye si gni fi es fai th i n the i ncar nati on of the
Br i degr oom, and the one hai r i s the l ove of the same.
4. The thi r d ki nd of pai n i s l i ke dyi ng; i t i s as i f the whol e soul wer e fester i ng
because of i ts wound. I t i s dyi ng a l i vi ng death unti l l ove, havi ng sl ai n i t, shal l
make i t l i ve the l i fe of l ove, transformi ng i t i n l ove. Thi s dyi ng of l ove i s affected by
a si ngl e touch of the knowl edge of the Di vi ni ty; i t i s the “I know not what,” of
whi ch the cr eatur es, as i n the stanza i s sai d, ar e speaki ng i ndi sti nctl y. Thi s
touch i s not conti nuous nor gr eat,—for then soul and body woul d par t—but soon
over , and thus the soul i s dyi ng of l ove, and dyi ng the mor e when i t sees that i t
1
Cant. 5:8
2
Cant. 4:9
32
Stanza VII 33
cannot di e of l ove.
1
Thi s i s cal l ed i mpati ent l ove, whi ch i s spoken of i n the book of
Genesi s, wher e the Scr i ptur e says that Rachel ’s l ove of chi l dr en was so gr eat that
she sai d to Jacob her husband, “ Gi ve me chi l dr en, other wi se I shal l di e.”
2
And
the pr ophet Job sai d, “Who wi l l gr ant that . . . He that has begun the same woul d
cut me off.”
3
5. These two-fol d pai ns of l ove—that i s, the wound and the dyi ng—ar e i n the
stanza sai d to be mer el y the r ati onal cr eati on. The wound, when i t speaks of the
unnumber ed gr aces of the Bel oved i n the myster i es and wi sdom of God taught by
the fai th. The dyi ng, when i t i s sai d that the r ati onal cr eati on speaks i ndi sti nctl y.
Thi s i s a sense and knowl edge of the Di vi ni ty someti mes r eveal ed when the soul
hear s God spoken of. Ther efor e i t says:
“All they who serve.”
6. That i s, the r ati onal cr eati on, angel s and men; for these al one ar e they who
ser ve God, under standi ng by that wor d i ntel l i gent ser vi ce; that i s to say, al l they
who ser ve God. Some ser ve Hi m by contempl ati on and fr ui ti on i n heaven—these
ar e the angel s; other s by l ovi ng and l ongi ng for Hi m on ear th—these ar e men.
And because the soul l ear ns to know God mor e di sti nctl y thr ough the r ati onal
cr eati on, whether by consi der i ng i ts super i or i ty over the r est of cr eati on, or by
what i t teaches us of God—the angel s i nter i or l y by secr et i nspi r ati ons, and men
exteri orl y by the truths of Scri pture—i t says:
“Tel l i ng me of Your unnumbered graces.”
7. That i s, they speak of the wonder s of Your gr ace and mer cy i n the I ncar nati on,
and i n the tr uths of the fai th whi ch they show for th and ar e ever tel l i ng mor e
di sti nctl y; for the mor e they say, the mor e do they r eveal Your gr aces.
“And all wound me more and more.”
8. The mor e the angel s i nspi r e me, the mor e men teach me, the mor e do I l ove
You; and thus al l wound me mor e and mor e wi th l ove.
“And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.”
9. I t i s as i f i t sai d: “But besi de the wound whi ch the cr eatur es i nfl i ct when they
tel l me of Your unnumber ed gr aces, ther e i s yet somethi ng whi ch r emai ns to be
tol d, one thi ng unknown to be uttered, a most cl ear trace of the footsteps of God
r eveal ed to the soul , whi ch i t shoul d fol l ow, a most pr ofound knowl edge of God,
whi ch i s i neffabl e, and ther efor e spoken of as ‘I know not what.’” I f that whi ch I
compr ehend i nfl i cts the wound and fester i ng sor e of l ove, that whi ch I cannot
compr ehend but yet feel pr ofoundl y, ki l l s me.
10. Thi s happens occasi onal l y to soul s advanced, whom God favor s i n what they
hear , or see, or under stand—and someti mes wi thout these or other means—wi th
1
See ‘Li vi ng Fl ame,’ stanza 3, l i ne 3, sect. 20.
2
Gen. 30:1
3
Job 6:8,9
34 A Spiritual Canticle
a cer tai n pr ofound knowl edge, i n whi ch they feel or appr ehend the gr eatness and
majesty of God. I n thi s state they thi nk so hi ghl y of God as to see cl earl y that they
know Hi m not, and i n thei r per cepti on of Hi s gr eatness they r ecogni ze that not to
compr ehend Hi m i s the hi ghest compr ehensi on. And thus, one of the gr eatest
favors of God, bestowed transi entl y on the soul i n thi s l i fe, i s to enabl e i t to see so
di sti nctl y, and to feel so pr ofoundl y, that i t cl ear l y under stands i t cannot
compr ehend Hi m at al l . These soul s ar e her ei n, i n some degr ee, l i ke the sai nts i n
heaven, wher e they who know Hi m most per fectl y per cei ve most cl ear l y that He i s
i nfi ni tel y i ncompr ehensi bl e, for those who have the l ess cl ear vi si on, do not
per cei ve so di sti nctl y as the other s, how gr eatl y He tr anscends thei r vi si on. Thi s i s
cl ear to none who have not had exper i ence of i t. But the exper i enced soul ,
compr ehendi ng that ther e i s somethi ng fur ther of whi ch i t i s pr ofoundl y sensi bl e,
cal l s i t, “I know not what.” As that cannot be under stood, so nei ther can i t be
descr i bed, though i t i s fel t, as I have sai d. Hence the soul says that the cr eatur es
speak i ndi sti nctl y, because they cannot di sti nctl y utter that whi ch they woul d say:
i t i s the speech of i nfants, who cannot expl ai n di sti nctl y or speak i ntel l i gi bl y that
whi ch they woul d convey to other s.
11. The other cr eatur es, al so, ar e i n some measur e a r evel ati on to the soul i n thi s
way, but not of an or der so hi gh, whenever i t i s the good pl easur e of God to
mani fest to i t thei r spi r i tual sense and si gni fi cance; they ar e seemi ngl y on the
poi nt of maki ng us under stand the per fecti ons of God, and cannot compass i t; i t i s
as i f one wer e about to expl ai n a matter and the expl anati on i s not gi ven; and thus
they stammer “ I know not what.” The soul conti nues to compl ai n, and addr esses
i ts own l i fe, sayi ng, i n the stanza that fol l ows:
STANZA VIII
But how you persevere, O life!
Not living where you live;
The arrows bring death
Whi ch you recei ve
From your conceptions of the Beloved.
THE soul , percei vi ng i tsel f to be dyi ng of l ove, as i t has just sai d, and yet not dyi ng
so as to have the fr ee enjoyment of i ts l ove, compl ai ns of the conti nuance of i ts
bodi l y l i fe, by whi ch the spi r i tual l i fe i s del ayed. Her e the soul addr esses i tsel f to
the l i fe i t i s l i vi ng upon ear th, magni fyi ng the sor r ows of i t. The meani ng of the
stanza ther efor e i s as fol l ows: “O l i fe of my soul , how can you per sever e i n thi s l i fe
of the fl esh, seei ng that i t i s your death and the pri vati on of the true spi ri tual l i fe
i n God, i n Whom you l i ve i n substance, l ove, and desi r e, mor e tr ul y than i n the
body? And i f thi s wer e not r eason enough to depar t, and fr ee your sel f fr om the
body of thi s death, so as to l i ve and enjoy the l i fe of God, how can you sti l l remai n
i n a body so frai l ? Besi des, these wounds of l ove made by the Bel oved i n the
revel ati on of Hi s majesty are by themsel ves al one suffi ci ent to put an end to your
l i fe, for they ar e ver y deep; and thus al l your feel i ngs towar ds Hi m, and al l you
know of Hi m, ar e so many touches and wounds of l ove that ki l l ,
“But how you persevere, O life!
Not living where you live.”
2. We must keep i n mi nd, for the better under standi ng of thi s, that the soul l i ves
ther e wher e i t l oves, r ather than i n the body whi ch i t ani mates. The soul does not
l i ve by the body, but, on the contrary, gi ves i t l i fe, and l i ves by l ove i n that whi ch i t
l oves. For besi de thi s l i fe of l ove whi ch i t l i ves i n God Who l oves i t, the soul has i ts
r adi cal and natur al l i fe i n God, l i ke al l cr eated thi ngs, accor di ng to the sayi ng of
St. Paul : “ I n Hi m we l i ve, and move, and ar e;”
1
that i s, our l i fe, moti on, and bei ng
i s i n God. St. John al so says that al l that was made was l i fe i n God: “That whi ch
was made, i n Hi m was l i fe.”
2
3. When the soul sees that i ts natur al l i fe i s i n God thr ough the bei ng He has
gi ven i t, and i ts spi ri tual l i fe al so because of the l ove i t bears Hi m, i t breaks forth
i nto l amentati ons, compl ai ni ng that so fr ai l a l i fe i n a mor tal body shoul d have
the power to hi nder i t fr om the fr ui ti on of the tr ue, r eal , and del i ci ous l i fe, whi ch
i t l i ves i n God by nature and by l ove. Earnestl y, therefore, does the soul i nsi st upon
thi s: i t tel l s us that i t suffer s between two contr adi cti ons—i ts natur al l i fe i n the
body, and i ts spi r i tual l i fe i n God; contr ar y the one to the other , because of thei r
mutual r epugnance. The soul l i vi ng thi s doubl e l i fe i s of necessi ty i n gr eat pai n;
for the pai nful l i fe hi nder s the del i ci ous, so that the natur al l i fe i s as death, seei ng
1
Acts 17:28
2
John 1:3. The Sai nt adopts an ol d punctuati on, di fferent from the usual one. He reads thus:
‘Omni a per I psum facta sunt, et si ne I pso factum est ni hi l : Quod factum est, i n I pso vi ta er at’ (‘Al l
thi ngs wer e made by Hi m, and wi thout Hi m nothi ng was made: What was made i n Hi m was
l i fe’).
35
36 A Spiritual Canticle
that i t depri ves the soul of i ts spi ri tual l i fe, wherei n i s i ts whol e bei ng and l i fe by
natur e, and al l i ts oper ati ons and feel i ngs by l ove. The soul , ther efor e, to depi ct
mor e vi vi dl y the har dshi ps of thi s fr agi l e l i fe, says:
“The arrows bring death
whi ch you recei ve.”
4. That i s to say: “Besi des, how can you conti nue i n the body, seei ng that the
touches of l ove—these ar e the ar r ows—wi th whi ch the Bel oved pi er ces your hear t,
ar e al one suffi ci ent to depr i ve you of l i fe?” These touches of l ove make the soul and
heart so frui tful of the knowl edge and l ove of God, that they may wel l be cal l ed
concepti ons of God, as i n the wor ds that fol l ow:
“From your conceptions of the Beloved.”
5. That i s, of the majesty, beauty, wi sdom, gr ace, and power , whi ch you know to
be Hi s.
NOTE
AS the har t wounded wi th a poi soned ar r ow cannot be easy and at r est, but seeks
r el i ef on al l si des, pl ungi ng i nto the water s her e and agai n ther e, whi l e the poi son
spr eads notwi thstandi ng al l attempts at r el i ef, ti l l i t r eaches the hear t, and
occasi ons death; so the soul , pi er ced by the ar r ow of l ove, never ceases fr om
seeki ng to al l evi ate i ts pai ns. Not onl y does i t not succeed, but i ts pai ns i ncr ease,
l et i t thi nk, and say, and do what i t may; and knowi ng thi s, and that ther e i s no
other r emedy but the r esi gnati on of i tsel f i nto the hands of Hi m Who wounded i t,
that He may rel i eve i t, and effectual l y sl ay i t through the vi ol ence of i ts l ove; i t
tur ns towar ds the Br i degr oom, Who i s the cause of al l , and says:
STANZA IX
Why, after wounding
This heart, have You not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
Have You thus abandoned it,
And not carried away the stolen prey?
HERE the soul r etur ns to the Bel oved, sti l l compl ai ni ng of i ts pai n; for that
i mpati ent l ove whi ch the soul now exhi bi ts admi ts of no r est or cessati on fr om
pai n; so i t sets for th i ts gr i efs i n al l manner of ways unti l i t fi nds r el i ef. The soul
seei ng i tsel f wounded and l onel y, and as no one can heal i t but the Bel oved Who
has wounded i t, asks why He, havi ng wounded i ts hear t wi th that l ove whi ch the
knowl edge of Hi m br i ngs, does not heal i t i n the vi si on of Hi s pr esence; and why
He thus abandons the hear t whi ch He has stol en thr ough the l ove Whi ch i nfl ames
i t, after havi ng depr i ved the soul of al l power over i t. The soul has now no power
over i ts hear t—for he who l oves has none—because i t i s sur r ender ed to the
Bel oved, and yet He has not taken i t to Hi msel f i n the pure and perfect
tr ansfor mati on of l ove i n gl or y.
“Why, after wounding this heart,
have You not healed it?”
2. The enamor ed soul i s compl ai ni ng not because i t i s wounded, for the deeper the
wound the gr eater the joy, but because, bei ng wounded, i t i s not heal ed by bei ng
wounded to death. The wounds of l ove are so del i ci ousl y sweet, that i f they do not
ki l l , they cannot sati sfy the soul . They are so sweet that i t desi res to di e of them,
and hence i t i s that i t says, “Why, after woundi ng thi s hear t, have You not heal ed
i t?” That i s, “Why have You struck i t so sharpl y as to wound i t so deepl y, and yet
not heal ed i t by ki l l i ng i t utterl y wi th l ove? As You are the cause of i ts pai n i n the
affl i cti on of l ove, be You al so the cause of i ts heal th by a death from l ove; so the
hear t, wounded by the pai n of Your absence, shal l be heal ed i n the del i ght and
gl or y of Your Sweet pr esence.” Ther efor e i t goes on:
“And why, after stealing it,
have You thus abandoned it?”
3. Steal i ng i s nothi ng el se but the act of a r obber i n di spossessi ng the owner of hi s
goods, and possessi ng them hi msel f. Her e the soul compl ai ns to the Bel oved that
He has robbed i t of i ts heart l ovi ngl y, and taken i t out of i ts power and possessi on,
and then abandoned i t, wi thout taki ng i t i nto Hi s own power and possessi on as the
thi ef does wi th the goods he steal s, car r yi ng them away wi th hi m. He who i s i n
l ove i s sai d to have l ost hi s heart, or to have i t stol en by the object of hi s l ove;
because i t i s no l onger i n hi s own possessi on, but i n the power of the object of hi s
l ove, and so hi s hear t i s not hi s own, but the pr oper ty of the per son he l oves.
4. Thi s consi der ati on wi l l enabl e the soul to deter mi ne whether i t l oves God
si mpl y or not. I f i t l oves Hi m i t wi l l have no hear t for i tsel f, nor for i ts own
pl easur e or pr ofi t, but for the honor , gl or y, and pl easur e of God; because the mor e
37
38 A Spiritual Canticle
the hear t i s occupi ed wi th sel f, the l ess i s i t occupi ed wi th God. Whether God has
r eal l y stol en the hear t, the soul may ascer tai n by ei ther of these two si gns: I s i t
anxi ousl y seeki ng after God? and has i t no pl easur e i n anythi ng but i n Hi m, as
the soul her e says? The r eason of thi s i s that the hear t cannot r est i n peace
wi thout the possessi on of somethi ng; and when i ts affecti ons ar e once pl aced, i t
has nei ther the possessi on of i tsel f nor of anythi ng el se; nei ther does i t per fectl y
possess what i t l oves. I n thi s state i ts wear i ness i s i n pr opor ti on to i ts l oss, unti l i t
shal l enter i nto possessi on and be sati sfi ed; for unti l then the soul i s as an empty
vessel wai ti ng to be fi l l ed, as a hungr y man eager for food, as a si ck man si ghi ng
for heal th, and as a man suspended i n the ai r .
“And not carried away the stolen prey?”
5. “Why do You not car r y away the hear t whi ch Your l ove has stol en, to fi l l i t, to
heal i t, and to sati ate i t gi vi ng i t per fect r est i n Your sel f?”
6. The l ovi ng soul , for the sake of gr eater confor mi ty wi th the Bel oved, cannot
cease to desi r e the r ecompense and r ewar d of i ts l ove for the sake of whi ch i t
serves the Bel oved, otherwi se i t coul d not be true l ove, for the recompense of l ove i s
nothi ng el se, and the soul seeks nothi ng el se, but gr eater l ove, unti l i t r eaches the
per fecti on of l ove; for the sol e r ewar d of l ove i s l ove, as we l ear n fr om the pr ophet
Job, who, speaki ng of hi s own di str ess, whi ch i s that of the soul now r efer r ed to,
says: “As a ser vant l ongs for the shade, as the hi r el i ng l ooks for the end of hi s
wor k; so I al so have had empty months, and have number ed to mysel f wear i some
ni ghts. I f I sl eep, I say, When shal l I ar i se? and agai n, I shal l l ook for the
eveni ng, and shal l be fi l l ed wi th sor r ows even ti l l dar kness.”
1
7. Thus, then, the soul on fi r e wi th the l ove of God l ongs for the per fecti on and
consummati on of i ts l ove, that i t may be compl etel y r efr eshed. As the ser vant
wear i ed by the heat of the day l ongs for the cool i ng shade, and as the hi r el i ng
l ooks for the end of hi s work, so the soul for the end of i ts own. Observe, Job does
not say that the hi rel i ng l ooks for the end of hi s l abor, but onl y for the end of hi s
work. He teaches us that the soul whi ch l oves l ooks not for the end of i ts l abor, but
for the end of i ts work; because i ts work i s to l ove, and i t i s the end of thi s work,
whi ch i s l ove, that i t hopes for, namel y, the perfect l ove of God. Unti l i t attai ns to
thi s, the wor ds of Job wi l l be al ways tr ue of i t—i ts months wi l l be empty, and i ts
ni ghts wear i some and tedi ous. I t i s cl ear , then, that the soul whi ch l oves God
seeks and l ooks for no other r ewar d of i ts ser vi ces than to l ove God per fectl y.
NOTE
THE soul , havi ng r eached thi s degr ee of l ove, r esembl es a si ck man exceedi ngl y
wear i ed, whose appeti te i s gone, and to whom hi s food i s l oathsome, and al l
thi ngs annoyance and tr oubl e. Ami dst al l thi ngs that pr esent themsel ves to hi s
thoughts, or feel i ngs, or si ght, hi s onl y wi sh and desi r e i s heal th; and ever ythi ng
that does not contr i bute to i t i s wear i ness and oppr essi ve. The soul , ther efor e, i n
pai n because of i ts l ove of God, has thr ee pecul i ar i ti es. Under al l ci r cumstances,
and i n al l affai r s, the thought of i ts heal th—that i s, the Bel oved—i s ever pr esent to
i t; and though i t i s obl i ged to attend to them because i t cannot hel p i t, i ts heart i s
ever wi th Hi m. The second pecul i ar i ty, namel y, a l oss of pl easur e i n ever ythi ng,
1
Job 7:2-4
Stanza IX 39
ar i ses fr om the fi r st. The thi r d al so, a consequence of the second, i s that al l thi ngs
become wear i some, and al l affai r s ful l of vexati on and annoyance.
2. The reason i s that the pal ate of the wi l l havi ng touched and tasted of the food of
the l ove of God, the wi l l i nstantl y, under al l ci r cumstances, r egar dl ess of ever y
other consi der ati on, seeks the fr ui ti on of the Bel oved. I t i s wi th the soul now as i t
was wi th Mar y Magdal ene, when i n her bur ni ng l ove she sought Hi m i n the
gar den. She, thi nki ng Hi m to be the gar dener , spoke to Hi m wi thout fur ther
r efl ecti on, sayi ng: “I f you have taken Hi m hence, tel l me wher e you have l ai d
Hi m, and I wi l l take Hi m away.”
1
The soul i s under the i nfl uence of a l i ke anxi ety
to fi nd Hi m i n al l thi ngs, and not fi ndi ng Hi m i mmedi atel y, as i t desi r es—but
r ather the ver y r ever se—not onl y has no pl easur e i n them, but i s even tor mented
by them, and someti mes exceedi ngl y so: for such soul s suffer gr eatl y i n thei r
i nter cour se wi th men and i n the tr ansacti ons of the wor l d, because these thi ngs
hi nder r ather than hel p them i n thei r sear ch.
3. The br i de i n the Canti cl e shows us that she had these thr ee pecul i ar i ti es when
seeki ng the Br i degr oom. “I sought Hi m and found Hi m not; the keeper s that go
about the ci ty found me, they str uck me and wounded me: the keeper s of the wal l s
took away my cl oak.”
2
The keepers that go about the ci ty are the affai rs of thi s
wor l d, whi ch, when they “ fi nd” a soul seeki ng after God, i nfl i ct upon i t much
pai n, and gr i ef, and l oathi ng; for the soul not onl y does not fi nd i n them what i t
seeks, but r ather a hi ndr ance. They who keep the wal l of contempl ati on, that the
soul may not enter —that i s, evi l spi r i ts and wor l dl y affai r s—take away the cl oak
of peace and the qui et of l ovi ng contempl ati on. Al l thi s i nfl i cts i nfi ni te vexati on on
the soul enamor ed of God; and whi l e i t r emai ns on ear th wi thout the vi si on of
God, ther e i s no r el i ef, gr eat or smal l , fr om these affl i cti ons, and the soul
ther efor e conti nues to compl ai n to the Bel oved, sayi ng:
1
John 20:15
2
Cant. 6:6,7
STANZA X
Quench my troubles,
For no one else can soothe them;
And let my eyes behold You,
For You are their light,
And I will keep them for You alone.
HERE the soul conti nues to beseech the Bel oved to put an end to i ts anxi eti es and
di str ess—none other than He can do so—and that i n such a way that i ts eyes may
behol d Hi m; for He al one i s the l i ght by whi ch they see, and ther e i s none other but
He on whom i t wi l l l ook.
“Quench my troubles.”
2. The desi r e of l ove has thi s pr oper ty, that ever ythi ng sai d or done whi ch does not
become that whi ch the wi l l l oves, wear i es and annoys i t, and makes i t peevi sh
when i t sees i tsel f di sappoi nted i n i ts desi r es. Thi s and i ts wear y l ongi ng after the
vi si on of God i s her e cal l ed “tr oubl es.” These tr oubl es nothi ng can r emove except
the possessi on of the Bel oved; hence the soul pr ays Hi m to quench them wi th Hi s
pr esence, to cool thei r fever i shness, as the cool i ng water hi m who i s wear i ed by
the heat. The soul makes use of the expr essi on “quench,” to denote i ts suffer i ngs
fr om the fi r e of l ove.
“For no one else can soothe them.”
3. The soul , i n order to move and persuade the Bel oved to grant i ts peti ti on, says,
“ As none other but You can sati sfy my needs, You quench my tr oubl es.”
Remember her e that God i s then cl ose at hand, to comfor t the soul and to sati sfy
i ts wants, when i t has and seeks no sati sfacti on or comfor t out of Hi m. The soul
that fi nds no pl easure out of God cannot be l ong unvi si ted by the Bel oved.
“And let my eyes behold You.”
4. Let me see You face to face wi th the eyes of the soul ,
“For you are their light.”
5. God i s the super natur al l i ght of the soul , wi thout whi ch i t abi des i n dar kness.
And now, i n the excess of i ts affecti on, i t cal l s Hi m the l i ght of i ts eyes, as an
ear thl y l over , to expr ess hi s affecti on, cal l s the object of hi s l ove the l i ght of hi s
eyes. The soul says i n effect i n the for egoi ng ter ms, “Si nce my eyes have no other
l i ght, ei ther of natur e or of l ove, but You, l et them behol d You, Who i n ever y way
ar e thei r l i ght.” Davi d was r egr etti ng thi s l i ght when he sai d i n hi s tr oubl e, “The
l i ght of my eyes, and the same i s not wi th me;”
1
and Tobi t, when he sai d, “What
manner of joy shal l be to me who si t i n dar kness, and see not the l i ght of
1
Ps. 37:11
40
Stanza X 41
heaven?”
1
He was l ongi ng for the cl ear vi si on of God; for the l i ght of heaven i s the
Son of God; as St. John says i n the Revel ati on: “And the ci ty needs not sun, nor
moon to shi ne i n i t; for the gl or y of God has i l l umi nated i t, and the Lamb i s the
l amp ther eof.”
2
“And I will keep them for You alone.”
6. The soul seeks to constrai n the Bri degroom to l et i t see the l i ght of i ts eyes, not
onl y because i t woul d be i n darkness wi thout i t, but al so because i t wi l l not l ook
upon anythi ng but on Hi m. For as that soul i s justl y depr i ved of thi s di vi ne l i ght i f
i t fi xes the eyes of the wi l l on any other l i ght, pr oceedi ng fr om anythi ng that i s not
God, for then i ts vi si on i s confi ned to that object; so al so the soul , by a certai n
fi tness, deser ves the di vi ne l i ght, i f i t shuts i ts eyes agai nst al l objects whatever , to
open them onl y for the vi si on of God.
NOTE
BUT the l ovi ng Br i degr oom of soul s cannot bear to see them suffer l ong i n the
i sol ati on of whi ch I am speaki ng, for , as He says by the mouth of Zachar i ah, “He
that shal l touch you, touches the appl e of My eye;”
3
especi al l y when thei r
suffer i ngs, as those of thi s soul , pr oceed fr om thei r l ove for Hi m. Ther efor e does
He speak thr ough I sai ah, “I t shal l be befor e they cal l , I wi l l hear ; as they ar e yet
speaki ng, I wi l l hear .”
4
And the wi se man says that the soul that seeks Hi m as
tr easur e shal l fi nd Hi m.
5
God gr ants a cer tai n spi r i tual pr esence of Hi msel f to
the fer vent pr ayer s of the l ovi ng soul whi ch seeks Hi m mor e ear nestl y than
tr easur e, seei ng that i t has abandoned al l thi ngs, and even i tsel f, for Hi s sake.
2. I n that pr esence He shows cer tai n pr ofound gl i mpses of Hi s di vi ni ty and
beauty, wher eby He sti l l i ncr eases the soul ’s anxi ous desi r e to behol d Hi m. For as
men thr ow water on the coal s of the for ge to cause i ntenser heat, so our Lor d i n
Hi s deal i ngs wi th cer tai n soul s, i n the i nter mi ssi on of thei r l ove, makes some
r evel ati ons of Hi s majesty, to qui cken thei r fer vor , and to pr epar e them mor e and
mor e for those gr aces whi ch He wi l l gi ve them after war ds. Thus the soul , i n that
obscur e pr esence of God, behol di ng and feel i ng the supr eme good and beauty
hi dden ther e, i s dyi ng i n desi r e of the vi si on, sayi ng i n the stanza that fol l ows:
1
Tob. 5:12
2
Rev. 21:23
3
Zech. 2:8
4
I sa. 65:24
5
Prov. 2:4,5
STANZA XI
Reveal Your presence,
And let the vision and Your beauty kill me.
Behold the malady
Of love is incurable
Except in Your presence and before Your face.
THE soul , anxi ous to be possessed by God, Who i s so gr eat, Whose l ove has
wounded and stol en i ts hear t, and unabl e to suffer mor e, beseeches Hi m di r ectl y,
i n thi s stanza, to reveal Hi s beauty—that i s, the di vi ne Essence—and to sl ay i t i n
that vi si on, separ ati ng i t fr om the body, i n whi ch i t can nei ther see nor possess
Hi m as i t desi r es. And fur ther , setti ng befor e Hi m the di str ess and sor r ow of
hear t, i n whi ch i t conti nues, suffer i ng i t because of i ts l ove, and unabl e to fi nd any
other r emedy than the gl or i ous vi si on of the di vi ne essence, cr i es out: “Reveal
Your pr esence.”
2. To under stand thi s cl ear l y we must r emember that ther e ar e thr ee ways i n
whi ch God i s pr esent i n the soul . The fi r st i s Hi s pr esence i n essence, not i n hol y
soul s onl y, but i n wr etched and si nful soul s as wel l , and al so i n al l cr eated thi ngs;
for i t i s by thi s pr esence that He gi ves l i fe and bei ng, and wer e i t once wi thdr awn
al l thi ngs woul d r etur n to nothi ng.
1
Thi s pr esence never fai l s i n the soul .
3. The second i s Hi s pr esence by gr ace, wher eby He dwel l s i n the soul , pl eased
and sati sfi ed wi th i t. Thi s pr esence i s not i n al l soul s; for those who fal l i nto
mor tal si n l ose i t, and no soul can know i n a natur al way whether i t has i t or not.
The thi r d i s Hi s pr esence by spi r i tual affecti on. God i s wont to show Hi s pr esence
i n many devout soul s i n di ver se ways, i n r efr eshment, joy, and gl adness; yet thi s,
l i ke the other s, i s al l secr et, for He does not show Hi msel f as He i s, because the
condi ti on of our mor tal l i fe does not admi t of i t. Thus thi s pr ayer of the soul may
be under stood of any one of them.
“Reveal Your presence.”
4. I nasmuch as i t i s cer tai n that God i s ever pr esent i n the soul , at l east i n the
fi r st way, the soul does not say, “Be pr esent”; but, “Reveal and mani fest Your
hi dden pr esence, whether natur al , spi r i tual , or affecti ve, i n such a way that I
may behol d You i n Your di vi ne essence and beauty.” The soul pr ays Hi m that as
He by Hi s essenti al presence gi ves i t i ts natural bei ng, and perfects i t by Hi s
pr esence of gr ace, so al so He woul d gl or i fy i t by the mani festati on of Hi s gl or y. But
as the soul i s now l ovi ng God wi th fer vent affecti ons, the pr esence, for the
revel ati on of whi ch i t prays the Bel oved to mani fest, i s to be understood chi efl y of
the affecti ve presence of the Bel oved. Such i s the nature of thi s presence that the
soul fel t ther e was an i nfi ni te bei ng hi dden ther e, out of whi ch God
communi cated to i t cer tai n obscur e vi si ons of Hi s own di vi ne beauty. Such was the
effect of these vi si ons that the soul l onged and fai nted away wi th the desi re of that
whi ch i s hi dden i n that pr esence.
1
See ‘Ascent of Mount Car mel ,’ bk. 2, ch. 5, sect. 3.
42
Stanza XI 43
5. Thi s i s i n har mony wi th the exper i ence of Davi d, when he sai d: “My soul l ongs
and fai nts for the cour ts of our Lor d.”
1
The soul now fai nts wi th desi r e of bei ng
absor bed i n the Sover ei gn Good whi ch i t feel s to be pr esent and hi dden; for though
i t i s hi dden, the soul i s most pr ofoundl y consci ous of the good and del i ght whi ch
ar e ther e. The soul i s ther efor e attr acted to thi s good wi th mor e vi ol ence than
matter i s to i ts center, and i s unabl e to contai n i tsel f, by reason of the force of thi s
attr acti on, fr om sayi ng:
“Reveal Your presence.”
6. Moses, on Mount Si nai i n the pr esence of God, saw such gl i mpses of the
majesty and beauty of Hi s hi dden Di vi ni ty, that, unabl e to endure i t, he prayed
twi ce for the vi si on of Hi s gl or y sayi ng: “Wher eas You have sai d: I know you by
name, and you have found gr ace i n my si ght. I f, ther efor e, I have found gr ace i n
Your si ght, show me Your face, that I may know You and may fi nd gr ace befor e
Your eyes;”
2
that i s, the grace whi ch he l onged for—to attai n to the perfect l ove of
the gl or y of God. The answer of our Lor d was: “You can not see My face, for man
shal l not see Me and l i ve.”
3
I t i s as i f God had sai d: “Moses, your pr ayer i s di ffi cul t
to grant; the beauty of My face, and the joy i n seei ng Me i s so great, as to be more
than your soul can bear i n a mor tal body that i s so weak.” The soul accor di ngl y,
consci ous of thi s tr uth, ei ther because of the answer made to Moses or al so
because of that whi ch I spoke of befor e,
4
namel y, the feel i ng that ther e i s
somethi ng sti l l i n the pr esence of God her e whi ch i t coul d not see i n i ts beauty i n
the l i fe i t i s now l i vi ng, because, as I sai d befor e,
5
i t fai nts when i t sees but a
gl i mpse of i t. Hence i t comes that i t anti ci pates the answer that may be gi ven to i t,
as i t was to Moses, and says:
“Let the vision and Your beauty kill me.”
7. That i s, “Si nce the vi si on of You and Your beauty i s so ful l of del i ght that I
cannot endur e, but must di e i n the act of behol di ng them, l et the vi si on and Your
beauty ki l l me.”
8. Two vi si ons ar e sai d to be fatal to man, because he cannot bear them and l i ve.
One, that of the basi l i sk, at the si ght of whi ch men ar e sai d to di e at once. The
other i s the vi si on of God; but ther e i s a gr eat di ffer ence between them. The for mer
ki l l s by poi son, the other wi th i nfi ni te heal th and bl i ss. I t i s, ther efor e, nothi ng
strange for the soul to desi re to di e by behol di ng the beauty of God i n order to enjoy
Hi m for ever . I f the soul had but one si ngl e gl i mpse of the majesty and beauty of
God, not onl y woul d i t desi r e to di e once i n or der to see Hi m for ever , as i t desi r es
now, but woul d most joyful l y under go a thousand most bi tter deaths to see Hi m
even for a moment, and havi ng seen Hi m woul d suffer as many deaths agai n to
see Hi m for another moment.
9. I t i s necessary to observe for the better expl anati on of thi s l i ne, that the soul i s
1
Ps. 83:3
2
Exod. 33:12,13
3
Exod. 33:20
4
Stan. vi i . sect. 10.
5
Above, sect. 4.
44 A Spiritual Canticle
now speaki ng condi ti onal l y, when i t pr ays that the vi si on and beauty may sl ay i t;
i t assumes that the vi si on must be preceded by death, for i f i t were possi bl e before
death, the soul woul d not pr ay for death, because the desi r e of death i s a natur al
i mper fecti on. The soul , ther efor e, takes i t for gr anted that thi s cor r upti bl e l i fe
cannot coexi st wi th the i ncor r upti bl e l i fe of God, and says:
“Let the vision and Your beauty kill me.”
10. St. Paul teaches thi s doctr i ne to the Cor i nthi ans when he says: “We woul d not
be spoi l ed, but over cl othed, that that whi ch i s mor tal may be swal l owed up of
l i fe,”
1
That i s, “we woul d not be di vested of the fl esh, but i nvested wi th gl ory.” But
r efl ecti ng that he coul d not l i ve i n gl or y and i n a mor tal body at the same ti me, he
says to the Phi l i ppi ans: “havi ng a desi r e to be di ssol ved and to be wi th Chr i st.”
2
11. Her e ar i ses thi s questi on, Why di d the peopl e of I sr ael of ol d dr ead and avoi d
the vi si on of God, that they mi ght not di e, as i t appears they di d from the words of
Manoah to hi s wi fe, “We shal l di e because we have seen God,”
3
when the soul
desi res to di e of that vi si on? To thi s questi on two answers may be gi ven.
12. I n those days men coul d not see God, though dyi ng i n the state of gr ace,
because Chr i st had not come. I t was ther efor e mor e pr ofi tabl e for them to l i ve i n
the fl esh, i ncr easi ng i n mer i t, and enjoyi ng thei r natur al l i fe, than to be i n Li mbo,
i ncapabl e of mer i ti ng, suffer i ng i n the dar kness and i n the spi r i tual absence of
God. They ther efor e consi der ed i t a gr eat gr ace and bl essi ng to l i ve l ong upon
ear th.
13. The second answer i s founded on consi der ati ons dr awn fr om the l ove of God.
They i n those days, not bei ng so confi r med i n l ove, nor so near to God by l ove, wer e
afr ai d of the vi si on: but, now, under the l aw of gr ace, when, on the death of the
body, the soul may behol d God, i t i s more profi tabl e to l i ve but a short ti me, and
then to di e i n or der to see Hi m. And even i f the vi si on wer e wi thhel d, the soul that
real l y l oves God wi l l not be afrai d to di e at the si ght of Hi m; for true l ove accepts
wi th per fect r esi gnati on, and i n the same spi r i t, and even wi th joy, whatever
comes to i t fr om the hands of the Bel oved, whether pr osper i ty or adver si ty—yes,
and even chasti sements such as He shal l be pl eased to send, for , as St. John says,
“per fect char i ty casts out fear .”
4
14. Thus, then, ther e i s no bi tter ness i n death to the soul that l oves, when i t br i ngs
wi th i t al l the sweetness and del i ghts of l ove; ther e i s no sadness i n the
r emembr ance of i t when i t opens the door to al l joy; nor can i t be pai nful and
oppr essi ve, when i t i s the end of al l unhappi ness and sor r ow, and the begi nni ng
of al l good. Yes, the soul l ooks upon i t as a fr i end and i ts br i de, and exul ts i n the
r ecol l ecti on of i t as the day of espousal s; i t year ns for the day and hour of death
mor e than the ki ngs of the ear th for pr i nci pal i ti es and ki ngdoms.
15. I t was of thi s ki nd of death that the wi se man sai d, “O death, your judgment i s
1
2 Cor. 5:4
2
Phi l . 1:23
3
Judg. 13:22
4
1 John 4:18
Stanza XI 45
good to the needy man.”
1
I f i t i s good to the needy man, though i t does not suppl y
hi s wants, but on the contr ar y depr i ves hi m even of what he has, how much mor e
good wi l l i t be to the soul i n need of l ove and whi ch i s cr yi ng for mor e, when i t wi l l
not onl y not rob i t of the l ove i t has al ready, but wi l l be the occasi on of that ful l ness
of l ove whi ch i t year ns for , and i s the suppl y of al l i ts necessi ti es. I t i s not wi thout
r eason, then, that the soul ventur es to say:
“Let the vision and Your beauty kill me.”
16. The soul knows wel l that i n the i nstant of that vi si on i t wi l l be i tsel f absorbed
and tr ansfor med i nto that beauty, and be made beauti ful l i ke i t, enr i ched, and
aboundi ng i n beauty as that beauty i tsel f. Thi s i s why Davi d sai d, “Pr eci ous i n the
si ght of the Lor d i s the death of Hi s sai nts,”
2
but that coul d not be i f they di d not
become par taker s of Hi s gl or y, for ther e i s nothi ng pr eci ous i n the eyes of God
except that whi ch He i s Hi msel f, and ther efor e, the soul , when i t l oves, fear s not
death, but r ather desi r es i t. But the si nner i s al ways afr ai d to di e, because he
suspects that death wi l l depr i ve hi m of al l good, and i nfl i ct upon hi m al l evi l ; for
i n the words of Davi d, “the death of the wi cked i s very evi l ,”
3
and ther efor e, as the
wi se man says, the ver y thought of i t i s bi tter : “O death, how bi tter i s your memor y
to a man that has peace i n hi s r i ches!”
4
The wi cked l ove thi s l i fe greatl y, and the
next but l i ttl e, and are therefore afrai d of death; but the soul that l oves God l i ves
mor e i n the next l i fe than i n thi s, because i t l i ves r ather wher e i t l oves than wher e
i t dwel l s, and ther efor e esteemi ng but l i ghtl y i ts pr esent bodi l y l i fe, cr i es out: “Let
the vi si on and Your beauty ki l l me.”
“Behold, the malady of love is incurable,
except i n Your presence and before Your face.”
17. The r eason why the mal ady of l ove admi ts of no other r emedy than the
pr esence and countenance of the Bel oved i s that the mal ady of l ove di ffer s fr om
ever y other si ckness, and ther efor e r equi r es a di ffer ent r emedy. I n other di seases,
accor di ng to sound phi l osophy, contr ar i es ar e cur ed by contr ar i es; but l ove i s not
cur ed but by that whi ch i s i n har mony wi th i tsel f. The r eason i s that the heal th of
the soul consi sts i n the l ove of God; and so when that l ove i s not per fect, i ts heal th
i s not per fect, and the soul i s ther efor e si ck, for si ckness i s nothi ng el se but a
fai l ur e of heal th. Thus, that soul whi ch l oves not at al l i s dead; but when i t l oves a
l i ttl e, however l i ttl e that may be, i t i s then al i ve, though exceedi ngl y weak and si ck
because i t l oves God so l i ttl e. But the more i ts l ove i ncreases, the greater wi l l be i ts
heal th, and when i ts l ove i s per fect, then, too, i ts heal th al so i s per fect. Love i s not
per fect unti l the l over s become so on an equal i ty as to be mutual l y tr ansfor med
i nto one another ; then l ove i s whol l y per fect.
18. And because the soul i s now consci ous of a cer tai n adumbr ati on of l ove, whi ch
i s the mal ady of whi ch i t her e speaks, year ni ng to be made l i ke to Hi m of whom i t
i s a shadow, that i s the Br i degr oom, the Wor d, the Son of God, Who, as St. Paul
says, i s the “spl endor of Hi s gl or y, and the fi gur e of Hi s substance;”
5
and because
1
Eccl us. 41:3
2
Ps. 115:15
3
Ps. 33:22
4
Eccl us. 41:1
5
Heb. 1:3
46 A Spiritual Canticle
i t i s i nto thi s fi gure i t desi res to be transformed by l ove, cri es out, “Behol d, the
mal ady of l ove i s i ncur abl e except i n Your pr esence, and i n the l i ght of Your
Countenance.” The l ove that i s i mper fect i s r i ghtl y cal l ed a mal ady, because as a
si ck man i s enfeebl ed and cannot wor k, so the soul that i s weak i n l ove i s al so
enfeebl ed and cannot pr acti ce her oi c vi r tue.
19. Another expl anati on of these wor ds i s thi s: he who feel s thi s mal ady of l ove—
that i s, a fai l ur e of i t—has an evi dence i n hi msel f that he has some l ove, because
he ascer tai ns what i s defi ci ent i n hi m by that whi ch he possesses. But he who i s
not consci ous of thi s mal ady has evi dence ther ei n that he has no l ove at al l , or that
he has al ready attai ned to perfect l ove.
NOTE
THE soul now consci ous of a vehement l ongi ng after God, l i ke a stone r ushi ng to
i ts center , and l i ke wax whi ch has begun to r ecei ve the i mpr essi on of the seal
whi ch i t cannot per fectl y r epr esent, and knowi ng, mor eover , that i t i s l i ke a
pi ctur e l i ghtl y sketched, cr yi ng for the ar ti st to fi ni sh hi s wor k, and havi ng i ts
fai th so cl ear as to tr ace most di sti nctl y cer tai n di vi ne gl i mpses of the majesty of
God, knows not what el se to do but to tur n i nwar d to that fai th—as i nvol vi ng and
vei l i ng the face and beauty of the Bel oved—fr om whi ch i t has r ecei ved those
i mpr essi ons and pl edges of l ove, and whi ch i t thus addr esses:
STANZA XII
O crystal well!
O that on Your silvered surface
You would mirror forth at once
Those desired eyes
Which are outlined in my heart.
THE soul vehementl y desi r i ng to be uni ted to the Br i degr oom, and seei ng that
ther e i s no hel p or succor i n cr eated thi ngs, tur ns towar ds the fai th, as to that
whi ch gi ves i t the most vi vi d vi si on of the Bel oved, and adopts i t as the means to
that end. And, i ndeed, ther e i s no other way of attai ni ng to tr ue uni on, to the
spi r i tual betr othal of God, accor di ng to the wor ds of Hosea: “I wi l l betr othe you to
Me i n fai th.”
1
I n thi s fer vent desi r e i t cr i es out i n the wor ds of thi s stanza, whi ch
ar e i n effect thi s: “O fai th of Chr i st, my Br i degr oom! Oh that you woul d mani fest
cl ear l y those tr uths concer ni ng the Bel oved, secr etl y and obscur el y i nfused—for
fai th i s, as theol ogi ans say, an obscur e habi t—so that your i nfor mal and obscur e
communi cati ons may be i n a moment cl ear ; Oh that you woul d wi thdr aw your sel f
for mal l y and compl etel y fr om these tr uths—for fai th i s a vei l over the tr uths of
God—and r eveal them per fectl y i n gl or y.” Accor di ngl y i t says:
“O crystal well!”
2. Fai th i s cal l ed cr ystal for two r easons: because i t i s of Chr i st the Br i degr oom;
because i t has the pr oper ty of cr ystal , pur e i n i ts tr uths, a l i mpi d wel l cl ear of
er r or , and of natur al for ms. I t i s a wel l because the water s of al l spi r i tual
goodness fl ow fr om i t i nto the soul . Chr i st our Lor d, speaki ng to the woman of
Samar i a, cal l s fai th a wel l , sayi ng, “ The water that I wi l l gi ve hi m shal l become
i n hi m a wel l of water spr i ngi ng up i nto l i fe ever l asti ng.”
2
Thi s water i s the Spi ri t
whi ch they who bel i eve shal l r ecei ve by fai th i n Hi m. “Now thi s He sai d of the
Spi r i t whi ch they who bel i eved i n Hi m shoul d r ecei ve.”
3
“Oh that on your silvered surface.”
3. The ar ti cl es and defi ni ti ons of the fai th ar e cal l ed si l ver ed sur faces. I n or der to
under stand these wor ds and those that fol l ow, we must know that fai th i s
compar ed to si l ver because of the pr oposi ti ons i t teaches us, the tr uth and
substance i t i nvol ves bei ng compar ed to gol d. Thi s ver y substance whi ch we now
bel i eve, hi dden behi nd the si l ver vei l of fai th, we shal l cl ear l y behol d and enjoy
her eafter ; the gol d of fai th shal l be made mani fest. Hence the Psal mi st, speaki ng
of thi s, says: “I f you sl eep ami dst the l ots, the wi ngs of the dove ar e l ai d over wi th
si l ver , and the hi nder par ts of the back i n the pal eness of gol d.”
4
That means i f we
shal l keep the eyes of the under standi ng fr om r egar di ng the thi ngs of heaven and
of ear th—thi s the Psal mi st cal l s sl eepi ng i n the mi dst—we shal l be fi r m i n the
1
Hos. 2:20
2
John 4:14
3
John 7:39
4
Ps. 67:14
47
48 A Spiritual Canticle
fai th, her e cal l ed dove, the wi ngs of whi ch ar e the tr uths l ai d over wi th si l ver ,
because i n thi s l i fe the fai th puts these truths before us obscurel y beneath a vei l .
Thi s i s the r eason why the soul cal l s them si l ver ed sur face. But when fai th shal l
have been consummated i n the cl ear vi si on of God, then the substance of fai th, the
si l ver vei l r emoved, wi l l shi ne as gol d.
4. As the fai th gi ves and communi cates to us God Hi msel f, but hi dden beneath the
si l ver of fai th, yet i t r eveal s Hi m none the l ess. So i f a man gi ves us a vessel made
of gol d, but cover ed wi th si l ver , he gi ves us i n r eal i ty a vessel of gol d, though the
gol d i s cover ed over . Thus, when the br i de i n the Canti cl e was l ongi ng for the
frui ti on of God, He promi sed i t to her so far as the state of thi s l i fe admi tted of i t,
sayi ng: “ We wi l l make you chai ns of gol d i nl ai d wi th si l ver .”
1
He thus pr omi sed to
gi ve Hi msel f to her under the vei l of fai th. Hence the soul addr esses the fai th,
sayi ng: “Oh that on your si l ver ed sur face”—the defi ni ti ons of fai th—”i n whi ch you
hi de” the gol d of the di vi ne r ays—whi ch ar e the desi r ed eyes,—i nstantl y addi ng:
“You would mirror forth at once those desired eyes!”
5. By the eyes ar e under stood, as I have sai d, the r ays and tr uths of God, whi ch
ar e set befor e us hi dden and i nfor mal i n the defi ni ti ons of the fai th. Thus the
wor ds say i n substance: “Oh that you woul d for mal l y and expl i ci tl y r eveal to me
those hi dden tr uths whi ch You teach i mpl i ci tl y and obscur el y i n the defi ni ti ons of
the fai th; accor di ng to my ear nest desi r e.” Those tr uths ar e cal l ed eyes, because of
the speci al pr esence of the Bel oved, of whi ch the soul i s consci ous, bel i evi ng Hi m
to be per petual l y r egar di ng i t; and so i t says:
“Which are outlined in my heart.”
6. The soul her e says that these tr uths ar e outl i ned i n the hear t—that i s, i n the
under standi ng and the wi l l . I t i s thr ough the under standi ng that these tr uths ar e
i nfused i nto the soul by fai th. They are sai d to be outl i ned because the knowl edge
of them i s not per fect. As a sketch i s not a per fect pi ctur e, so the knowl edge that
comes by fai th i s not a per fect under standi ng. The tr uths, ther efor e, i nfused i nto
the soul by fai th ar e as i t wer e i n outl i ne, and when the cl ear vi si on shal l be
gr anted, then they wi l l be as a per fect and fi ni shed pi ctur e, accor di ng to the wor ds
of the Apostl e: “When that shal l come whi ch i s per fect, that shal l be made voi d
whi ch i s i n par t.”
2
“That whi ch i s per fect” i s the cl ear vi si on, and “that whi ch i s
i n par t” i s the knowl edge that comes by fai th.
7. Besi des thi s outl i ne whi ch comes by fai th, ther e i s another by l ove i n the soul
that l oves—that i s, i n the wi l l —i n whi ch the face of the Bel oved i s so deepl y and
vi vi dl y pi ctur ed, when the uni on of l ove occur s, that i t may be tr ul y sai d the
Bel oved l i ves i n the l ovi ng soul , and the l ovi ng soul i n the Bel oved. Love produces
such a r esembl ance by the tr ansfor mati on of those who l ove that one may be sai d
to be the other, and both but one. The reason i s, that i n the uni on and
tr ansfor mati on of l ove one gi ves hi msel f up to the other as hi s possessi on, and
each r esi gns, abandons, and exchanges hi msel f for the other , and both become
but one i n the tr ansfor mati on wr ought by l ove.
1
Cant. 1:10
2
1 Cor. 13:10
Stanza XII 49
8. Thi s i s the meani ng of St. Paul when he sai d, “I l i ve, now, not I , but Chr i st l i ves
i n me.”
1
I n that He says, “I l i ve, now, not I ,” hi s meani ng i s, that though he l i ved,
yet the l i fe he l i ved was not hi s own, because he was tr ansfor med i n Chr i st: that
hi s l i fe was di vi ne r ather than human; and for that r eason, he sai d i t was not he
that l i ved, but Chr i st Who l i ved i n hi m. We may ther efor e say, accor di ng to thi s
l i keness of tr ansfor mati on, that hi s l i fe and the l i fe of Chr i st wer e one by the
uni on of l ove. Thi s wi l l be per fect i n heaven i n the di vi ne l i fe of al l those who shal l
mer i t the beati fi c vi si on; for , tr ansfor med i n God, they wi l l l i ve the l i fe of God and
not thei r own, si nce the l i fe of God wi l l be thei r s. Then they wi l l say i n tr uth. “We
l i ve, but not we our sel ves, for God l i ves i n us.”
9. Now, thi s may take pl ace i n thi s l i fe, as i n the case of St. Paul , but not perfectl y
and compl etel y, though the soul shoul d attai n to such a tr ansfor mati on of l ove as
shal l be spi r i tual mar r i age, whi ch i s the hi ghest state i t can r each i n thi s l i fe;
because al l thi s i s but an outl i ne of l ove compar ed wi th the per fect i mage of
tr ansfor mati on i n gl or y. Yet, when thi s outl i ne of tr ansfor mati on i s attai ned i n
thi s l i fe, i t i s a gr and bl essi ng, because the Bel oved i s so gr eatl y pl eased ther ewi th.
He desi r es, ther efor e, that the br i de shoul d have Hi m thus del i neated i n her soul ,
and says to her , “Put Me as a seal upon your hear t, as a seal upon your ar m.”
2
The hear t her e si gni fi es the soul , wher ei n God i n thi s l i fe dwel l s as an
i mpr essi on of the seal of fai th, and the ar m i s the r esol ute wi l l , wher e He i s as the
i mpr essed token of l ove.
10. Such i s the state of the soul at that ti me. I speak but l i ttl e of i t, not wi l l i ng to
l eave i t al together untouched, though no l anguage can descr i be i t.
11. The very substance of soul and body seems to be dri ed up by thi rst after thi s
l i vi ng wel l of God, for the thi r st r esembl es that of Davi d when he cr i ed out, “As the
har t l ongs for the fountai ns of water s, so my soul l ongs for You, O God. My soul
has thi r sted after the str ong l i vi ng God; when shal l I come and appear befor e the
face of God?”
3
So oppressi ve i s thi s thi rst to the soul , that i t counts i t as nothi ng to
br eak thr ough the camp of the Phi l i sti nes, l i ke the val i ant men of Davi d, to fi l l i ts
pi tcher wi th “water out of the ci ster ns of Bethl ehem,”
4
whi ch i s Chr i st. The tr i al s
of thi s wor l d, the r age of the devi l , and the pai ns of hel l ar e nothi ng to pass
thr ough, i n or der to pl unge i nto thi s fathoml ess fountai n of l ove.
12. To thi s we may appl y those wor ds i n the Canti cl e: “Love i s str ong as death,
jeal ousy i s har d as hel l .”
5
I t i s i ncr edi bl e how vehement ar e the l ongi ngs and
suffer i ngs of the soul when i t sees i tsel f on the poi nt of testi ng thi s good, and at the
same ti me sees i t wi thhel d; for the near er the object desi r ed, the gr eater the pangs
of i ts deni al : “Befor e I eat,” says Job, “I si gh, and as i t wer e over fl owi ng water s so
my r oar i ng”
6
and hunger for food. God i s meant her e by food; for i n pr opor ti on to
the soul ’s l ongi ng for food, and i ts knowl edge of God, i s the pai n i t suffer s now.
NOTE
1
Gal . 2:20
2
Cant. 8:6
3
Ps. 41:1,2
4
1 Chr. 11:18
5
Cant. 8:6
6
Job 3:24
50 A Spiritual Canticle
THE sour ce of the gr i evous suffer i ngs of the soul at thi s ti me i s the consci ousness
of i ts own empti ness of God—whi l e i t i s dr awi ng near er and near er to Hi m—and
al so, the thi ck dar kness wi th the spi r i tual fi r e, whi ch dr y and pur i fy i t, that, i ts
pur i fi cati on ended, i t may be uni ted wi th God. For when God sends not for th a r ay
of super natur al l i ght i nto the soul , He i s to i t i ntol er abl e dar kness when He i s
even near to i t i n spi r i t, for the super natur al l i ght by i ts ver y br i ghtness obscur es
the mer e natur al l i ght. Davi d r efer r ed to thi s when he sai d: “Cl oud and mi st
r ound about Hi m . . . a fi r e shal l go befor e Hi m.”
1
And agai n: “ He put dar kness
Hi s cover t; Hi s taber nacl e i s r ound about Hi m, dar ksome water s i n the cl ouds of
the ai r . Because of the br i ghtness i n Hi s si ght the cl ouds passed, hai l and coal s of
fi r e.”
2
The soul that appr oaches God feel s Hi m to be al l thi s mor e and mor e the
fur ther i t advances, unti l He shal l cause i t to enter wi thi n Hi s di vi ne br i ghtness
thr ough the tr ansfor mati on of l ove. But the comfor t and consol ati ons of God ar e,
by Hi s i nfi ni te goodness, pr opor ti onal to the dar kness and empti ness of the soul ,
as i t i s wr i tten, “As the dar kness ther eof, so al so the l i ght ther eof.”
3
And because
He humbl es soul s and wear i es them, whi l e He i s exal ti ng them and maki ng them
gl or i ous, He sends i nto the soul , i n the mi dst of i ts wear i ness, cer tai n di vi ne r ays
fr om Hi msel f, i n such gl or i ousness and str ength of l ove as to sti r i t up fr om i ts
ver y depths, and to change i ts whol e natur al condi ti on. Thus, the soul , i n gr eat
fear and natur al awe, addr esses the Bel oved i n the fi r st wor ds of the fol l owi ng
stanza, the r emai nder of whi ch i s Hi s answer :
1
Ps. 96:2,3
2
Ps. 17:12,13
3
Ps. 138:12
STANZA XIII
Turn them away, O my Beloved!
I am on the Wing.
THE BRI DEGROOM
Return, My Dove!
The wounded hart
Looms on the hill
I n the air of your flight and is refreshed.
EXPLANATI ON
AMI D those fer vent affecti ons of l ove, such as the soul has shown i n the pr ecedi ng
stanzas, the Bel oved i s wont to vi si t Hi s bri de, tenderl y, l ovi ngl y, and wi th great
str ength of l ove; for or di nar i l y the gr aces and vi si ts of God ar e gr eat i n pr opor ti on
to the gr eatness of those fer vor s and l ongi ngs of l ove whi ch have gone befor e. And,
as the soul has so anxi ousl y l onged for the di vi ne eyes—as i n the for egoi ng
stanza—the Bel oved r eveal s to i t some gl i mpses of Hi s majesty and Godhead,
accor di ng to i ts desi r es. These di vi ne r ays str i ke the soul so pr ofoundl y and so
vi vi dl y that i t i s rapt i nto an ecstasy whi ch i n the begi nni ng i s attended wi th great
suffer i ng and natur al fear . Hence the soul , unabl e to bear the ecstasi es i n a body
so fr ai l , cr i es out, “ Tur n away your eyes fr om me.”
“Turn them away, O my Beloved!”
2. That i s, “Your di vi ne eyes, for they make me fl y away out of mysel f to the
hei ghts of contempl ati on, and my natur al for ce cannot bear i t.” Thi s the soul says
because i t thi nks i t has escaped fr om the bur den of the fl esh, whi ch was the object
of i ts desi res; i t therefore prays the Bel oved to turn away Hi s eyes; that i s, not to
show them i n the body wher e i t cannot bear and enjoy them as i t woul d, but to
show them to i t i n i ts fl i ght fr om the body. The Br i degr oom at once deni es the
r equest and hi nder s the fl i ght, sayi ng, “Retur n, My Dove! for the communi cati ons
I make to you now are not those of the state of gl ory wherei n you desi re to be; but
r etur n to Me, for I am He Whom you, wounded wi th l ove, ar e seeki ng, and I , too,
as the har t, wounded wi th your l ove, begi n to show Mysel f to you on the hei ghts of
contempl ati on, and am r efr eshed and del i ghted by the l ove whi ch your
contempl ati on i nvol ves.” The soul then says to the Br i degr oom:
“Turn them away, O my Beloved!”
3. The soul , because of i ts i ntense l ongi ng after the di vi ne eyes—that i s, the
Godhead—r ecei ves i nter i or l y fr om the Bel oved such communi cati ons and
knowl edge of God as compel i t to cr y out, “Tur n them away, O my Bel oved!” For
such i s the wr etchedness of our mor tal natur e, that we cannot bear —even when i t
i s offered to us—but at the cost of our l i fe, that whi ch i s the very l i fe of the soul ,
and the object of i ts ear nest desi r es, namel y, the knowl edge of the Bel oved. Thus
the soul i s compel l ed to say, wi th r egar d to the eyes so ear nestl y, so anxi ousl y
51
52 A Spiritual Canticle
sought for , and i n so many ways—when they become vi si bl e—” Tur n them away.”
4. So gr eat, at ti mes, i s the suffer i ng of the soul dur i ng these ecstati c vi si tati ons—
and ther e i s no other pai n whi ch so wr enches the ver y bones, and whi ch so
oppr esses our natur al for ces—that, wer e i t not for the speci al i nter fer ence of God,
death woul d ensue. And, i n tr uth, such i s i t to the soul , the subject of these
vi si tati ons, for i t feel s as i f i t were rel eased from the body and a stranger to the
fl esh. Such gr aces cannot be per fectl y r ecei ved i n the body, because the spi r i t of
man i s l i fted up to the communi on of the Spi r i t of God, Who vi si ts the soul , and
must ther efor e of necessi ty be i n some measur e a str anger to the body. Hence i t i s
that the fl esh has to suffer , and consequentl y the soul i n i t, by r eason of thei r
uni on i n one per son. The gr eat agony of the soul , ther efor e, i n these vi si tati ons,
and the gr eat fear that over whel ms i t when God deal s wi th i t i n the super natur al
way,
1
for ce i t to cr y out, “Tur n them away, O my Bel oved!”
5. But i t i s not to be supposed, however, that the soul real l y wi shes Hi m to turn
away Hi s eyes; for thi s i s nothi ng el se but the expr essi on of natur al awe, as I sai d
before.
2
Yes, r ather , cost they what they may, the soul woul d not wi l l i ngl y mi ss
these vi si tati ons and favor s of the Bel oved; for though natur e may suffer , the spi r i t
fl i es to thi s super natur al r ecol l ecti on i n or der to enjoy the spi r i t of the Bel oved, the
object of i ts pr ayer s and desi r es. The soul i s unwi l l i ng to r ecei ve these vi si tati ons
i n the body, when i t cannot have the per fect fr ui ti on of them, and onl y i n a sl i ght
degr ee and i n pai n; but i t covets them i n the fl i ght of the di sembodi ed spi r i t when
i t can enjoy them fr eel y. Hence i t says, “Tur n them away, my Bel oved”—that i s,
Do not vi si t me i n the fl esh.
“I am on the wing.”
6. I t i s as i f i t sai d, “I am taki ng my fl i ght out of the body, that You may show
them when I shal l have l eft i t; they bei ng the cause of my fl i ght out of the body.”
For the better under standi ng of the natur e of thi s fl i ght we shoul d consi der that
whi ch I sai d just now.
3
I n thi s vi si tati on of the di vi ne Spi ri t the spi ri t of the soul i s
wi th gr eat vi ol ence bor ne upwar ds i nto communi on wi th the di vi ne, the body i s
abandoned, al l i ts acts and senses ar e suspended, because they ar e absor bed i n
God. Thus the Apostl e, St. Paul , speaki ng of hi s own ecstasy, says, “Whether i n
the body or out of the body, I cannot tel l .”
4
But we are not to suppose that the soul
abandons the body, and that the natural l i fe i s destroyed, but onl y that i ts acti ons
have then ceased.
7. Thi s i s the r eason why the body r emai ns i nsensi bl e i n r aptur es and ecstasi es,
and unconsci ous of the most pai nful i nfl i cti ons. These ar e not l i ke the swoons and
fai nti ngs of the natur al l i fe, whi ch cease when pai n begi ns. They who have not
arri ved at perfecti on are l i abl e to these vi si tati ons, for they happen to those who
ar e wal ki ng i n the way of pr ofi ci ents. They who ar e al r eady per fect r ecei ve these
vi si tati ons i n peace and i n the sweetness of l ove: ecstasi es cease, for they wer e
onl y gr aces to pr epar e them for thi s gr eater gr ace.
1
See St. Ter esa, ‘Li fe,’ ch. 20 sect. 16, or ‘Las Mor dadas,’ 6. ch. 11.
2
Sect. 1. above.
3
Sect. 4. above.
4
2 Cor. 12:3
Stanza XIII 53
8. Thi s i s a fi tti ng pl ace for di scussi ng the di ffer ence between r aptur es, ecstasi es,
other el evati ons and subtl e fl i ghts of the spi r i t, to whi ch spi r i tual per sons ar e
l i abl e; but, as I i ntend to do nothi ng mor e than expl ai n br i efl y thi s canti cl e, as I
under took i n the pr ol ogue, I l eave the subject for those who ar e better qual i fi ed
than I am. I do thi s the mor e r eadi l y, because our mother , the bl essed Ter esa of
Jesus, has wr i tten admi r abl y on thi s matter ,
1
whose wr i ti ngs I hope i n God to see
publ i shed soon. The fl i ght of the soul i n thi s pl ace, then, i s to be under stood of
ecstasy, and el evati on of spi r i t i n God. The Bel oved i mmedi atel y says:
“Return, My Dove.”
9. The soul was joyful l y qui tti ng the body i n i ts spi ri tual fl i ght, thi nki ng that i ts
natural l i fe was over, and that i t was about to enter i nto the everl asti ng frui ti on of
the Br i degr oom, and r emai n wi th Hi m wi thout a vei l between them. He, however ,
r estr ai ns i t i n i ts fl i ght, sayi ng:
“Return, My Dove.”
10. I t i s as i f He sai d, “O My Dove, i n your hi gh and r api d fl i ght of contempl ati on,
i n the l ove wi th whi ch you ar e i nfl amed, i n the si mpl i ci ty of your r egar d”—these
ar e thr ee char acter i sti cs of the dove—”r etur n fr om that fl i ght i n whi ch you ai m at
the tr ue fr ui ti on of Mysel f—the ti me i s not yet come for knowl edge so hi gh—
r etur n, and submi t your sel f to that l ower degr ee of i t whi ch I communi cate i n thi s
your r aptur e.”
“The wounded hart.”
11. The Br i degr oom l i kens Hi msel f to a har t, for by the har t her e He means
Hi msel f. The har t by natur e cl i mbs up to hi gh pl aces, and when wounded hastens
to seek r el i ef i n the cool i ng water s. I f he hear s hi s consor t moan and sees that she
i s wounded, he r uns to her at once, comfor ts, and car esses her . So the
Br i degr oom now; for , seei ng the br i de wounded wi th Hi s l ove, He, too, hear i ng
her moani ng, i s wounded Hi msel f wi th her l ove; for wi th l over s the wound of one
i s the wound of the other , and they have the same feel i ngs i n common. The
Br i degr oom, ther efor e, says i n effect: “Retur n, my br i de, to Me; for as you ar e
wounded wi th the l ove of Me, I too, l i ke the har t, am wounded by l ove for you. I am
l i ke the har t, l oomi ng on the top of the hi l l .” Ther efor e He says:
“Looms on the hill.”
12. That i s, “on the hei ghts of contempl ati on, to whi ch you have ascended i n your
fl i ght.” Contempl ati on i s a l ofty emi nence wher e God, i n thi s l i fe, begi ns to
communi cate Hi msel f to the soul , and to show Hi msel f, but not di sti nctl y. Hence
i t i s sai d, “Looms on the hi l l ,” because He does not appear cl ear l y. However
pr ofound the knowl edge of Hi msel f whi ch God may gr ant to the soul i n thi s l i fe, i t
i s, after al l , but an i ndi sti nct vi si on. We now come to the thi r d pr oper ty of the har t,
the subject of the l i ne that fol l ows:
“I n the air of your flight, and is refreshed.”
1
See ‘Rel ati on’ 8.
54 A Spiritual Canticle
13. The fl i ght i s contempl ati on i n the ecstasy spoken of befor e,
1
and the ai r i s the
spi r i t of l ove pr oduced i n the soul by thi s fl i ght of contempl ati on, and thi s l ove
pr oduced by the fl i ght i s her e wi th gr eat pr opr i ety cal l ed “ai r ,” for the Hol y Spi r i t
al so i s l i kened to ai r i n the Sacr ed Wr i ti ngs, because He i s the br eath of the Father
and the Son. And so as He i s ther e the ai r of the fl i ght—that i s, that He pr oceeds
by the wi l l fr om the contempl ati on and wi sdom of the Father and the Son, and i s
br eathed—so her e the l ove of the soul i s cal l ed ai r by the Br i degr oom, because i t
pr oceeds fr om the contempl ati on of God and the knowl edge of Hi m whi ch at thi s
ti me i s possessed by the soul .
14. We must observe here that the Bri degroom does not say that He comes at the
fl i ght, but at the ai r of the fl i ght, because pr oper l y speaki ng God does not
communi cate Hi msel f to the soul because of that fl i ght, whi ch i s, as I have sai d,
the knowl edge i t has of God, but because of the l ove whi ch i s the frui t of that
knowl edge. For as l ove i s the uni on of the Father and the Son, so i s i t al so of God
and the soul .
15. Hence i t i s that notwi thstandi ng the most pr ofound knowl edge of God, and
contempl ati on i tsel f, together wi th the knowl edge of al l myster i es, the soul
wi thout l ove i s wor th nothi ng, and can do nothi ng, as the Apostl e says, towar ds
i ts uni on wi th God.
2
I n another pl ace he says, “Have char i ty, whi ch i s the bond of
per fecti on.”
3
Thi s char i ty then and l ove of the soul make the Br i degr oom r un to
dr i nk of the fountai n of the Br i de’s l ove, as the cool i ng water s attr act the thi r sty
and the wounded har t, to be r efr eshed ther ei n.
“And i s refreshed.”
16. As the ai r cool s and r efr eshes hi m who i s wear i ed wi th the heat, so the ai r of
l ove r efr eshes and comfor ts hi m who bur ns wi th the fi r e of l ove. The fi r e of l ove
has thi s pr oper ty, the ai r whi ch cool s and r efr eshes i t i s an i ncr ease of the fi r e
i tsel f. To hi m who l oves, l ove i s a fl ame that bur ns wi th the desi r e of bur ni ng
mor e and mor e, l i ke the fl ame of mater i al fi r e. The consummati on of thi s desi r e
of bur ni ng mor e and mor e, wi th the l ove of the br i de, whi ch i s the ai r of her fl i ght,
i s her e cal l ed r efr eshment. The Br i degr oom says i n substance, “ I bur n mor e and
mor e because of the ar dor of your fl i ght, for l ove ki ndl es l ove.”
17. God does not establ i sh Hi s grace and l ove i n the soul but i n proporti on to the
good wi l l of that soul ’s l ove. He, ther efor e, that tr ul y l oves God must str i ve that hi s
l ove fai l not; for so, i f we may thus speak, wi l l he move God to show hi m gr eater
l ove, and to take gr eater del i ght i n hi s soul . I n or der to attai n to such a degr ee of
l ove, he must pr acti ce those thi ngs of whi ch the Apostl e speaks, sayi ng: “Char i ty
i s pati ent, i s beni gn: char i ty envi es not, deal s not per ver sel y; i s not puffed up, i s
not ambi ti ous, seeks not her own, i s not pr ovoked to anger , thi nks not evi l , r ejoi ces
not upon i ni qui ty, but r ejoi ces wi th the tr uth; bear s al l thi ngs, bel i eves al l thi ngs,
hopes al l thi ngs, endur es al l thi ngs.”
4
NOTE
1
Sect. 1.
2
1 Cor. 13:2
3
Col . 3:14
4
1 Cor. 13:4-7
Stanza XIII 55
WHEN the dove—that i s the soul —was fl yi ng on the gal e of l ove over the waters of
the del uge of the wear i ness and l ongi ng of i ts l ove, “not fi ndi ng wher e her foot
mi ght r est,”
1
the compassi onate father Noah, i n thi s l ast fl i ght, put for th the hand
of hi s mer cy, caught her , and br ought her i nto the ar k of hi s char i ty and l ove.
That took pl ace when the Br i degr oom, as i n the stanza now expl ai ned, sai d,
“Retur n, My Dove.” I n the shel ter wi thi n the ar k, the soul , fi ndi ng al l i t desi r ed,
and mor e than i t can ever expr ess, begi ns to si ng the pr ai ses of the Bel oved,
cel ebr ati ng the magni fi cence whi ch i t feel s and enjoys i n that uni on, sayi ng:
1
Gen. 8:9
STANZAS XIV, XV
THE BRI DE
My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The si l ent musi c,
The murmuri ng sol i tude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.
BEFORE I begi n to expl ai n these stanzas, I must obser ve, i n or der that they and
those whi ch fol l ow may be better under stood, that thi s spi r i tual fl i ght si gni fi es a
cer tai n hi gh estate and uni on of l ove, to whi ch, after many spi r i tual exer ci ses,
God i s wont to el evate the soul : i t i s cal l ed the spi ri tual betrothal of the Word, the
Son of God. I n the begi nni ng, when thi s occur s the fi r st ti me, God r eveal s to i t
gr eat thi ngs of Hi msel f, makes i t beauti ful i n majesty and gr andeur , ador ns i t
wi th gr aces and gi fts, and endows i t wi th honor , and wi th the knowl edge of
Hi msel f, as a br i de i s ador ned on the day of her betr othal . On thi s happy day the
soul not onl y ceases fr om i ts anxi eti es and l ovi ng compl ai nts, but i s, mor eover ,
ador ned wi th al l gr ace, enter i ng i nto a state of peace and del i ght, and of the
sweetness of l ove, as i t appear s fr om these stanzas, i n whi ch i t does nothi ng el se
but r ecount and pr ai se the magni fi cence of the Bel oved, whi ch i t r ecogni zes i n
Hi m, and enjoys i n the uni on of the betr othal .
2. I n the stanzas that fol l ow, the soul speaks no mor e of i ts anxi eti es and
suffer i ngs, as befor e, but of the sweet and peaceful i nter cour se of l ove wi th the
Bel oved; for now al l i ts tr oubl es ar e over . These two stanzas, whi ch I am about to
expl ai n, contai n al l that God i s wont at thi s ti me to bestow upon the soul ; but we
ar e not to suppose that al l soul s, thus far advanced, r ecei ve al l that i s her e
descr i bed, ei ther i n the same way or i n the same degr ee of knowl edge and of
consci ousness. Some soul s r ecei ve mor e, other s l ess; some i n one way, some i n
another; and yet al l may be i n the state of spi ri tual betrothal . But i n thi s stanza
the hi ghest possi bl e i s spoken of, because that embr aces al l .
EXPLANATI ON
3. As i n the ar k of Noah ther e wer e many chamber s for the di ffer ent ki nds of
ani mal s, as the Sacr ed Wr i ti ngs tel l us, and “al l food that may be eaten,”
1
so the
soul , i n i ts fl i ght to the di vi ne ark of the bosom of God, sees therei n not onl y the
many mansi ons of whi ch our Lor d speaks, but al so al l the food, that i s, al l the
magni fi cence i n whi ch the soul may r ejoi ce, and whi ch ar e her e r efer r ed to by the
1
Gen. 6:21
56
Stanzas XVI, XV 57
common ter ms of these stanzas. These ar e substanti al l y as fol l ows:
4. I n thi s di vi ne uni on the soul has a vi si on and for etaste of abundant and
i nesti mabl e r i ches, and fi nds ther e al l the r epose and r efr eshment i t desi r ed; i t
attai ns to the secr ets of God, and to a str ange knowl edge of Hi m, whi ch i s the food
of those who know Hi m most; i t i s consci ous of the awful power of God beyond al l
other power and mi ght, tastes of the wonder ful sweetness and del i ght of the
Spi r i t, fi nds i ts tr ue r est and di vi ne l i ght, dr i nks deepl y of the wi sdom of God,
whi ch shi nes for th i n the har mony of the cr eatur es and wor ks of God; i t feel s
i tsel f fi l l ed wi th al l good, empti ed, and del i ver ed fr om al l evi l , and, above al l ,
r ejoi ces consci ousl y i n the i nesti mabl e banquet of l ove whi ch confi r ms i t i n l ove.
Thi s i s the substance of these two stanzas.
5. The bri de here says that her Bel oved i n Hi msel f and to her i s al l the objects she
enumer ates; for i n the ecstati c communi cati ons of God the soul feel s and
under stands the tr uth of the sayi ng of St. Fr anci s: “God i s mi ne and al l thi ngs ar e
mi ne.” And because God i s al l , and the soul , and the good of al l , the
communi cati on i n thi s ecstasy i s expl ai ned by the consi der ati on that the goodness
of the cr eatur es r efer r ed to i n these stanzas i s a r efl ecti on of Hi s goodness, as wi l l
appear fr om ever y l i ne ther eof. Al l that i s her e set for th i s i n God emi nentl y i n an
i nfi ni te way, or r ather , ever y one of these gr andeur s i s God, and al l of them
together ar e God. I nasmuch as the soul i s one wi th God, i t feel s al l thi ngs to be
God accor di ng to the wor ds of St. John: “What was made, i n Hi m was l i fe.”
1
6. But we ar e not to under stand thi s consci ousness of the soul as i f i t saw the
cr eatur es i n God as we see mater i al objects i n the l i ght, but that i t feel s al l thi ngs
to be God i n thi s fr ui ti on of Hi m; nei ther ar e we to i magi ne that the soul sees God
essenti al l y and cl ear l y because i t has so deep a sense of Hi m; for thi s i s onl y a
str ong and abundant communi cati on fr om Hi m, a gl i mmer i ng l i ght of what He i s
i n Hi msel f, by whi ch the soul di scer ns thi s goodness of al l thi ngs, as I pr oceed to
expl ai n.
“My Beloved is the mountains.”
7. Mountai ns ar e hi gh fer ti l e, extensi ve, beauti ful , l ovel y, fl ower y, and odor ous.
These mountai ns my Bel oved i s to me.
“The solitary wooded valleys.”
8. Sol i tar y val l eys ar e tr anqui l , pl easant, cool i ng, shady, aboundi ng i n sweet
waters, and by the vari ety of trees growi ng i n them, and by the mel ody of the bi rds
that fr equent them, enl i ven and del i ght the senses; thei r sol i tude and si l ence
pr ocur e us a r efr eshi ng r est. These val l eys my Bel oved i s to me.
“The strange islands.”
9. Str ange i sl ands ar e gi r t by the sea; they ar e al so, because of the sea, di stant and
unknown to the commer ce of men. They pr oduce thi ngs ver y di ffer ent fr om those
wi th whi ch we ar e conver sant, i n str ange ways, and wi th qual i ti es hi ther to
unknown, so as to sur pr i se those who behol d them, and fi l l them wi th wonder .
1
John 1:3,4. See Stanza vi i i .
58 A Spiritual Canticle
Thus, then, by r eason of the gr eat and mar vel ous wonder s, and the str ange
thi ngs that come to our knowl edge, far beyond the common noti ons of men, whi ch
the soul behol ds i n God, i t cal l s Hi m the str ange i sl ands. We say of a man that he
i s str ange for one of two r easons: ei ther because he wi thdr aws hi msel f fr om the
soci ety of hi s fel l ows, or because he i s si ngul ar or di sti ngui shed i n hi s l i fe and
conduct. For these two r easons together God i s cal l ed str ange by the soul . He i s
not onl y al l that i s str ange i n undi scover ed i sl ands, but Hi s ways, judgments, and
wor ks ar e al so str ange, new, and mar vel ous to men.
10. I t i s nothi ng wonder ful that God shoul d be str ange to men who have never
seen Hi m, seei ng that He i s al so str ange to the hol y angel s and the soul s who see
Hi m; for they nei ther can nor shal l ever see Hi m per fectl y. Yes, even to the day of
the l ast judgment they wi l l see i n Hi m so much that i s new i n Hi s deep
judgments, i n Hi s acts of mer cy and justi ce, as to exci te thei r wonder mor e and
mor e. Thus God i s the str ange i sl ands not to men onl y, but to the angel s al so; onl y
to Hi msel f i s He nei ther str ange nor new.
“The roaring torrents.”
11. Tor r ents have thr ee pr oper ti es. 1. They over fl ow al l that i s i n thei r cour se. 2.
They fi l l al l hol l ows. 3. They over power al l other sounds by thei r own. And hence
the soul , feel i ng most sweetl y that these thr ee pr oper ti es bel ong to God, says, “My
Bel oved i s the r oar i ng tor r ents.”
12. As to the fi rst property of whi ch the soul i s consci ous, i t feel s i tsel f to be so
overwhel med wi th the torrent of the Spi ri t of God, and so vi ol entl y overpowered by
i t, that al l the waters i n the worl d seem to i t to have surrounded i t, and to have
dr owned al l i ts for mer acti ons and passi ons. Though al l thi s i s vi ol ent, yet ther e i s
nothi ng pai nful i n i t, for these r i ver s ar e r i ver s of peace, as i t i s wr i tten, God,
speaki ng thr ough I sai ah, sayi ng, “ I wi l l decl i ne upon her , as i t wer e, a fl ood of
peace, and as a tor r ent over fl owi ng gl or y.”
1
That i s, “I wi l l br i ng upon the soul , as
i t wer e, a r i ver of peace, and a tor r ent over fl owi ng wi th gl or y.” Thus thi s di vi ne
over fl owi ng, l i ke r oar i ng tor r ents, fi l l s the soul wi th peace and gl or y. The second
property the soul feel s i s that thi s di vi ne water i s now fi l l i ng the vessel s of i ts
humi l i ty and the empti ness of i ts desi r es, as i t i s wr i tten: “He has exal ted the
humbl e, and fi l l ed the hungr y wi th good.”
2
The thi r d pr oper ty of whi ch the soul i s
now consci ous i n the r oar i ng tor r ents of the Bel oved i s a spi r i tual sound and voi ce
over power i ng al l other sounds and voi ces i n the wor l d. The expl anati on of thi s
wi l l take a l i ttl e ti me.
13. Thi s voi ce, or thi s mur mur i ng sound of the water s, i s an over fl owi ng so
abundant as to fi l l the soul wi th good, and a power so mi ghty sei zi ng upon i t as to
seem not onl y the sound of many water s, but a most l oud r oar i ng of thunder . But
the voi ce i s a spi r i tual voi ce, unattended by mater i al sounds or the pai n and
tor ment of them, but r ather wi th majesty, power , mi ght, del i ght, and gl or y: i t i s,
as i t wer e, a voi ce, an i nfi ni te i nter i or sound whi ch endows the soul wi th power
and mi ght. The Apostl es hear d i n spi r i t thi s voi ce when the Hol y Spi r i t descended
upon them i n the sound “ as of a mi ghty wi nd,”
3
as we r ead i n the Acts of the
1
I sa. 66:12
2
Luke 1:52
3
Acts 2:2
Stanzas XVI, XV 59
Apostl es. I n or der to mani fest thi s spi r i tual voi ce, i nter i or l y spoken, the sound
was hear d exter i or l y, as of a r ushi ng wi nd, by al l those who wer e i n Jer usal em.
Thi s exter i or mani festati on r eveal s what the Apostl es i nter i or l y r ecei ved, namel y,
ful l ness of power and mi ght.
14. So al so when our Lor d Jesus pr ayed to the Father because of Hi s di str ess and
the r age of Hi s enemi es, He hear d an i nter i or voi ce fr om heaven, comfor ti ng Hi m
i n Hi s Sacr ed Humani ty. The sound, sol emn and gr ave, was hear d exter i or l y by
the Jews, some of whom sai d that i t thunder ed: other s sai d, “An angel has spoken
to Hi m.”
1
The voi ce outwar dl y hear d was the outwar d si gn and expr essi on of that
str ength and power whi ch Chr i st then i nwar dl y r ecei ved i n Hi s human natur e.
We are not to suppose that the soul does not hear i n spi ri t the spi ri tual voi ce
because i t i s al so outwar dl y hear d. The spi r i tual voi ce i s the effect on the soul of
the audi bl e voi ce, as mater i al sounds str i ke the ear , and i mpr ess the meani ng of
i t on the mi nd. Thi s we l ear n fr om Davi d when he sai d, “He wi l l gi ve to Hi s voi ce
the voi ce of str ength;”
2
thi s strength i s the i nteri or voi ce. He wi l l gi ve to Hi s
voi ce—that i s, the outwar d voi ce, audi bl y hear d—the voi ce of str ength whi ch i s
fel t wi thi n. God i s an i nfi ni te voi ce, and communi cati ng Hi msel f thus to the soul
pr oduces the effect of an i nfi ni te voi ce.
15. Thi s voi ce was hear d by St. John, sayi ng i n the Revel ati on, “I hear d a voi ce
fr om heaven as the voi ce of many water s, and as the voi ce of gr eat thunder .” And,
l est i t shoul d be supposed that a voi ce so str ong was di str essi ng and har sh, he
adds i mmedi atel y, “ The voi ce whi ch I hear d was as the voi ce of har per s har pi ng
on thei r har ps.”
3
Ezeki el says that thi s sound as of many water s was “as i t wer e
the sound of the Hi gh God,”
4
pr ofoundl y and sweetl y communi cated i n i t. Thi s
voi ce i s i nfi ni te, because, as I have sai d, i t i s God Who communi cates Hi msel f,
speaki ng i n the soul ; but He adapts Hi msel f to each soul , utter i ng the voi ce of
str ength accor di ng to i ts capaci ty, i n majesty and joy. And so the br i de si ngs i n
the Canti cl e: “Let Your voi ce sound i n my ear s, for Your voi ce i s sweet.”
5
“The whisper of the amorous gales.”
16. Two thi ngs ar e to be consi der ed her e—gal es and whi sper . The amor ous gal es
ar e the vi r tues and gr aces of the Bel oved, whi ch, because of i ts uni on wi th the
Br i degr oom, pl ay ar ound the soul , and, most l ovi ngl y sent for th, touch i t i n thei r
own substance. The whi sper of the gal es i s a most subl i me and sweet knowl edge
of God and of Hi s attr i butes, whi ch over fl ows i nto the under standi ng fr om the
contact of the attri butes of God wi th the substance of the soul . Thi s i s the hi ghest
del i ght of whi ch the soul i s capabl e i n thi s l i fe.
17. That we may under stand thi s the better , we must keep i n mi nd that as i n a
gal e two thi ngs ar e obser vabl e—the touch of i t, and the whi sper or sound—so
ther e ar e two thi ngs obser vabl e al so i n the communi cati ons of the Br i degr oom—
the sense of del i ght, and the under standi ng of i t. As the touch of the ai r i s fel t i n
the sense of touch, and the whi sper of i t hear d i n the ear , so al so the contact of the
1
John 12:29
2
Ps. 67:34
3
Rev. 14:2
4
Ezek. 1:24
5
Cant. 2:14
60 A Spiritual Canticle
perfecti ons of the Bel oved i s fel t and enjoyed i n the touch of the soul —that i s, i n
the substance ther eof, thr ough the i nstr umental i ty of the wi l l ; and the knowl edge
of the attri butes of God fel t i n the heari ng of the soul —that i s, i n the
under standi ng.
18. The gal e i s sai d to bl ow amor ousl y when i t str i kes del i ci ousl y, sati sfyi ng hi s
desi r e who i s l ongi ng for the r efr eshi ng whi ch i t mi ni ster s; for i t then r evi ves and
soothes the sense of touch, and whi l e the sense of touch i s thus soothed, that of
hear i ng al so r ejoi ces and del i ghts i n the sound and whi sper of the gal e mor e than
the touch i n the contact of the ai r , because the sense of hear i ng i s mor e spi r i tual ,
or , to speak wi th gr eater cor r ectness, i s mor e near l y connected wi th the spi r i tual
than i s that of touch, and the del i ght ther eof i s mor e spi r i tual than i s that of the
touch. So al so, i nasmuch as thi s touch of God gr eatl y sati sfi es and comfor ts the
substance of the soul , sweetl y ful fi l l i ng i ts l ongi ng to be r ecei ved i nto uni on; thi s
uni on, or touch, i s cal l ed amor ous gal es, because, as I sai d befor e, the per fecti ons
of the Bel oved are by i t communi cated to the soul l ovi ngl y and sweetl y, and
thr ough i t the whi sper of knowl edge to the under standi ng. I t i s cal l ed whi sper ,
because, as the whi sper of the ai r penetr ates subtl y i nto the or gan of hear i ng, so
thi s most subtl e and del i cate knowl edge enter s wi th mar vel ous sweetness and
del i ght i nto the i nmost substance of the soul , whi ch i s the hi ghest of al l del i ghts.
19. The r eason i s that substanti al knowl edge i s now communi cated i ntel l i gi bl y,
and str i pped of al l acci dents and i mages, to the under standi ng, whi ch
phi l osopher s cal l passi ve or passi bl e, because i nacti ve wi thout any natur al effor ts
of i ts own dur i ng thi s communi cati on. Thi s i s the hi ghest del i ght of the soul ,
because i t i s i n the under standi ng, whi ch i s the seat of fr ui ti on, as theol ogi ans
teach, and fr ui ti on i s the vi si on of God. Some theol ogi ans thi nk, i nasmuch as thi s
whi sper si gni fi es the substanti al i ntel l i gence, that our father El i jah had a vi si on
of God i n the del i cate whi sper of the ai r , whi ch he hear d on the mount at the
mouth of the cave. The Hol y Scr i ptur e cal l s i t “the whi stl i ng of a gentl e wi nd,”
1
because knowl edge i s begotten i n the under standi ng by the subtl e and del i cate
communi cati on of the Spi r i t. The soul cal l s i t her e the whi sper of the amor ous
gal es, because i t fl ows i nto the under standi ng fr om the l ovi ng communi cati on of
the per fecti ons of the Bel oved. Thi s i s why i t i s cal l ed the whi sper of the amor ous
gal es.
20. Thi s di vi ne whi sper whi ch enter s i n by the ear of the soul i s not onl y
substanti al knowl edge, but a mani festati on al so of the tr uths of the Di vi ni ty, and a
r evel ati on of the secr et myster i es ther eof. For i n gener al , i n the Hol y Scr i ptur es,
ever y communi cati on of God sai d to enter i n by the ear i s a mani festati on of pur e
tr uths to the under standi ng, or a r evel ati on of the secr ets of God. These ar e
r evel ati ons on pur el y spi r i tual vi si ons, and ar e communi cated di r ectl y to the soul
wi thout the i nter venti on of the senses, and thus, what God communi cates
thr ough the spi r i tual ear i s most pr ofound and most cer tai n. When St. Paul
woul d expr ess the gr eatness of the r evel ati ons made to hi m, he di d not say, “I saw
or I per cei ved secr et wor ds,” but “I hear d secr et wor ds whi ch i t i s not gr anted to
man to utter .”
2
I t i s thought that St. Paul al so saw God, as our father El i jah, i n
the whi sper of a gentl e ai r . For as “fai th comes by hear i ng”—so the Apostl e
teaches—that i s, by the hear i ng of the mater i al ear , so al so that whi ch the fai th
1
1 Ki ngs 19:12
2
2 Cor. 12:4
Stanzas XVI, XV 61
teaches, the i ntel l i gi bl e tr uth, comes by spi r i tual hear i ng.
21. The pr ophet Job, speaki ng to God, when He r eveal ed Hi msel f to hi m, teaches
the same doctr i ne, sayi ng, “Wi th the hear i ng of the ear I have hear d You, but now
my eye sees You.”
1
I t i s cl ear , fr om thi s, that to hear wi th the ear of the soul i s to
see wi th the eye of the passi ve under standi ng. He does not say, “I hear d wi th the
hear i ng of my ear s,” but “wi th the hear i ng of my ear ”; nor , “wi th the seei ng of my
eyes,” but “wi th the eye of my under standi ng”; the hear i ng of the soul i s,
ther efor e, the vi si on of the under standi ng.
22. Sti l l , we ar e not to thi nk that what the soul per cei ves, though pur e tr uth, can
be the per fect and cl ear fr ui ti on of Heaven. For though i t i s fr ee fr om acci dents, as
I sai d befor e,
2
i t i s di m and not cl ear , because i t i s contempl ati on, whi ch i n thi s
l i fe, as St. Di onysi us says, “i s a r ay of dar kness,”
3
and thus we may say that i t i s a
r ay and an i mage of fr ui ti on, because i t i s i n the under standi ng, whi ch i s the seat
of fr ui ti on. Thi s substanti al tr uth, cal l ed her e a whi sper , i s the “eyes desi r ed”
whi ch the Bel oved showed to the br i de, who, unabl e to bear the vi si on, cr i ed,
“Tur n them away, O my Bel oved.”
4
23. Ther e i s a passage i n the book of Job whi ch gr eatl y confi r ms what I have sai d
of r aptur e and betr othal , and, because I consi der i t to be much to the pur pose, I
wi l l gi ve i t her e, though i t may del ay us a l i ttl e, and expl ai n those por ti ons of i t
whi ch bel ong to my subject. The expl anati on shal l be shor t, and when I shal l have
made i t, I shal l go on to expl ai n the other stanza. The passage i s as fol l ows: “To
me ther e was spoken a secr et wor d,” sai d El i phaz the Themani te, “and, as i t
wer e, my ear by steal th r ecei ved the vei ns of i ts whi sper . I n the hor r or of a vi si on
by ni ght, when deep sl eep i s wont to hol d men, fear hel d me and tr embl i ng, and
al l my bones wer e made sor e afr ai d: and when the spi r i t passed befor e me the
hai r of my fl esh stood upr i ght. Ther e stood one whose countenance I knew not, an
i mage befor e my eyes, and I hear d the voi ce, as i t wer e, of a gentl e wi nd.”
5
24. Thi s passage contai ns al most al l I sai d about r aptur e i n the thi r teenth stanza,
wher e the br i de says: “Tur n them away, O my Bel oved.” The “wor d spoken i n
secr et” to El i phaz i s that secr et communi cati on whi ch by r eason of i ts gr eatness
the soul was not abl e to endur e, and, ther efor e, cr i ed out: “Tur n them away, O my
Bel oved.” El i phaz says that hi s “ear as i t were by steal th recei ved the vei ns of i ts
whi sper .” By that i s meant the pur e substance whi ch the under standi ng r ecei ves,
for the “vei ns” her e denote the i nter i or substance. The whi sper i s that
communi cati on and touch of the vi r tues wher eby the sai d substance i s
communi cated to the under standi ng. I t i s cal l ed a whi sper because of i ts gr eat
gentl eness. And the soul cal l s i t the amor ous gal es because i t i s l ovi ngl y
communi cated. I t i s sai d to be r ecei ved as i t wer e by steal th, for as that whi ch i s
stol en i s al i enated, so thi s secr et i s al i en to man, speaki ng i n the or der of natur e,
because that whi ch he r ecei ved does not apper tai n to hi m natur al l y, and thus i t
was not l awful for hi m to r ecei ve i t; nei ther was i t l awful for St. Paul to r epeat
what he hear d. For thi s r eason the pr ophet says twi ce, “My secr et to mysel f, my
1
Job 42:5
2
Sect. 20.
3
‘De Mysti ca Theol ogi a,’ ch. i .
4
Cant. 6:4
5
Job 4:12-16
62 A Spiritual Canticle
secr et to mysel f.”
1
25. When El i phaz speaks of the hor r or of the vi si on by ni ght, and of the fear and
tr embl i ng that sei zed upon hi m, he r efer s to the awe and dr ead that comes upon
the soul natur al l y i n r aptur e, because i n i ts natur al str ength i t i s unabl e, as I
sai d befor e,
2
to endur e the communi cati on of the Spi r i t of God. The pr ophet gi ves
us to under stand that, as when sl eep i s about to fal l upon men, a cer tai n vi si on
whi ch they cal l a ni ghtmar e i s wont to oppr ess and ter r i fy them i n the i nter val
between sl eepi ng and waki ng, whi ch i s the moment of the appr oach of sl eep, so i n
the spi r i tual passage between the sl eep of natur al i gnor ance and the waki ng of
the super natur al under standi ng, whi ch i s the begi nni ng of an ecstasy or r aptur e,
the spi r i tual vi si on then r eveal ed makes the soul fear and tr embl e.
26. “Al l my bones wer e affr i ghted”; that i s, wer e shaken and di stur bed. By thi s he
meant a cer tai n di sl ocati on of the bones whi ch takes pl ace when the soul fal l s i nto
an ecstasy. Thi s i s cl ear l y expr essed by Dani el when he saw the angel , sayi ng, “O
my l or d, at the si ght of you my joi nts ar e l oosed.”
3
“When the spi r i t passed befor e
me”—that i s, “When my spi r i t was made to tr anscend the ways and l i mi tati ons of
natur e i n ecstasi es and r aptur es”—”the hai r of my fl esh stood upr i ght”; that i s,
“my body was chi l l ed, and the fl esh contr acted, l i ke that of a dead man.”
27. “Ther e stood One”—that i s God, Who r eveal s Hi msel f after thi s manner —
” Whose countenance knew not” : i n these communi cati ons or vi si ons, however
hi gh they may be, the soul nei ther knows nor behol ds the face and bei ng of God.
“An i mage befor e my eyes”; that i s, the knowl edge of the secr et wor ds was most
deep, as i t wer e the i mage and face of God; but sti l l thi s i s not the essenti al vi si on
of God. “I hear d the voi ce, as i t wer e, of a gentl e wi nd”; thi s i s the whi sper of the
amor ous gal es—that i s, of the Bel oved of the soul .
28. But i t i s not to be supposed that these vi si ts of God are al ways attended by such
ter r or s and di str ess of natur e: that happens to them onl y who ar e enter i ng the
state of i l l umi nati on and per fecti on, and i n thi s ki nd of communi cati on; for i n
other s they come wi th gr eat sweetness.
1
I sa. 24:16
2
Stan. xi i i . sect. 1.
3
Dan. 10:16
STANZA XV
“THE tr anqui l ni ght.” I n thi s spi r i tual sl eep i n the bosom of the Bel oved the soul i s
i n possessi on and fr ui ti on of al l the cal m, r epose, and qui et of a peaceful ni ght,
and r ecei ves at the same ti me i n God a cer tai n di m, unfathomabl e di vi ne
i ntel l i gence. Thi s i s the reason why i t says that the Bel oved i s to i t the tranqui l
ni ght.
2. “At the appr oaches of the dawn.” Thi s tr anqui l ni ght i s not l i ke a ni ght of
dar kness, but r ather l i ke the ni ght when the sunr i se i s dr awi ng ni gh. Thi s
tr anqui l l i ty and r epose i n God i s not al l dar kness to the soul , as the dar k ni ght i s,
but r ather tr anqui l l i ty and r epose i n the di vi ne l i ght and i n a new knowl edge of
God, wher eby the mi nd, most sweetl y tr anqui l , i s r ai sed to a di vi ne l i ght.
3. Thi s di vi ne l i ght i s her e ver y appr opr i atel y cal l ed the appr oaches of the dawn,
that i s, the twi l i ght; for as the twi l i ght of the mor n di sper ses the dar kness of the
ni ght and r eveal s the l i ght of day, so the mi nd, tr anqui l and r eposi ng i n God, i s
r ai sed up fr om the dar kness of natur al knowl edge to the mor ni ng l i ght of the
super natur al knowl edge of God; not cl ear , i ndeed, as I have sai d, but di m, l i ke the
ni ght at the appr oaches of the dawn. For as i t i s then nei ther whol l y ni ght nor
whol l y day, but, as they say, twi l i ght, so thi s sol i tude and di vi ne r epose i s nei ther
per fectl y i l l umi ned by the di vi ne l i ght nor yet per fectl y al i en fr om i t.
4. I n thi s tr anqui l l i ty the under standi ng i s l i fted up i n a str ange way above i ts
natur al compr ehensi on to the di vi ne l i ght: i t i s l i ke a man who, after a pr ofound
sl eep, opens hi s eyes to unexpected l i ght. Thi s knowl edge i s r efer r ed to by Davi d
when he says, “I have watched, and am become as the l onel y spar r ow on the
housetop” ;
1
that i s, “I opened the eyes of my under standi ng and was r ai sed up
above al l natur al compr ehensi on, l onel y, wi thout them, on the housetop, l i fted up
above al l ear thl y consi der ati ons.” He says that he was “become as the l onel y
spar r ow,” because i n thi s ki nd of contempl ati on, the spi r i t has the pr oper ti es of
the spar r ow. These ar e fi ve i n number :
i . I t fr equents i n gener al hi gh pl aces; and the spi r i t, i n thi s state, r i ses to
the hi ghest contempl ati on.
i i . I t i s ever tur ni ng i ts face i n the di r ecti on of the wi nd, and the spi r i t tur ns
i ts affecti ons thi ther whence comes the spi r i t of l ove, whi ch i s God.
i i i . I t i s i n gener al sol i tar y, abstai ni ng fr om the compani onshi p of other s,
and fl yi ng away when any appr oach i t: so the spi r i t, i n contempl ati on, i s far away
fr om al l wor l dl y thoughts, l onel y i n i ts avoi dance of them; nei ther does i t consent
to anythi ng except to thi s sol i tude i n God.
i v. I t si ngs most sweetl y, and so al so does the spi r i t at thi s ti me si ng to God;
for the pr ai ses whi ch i t offer s up pr oceed fr om the sweetest l ove, most pl easi ng to
i tsel f, and most pr eci ous i n the si ght of God.
v. I t i s of no defi ni te col or ; so al so i s the per fect spi r i t, whi ch i n thi s ecstasy
i s not onl y wi thout any ti nge of sensual affecti on or sel f-l ove, but al so wi thout any
par ti cul ar consi der ati on of the thi ngs of heaven or ear th; nei ther can i t gi ve any
account whatever of them, because i t has enter ed i nto the abyss of the knowl edge
1
Ps. 101:8
63
64 A Spiritual Canticle
of God.
“The si l ent musi c.”
5. I n thi s si l ence and tr anqui l l i ty of the ni ght, and i n thi s knowl edge of the di vi ne
l i ght, the soul di scer ns a mar vel ous ar r angement and di sposi ti on of God’s
wi sdom i n the di ver si ti es of Hi s cr eatur es and oper ati ons. Al l these, and each one
of them, have a cer tai n cor r espondence wi th God, wher eby each, by a voi ce
pecul i ar to i tsel f, pr ocl ai ms what ther e i s i n i tsel f of God, so as to for m a concer t of
subl i mest mel ody, tr anscendi ng al l the har moni es of the wor l d. Thi s i s the si l ent
musi c, because i t i s knowl edge tr anqui l and cal m, wi thout audi bl e voi ce; and thus
the sweetness of musi c and the r epose of si l ence ar e enjoyed i n i t. The soul says
that the Bel oved i s si l ent musi c, because thi s har mony of spi r i tual musi c i s i n
Hi m under stood and fel t. He i s not thi s onl y, He i s al so—
“The murmuri ng sol i tude.”
6. Thi s i s al most the same as the si l ent musi c. For though the musi c i s i naudi bl e
to the senses and the natur al power s, i t i s a sol i tude most ful l of sound to the
spi r i tual power s. These power s bei ng i n sol i tude, empti ed of al l for ms and
natur al appr ehensi ons, may wel l r ecei ve i n spi r i t, l i ke a r esoundi ng voi ce, the
spi r i tual i mpr essi on of the majesty of God i n Hi msel f and i n Hi s cr eatur es; as i t
happened to St. John, who hear d i n spi r i t as i t wer e “the voi ce of har per s har pi ng
on thei r har ps.”
1
St. John hear d thi s i n spi r i t: i t was not mater i al har ps that he
hear d, but a cer tai n knowl edge that he had of the pr ai ses of the bl essed, whi ch
ever y one of them, each i n hi s own degr ee of gl or y, i s conti nual l y si ngi ng befor e
God. I t i s as i t wer e musi c. For as ever y one of the sai nts had the gi fts of God i n a
di ffer ent way, so ever y one of them si ngs Hi s pr ai ses i n a di ffer ent way, and yet al l
har moni ze i n one concer t of l ove, as i n musi c.
7. I n the same way, i n thi s tr anqui l contempl ati on, the soul behol ds al l cr eatur es,
not onl y the hi ghest, but the l owest al so, each one accordi ng to the gi ft of God to i t,
sendi ng for th the voi ce of i ts wi tness to what God i s. I t behol ds each one
magni fyi ng Hi m i n i ts own way, and possessi ng Hi m accor di ng to i ts par ti cul ar
capaci ty; and thus al l these voi ces together uni te i n one str ai n i n pr ai se of God’s
gr eatness, wi sdom, and mar vel ous knowl edge. Thi s i s the meani ng of those
words of the Hol y Spi ri t i n the Book of Wi sdom: “The Spi ri t of our Lord has
r epl eni shed the whol e wor l d, and that whi ch contai ns al l thi ngs has the
knowl edge of the voi ce.”
2
“ The voi ce” i s the mur mur i ng sol i tude, whi ch the soul i s
sai d to know, namel y, the wi tness whi ch al l thi ngs bear to God. I nasmuch as the
soul hear s thi s musi c onl y i n sol i tude and i n estr angement fr om al l outwar d
thi ngs, i t cal l s i t si l ent musi c and mur mur i ng sol i tude. These ar e the Bel oved.
“The supper which revives, and enkindles love.”
8. Lover s fi nd r ecr eati on, sati sfacti on, and l ove i n feasts. And because the Bel oved
i n thi s sweet communi cati on pr oduces these thr ee effects i n the soul , He i s her e
sai d to be the supper that r evi ves, and enki ndl es l ove. I n Hol y Scr i ptur e supper
si gni fi es the di vi ne vi si on, for as supper i s the concl usi on of the day’s l abor s, and
1
Rev. 14:2
2
Wi sd. 1:7
Stanza XV 65
the begi nni ng of the ni ght’s r epose, so the soul i n thi s tr anqui l knowl edge i s made
to feel that i ts tri al s are over, the possessi on of good begun, and i ts l ove of God
i ncr eased. Hence, then, the Bel oved i s to the soul the supper that r evi ves, i n bei ng
the end of i ts tr i al s, and that enki ndl es l ove, i n bei ng the begi nni ng of the fr ui ti on
of al l good.
9. That we may see mor e cl ear l y how the Br i degr oom i s the supper of the soul , we
must refer to those words of the Bel oved i n the Revel ati on: “Behol d, I stand at the
door and knock. I f any man shal l hear My voi ce, and open to Me the gate, I wi l l
enter i nto hi m, and wi l l sup wi th hi m, and he wi th Me.”
1
I t i s evi dent fr om these
wor ds that He br i ngs the supper wi th Hi m, whi ch i s nothi ng el se but Hi s own
sweetness and del i ghts, wher ei n He r ejoi ces Hi msel f, and whi ch He, uni ti ng
Hi msel f to the soul , communi cates to i t, maki ng i t a par taker of Hi s joy: for thi s i s
the meani ng of “ I wi l l sup wi th hi m, and he wi th Me.” These wor ds descr i be the
effect of the di vi ne uni on of the soul wi th God, wher ei n i t shar es the ver y goods of
God Hi msel f, Who communi cates them gr aci ousl y and abundantl y to i t. Thus the
Bel oved i s Hi msel f the supper whi ch r evi ves, and enki ndl es l ove, r efr eshi ng the
soul wi th Hi s abundance, and enki ndl i ng i ts l ove i n Hi s gr aci ousness.
10. But befor e I pr oceed to expl ai n the stanzas whi ch fol l ow, I must obser ve that,
i n the state of betr othal , wher ei n the soul enjoys thi s tr anqui l l i ty, and wher ei n i t
recei ves al l that i t can recei ve i n thi s l i fe, we are not to suppose i ts tranqui l l i ty to
be per fect, but that the hi gher par t of i t i s tr anqui l ; for the sensual par t, except i n
the state of spi r i tual mar r i age, never l oses al l i ts i mper fect habi ts, and i ts power s
ar e never whol l y subdued, as I shal l show her eafter .
2
What the soul r ecei ves now
i s al l that i t can recei ve i n the state of betrothal , for i n that of the marri age the
bl essi ngs ar e gr eater . Though the br i de-soul has gr eat joy i n these vi si ts of the
Bel oved i n the state of betrothal , sti l l i t has to suffer from Hi s absence, to endure
tr oubl e and affl i cti ons i n the l ower par t, and at the hands of the devi l . But al l thi s
ceases i n the state of spi r i tual mar r i age.
NOTE
THE br i de now i n possessi on of the vi r tues i n thei r per fecti on, wher eby she i s
or di nar i l y r ejoi ci ng i n peace when the Bel oved vi si ts her , i s now and then i n the
fr ui ti on of the fr agr ance and sweetness of those vi r tues i n the hi ghest degr ee,
because the Bel oved touches them wi thi n her , just as the sweetness and beauty of
the l i l i es and other fl ower s when i n thei r bl oom ar e per cei ved when we handl e
them. For i n many of these vi si ts the soul di scer ns wi thi n i tsel f al l i ts vi r tues
whi ch God has gi ven i t; He sheddi ng l i ght upon them. The soul now, wi th
mar vel ous joy and sweetness of l ove, bi nds them together and pr esents them to
the Bel oved as a nosegay of beauti ful fl ower s, and the Bel oved i n accepti ng them—
for He tr ul y accepts them then—accepts ther eby a gr eat ser vi ce. Al l thi s takes
pl ace wi thi n the soul , feel i ng that the Bel oved i s wi thi n i t as on Hi s own couch, for
the soul pr esents i tsel f wi th the vi r tues whi ch i s the gr eatest ser vi ce i t can r ender
Hi m, and thus thi s i s one of the gr eatest joys whi ch i n i ts i nter i or conver sati on
wi th God the soul i s wont to recei ve i n presents of thi s ki nd made to the Bel oved.
2. The devi l , behol di ng thi s pr osper i ty of the soul , and i n hi s gr eat mal i ce envyi ng
1
Rev. 3:20
2
Stanza xxvi .
66 A Spiritual Canticle
al l the good he sees i n i t, now uses al l hi s power , and has r ecour se to al l hi s
devi ces, i n or der to thwar t i t, i f possi bl e, even i n the sl i ghtest degr ee. He thi nks i t
of mor e consequence to keep back the soul , even for an i nstant, fr om thi s
abundance, bl i ss, and del i ght, than to make other s fal l i nto many and mor tal
si ns. Other soul s have l i ttl e or nothi ng to l ose, whi l e thi s soul has much, havi ng
gai ned many and gr eat tr easur es; for the l oss of one gr ai n of r efi ned gol d i s
gr eater than the l oss of many of the baser metal s.
3. The devi l her e has r ecour se to the sensual appeti tes, though now they can gi ve
hi m gener al l y but l i ttl e or no hel p because they ar e mor ti fi ed, and because he
cannot tur n them to any gr eat account i n di str acti ng the i magi nati on. Someti mes
he sti r s up many movements i n the sensi ti ve par t of the soul , and causes other
vexati ons, spi r i tual as wel l as sensual , fr om whi ch the soul i s unabl e to del i ver
i tsel f unti l our Lor d shal l send Hi s angel , as i t i s wr i tten, “The angel of the Lor d
shal l put i n hi msel f about them that fear Hi m, and shal l del i ver them;”
1
and so
establ i sh peace, both i n the spi ri tual and sensi ti ve parts of the soul . Wi th a vi ew to
show for th thi s tr uth, and to ask thi s favor , the soul , appr ehensi ve by exper i ence
of the cr aft whi ch the devi l makes use of to thwar t thi s good, addr essi ng i tsel f to
the angel s, whose functi on i t i s to succor i t at thi s ti me by putti ng the evi l spi ri ts to
fl i ght, speaks as i n the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Ps. 33:8
STANZA XVI
Catch us the foxes,
For our vineyard has flourished;
While of roses
We make a nosegay,
And let no one appear on the hill.
THE soul , anxi ous that thi s i nter i or del i ght of l ove, whi ch i s the fl ower s of the
vi neyar d, shoul d not be i nter r upted, ei ther by envi ous and mal i ci ous devi l s, or the
r agi ng desi r es of sensual i ty, or the var i ous comi ngs and goi ngs of the
i magi nati on, or any other consci ousness or pr esence of cr eated thi ngs, cal l s upon
the angel s to sei ze and hi nder al l these fr om i nter r upti ng i ts pr acti ce of i nter i or
l ove, i n the joy and sweetness of whi ch the soul and the Son of God communi cate
and del i ght i n the vi r tues and gr aces.
“Catch us the foxes, for our vineyard has flourished.”
2. The vi neyar d i s the pl antati on i n thi s hol y soul of al l the vi r tues whi ch mi ni ster
to i t the wi ne of sweet taste. The vi neyar d of the soul i s then fl our i shi ng when i t i s
uni ted i n wi l l to the Br i degr oom, and del i ghts i tsel f i n Hi m i n al l the vi r tues.
Someti mes, as I have just sai d, the memor y and the fancy ar e assai l ed by var i ous
for ms and i magi ni ngs, and di ver se moti ons and desi r es tr oubl e the sensual par t.
The great vari ety and di versi ty of these made Davi d say, when he fel t the
i nconveni ence and the tr oubl e of them as he was dr i nki ng of the sweet wi ne of the
spi r i t, thi r sti ng gr eatl y after God: “For You my soul has thi r sted, for You my
fl esh, O how many ways.”
1
3. Her e the soul cal l s the whol e tr oop of desi r es and sti r r i ngs of sense, foxes,
because of the gr eat r esembl ance between them at thi s ti me. As foxes pr etend to be
asl eep that they may pounce upon thei r pr ey when i t comes i n thei r way, so al l the
desi r es and power s of sense i n the soul ar e asl eep unti l the fl ower s of vi r tue gr ow,
fl our i sh, and bl oom. Then the desi r es and power s of sense awake to r esi st the
Spi r i t and domi neer . “The fl esh l usts agai nst the spi r i t,”
2
and as the i ncl i nati on of
i t i s towar ds the sensual desi r es, i t i s di sgusted as soon as i t tastes of the Spi r i t,
and her ei n the desi r es pr ove extr emel y tr oubl esome to spi r i tual sweetness.
“Catch us the foxes.”
4. The evi l spi r i ts now mol est the soul i n two ways. They vehementl y exci te the
desi r es, and empl oy them wi th other i magi nati ons to assai l the peaceful and
fl our i shi ng ki ngdom of the soul . Then—and thi s i s much wor se—when they do
not succeed i n sti r r i ng up the desi r es, they assai l the soul wi th bodi l y pai ns and
noi ses i n or der to di str act i t. And, what i s sti l l mor e ser i ous, they fi ght wi th
spi r i tual hor r or and dr ead, and someti mes wi th fear ful tor ments, whi ch, at thi s
ti me, i f God per mi ts them, they can most effectual l y br i ng about, for i nasmuch as
1
Ps. 62:2
2
Gal . 5:17
67
68 A Spiritual Canticle
the soul i s now spi r i tual l y detached, so as to per for m i ts spi r i tual exer ci ses, the
devi l bei ng hi msel f a spi r i t pr esents hi msel f befor e i t wi th gr eat ease.
5. At other ti mes the evi l spi r i t assai l s the soul wi th other hor r or s, befor e i t begi ns
to have the fr ui ti on of the sweet fl ower s, when God i s begi nni ng to dr aw i t for th
out of the house of sense that i t may enter on the i nter i or exer ci ses i n the gar den
of the Br i degr oom, for he knows wel l that once enter ed i nto thi s state of
r ecol l ecti on i t i s ther e so pr otected that, notwi thstandi ng al l he can do, he cannot
hur t i t. Ver y often, too, when the devi l goes for th to meet the soul , the soul
becomes qui ckl y r ecol l ected i n the secr et depths of i ts i nter i or , wher e i t fi nds gr eat
sweetness and protecti on; then those terrors of Satan are so far off that they not
onl y pr oduce no fear , but ar e even the occasi on of peace and joy. The br i de, i n the
Canti cl e, speaks of these ter r or s, sayi ng, “My soul tr oubl ed me for the char i ots of
Ami nadab.”
1
Ami nadab i s the evi l spi r i t, and hi s char i ots ar e hi s assaul ts upon
the soul , whi ch he makes wi th gr eat vi ol ence, noi se, and confusi on.
6. The br i de al so says what the soul says her e, namel y: “Catch us the l i ttl e foxes
that destr oy the vi neyar ds; for our vi neyar d has fl our i shed.”
2
She does not say,
“Catch me” but “Catch us,” because she i s speaki ng of her sel f and the Bel oved; for
they ar e one, and enjoy the fl our i shi ng of the vi neyar d together .
7. The r eason why the vi neyar d i s sai d to be fl our i shi ng and not bear i ng fr ui t i s
thi s: the soul i n thi s l i fe has the fr ui ti on of vi r tues, however per fect they may be,
onl y i n thei r fl ower , because the fr ui t of them i s r eser ved for the l i fe to come.
“While of roses we make a nosegay.”
8. Now, at thi s ti me, whi l e the soul i s r ejoi ci ng i n the fl our i shi ng of the vi neyar d,
and del i ghti ng i tsel f i n the bosom of the Bel oved, al l i ts vi r tues ar e per fect,
exhi bi ti ng themsel ves to the soul , and sendi ng for th gr eat sweetness and del i ght.
The soul feel s them to be i n i tsel f and i n God so as to seem to be one vi neyard most
fl our i shi ng and pl easi ng bel ongi ng to both, wher ei n they feed and del i ght. Then
the soul bi nds al l i ts vi r tues together , makes acts of l ove i n each of them
separ atel y, and i n al l together , and then offer s them al l to the Bel oved, wi th gr eat
tender ness of l ove and sweetness, and i n thi s the Bel oved hel ps i t, for wi thout Hi s
hel p and favor i t cannot make thi s uni on and obl ati on of vi rtue to the Bel oved.
Hence i t says, “We make a nosegay”—that i s “the Bel oved and mysel f.”
9. Thi s uni on of the vi r tues i s cal l ed a nosegay; for as a nosegay i s cone-l i ke i n
for m, and a cone i s str ong, contai ni ng and embr aci ng many pi eces fi r ml y joi ned
together , so thi s cone-l i ke nosegay of the vi r tues whi ch the soul makes for the
Bel oved i s the uni for m per fecti on of the soul whi ch fi r ml y and sol i dl y contai ns
and embr aces many per fecti ons, gr eat vi r tues, and r i ch endowments; for al l the
per fecti ons and vi r tues of the soul uni te together to for m but one. And whi l e thi s
per fecti on i s bei ng accompl i shed, and when accompl i shed, offer ed to the Bel oved
on the part of the soul , i t becomes necessary to catch the foxes that they may not
hi nder thi s mutual i nter i or communi cati on. The soul pr ays not onl y that thi s
nosegay may be car eful l y made, but al so adds, “And l et no one appear on the hi l l .”
1
Cant. 6:11
2
Cant. 2:15
Stanza XVI 69
10. Thi s di vi ne i nter i or exer ci se r equi r es sol i tude and detachment fr om al l thi ngs,
whether i n the l ower par t of the soul , whi ch i s that of sense, or i n the hi gher ,
whi ch i s the r ati onal . These two di vi si ons compr i se al l the facul ti es and senses of
man, and ar e her e cal l ed the hi l l ; because al l our natur al noti ons and desi r es
bei ng i n them, as quar r y on a hi l l , the devi l l i es i n wai t among these noti ons and
desi r es, i n or der that he may i njur e the soul .
“And let no one appear on the hill.”
11. That i s, l et no r epr esentati on or i mage of any object whatever , apper tai ni ng to
any of these facul ti es or senses, appear i n the pr esence of the soul and the
Br i degr oom: i n other wor ds, l et the spi r i tual power s of the soul , memor y,
under standi ng, and wi l l , be di vested of al l noti ons, par ti cul ar i ncl i nati ons, or
consi der ati ons whatsoever ; and l et al l the senses and facul ti es of the body, i nter i or
as wel l as exter i or , the i magi nati on, the fancy, the si ght and hear i ng, and the
r est, be di vested of al l occasi ons of di str acti ons, of al l for ms, i mages, and
r epr esentati ons, and of al l other natur al oper ati ons.
12. The soul speaks i n thi s way because i t i s necessar y for the per fect fr ui ti on of
thi s communi cati on of God, that al l the senses and power s, both i nter i or and
exter i or , shoul d be di sencumber ed and empti ed of thei r pr oper objects and
oper ati ons; for the mor e acti ve they ar e, the gr eater wi l l be the hi ndr ance whi ch
they wi l l occasi on. The soul havi ng attai ned to a cer tai n i nter i or uni on of l ove, the
spi r i tual facul ti es of i t ar e no l onger acti ve, and sti l l l ess those of the body; for now
that the uni on of l ove i s actual l y wr ought i n l ove, the facul ti es of the soul cease
fr om thei r exer ti ons, because now that the goal i s r eached al l empl oyment of
means i s at an end. What the soul at thi s ti me has to do i s to wai t l ovi ngl y upon
God, and thi s wai ti ng i s l ove i n a conti nuati on of uni ti ve l ove. Let no one,
ther efor e, appear on the hi l l , but the wi l l onl y wai ti ng on the Bel oved i n the
offer i ng up of sel f and of al l the vi r tues i n the way descr i bed.
NOTE
FOR the cl ear er under standi ng of the fol l owi ng stanza, we must keep i n mi nd
that the absence of the Bel oved, from whi ch the soul suffers i n the state of
spi r i tual betr othal , i s an exceedi ngl y gr eat affl i cti on, and at ti mes gr eater than al l
other tr i al s whatever . The r eason i s thi s: the l ove of the soul for God i s now so
vehement and deep that the pai n of Hi s absence i s vehement and deep al so. Thi s
pai n i s i ncr eased al so by the annoyance whi ch comes fr om i nter cour se wi th
cr eatur es, whi ch i s ver y gr eat; for the soul , under the pr essur e of i ts qui ckened
desi r e of uni on wi th God, fi nds al l other conver sati on most pai nful and di ffi cul t to
endur e. I t i s l i ke a stone i n i ts fl i ght to the pl ace whi ther i t i s r api dl y tendi ng;
ever y obstacl e i t meets wi th occasi ons a vi ol ent shock. And as the soul has tasted
of the sweetness of the Bel oved’s vi si ts, whi ch ar e mor e desi r abl e than gol d and al l
that i s beauti ful , i t ther efor e dr eads even a momentar y absence, and addr esses
i tsel f as fol l ows to ar i di ti es, and to the Spi r i t of the Br i degr oom:—
STANZA XVII
O killing north wind, cease!
Come, south wind, that awakens love!
Blow through my garden,
And let its odors flow,
And the Beloved shall feed among the flowers.
BESI DE the causes menti oned i n the for egoi ng stanza, spi r i tual dr yness al so
hi nder s the fr ui ti on of thi s i nter i or sweetness of whi ch I have been speaki ng, and
afr ai d of i t the soul had r ecour se to two expedi ents, to whi ch i t r efer s i n the
pr esent stanza. The fi r st i s to shut the door agai nst i t by unceasi ng pr ayer and
devoti on. The second, to i nvoke the Hol y Spi ri t; i t i s He Who dri ves away dryness
fr om the soul , mai ntai ns and i ncr eases i ts l ove of the Br i degr oom—that He may
establ i sh i n i t the practi ce of vi rtue, and al l thi s to the end that the Son of God, i ts
Br i degr oom, may r ejoi ce and del i ght i n i t mor e and mor e, for i ts onl y ai m i s to
pl ease the Bel oved.
“Killing north wind, cease.”
2. The nor th wi nd i s exceedi ngl y col d; i t dr i es up and par ches fl ower s and pl ants,
and at the l east, when i t bl ows, causes them to dr aw i n and shr i nk. So, dr yness of
spi r i t and the sensi bl e absence of the Bel oved, because they pr oduce the same
effect on the soul , exhausti ng the sweetness and fr agr ance of vi r tue, ar e her e
cal l ed the ki l l i ng nor th wi nd; for al l the vi r tues and affecti ve devoti ons of the soul
ar e then dead. Hence the soul addr esses i tsel f to i t, sayi ng, “Ki l l i ng nor th wi nd,
cease.” These wor ds mean that the soul appl i es i tsel f to spi r i tual exer ci se, i n
or der to escape ar i di ty. But the communi cati ons of God ar e now so i nter i or that by
no exerti on of i ts facul ti es can the soul attai n to them i f the Spi ri t of the
Br i degr oom do not cause these movements of l ove. The soul , ther efor e, addr esses
Hi m, sayi ng:
“Come, south wind, that awakens love.”
3. The south wi nd i s another wi nd commonl y cal l ed the south-west wi nd. I t i s
soft, and br i ngs r ai n; i t makes the gr ass and pl ants gr ow, fl ower s to bl ossom and
scatter thei r perfume abroad; i n short, i t i s the very opposi te i n i ts effects of the
nor th wi nd. By i t i s meant her e the Hol y Spi r i t, Who awakens l ove; for when thi s
di vi ne Br eath br eathes on the soul , i t so i nfl ames and r efr eshes i t, so qui ckens the
wi l l , and sti r s up the desi r es, whi ch wer e befor e l ow and asl eep as to the l ove of
God, that we may wel l say of i t that i t qui ckens the l ove between Hi m and the soul .
The pr ayer of the soul to the Hol y Spi r i t i s thus expr essed, “Bl ow thr ough my
gar den.”
4. Thi s gar den i s the soul i tsel f. For as the soul sai d of i tsel f befor e, that i t was a
fl our i shi ng vi neyar d, because the fl ower s of vi r tue whi ch ar e i n i t gi ve for th the
wi ne of sweetness, so her e i t says of i tsel f that i t i s a gar den, because the fl ower s of
per fecti on and the vi r tues ar e pl anted i n i t, fl our i sh, and gr ow.
70
Stanza XVII 71
5. Obser ve, too, that the expr essi on i s “bl ow thr ough my gar den,” not bl ow i n i t.
Ther e i s a gr eat di ffer ence between God’s br eathi ng i nto the soul and thr ough i t.
To breathe i nto the soul i s to i nfuse i nto i t graces, gi fts, and vi rtues; to breathe
thr ough i t i s, on the par t of God, to touch and move i ts vi r tues and per fecti ons now
possessed, r enewi ng them and sti r r i ng them i n such a way that they send for th
thei r mar vel ous fr agr ance and sweetness. Thus ar omati c spi ces, when shaken or
touched, gi ve for th the abundant odor s whi ch ar e not other wi se so di sti nctl y
per cei ved. The soul i s not al ways i n the consci ous fr ui ti on of i ts acqui r ed and
i nfused vi r tues, because, i n thi s l i fe, they ar e l i ke fl ower s i n seed, or i n bud, or
l i ke ar omati c spi ces cover ed over , the per fume of whi ch i s not per cei ved ti l l they
ar e exposed and shaken.
6. But God someti mes i s so mer ci ful to the br i de-soul , as—the Hol y Spi r i t
br eathi ng meanwhi l e thr ough the fl our i shi ng gar den—to open these buds of
vi r tue and expose the ar omati c her bs of the soul ’s gi fts, per fecti ons, and r i ches, to
mani fest to i t i ts i nteri or treasures and to reveal to i t al l i ts beauty. I t i s then
mar vel ous to behol d, and sweet to feel , the abundance of the gi fts now r eveal ed i n
the soul , and the beauty of the fl ower s of vi r tue now fl our i shi ng i n i t. No l anguage
can descr i be the fr agr ance whi ch ever y one of them di ffuses, each accor di ng to i ts
ki nd. Thi s state of the soul i s r efer r ed to i n the wor ds, “Let i ts odor s fl ow.”
7. So abundant ar e these odor s at ti mes, that the soul seems envel oped i n del i ght
and bathed i n i nesti mabl e bl i ss. Not onl y i s i t consci ous i tsel f of them, but they
even over fl ow i t, so that those who know how to di scer n these thi ngs can per cei ve
them. The soul i n thi s state seems to them as a del ectabl e gar den, ful l of the joys
and r i ches of God. Thi s i s obser vabl e i n hol y soul s, not onl y when the fl ower s
open, but al most al ways; for they have a cer tai n ai r of gr andeur and di gni ty
whi ch i nspi r es the behol der s wi th awe and r ever ence, because of the
super natur al effects of thei r cl ose and fami l i ar conver sati on wi th God. We have
an i l l ustr ati on of thi s i n the l i fe of Moses, the si ght of whose face the peopl e coul d
not bear, by reason of the gl ory that rested upon i t—the effect of hi s speaki ng to
God face to face.
1
8. Whi l e the Hol y Spi r i t i s br eathi ng thr ough the gar den—thi s i s Hi s vi si tati on of
the soul —the Br i degr oom Son of God communi cates Hi msel f to i t i n a pr ofound
way, enamor ed of i t. I t i s for thi s that He sends the Hol y Spi r i t befor e Hi m—as He
sent the Apostl es
2
—to make r eady the chamber of the soul Hi s br i de, comfor ti ng i t
wi th del i ght, setti ng i ts gar den i n or der , openi ng i ts fl ower s, r eveal i ng i ts gi fts,
and ador ni ng i t wi th the tapestr y of gr aces. The br i de-soul l ongs for thi s wi th al l
i ts mi ght, and ther efor e bi ds the nor th wi nd not to bl ow, and i nvokes the south
wi nd to bl ow thr ough the gar den, because she gai ns much her e at once.
9. The br i de now gai ns the fr ui ti on of al l her vi r tues i n thei r sweetest exer ci se.
She gai ns the fr ui ti on of her Bel oved i n them, because i t i s thr ough them that He
conver ses wi th her i n most i nti mate l ove, and gr ants her favor s gr eater than any
of the past. She gai ns, too, that her Bel oved del i ghts mor e i n her because of the
actual exer ci se of vi r tue, whi ch i s what pl eases her most, namel y, that her
Bel oved shoul d be pl eased wi th her . She gai ns al so the per manent conti nuance of
the sweet fr agr ance whi ch r emai ns i n the soul whi l e the Br i degr oom i s pr esent,
1
Exod. 34:30
2
Luke 22:8
72 A Spiritual Canticle
and the br i de enter tai ns Hi m wi th the sweetness of her vi r tues, as i t i s wr i tten:
“Whi l e the Ki ng was at Hi s r epose,” that i s, i n the soul , “my spi kenar d sent for th
i ts odor .”
1
The spi kenar d i s the soul , whi ch fr om the fl ower s of i ts vi r tues sends
forth sweet odors to the Bel oved, Who dwel l s wi thi n i t i n the uni on of l ove.
10. I t i s therefore very much to be desi red that every soul shoul d pray the Hol y
Spi r i t to bl ow thr ough i ts gar den, that the di vi ne odor s of God may fl ow. And as
thi s i s so necessar y, so bl i ssful and pr ofi tabl e to the soul , the br i de desi r es i t, and
pr ays for i t, i n the wor ds of the Canti cl e, sayi ng, “ Ar i se, nor th wi nd, and come,
south wi nd; bl ow thr ough my gar den, and l et the ar omati c spi ces ther eof fl ow.”
2
The soul pr ays for thi s, not because of the del i ght and bl i ss consequent upon i t, but
because of the del i ght i t mi ni sters to the Bel oved, and because i t prepares the way
and announces the pr esence of the Son of God, Who comes to r ejoi ce i n i t. Hence
the soul adds:
“And my Beloved shall feed among the flowers.”
11. The del i ght whi ch the Son of God fi nds now i n the soul i s descr i bed as pastur e.
Thi s wor d expr esses most for ci bl y the tr uth, because pastur e not onl y gl addens,
but al so sustai ns. Thus the Son of God del i ghts i n the soul , i n the del i ghts ther eof,
and i s sustai ned i n them—that i s, He abi des wi thi n i t as i n a pl ace whi ch pl eases
Hi m exceedi ngl y, because the pl ace i tsel f r eal l y del i ghts i n Hi m. Thi s, I bel i eve, i s
the meani ng of those wor ds r ecor ded i n the pr over bs of Sol omon: “My del i ghts
wer e to be wi th the chi l dr en of men;”
3
that i s, when they del i ght to be wi th Me,
Who am the Son of God.
12. Observe, here, that i t i s not sai d that the Bel oved shal l feed on the fl owers, but
that He shal l feed among the fl ower s. For , as the communi cati ons of the Bel oved
ar e i n the soul i tsel f, thr ough the ador nment of the vi r tues, i t fol l ows that what He
feeds on i s the soul whi ch He tr ansfor med i nto Hi msel f, now that i t i s pr epar ed
and ador ned wi th these fl ower s of vi r tues, gr aces, and per fecti ons, whi ch ar e the
thi ngs wher eby, and among whi ch, He feeds. These, by the power of the Hol y
Spi ri t, are sendi ng forth i n the soul the odors of sweetness to the Son of God, that
He may feed there the more i n the l ove thereof; for thi s i s the l ove of the
Br i degr oom, to be uni ted to the soul ami d the fr agr ance of the fl ower s.
13. The br i de i n the Canti cl e has obser ved thi s, for she had exper i ence of i t,
sayi ng: “My Bel oved i s gone down i nto Hi s gar den, to the bed of ar omati c spi ces,
to feed i n the gardens, and to gather l i l i es. I to my Bel oved, and my Bel oved to me,
Who feeds among the l i l i es.”
4
That i s, “ Who feeds and del i ghts i n my soul , whi ch
i s Hi s gar den, among the l i l i es of my vi r tues, per fecti ons, and gr aces.”
NOTE
I N the state of spi r i tual espousal s the soul contempl ati ng i ts gr eat r i ches and
excel l ence, but unabl e to enter i nto the possessi on and fr ui ti on of them as i t
desi r es, because i t i s sti l l i n the fl esh, often suffer s exceedi ngl y, and then mor e
1
Cant. 1:11
2
Cant. 4:16
3
Prov. 8:31
4
Cant. 6:1,2
Stanza XVII 73
par ti cul ar l y when i ts knowl edge of them becomes mor e pr ofound. I t then sees
i tsel f i n the body, l i ke a pr i nce i n pr i son, subject to al l mi ser y, whose author i ty i s
di sr egar ded, whose ter r i tor i es and weal th ar e confi scated, and who of hi s for mer
substance r ecei ves but a mi ser abl e dol e. How gr eatl y he suffer s anyone may see,
especi al l y when hi s househol d i s no l onger obedi ent, and hi s sl aves and ser vants,
for getti ng al l r espect, pl under hi m of the scanty pr ovi si ons of hi s tabl e. Thus i s i t
wi th the soul i n the body, for when God merci ful l y admi ts i t to a foretaste of the
good thi ngs whi ch He has pr epar ed for i t, the wi cked ser vants of desi r e i n the
sensual par t, now a sl ave of di sor der l y moti ons, now other r ebel l i ous movements,
ri se up agai nst i t i n order to rob i t of i ts good.
2. The soul feel s i tsel f as i f i t were i n the l and of enemi es, tyranni zed over by the
str anger , l i ke the dead among the dead. I ts feel i ngs ar e those whi ch the pr ophet
Bar uch gave vent to when he descr i bed the mi ser y of Jacob’s capti vi ty: “How
happens i t, O I sr ael , that you ar e i n your enemi es’ l and? You have gr own ol d i n a
str ange countr y, you ar e defi l ed wi th the dead: you ar e counted wi th them that go
down i nto hel l .”
1
Thi s mi sery of the soul , i n the capti vi ty of the body, i s thus
spoken of by Jer emi ah, sayi ng: “I s I sr ael a bondman or a home-bor n sl ave? Why
then i s he become a pr ey? The l i ons have r oar ed upon hi m, and have made a
noi se.”
2
The l i ons ar e the desi r es and the r ebel l i ous moti ons of the tyr ant ki ng of
sensual i ty. I n or der to expr ess the tr oubl e whi ch thi s tyr ant occasi ons, and the
desi r e of the soul to see thi s ki ngdom of sensual i ty wi th al l i ts hosts destr oyed, or
whol l y subject to the spi ri t, the soul l i fti ng up i ts eyes to the Bri degroom, as to one
who can effect i t, speaks agai nst those r ebel l i ous moti ons i n the wor ds of the next
stanza.
1
Bar. 3:10,11
2
Jer. 2:14,15
STANZA XVIII
O nymphs of J udea!
While amid the flowers and the rose-trees
The amber sends forth its perfume,
Tarry in the suburbs,
And touch not our thresholds.
I T i s the br i de that speaks; for seei ng her sel f, as to the hi gher par t of the soul ,
ador ned wi th the r i ch endowments of her Bel oved, and seei ng Hi m del i ghti ng i n
her , she desi r es to pr eser ve her sel f i n secur i ty, and i n the conti nued fr ui ti on of
them. Seei ng al so that hi ndr ances wi l l ar i se, as i n fact they do, fr om the sensual
par t of the soul , whi ch wi l l di stur b so gr eat a good, she bi ds the oper ati ons and
moti ons of the soul ’s l ower natur e to cease, i n the senses and facul ti es of i t, and
sensual i ty not to overstep i ts boundari es to troubl e and di squi et the hi gher and
spi r i tual por ti on of the soul : not to hi nder even for a moment the sweetness she
enjoys. The moti ons of the l ower par t, and thei r power s, i f they show themsel ves
dur i ng the enjoyment of the spi r i t, ar e so much mor e tr oubl esome and di stur bi ng,
the mor e acti ve they ar e.
“O nymphs of J udea.”
2. The l ower , that i s the sensual par t of the soul , i s cal l ed Judea. I t i s cal l ed Judea
because i t i s weak, and car nal , and bl i nd, l i ke the Jewi sh peopl e. Al l the
i magi nati ons, fanci es, moti ons, and i ncl i nati ons of the l ower par t of the soul ar e
cal l ed nymphs, for as nymphs wi th thei r beauty and attr acti ons enti ce men to l ove
them, so the oper ati ons and moti ons of sensual i ty softl y and ear nestl y str i ve to
enti ce the wi l l fr om the r ati onal par t, i n or der to wi thdr aw i t fr om that whi ch i s
i nter i or , and to fi x i t on that whi ch i s exter i or , to whi ch they ar e pr one
themsel ves. They al so str i ve to i nfl uence the under standi ng to joi n wi th them i n
thei r l ow vi ews, and to bri ng down reason to the l evel of sense by the attracti ons of
the l atter . The soul , ther efor e, says i n effect: “O sensual oper ati ons and moti ons.”
“While amid the flowers and the rose-trees.”
3. The fl ower s, as I have sai d, ar e the vi r tues of the soul , and the r ose-tr ees ar e i ts
power s, memor y, under standi ng, and wi l l , whi ch pr oduce and nur tur e the
fl ower s of di vi ne concepti ons, acts of l ove and the vi r tues, whi l e the amber sends
for th i ts per fume i n the vi r tues and power s of the soul .
“The amber sends forth its perfume.”
4. The amber i s the di vi ne spi r i t of the Br i degr oom Who dwel l s i n the soul . To
send for th the per fume among the fl ower s and the r ose-tr ees, i s to di ffuse and
communi cate Hi msel f most sweetl y i n the power s and vi r tues of the soul , ther eby
fi l l i ng i t wi th the per fume of di vi ne sweetness. Meanwhi l e, then, when the Di vi ne
Spi r i t i s fi l l i ng my soul wi th spi r i tual sweetness,
“Tarry in the suburbs.”
74
Stanza XVIII 75
5. I n the subur bs of Judea, whi ch i s the i nfer i or or sensual par t of the soul . The
subur bs ar e the i nter i or senses, namel y, memor y, fancy, and i magi nati on, wher e
for ms and i mages of thi ngs col l ect, by the hel p of whi ch sensual i ty sti r s up
concupi scence and desi r es. These for ms ar e the nymphs, and whi l e they ar e qui et
and tr anqui l the desi r es ar e al so asl eep. They enter i nto the subur bs of the i nter i or
senses by the gates of the outwar d senses, of si ght, hear i ng, smel l , etc. We can
thus gi ve the name of subur bs to al l the power s and i nter i or or exter i or senses of
the sensual par t of the soul , because they ar e outsi de the wal l s of the ci ty.
6. That par t of the soul whi ch may be cal l ed the ci ty i s that whi ch i s most i nter i or ,
the r ati onal par t, whi ch i s capabl e of conver sati on wi th God, the oper ati ons of
whi ch ar e contr ar y to those of sensual i ty. But ther e i s a natur al i nter cour se
between those who dwel l i n the subur bs of the sensual par t—that i s, the
nymphs—and those who dwel l i n the hi gher par t, whi ch i s the ci ty i tsel f; and,
ther efor e, what takes pl ace i n the l ower par t i s or di nar i l y fel t i n the hi gher , and
consequentl y compel s attenti on to i tsel f and di stur bs the spi r i tual oper ati on whi ch
i s conver sant wi th God. Hence the soul bi ds the nymphs tar r y i n the subur bs—
that i s, to r emai n at r est i n the exter i or and i nter i or senses of the sensual par t,
“And touch not our thresholds.”
7. Let not even your fi r st movements touch the hi gher par t, for the fi r st
movements of the soul ar e the entr ance and thr eshol ds of i t. When the fi r st
movements have passed i nto the r eason, they have cr ossed the thr eshol d, but
when they r emai n as fi r st movements onl y they ar e then sai d mer el y to touch the
thr eshol d, or to cr y at the gate, whi ch i s the case when r eason and sense contend
over an unreasonabl e act. The soul here not onl y bi ds these not to touch i t, but al so
char ges al l consi der ati ons whatever whi ch do not mi ni ster to i ts r epose and the
good i t enjoys to keep far away.
NOTE
THE soul i n thi s state i s become so gr eat an enemy of the l ower par t, and i ts
oper ati ons, that i t woul d have God communi cate nothi ng to i t when He
communi cates wi th the hi gher . I f He wi l l communi cate wi th the l ower , i t must be
i n a sl i ght degr ee, or the soul , because of i ts natur al weakness, wi l l be unabl e to
endur e i t wi thout fai nti ng, and consequentl y the spi r i t cannot r ejoi ce i n peace,
because i t i s then tr oubl ed. “For ,” as the wi se man says, “the body that i s
cor r upted bur dens the soul .”
1
And as the soul l ongs for the hi ghest and nobl est
conver sati on wi th God, whi ch i s i mpossi bl e i n the company of the sensual par t, i t
begs of God to deal wi th i t wi thout the i nterventi on of the senses. That subl i me
vi si on of St. Paul i n the thi r d heaven, wher ei n, he says, he saw God, but yet knew
not whether he was i n the body or out of the body, must have been, be i t what i t
may, i ndependent of the body: for i f the body had any shar e i n i t, he must have
known i t, and the vi si on coul d not have been what i t was, seei ng that he “hear d
secr et wor ds whi ch i t i s not l awful for a man to speak.”
2
The soul , ther efor e,
knowi ng wel l that gr aces so gr eat cannot be r ecei ved i n a vessel so mean, and
l ongi ng to recei ve them out of the body,—or at l east wi thout i t, addresses the
1
Wi sd. 9:15
2
2 Cor. 12:2-4
76 A Spiritual Canticle
Br i degr oom i n the wor ds that fol l ow:
STANZA XIX
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 bri de presents four peti ti ons to the Bri degroom. She prays that He woul d
be pl eased to conver se wi th her most i nter i or l y i n the secr et chamber of the soul .
The second, that He woul d i nvest and i nfor m her facul ti es wi th the gl or y and
excel l ence of Hi s Di vi ni ty. The thi r d, that He woul d conver se wi th her so
pr ofoundl y as to sur pass al l knowl edge and expr essi on, and i n such a way that
the exter i or and sensual par t may not per cei ve i t. The four th, that He woul d l ove
the many vi r tues and gr aces whi ch He has i mpl anted i n her , ador ned wi th whi ch
she i s ascendi ng upwar ds to God i n the hi ghest knowl edge of the Di vi ni ty, and i n
tr anspor ts of l ove most str ange and si ngul ar , sur passi ng those of or di nar y
exper i ence.
“Hide Yourself, O my Beloved!”
2. “O my Br i degr oom, most bel oved, hi de Your sel f i n the i nmost depths of my soul ,
communi cati ng Your sel f to i t i n secr et, and mani festi ng Your hi dden wonder s
whi ch no mor tal eyes may see.
“Turn Your face to the mountains.”
3. The face of God i s Hi s di vi ni ty. The mountai ns ar e the power s of the soul ,
memor y, under standi ng, and wi l l . Thus the meani ng of these wor ds i s:
Enl i ghten my under standi ng wi th Your Di vi ni ty, and gi ve i t the di vi ne
i ntel l i gence, fi l l my wi l l wi th di vi ne l ove, and my memor y wi th di vi ne possessi on
of gl or y. The br i de her e pr ays for al l that may be pr ayed for ; for she i s not content
wi th that knowl edge of God once gr anted to Moses
1
—the knowl edge of Hi m by Hi s
wor ks—for she pr ays to see the face of God, whi ch i s the essenti al communi cati on
of Hi s Di vi ni ty to the soul , wi thout any i nter veni ng medi um, by a cer tai n
knowl edge ther eof i n the Di vi ni ty. Thi s i s somethi ng beyond sense, and di vested of
acci dents, i nasmuch as i t i s the contact of pur e substances—that i s, of the soul
and the Di vi ni ty.
“Do not speak.”
4. That i s, do not speak as befor e, when Your conver sati on wi th me was known to
the outwar d senses, for i t was once such as to be compr ehended by them; i t was
not so pr ofound but they coul d fathom i t. Now l et Your conver sati on wi th me be so
deep and so substanti al , and so i nter i or , as to be above the r each of the senses; for
the substance of the spi r i t i s i ncommuni cabl e to sense, and the communi cati on
made thr ough the senses, especi al l y i n thi s l i fe, cannot be pur el y spi r i tual ,
1
Exod. 33:23
77
78 A Spiritual Canticle
because the senses ar e not capabl e of i t. The soul , ther efor e, l ongi ng for that
substanti al and essenti al communi cati on of God, of whi ch sense cannot be
cogni zant, prays the Bri degroom not to speak: that i s to say, l et the deep secret of
the spi r i tual uni on be such as to escape the noti ce of the senses, l i ke the secr et
whi ch St. Paul hear d, and whi ch i t i s not l awful for a man to speak.
1
“But regard the companions.”
5. The r egar d of God i s l ove and gr ace. The compani ons her e ar e the many vi r tues
of the soul , i ts gi fts, per fecti ons, and other spi r i tual gr aces wi th whi ch God has
endowed i t; pl edges, tokens, and pr esents of i ts betr othal . Thus the meani ng of the
wor ds seems to be thi s: “Tur n Your face to the i nter i or of my soul , O my Bel oved;
be enamor ed of the tr easur es whi ch You have l ai d up ther e, so that, enamor ed of
them, You may hi de Your sel f among them and ther e dwel l ; for i n tr uth, though
they ar e Your s, they ar e mi ne al so, because You have gi ven them.”
“Of her who travels amidst strange islands.”
6. That i s, “ Of my soul tendi ng towar ds You thr ough str ange knowl edge of You,
by str ange ways”—str ange to sense and to the or di nar y per cepti ons of natur e. I t i s
as i f the br i de sai d, by way of constr ai ni ng Hi m to yi el d: “Seei ng that my soul i s
tendi ng towar ds You thr ough knowl edge whi ch i s spi r i tual , str ange, unknown to
sense, al so communi cate Your sel f to i t so i nter i or l y and so pr ofoundl y that the
senses may not obser ve i t.”
NOTE
I N order to the attai nment of a state of perfecti on so hi gh as thi s of the spi ri tual
mar r i age, the soul that ai ms at i t must not onl y be pur i fi ed and cl eansed fr om al l
the i mper fecti ons, r ebel l i ons, and i mper fect habi ts of the i nfer i or par t, whi ch i s
now—the ol d man bei ng put away—subject and obedi ent to the hi gher , but i t must
al so have gr eat cour age and most exal ted l ove for so str ong and cl ose an embr ace
of God. For i n thi s state the soul not onl y attai ns to exceedi ng pur eness and
beauty, but al so acqui res a terri bl e strength by reason of that stri ct and cl ose bond
whi ch i n thi s uni on bi nds i t to God. The soul , ther efor e, i n or der to r each thi s
state must have puri ty, strength, and adequate l ove. The Hol y Spi ri t, the author of
thi s spi r i tual uni on, desi r ous that the soul shoul d attai n thus far i n or der to mer i t
i t, addr esses Hi msel f to the Father and the Son, sayi ng: “Our si ster i s l i ttl e, and
has no br easts. What shal l we do to our si ster i n the day when she i s to be spoken
to? I f she i s a wal l , l et us bui l d upon i t bul war ks of si l ver ; i f she i s a door , l et us
joi n i t together wi th boar ds of cedar .”
2
2. The “bul war ks of si l ver ” ar e the str ong her oi c vi r tues compr i sed i n the fai th,
whi ch i s si gni fi ed by si l ver , and these her oi c vi r tues ar e those of the spi r i tual
mar r i age, whi ch ar e bui l t upon the soul , si gni fi ed by the wal l , r el yi ng on the
str ength of whi ch, the peaceful Br i degr oom r eposes undi stur bed by any
i nfi r mi ti es. The “boar ds of cedar ” ar e the affecti ons and accessor i es of thi s deep
l ove whi ch i s si gni fi ed by the cedar -tr ee, and thi s i s the l ove of the spi r i tual
mar r i age. I n or der “to joi n i t together ,” that i s, to ador n the br i de, i t i s necessar y
1
2 Cor. 12:4
2
Cant. 8:8
Stanza XIX 79
she shoul d be the door for the Br i degr oom to enter thr ough, keepi ng the door of the
wi l l open i n a per fect and tr ue consent of l ove, whi ch i s the consent of the betr othal
gi ven pr evi ous to the spi r i tual mar r i age. The br easts of the br i de ar e al so thi s
per fect l ove whi ch she must have i n or der to appear i n the pr esence of Chr i st her
Br i degr oom for the per fecti on of such a state.
3. I t i s wr i tten i n the Canti cl e that the br i de i n her l ongi ng for thi s pr esence
i mmedi atel y r epl i ed, sayi ng: “ I am a wal l : and my br easts ar e as a tower ” —that
i s, “My soul i s str ong, and my l ove most deep”—that He may not fai l her on that
gr ound. The br i de, too, had expr essed as much i n the pr ecedi ng stanzas, out of
the ful l ness of her l ongi ng for the per fect uni on and tr ansfor mati on, and
par ti cul ar l y i n the l ast, wher ei n she set befor e the Br i degr oom al l the vi r tues,
gr aces, and good di sposi ti ons wi th whi ch she was ador ned by Hi m, and that wi th
the object of maki ng Hi m the pr i soner of her l ove.
4. Now the Br i degr oom, to br i ng thi s matter to a cl ose, r epl i es i n the two stanzas
that fol l ow, whi ch descr i be Hi m as per fectl y pur i fyi ng the soul , str engtheni ng
and di sposi ng i t, both as to i ts sensual and spi r i tual par t, for thi s state, and
char gi ng al l r esi stance and r ebel l i on, both of the fl esh and of the devi l , to cease,
sayi ng:
STANZAS XX, XXI
THE BRI DEGROOM
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 Bri degroom, l eads the bri de i nto the enjoyment of peace
and tr anqui l l i ty i n the confor mi ty of her l ower to her hi gher natur e, pur gi ng
away al l her i mper fecti ons, subjecti ng the natur al power s of the soul to r eason,
and mor ti fyi ng al l her desi r es, as i t i s expr essed i n these two stanzas, the
meani ng of whi ch i s as fol l ows. I n the fi r st pl ace the Br i degr oom adjur es and
commands al l vai n di str acti ons of the fancy and i magi nati on fr om hencefor th to
cease, and contr ol s the i r asci bl e and concupi sci bl e facul ti es whi ch wer e
pr evi ousl y the sour ces of so much affl i cti on. He br i ngs, so far as i t i s possi bl e i n
thi s l i fe, the thr ee power s of memor y, under standi ng, and wi l l to the per fecti on of
thei r objects, and then adjur es and commands the four passi ons of the soul , joy,
hope, gr i ef, and fear , to be sti l l , and bi ds them fr om hencefor th be moder ate and
cal m.
2. Al l these passi ons and facul ti es ar e compr ehended under the expr essi ons
empl oyed i n the fi r st stanza, the oper ati ons of whi ch, ful l of tr oubl e, the
Br i degr oom subdues by that gr eat sweetness, joy, and cour age whi ch the br i de
enjoys i n the spi r i tual sur r ender of Hi msel f to her whi ch God makes at thi s ti me;
under the i nfl uence of whi ch, because God tr ansfor ms the soul effectual l y i n
Hi msel f, al l the facul ti es, desi r es, and movements of the soul l ose thei r natur al
i mper fecti on and become di vi ne.
“Light-winged birds.”
3. These ar e the di str acti ons of the i magi nati on, l i ght and r api d i n thei r fl i ght
fr om one subject to another . When the wi l l i s tr anqui l l y enjoyi ng the sweet
conver sati on of the Bel oved, these di str acti ons pr oduce wear i ness, and i n thei r
swi ft fl i ght quench i ts joy. The Br i degr oom adjur es them by the soft l yr es. That i s,
now that the sweetness of the soul i s so abundant and so conti nuous that they
cannot i nter fer e wi th i t, as they di d befor e when i t had not r eached thi s state, He
adjur es them, and bi ds them cease fr om thei r di squi eti ng vi ol ence. The same
expl anati on i s to be gi ven of the rest of the stanza.
“Lions, fawns, bounding does.”
80
Stanzas XX, XXI 81
4. By the l i ons i s meant the r agi ng vi ol ence of the i r asci bl e facul ty, whi ch i n i ts
acts i s bol d and dar i ng as a l i on. The “fawns and boundi ng does” ar e the
concupi sci bl e facul ty—that i s, the power of desi r e, the qual i ti es of whi ch ar e two,
ti mi di ty and r ashness. Ti mi di ty betr ays i tsel f when thi ngs do not tur n out
accor di ng to our wi shes, for then the mi nd r eti r es wi thi n i tsel f di scour aged, and
i n thi s r espect the soul r esembl es the fawns. For as fawns have the concupi sci bl e
facul ty str onger than many other ani mal s, so ar e they mor e r eti r i ng and mor e
ti mi d. Rashness betr ays i tsel f when we have our own way, for the mi nd i s then
nei ther r eti r i ng nor ti mi d, but desi r es bol dl y, and gr ati fi es al l i ts i ncl i nati ons.
Thi s qual i ty of r ashness i s compar ed to the does, who so eager l y seek what they
desi re that they not onl y run, but even l eap after i t; hence they are descri bed as
boundi ng does.
5. Thus the Br i degr oom, i n adjur i ng the l i ons, r estr ai ns the vi ol ence and contr ol s
the fur y of r age; i n adjur i ng the fawns, He str engthens the concupi sci bl e facul ty
agai nst ti mi di ty and i r r esol uti on; and i n adjur i ng the does He sati sfi es and
subdues the desi r es whi ch wer e r estl ess befor e, l eapi ng, l i ke deer , fr om one object
to another , to sati sfy that concupi scence whi ch i s now sati sfi ed by the soft l yr es,
the sweetness of whi ch i t enjoys, and by the si r en str ai ns, i n the del i ght of whi ch
i t revel s.
6. But the Br i degr oom does not adjur e anger and concupi scence themsel ves,
because these passi ons never cease fr om the soul —but thei r vexati ons and
di sor der l y acts, si gni fi ed by the “l i ons, fawns, and boundi ng does,” for i t i s
necessar y that these di sor der l y acts shoul d cease i n thi s state.
“Mountains, valleys, strands.”
7. These ar e the vi ci ous and di sor der l y acti ons of the thr ee facul ti es of the soul —
memor y, under standi ng, and wi l l . These acti ons ar e di sor der l y and vi ci ous when
they ar e i n extr emes, or , i f not i n extr eme, tendi ng to one extr eme or other . Thus
the mountai ns si gni fy those acti ons whi ch ar e vi ci ous i n excess, mountai ns bei ng
hi gh; the val l eys, bei ng l ow, si gni fy those whi ch ar e vi ci ous i n the extr eme of
defect. Str ands, whi ch ar e nei ther hi gh nor l ow, but, i nasmuch as they ar e not
per fectl y l evel , tend to one extr eme or other , si gni fy those acts of the thr ee power s
of the soul whi ch depar t sl i ghtl y i n ei ther di r ecti on fr om the tr ue mean and
equal i ty of justi ce. These acti ons, though not di sor der l y i n the extr eme, as they
woul d be i f they amounted to mor tal si n, ar e never thel ess di sor der l y i n par t,
tendi ng towar ds veni al si n or i mper fecti on, however sl i ght that tendency may be,
i n the under standi ng, memor y, and wi l l . He adjur es al so al l these acti ons whi ch
depar t fr om the tr ue mean, and bi ds them cease befor e the soft l yr es and the si r en
str ai ns, whi ch so effectual l y char m the power s of the soul as to occupy them
compl etel y i n thei r tr ue and pr oper functi ons, so that they avoi d not onl y al l
extr emes, but al so the sl i ghtest tendency to them.
“Waters, winds, heat, and the terrors
that keep watch by night.”
8. These ar e the affecti ons of the four passi ons, gr i ef, hope, joy, and fear . The
water s ar e the affecti ons of gr i ef whi ch affl i ct the soul , for they r ush i nto i t l i ke
water . “Save me, O God,” says the Psal mi st, “for the water s have come i n even to
82 A Spiritual Canticle
my soul .”
1
The wi nds ar e the affecti ons of hope, for they r ush for th l i ke wi nd,
desi r i ng what whi ch i s not pr esent but hoped for , as the Psal mi st says: “I opened
my mouth and dr ew br eath: because I l onged for Your commandments.”
2
That i s,
“I opened the mouth of my hope, and dr ew i n the wi nd of desi r e, because I hoped
and l onged for Your commandments.” Heat i s the affecti ons of joy whi ch, l i ke
fi r e, i nfl ame the hear t, as i t i s wr i tten: “My hear t waxed hot wi thi n me; and i n my
medi tati on a fi r e shal l bur n” ;
3
that i s, “whi l e I medi tate I shal l have joy.”
9. The “ter r or s that keep watch by ni ght” ar e the affecti ons of fear , whi ch i n
spi r i tual per sons who have not attai ned to the state of spi r i tual mar r i age ar e
usual l y exceedi ngl y str ong. They come someti mes fr om God when He i s goi ng to
bestow cer tai n gr eat gr aces upon soul s, as I sai d befor e;
4
He i s wont then to fi l l the
mi nd wi th dr ead, to make the fl esh tr embl e and the senses numb, because natur e
i s not made str ong and per fect and pr epar ed for these gr aces. They come al so at
ti mes fr om the evi l spi r i t, who, out of envy and mal i gni ty, when he sees a soul
sweetl y r ecol l ected i n God, l abor s to di stur b i ts tr anqui l l i ty by exci ti ng hor r or and
dr ead, i n or der to destr oy so gr eat a bl essi ng, and someti mes utter s hi s thr eats, as
i t wer e i n the i nter i or of the soul . But when he fi nds that he cannot penetr ate
wi thi n the soul , because i t i s so r ecol l ected, and so uni ted wi th God, he str i ves at
l east i n the pr ovi nce of sense to pr oduce exter i or di str acti ons and i nconstancy,
sensi bl e pai ns and hor r or s, i f per chance he may i n thi s way di stur b the soul i n
the br i dal chamber .
10. These ar e cal l ed ter r or s of the ni ght, because they ar e the wor k of evi l spi r i ts,
and because Satan l abor s, by the hel p ther eof, to i nvol ve the soul i n dar kness, and
to obscur e the di vi ne l i ght wher ei n i t r ejoi ces. These ter r or s ar e cal l ed watcher s,
because they awaken the soul and r ouse i t fr om i ts sweet i nter i or sl umber , and
al so because Satan, thei r author , i s ever on the watch to pr oduce them. These
ter r or s str i ke the soul of per sons who ar e al r eady spi r i tual , passi vel y, and come
ei ther fr om God or the evi l spi r i t. I do not r efer to tempor al or natur al ter r or s,
because spi r i tual men ar e not subject to these, as they ar e to those of whi ch I am
speaki ng.
11. The Bel oved adjur es the affecti ons of these four passi ons, compel s them to
cease and to be at r est, because He suppl i es the br i de now wi th for ce, and cour age,
and sati sfacti on, by the soft l yr es of Hi s sweetness and the si r en str ai ns of Hi s
del i ght, so that not onl y they shal l not domi neer over the soul , but shal l not
occasi on i t any di staste whatever . Such i s the gr andeur and stabi l i ty of the soul i n
thi s state, that, al though for mer l y the water s of gr i ef over whel med i t, because of
i ts own or other men’s si ns—whi ch i s what spi r i tual per sons most feel —the
consi der ati on of them now exci tes nei ther pai n nor annoyance; even the sensi bl e
feel i ng of compassi on no l onger exi sts, though the effects of i t conti nue i n
per fecti on. The weaknesses of i ts vi r tues ar e no l onger i n the soul , for they ar e
now constant, str ong, and per fect. As the angel s per fectl y appr eci ate al l sor r owful
thi ngs wi thout the sense of pai n, and per for m acts of mer cy wi thout the senti ment
of pi ty, so the soul i n thi s tr ansfor mati on of l ove. God, however , di spenses
someti mes, on cer tai n occasi ons, wi th the soul i n thi s matter , al l owi ng i t to feel
1
Ps. 68:2
2
Ps. 118:131
3
Ps. 38:4
4
Stanza xi i i sect. 4; xi v sect. 26.
Stanzas XX, XXI 83
and suffer , that i t may become mor e fer vent i n l ove, and gr ow i n mer i t, or for
some other r easons, as He di spensed wi th Hi s Vi r gi n Mother , St. Paul , and
other s. Thi s, however , i s not the or di nar y condi ti on of thi s state.
12. Nei ther do the desi r es of hope affl i ct the soul now, because, sati sfi ed i n i ts
uni on wi th God, so far as i t i s possi bl e i n thi s l i fe, i t has nothi ng of thi s wor l d to
hope for, and nothi ng spi ri tual to desi re, seei ng that i t feel s i tsel f to be ful l of the
r i ches of God, though i t may gr ow i n char i ty, and thus, whether l i vi ng or dyi ng, i t
i s confor med to the wi l l of God, sayi ng wi th the sense and spi r i t, “Your wi l l be
done,” fr ee fr om the vi ol ence of i ncl i nati on and desi r es; and accor di ngl y even i ts
l ongi ng for the beati fi c vi si on i s wi thout pai n.
13. The affecti ons of joy, al so, whi ch wer e wont to move the soul wi th mor e or l ess
vehemence, ar e not sensi bl y di mi ni shed; nei ther does thei r abundance occasi on
any sur pr i se. The joy of the soul i s now so abundant that i t i s l i ke the sea, whi ch i s
not di mi ni shed by the ri vers that fl ow out of i t, nor i ncreased by those that empty
themsel ves i nto i t; for the soul i s now that fountai n of whi ch our Lor d sai d that i t
i s “ spr i ngi ng up i nto l i fe ever l asti ng.”
1
14. I have sai d that the soul r ecei ves nothi ng new or unusual i n thi s state of
tr ansfor mati on; i t seems to l ose al l acci dental joy, whi ch i s not wi thhel d even
fr om the gl or i fi ed. That i s, acci dental joys and sweetness ar e i ndeed no str anger s
to thi s soul ; i ndeed, those whi ch i t or di nar i l y has cannot be number ed; yet, for al l
thi s, as to the substanti al communi cati on of the spi r i t, ther e i s no i ncr ease of joy,
for that whi ch may occur anew the soul possesses al r eady, and thus what the soul
has al r eady wi thi n i tsel f i s gr eater than anythi ng that comes anew. Hence, then,
whenever any subject of joy and gl adness, whether exter i or or spi r i tual l y i nter i or ,
pr esents i tsel f to the soul , the soul i mmedi atel y star ts r ejoi ci ng i n the r i ches i t
possesses al r eady wi thi n i tsel f, and the joy i t has i n them i s far gr eater than any
whi ch these new accessi ons mi ni ster , because, i n a cer tai n sense, God i s become
i ts possessi on, Who, though He del i ghts i n al l thi ngs, yet i n nothi ng so much as
i n Hi msel f, seei ng that He has al l good emi nentl y i n Hi msel f. Thus al l accessi ons
of joy ser ve to r emi nd the soul that i ts r eal joy i s i n i ts i nter i or possessi ons, r ather
than i n these acci dental causes, because, as I have sai d, the for mer ar e gr eater
than the l atter.
15. I t i s ver y natur al for the soul , even when a par ti cul ar matter gi ves i t pl easur e,
that, possessi ng another of gr eater wor th and gl adness, i t shoul d r emember i t at
once and take i ts pl easur e i n i t. The acci dental char acter of these spi r i tual
accessi ons, and the new i mpr essi ons they make on the soul , may be sai d to be as
nothi ng i n compar i son wi th that substanti al sour ce whi ch i t has wi thi n i tsel f: for
the soul whi ch has attai ned to the per fect tr ansfor mati on, and i s ful l -gr own,
gr ows no mor e i n thi s state by means of these spi r i tual accessi ons, as those soul s
do who have not yet advanced so far . I t i s a mar vel ous thi ng that the soul , whi l e i t
r ecei ves no accessi ons of del i ght, shoul d sti l l seem to do so and al so to have been
i n possessi on of them. The r eason i s that i t i s al ways tasti ng them anew, because
they ar e ever r enewed; and thus i t seems to be conti nual l y the r eci pi ent of new
accessi ons, whi l e i t has no need of them whatever .
16. But i f we speak of that l i ght of gl or y whi ch i n thi s, the soul ’s embr ace, God
1
John 4:14
84 A Spiritual Canticle
someti mes pr oduces wi thi n i t, and whi ch i s a cer tai n spi r i tual communi on
wher ei n He causes i t to behol d and enjoy at the same ti me the abyss of del i ght and
r i ches whi ch He has l ai d up wi thi n i t, ther e i s no l anguage to expr ess any degr ee
of i t. As the sun when i t shi nes upon the sea i l l umi nes i ts gr eat depths, and
r eveal s the pear l s, and gol d, and pr eci ous stones ther ei n, so the di vi ne sun of the
Br i degr oom, tur ni ng towar ds the br i de, r eveal s i n a way the r i ches of her soul , so
that even the angel s behol d her wi th amazement and say: “Who i s she that comes
for th as the mor ni ng r i si ng, fai r as the moon, br i ght as the sun, ter r i bl e as the
ar my of a camp set i n ar r ay.”
1
Thi s i l l umi nati on adds nothi ng to the gr andeur of
the soul , notwi thstandi ng i ts gr eatness, because i t mer el y r eveal s that whi ch the
soul al r eady possessed i n or der that i t mi ght r ejoi ce i n i t.
17. Fi nal l y, the ter r or s that keep watch by ni ght do not come cl ose to her , because
of her pur eness, cour age, and confi dent tr ust i n God; the evi l spi r i ts cannot
shr oud her i n dar kness, nor al ar m her wi th ter r or s, nor di stur b her wi th thei r
vi ol ent assaul ts. Thus nothi ng can appr oach her , nothi ng can mol est her , for she
has escaped fr om al l cr eated thi ngs and enter ed i nto God, to the fr ui ti on of per fect
peace, sweetness, and del i ght, so far as that i s possi bl e i n thi s l i fe. I t i s to thi s
state that the wor ds of Sol omon ar e appl i cabl e: “A secur e mi nd i s as i t wer e a
conti nual feast.”
2
As i n a feast we have the savor of al l meat, and the sweetness of
al l musi c, so i n thi s feast, whi ch the br i de keeps i n the bosom of her Bel oved, the
soul r ejoi ces i n al l del i ght, and has the taste of al l sweetness. Al l that I have sai d,
and al l that may be sai d, on thi s subject, wi l l al ways fal l shor t of that whi ch
passes i n the soul whi ch has attai ned to thi s bl essed state. For when i t shal l have
attai ned to the peace of God, “whi ch,” i n the wor ds of the Apostl e, “sur passes al l
under standi ng,”
3
no descri pti on of i ts state i s possi bl e.
“By the soft lyres and the siren strains I adjure you.”
18. The soft l yr es ar e the sweetness whi ch the Br i degr oom communi cates to the
soul i n thi s state, and by whi ch He makes al l i ts tr oubl es to cease. As the musi c of
l yr es fi l l s the soul wi th sweetness and del i ght, car r i es i t r aptur ousl y out of i tsel f,
so that i t for gets al l i ts wear i ness and gr i ef, so i n l i ke manner thi s sweetness so
absor bs the soul that nothi ng pai nful can r each i t. The Br i degr oom says, i n
substance: “By that sweetness whi ch I gi ve you, l et al l your bi tter ness cease.” The
si r en str ai ns ar e the or di nar y joys of the soul . These ar e cal l ed si r en str ai ns
because, as i t i s sai d, the musi c of the si r ens i s so sweet and del i ci ous that he who
hear s i t i s so r apt and so car r i ed out of hi msel f that he for gets ever ythi ng. I n the
same way the soul i s so absor bed i n, and r efr eshed by, the del i ght of thi s uni on
that i t becomes, as i t wer e, char med agai nst al l the vexati ons and tr oubl es that
may assai l i t; i t i s to these the next wor ds of the stanza r efer :
“Let your fury cease.”
19. Thi s i s the tr oubl es and anxi eti es whi ch fl ow fr om unr ul y acts and affecti ons.
As anger i s a cer tai n vi ol ence whi ch di stur bs peace, over l appi ng i ts bounds, so
al so al l these affecti ons i n thei r moti ons tr ansgr ess the bounds of the peace and
tr anqui l l i ty of the soul , di stur bi ng i t whenever they touch i t. Hence the
1
Cant. 6:9
2
Prov. 15:15
3
Phi l . 4:7
Stanzas XX, XXI 85
Br i degr oom says:
“And touch not the wall.”
20. The wal l i s the ter r i tor y of peace and the for tr ess of vi r tue and per fecti ons,
whi ch ar e the defenses and pr otecti on of the soul . The soul i s the gar den wher ei n
the Bel oved feeds among the fl ower s, defended and guar ded for Hi m al one. Hence
i t i s cal l ed i n the Canti cl e “a gar den encl osed.”
1
The Br i degr oom bi ds al l
di sor der l y emoti ons not to touch the ter r i tor y and wal l of Hi s gar den.
21. “That the br i de may sl eep i n gr eater secur i ty.” That i s, that she i s del i ghti ng
her sel f wi th mor e sweetness i n the tr anqui l l i ty and sweetness she has i n the
Bel oved. That i s to say, that now no door i s shut agai nst the soul , and that i t i s i n
i ts power to abandon i tsel f whenever i t wi l l s to thi s sweet sl eep of l ove, accor di ng
to the wor ds of the Br i degr oom i n the Canti cl e, “I adjur e you, O daughter s of
Jer usal em, by the r oes and the har ts of the fi el ds, that you r ai se not up nor make
the bel oved to awake ti l l hersel f wi l l .”
2
NOTE
THE Br i degr oom was so anxi ous to r escue Hi s br i de fr om the power of the fl esh
and the devi l and to set her fr ee, that, havi ng done so, He r ejoi ces over her l i ke the
good shepher d who, havi ng found the sheep that was l ost, l ai d i t upon hi s
shoul der s r ejoi ci ng; l i ke the woman who, havi ng found the money she had l ost,
after l i ghti ng a candl e and sweepi ng the house, cal l ed “together her fr i ends and
nei ghbor s, sayi ng, Rejoi ce wi th me.”
3
So thi s l ovi ng Shepher d and Br i degr oom of
soul s shows a mar vel ous joy and del i ght when He behol ds a soul gai ned to
per fecti on l yi ng on Hi s shoul der s, and by Hi s hands hel d fast i n the l onged-for
embr ace and uni on. He i s not al one i n Hi s joy, for He makes the angel s and the
soul s of the bl essed par taker s of Hi s gl or y, sayi ng, as i n the Canti cl e, “Go for th,
you daughter s of Zi on, and see ki ng Sol omon i n the di adem wi th whi ch hi s
mother cr owned hi m i n the day of hi s betr othal , and i n the day of the joy of hi s
hear t.”
4
He cal l s the soul Hi s cr own, Hi s br i de, and the joy of Hi s hear t: He
car r i es i t i n Hi s ar ms, and as a br i degr oom l eads i t i nto Hi s br i dal chamber , as
we shal l see i n the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Cant. 4:12
2
Cant. 3:5
3
Luke 15:5,8,9
4
Cant. 3:11
STANZA XXII
The bride has entered
The pleasant and desirable garden,
And there reposes to her heart’s content;
Her neck recl i ni ng
On the sweet arms of the Beloved.
THE br i de havi ng done what she coul d i n or der that the foxes may be caught, the
nor th wi nd cease, the nymphs, hi ndr ances to the desi r ed joy of the state of
spi r i tual mar r i age, for go thei r tr oubl esome i mpor tuni ti es, and havi ng al so
i nvoked and obtai ned the favorabl e wi nd of the Hol y Spi ri t, whi ch i s the ri ght
di sposi ti on and means for the per fecti on of thi s state, i t r emai ns for me now to
speak of i t i n the stanza i n whi ch the Br i degr oom cal l s the soul Hi s br i de, and
speaks of two thi ngs: 1. He says that the soul , havi ng gone for th vi ctor i ousl y, has
enter ed the del ectabl e state of spi r i tual mar r i age, whi ch they had both so
earnestl y desi red. 2. He enumerates the properti es of that state, i nto the frui ti on of
whi ch the soul has enter ed, namel y, per fect r epose, and the r esti ng of the neck on
the arms of the Bel oved.
“The bride has entered.”
2. For the better under standi ng of the ar r angement of these stanzas, and of the
way by whi ch the soul advances ti l l i t r eaches the state of spi r i tual mar r i age,
whi ch i s the ver y hi ghest, and of whi ch, by the gr ace of God, I am now about to
treat, we must keep i n mi nd that the soul , before i t enters i t, must be tri ed i n
tr i bul ati ons, i n shar p mor ti fi cati ons, and i n medi tati on on spi r i tual thi ngs. Thi s
i s the subject of thi s canti cl e ti l l we come to the fi fth stanza, begi nni ng wi th the
wor ds, “ A thousand gr aces di ffusi ng.” Then the soul enter s on the contempl ati ve
l i fe, passi ng thr ough those ways and str ai ts of l ove whi ch ar e descr i bed i n the
cour se of the canti cl e, ti l l we come to the thi r teenth, begi nni ng wi th “Tur n them
away, O my Bel oved!” Thi s i s the moment of the spi r i tual betr othal ; and then the
soul advances by the uni ti ve way, the r eci pi ent of many and ver y gr eat
communi cati ons, jewel s and gi fts fr om the Br i degr oom as to one betr othed, and
gr ows i nto per fect l ove, as appear s fr om the stanzas whi ch fol l ow that begi nni ng
wi th “Tur n them away, O my Bel oved!” (the moment of betr othal ), to the pr esent,
begi nni ng wi th the wor ds:
“The bride has entered.”
3. The spi r i tual mar r i age of the soul and the Son of God now r emai ns to be
accompl i shed. Thi s i s, beyond al l compar i son, a far hi gher state than that of
betrothal , because i t i s a compl ete transformati on i nto the Bel oved; whereby they
sur r ender each to the other the enti r e possessi on of themsel ves i n the per fect
uni on of l ove, wher ei n the soul becomes di vi ne, and, by par ti ci pati on, God, so far
as i t i s i n thi s l i fe. I bel i eve that no soul ever attai ns to thi s state wi thout bei ng
confi r med i n gr ace, for the fai thful ness of both i s confi r med; that of God bei ng
confi r med i n the soul . Hence i t fol l ows, that thi s i s the ver y hi ghest state possi bl e
86
Stanza XXII 87
i n thi s l i fe. As by natur al mar r i age ther e ar e “two i n one fl esh,”
1
so al so i n the
spi r i tual mar r i age between God and the soul ther e ar e two natur es i n one spi r i t
and l ove, as we l ear n fr om St. Paul , who made use of the same metaphor , sayi ng,
“He that cl eaves to the Lord i s one spi ri t.”
2
So, when the l i ght of a star, or of a
candl e, i s uni ted to that of the sun, the l i ght i s not that of the star, nor of the
candl e, but of the sun i tsel f, whi ch absor bs al l other l i ght i n i ts own.
4. I t i s of thi s state that the Br i degr oom i s now speaki ng, sayi ng, “The br i de has
enter ed”; that i s, out of al l tempor al and natur al thi ngs, out of al l spi r i tual
affecti ons, ways, and methods, havi ng l eft on one si de, and for gotten, al l
temptati ons, tr i al s, sor r ows, anxi eti es and car es, tr ansfor med i n thi s embr ace.
“The pleasant and desirable garden.”
5. That i s, the soul i s tr ansfor med i n God, Who i s her e cal l ed the pl easant gar den
because of the del i ci ous and sweet r epose whi ch the soul fi nds i n Hi m. But the
soul does not enter the gar den of per fect tr ansfor mati on, the gl or y and the joy of
the spi r i tual mar r i age, wi thout passi ng fi r st thr ough the spi r i tual betr othal , the
mutual fai thful l ove of the betr othed. When the soul has l i ved for some ti me as the
bri de of the Son, i n perfect and sweet l ove, God cal l s i t and l eads i t i nto Hi s
fl our i shi ng gar den for the cel ebr ati on of the spi r i tual mar r i age. Then the two
natur es ar e so uni ted, what i s di vi ne i s so communi cated to what i s human, that,
wi thout under goi ng any essenti al change, each seems to be God—yet not per fectl y
so i n thi s l i fe, though sti l l i n a manner whi ch can nei ther be descr i bed nor
concei ved.
6. We l ear n thi s tr uth ver y cl ear l y fr om the Br i degr oom Hi msel f i n the Canti cl e,
wher e He i nvi tes the soul , now Hi s br i de, to enter thi s state, sayi ng: “I am come
i nto my gar den, O My si ster , My br i de: I have gather ed My myr r h wi th My
ar omati c spi ces.”
3
He cal l s the soul Hi s si ster , Hi s br i de, for i t i s such i n l ove by
that surrender whi ch i t has made of i tsel f before He had cal l ed i t to the state of
spi r i tual mar r i age, when, as He says, He gather ed Hi s myr r h wi th Hi s ar omati c
spi ces; that i s, the fr ui ts of fl ower s now r i pe and made r eady for the soul , whi ch
ar e the del i ghts and gr andeur s communi cated to i t by Hi msel f i n thi s state, that i s
Hi msel f, and for whi ch He i s the pl easant and desi r abl e gar den.
7. The whol e ai m and desi r e of the soul and of God, i n al l thi s, i s the
accompl i shment and per fecti on of thi s state, and the soul i s ther efor e never wear y
ti l l i t r eaches i t; because i t fi nds ther e a much gr eater abundance and ful l ness i n
God, a mor e secur e and l asti ng peace, and a sweetness i ncompar abl y mor e
per fect than i n the spi r i tual betr othal , seei ng that i t r eposes between the ar ms of
such a Br i degr oom, Whose spi r i tual embr aces ar e so r eal that i t, thr ough them,
l i ves the l i fe of God. Now i s ful fi l l ed what St. Paul r efer r ed to when he sai d: “I l i ve;
now not I , but Chr i st l i ves i n me.”
4
And now that the soul l i ves a l i fe so happy and
so gl or i ous as thi s l i fe of God, consi der what a sweet l i fe i t must be—a l i fe wher e
God sees nothi ng di spl easi ng, and wher e the soul fi nds nothi ng i r ksome, but
r ather the gl or y and del i ght of God i n the ver y substance of i tsel f, now
1
Gen. 2:24
2
1 Cor 6:17
3
Cant. 5:1
4
Gal . 2:20
88 A Spiritual Canticle
tr ansfor med i n Hi m.
“And there reposes to her heart’s content;
her neck reclining on the sweet arms of the Beloved.”
8. The neck i s the soul ’s str ength, by means of whi ch i ts uni on wi th the Bel oved i s
wr ought; for the soul coul d not endur e so cl ose an embr ace i f i t had not been ver y
str ong. And as the soul has l abor ed i n thi s str ength, pr acti ced vi r tue, over come
vi ce, i t i s fi tti ng that i t shoul d r est ther e fr om i ts l abor s, “her neck r ecl i ni ng on the
sweet ar ms of the Bel oved.”
9. Thi s r ecl i ni ng of the neck on the ar ms of God i s the uni on of the soul ’s str ength,
or , r ather , of the soul ’s weakness, wi th the str ength of God, i n Whom our
weakness, r esti ng and tr ansfor med, puts on the str ength of God Hi msel f. The
state of spi r i tual matr i mony i s ther efor e most fi tl y desi gnated by the r ecl i ni ng of
the neck on the sweet ar ms of the Bel oved; seei ng that God i s the str ength and
sweetness of the soul , Who guar ds and defends i t fr om al l evi l and gi ves i t to taste
of al l good.
10. Hence the br i de i n the Canti cl e, l ongi ng for thi s state, says to the Br i degr oom:
“Who shal l gi ve to me You my br other , sucki ng the br east of my mother , that I
may fi nd You wi thout, and ki ss You, and now no man may despi se me.”
1
By
addr essi ng Hi m as her Br other she shows the equal i ty between them i n the
betr othal of l ove, befor e she enter ed the state of spi r i tual mar r i age. “Sucki ng the
br east of my mother ” si gni fi es the dr yi ng up of the passi ons and desi r es, whi ch
ar e the br easts and mi l k of our mother Eve i n our fl esh, whi ch ar e a bar to thi s
state. The “fi ndi ng Hi m wi thout” i s to fi nd Hi m i n detachment fr om al l thi ngs and
fr om sel f when the br i de i s i n sol i tude, spi r i tual l y detached, whi ch takes pl ace
when al l the desi r es ar e quenched. “And ki ss You”—that i s, be uni ted wi th the
Br i degr oom, al one wi th Hi m al one.
11. Thi s i s the uni on of the natur e of the soul , i n sol i tude, cl eansed fr om al l
i mpur i ty, natur al , tempor al , and spi r i tual , wi th the Br i degr oom al one, wi th Hi s
natur e, by l ove onl y—that of l ove whi ch i s the onl y l ove of the spi r i tual mar r i age,
wher ei n the soul , as i t wer e, ki sses God when none despi ses i t nor makes i t
afr ai d. For i n thi s state the soul i s no l onger mol ested, ei ther by the devi l , or the
fl esh, or the wor l d, or the desi r es, seei ng that her e i s ful fi l l ed what i s wr i tten i n
the Canti cl e: “Wi nter i s now past, the r ai n i s over and gone. The fl ower s have
appear ed i n our l and.”
2
NOTE
WHEN the soul has been r ai sed to the hi gh state of spi r i tual mar r i age, the
Br i degr oom r eveal s to i t, as Hi s fai thful consor t, Hi s own mar vel ous secr ets most
r eadi l y and most fr equentl y, for he who tr ul y and si ncer el y l oves hi des nothi ng
fr om the object of hi s affecti ons. The chi ef matter of Hi s communi cati ons ar e the
sweet myster i es of Hi s i ncar nati on, the ways and means of r edempti on, whi ch i s
one of the hi ghest wor ks of God, and so i s to the soul one of the sweetest. Though
He communi cates many other myster i es, He speaks i n the fol l owi ng stanza of Hi s
1
Cant. 8:1
2
Cant. 2:11,12
Stanza XXII 89
i ncar nati on onl y, as bei ng the chi ef; and thus addr esses the soul i n the wor ds that
fol l ow:
STANZA XXIII
Beneath the apple-tree
There were you betrothed;
There I gave you My hand,
And you were redeemed
Where your mother was corrupted.
THE Br i degr oom tel l s the soul of the wondr ous way of i ts r edempti on and betr othal
to Hi msel f, by r efer r i ng to the way i n whi ch the human r ace was l ost. As i t was by
the for bi dden tr ee of par adi se that our natur e was cor r upted i n Adam and l ost, so
i t was by the tr ee of the Cr oss that i t was r edeemed and r estor ed. The Br i degr oom
ther e str etched for th the hand of Hi s gr ace and mer cy, i n Hi s death and passi on,
“ maki ng voi d the l aw of commandments”
1
whi ch or i gi nal si n had pl aced between
us and God.
“Beneath the apple-tree,”
2. That i s the wood of the Cr oss, wher e the Son of God was conquer or , and wher e
He betr othed our human natur e to Hi msel f, and, by consequence, ever y soul of
man. Ther e, on the Cr oss, He gave us gr ace and pl edges of Hi s l ove.
“There were you betrothed,
there I gave you My hand.”
3. “Hel p and gr ace, l i fti ng you up out of your base and mi ser abl e condi ti on to be
My compani on and My br i de.”
“And you were redeemed
where your mother was corrupted.”
4. “ Your mother , human natur e, was cor r upted i n her fi r st par ents beneath the
for bi dden tr ee, and you wer e r edeemed beneath the tr ee of the Cr oss. I f your
mother at that tr ee sentenced you to di e, I fr om the Cr oss have gi ven you l i fe.” I t i s
thus that God r eveal s the or der and di sposi ti ons of Hi s wi sdom: el i ci ti ng good
fr om evi l , and tur ni ng that whi ch has i ts or i gi n i n evi l to be an i nstr ument of
gr eater good. Thi s stanza i s near l y wor d for wor d what the Br i degr oom i n the
Canti cl e says to the br i de: “Under the appl e-tr ee I r ai sed you up: ther e your
mother was cor r upted; ther e she was defl ower ed that bar e you.”
2
5. I t i s not the betr othal of the Cr oss that I am speaki ng of now—that takes pl ace,
once for al l , when God gi ves the fi r st gr ace to the soul i n bapti sm. I am speaki ng
of the betr othal i n the way of per fecti on, whi ch i s a pr ogr essi ve wor k. And though
both are but one, yet there i s a di fference between them. The l atter i s effected i n
the way of the soul , and ther efor e sl owl y: the for mer i n the way of God, and
ther efor e at once.
1
Eph. 2:15
2
Cant. 8:5
90
Stanza XXIII 91
6. The betr othal of whi ch I am speaki ng i s that of whi ch God speaks Hi msel f by
the mouth of the pr ophet Ezeki el , sayi ng: “You wer e cast out upon the face of the
ear th i n the abjecti on of your soul , i n the day that you wer e bor n. And passi ng by
you, I saw that you wer e tr odden under foot i n your bl ood; and I sai d to you when
you wer e i n your bl ood: Li ve: I sai d to you, I say; i n your bl ood l i ve. Mul ti pl i ed as
the spr i ng of the fi el d have I made you; and you wer e mul ti pl i ed and made gr eat,
and you went i n, and came to the or naments of woman; your br easts swel l ed and
your hai r budded: and you wer e naked and ful l of confusi on. And I passed by you
and saw you, and behol d, your ti me, the ti me of l over s; and I spr ead My gar ment
over you and cover ed your i gnomi ny. And I swor e to you; and I enter ed a covenant
wi th you, says the Lor d God; and you wer e made Mi ne. And I washed you wi th
water , and made cl ean your bl ood fr om off you: and I anoi nted you wi th oi l . And I
cl othed you wi th di ver se col or s, and shod you wi th hyaci nth, and I gi r ded you
wi th si l k and cl othed you wi th fi ne gar ments. And I ador ned you wi th or naments,
and put br acel ets on your hands, and a chai n about your neck. And I put a jewel
upon your for ehead and r i ngs i n your ear s, and a cr own of beauty on your head.
And you wer e ador ned wi th gol d and si l ver , and wer e cl othed wi th si l k, and
embr oi der ed wor k, and many col or s: you ate fi ne fl our , and honey, and oi l , and
wer e made beauti ful exceedi ngl y, and advanced to be a queen. And your name
went for th among the nati ons because of your beauty.”
1
These ar e the wor ds of
Ezeki el , and thi s i s the state of that soul of whi ch I am now speaki ng.
NOTE
AFTER the mutual sur r ender to each other of the br i de and the Bel oved, comes
thei r bed. Ther eon the br i de enter s i nto the joy of Chr i st. Thus the pr esent stanza
r efer s to the bed, whi ch i s pur e and chaste, and di vi ne, and i n whi ch the br i de i s
pur e, di vi ne, and chaste. The bed i s nothi ng el se but the Br i degr oom Hi msel f, the
Wor d, the Son of God, i n Whom, thr ough the uni on of l ove, the br i de r eposes. Thi s
bed i s sai d to be of fl owers, for the Bri degroom i s not onl y that, but, as He says
Hi msel f of Hi msel f, “I am the fl ower of the fi el d and the l i l y of the val l eys.”
2
The
soul reposes not onl y on the bed of fl owers, but on that very fl ower whi ch i s the Son
of God, and whi ch contai ns i n i tsel f the di vi ne odor , fr agr ance, gr ace, and beauty,
as He says by the mouth of Davi d, “Wi th me i s the beauty of the fi el d.”
3
The soul ,
ther efor e, i n the stanza that fol l ows, cel ebr ates the pr oper ti es and beauti es of i ts
bed, sayi ng:
1
Ezek. 16:5-14
2
Cant. 2:1
3
Ps. 49:11
STANZA XXIV
THE BRI DE
Our bed is of flowers
By dens of lions encompassed,
Hung with purple,
Made in peace,
And crowned with a thousand shields of gold.
I N two of the for egoi ng stanzas—the four teenth and the fi fteenth—the br i de-soul
cel ebr ated the gr ace and magni fi cence of the Bel oved, the Son of God. I n the
pr esent stanza she not onl y pur sues the same subject, but al so si ngs of her hi gh
and bl essed state, and her own secur i ty i n i t. She then pr oceeds to the vi r tues and
r i ch gi fts wi th whi ch she i s endowed and ador ned i n the chamber of the
Br i degr oom; for she says that she i s i n uni on wi th Hi m, and i s str ong i n vi r tue.
Next she says that she has attai ned to the perfecti on of l ove, and then that she
enjoys per fect spi r i tual peace, endowed and ador ned wi th gi fts and gr aces, so far
as i t i s possi bl e to have them i n thi s l i fe. The fi rst subject of the stanza i s the joy
whi ch the br i de feel s i n her uni on wi th the Bel oved, sayi ng:
“Our bed is of flowers.”
2. I have al ready sai d that thi s bed of the soul i s the bosom and l ove of the Son of
God, ful l of fl ower s to the soul , whi ch now uni ted to God and r eposi ng i n Hi m, as
Hi s bri de, shares the bosom and l ove of the Bel oved. That i s, the soul i s admi tted to
a knowl edge of the wi sdom, secr ets and gr aces, and gi fts and power s of God,
wher eby i t i s made so beauti ful , so r i ch, so aboundi ng i n del i ghts that i t seems to
be l yi ng on a bed of many-col or ed di vi ne fl ower s, the touch of whi ch makes i t thr i l l
wi th joy, and the odor s of whi ch r efr esh i t.
3. Thi s uni on of l ove wi th God i s ther efor e most appr opr i atel y cal l ed a bed of
fl ower s, and i s so cal l ed by the br i de i n the Canti cl e, sayi ng to the Bel oved, “Our
bed i s of fl ower s.”
1
She speaks of i t as ours, because the vi rtues and the l ove, one
and the same, of the Bel oved are common to both together, and the del i ght of both
i s one and the same; as i t i s wr i tten: “My del i ghts wer e to be wi th the chi l dr en of
men.”
2
The bed i s sai d to be of fl owers, because i n thi s state the vi rtues i n the soul
ar e per fect and her oi c, whi ch they coul d not be unti l the bed had fl ower ed i n
per fect uni on wi th God.
“By dens of lions encompassed.”
4. The dens of l i ons si gni fy the vi r tues wi th whi ch the soul i s endowed i n the state
of uni on. The dens of l i ons ar e safe r etr eats, pr otected fr om al l other ani mal s,
who, afr ai d of the bol dness and str ength of the l i on wi thi n, ar e afr ai d not onl y to
enter, but even to appear i n si ght. So each vi rtue of the soul i n the state of
1
Cant. 1:15
2
Prov. 8:31
92
Stanza XXIV 93
per fecti on i s l i ke a den of l i ons wher e Chr i st dwel l s uni ted to the soul i n that
vi r tue; and i n ever y one of them as a str ong l i on. The soul al so, uni ted to Hi m i n
those ver y vi r tues, i s as a str ong l i on, because i t then par takes of the per fecti ons of
God.
5. Thus, then, the per fect soul i s so defended, so str ong i n vi r tue, and i n al l vi r tues
together , r eposi ng on the fl ower y bed of i ts uni on wi th God, that the evi l spi r i ts ar e
not onl y afrai d to assaul t i t, but even dare not appear before i t; such i s thei r dread
of i t, when they behol d i t str ong, cour ageous, and matur e i n i ts per fect vi r tues, on
the bed of the Bel oved. The evi l spi ri ts fear a soul transformed i n the uni on of l ove
as much as they fear the Bel oved Hi msel f, and they dar e not l ook upon i t, for
Satan i s i n gr eat fear of that soul whi ch has attai ned to per fecti on.
6. The soul ’s bed i s encompassed by vi r tues: they ar e the dens, for when the soul
has advanced to per fecti on, i ts vi r tues ar e so per fectl y or der ed, and so joi ned
together and bound up one wi th another , each suppor ti ng the other , that no par t
of i t i s weak or exposed. Not onl y i s Satan unabl e to penetrate wi thi n i t, but even
wor l dl y thi ngs, whether gr eat or l i ttl e, fai l to di stur b or annoy i t, or even move i t;
for bei ng now fr ee fr om al l mol estati on of natur al affecti ons, and a str anger to the
wor r y of tempor al anxi eti es, i t enjoys i n secur i ty and peace the par ti ci pati on of
God.
7. Thi s i s that for whi ch the br i de l onged when she sai d, “Who shal l gi ve to me
You my br other , sucki ng the br east of my mother , that I may fi nd You wi thout,
and ki ss You, and now no man may despi se me?”
1
The “ki ss” her e i s the uni on of
whi ch I am speaki ng, wher eby the soul , by l ove, becomes i n a sense the equal of
God. Thi s i s the object i t desi r es when i t says, “Who shal l gi ve to me You my
br other ?” That means and makes equal i ty. “Sucki ng the br east of my mother ”;
that i s, destr oyi ng al l the i mper fecti ons and desi r es of natur e whi ch the soul
i nher i ts fr om i ts mother Eve. “That I may fi nd You wi thout”; that i s, “be uni ted to
You al one, away fr om al l thi ngs, i n detachment of the wi l l and desi r es.” “ And
now no man may despi se me”; that i s, the wor l d, the devi l , and the fl esh wi l l not
ventur e to assai l i t, for bei ng fr ee and pur i fi ed, and al so uni ted to God, none of
these can mol est i t. Thus, then, the soul i s i n the enjoyment now of habi tual
sweetness and tr anqui l l i ty that never fai l i t.
8. But besi de thi s habi tual contentment and peace, the fl owers of the vi rtues of thi s
gar den so open i n the soul and di ffuse thei r odor s that i t seems to be, and i s, ful l of
the del i ghts of God. I say that the fl ower s open; because the soul , though fi l l ed
wi th the vi r tues i n per fecti on, i s not al ways i n the actual fr ui ti on of them,
notwi thstandi ng i ts habi tual per cepti on of the peace and tr anqui l l i ty whi ch they
produce. We may say of these vi rtues that they are i n thi s l i fe l i ke the buddi ng
fl ower s of a gar den; they offer a most beauti ful si ght—openi ng under the
i nspi r ati ons of the Hol y Spi r i t—and di ffuse most mar vel ous per fumes i n gr eat
vari ety.
9. Someti mes the soul wi l l di scer n i n i tsel f the mountai n fl ower s—the ful l ness,
gr andeur , and beauty of God—i nter mi ngl ed wi th the l i l i es of the val l ey—r est,
r efr eshment, and defense; and agai n among them, the fr agr ant r oses of the
str ange i sl ands—the str ange knowl edge of God; and fur ther , the per fume of the
1
Cant. 8:1
94 A Spiritual Canticle
water l i l i es of the r oar i ng tor r ents—the majesty of God fi l l i ng the whol e soul . And
ami d al l thi s, i t enjoys the exqui si te fr agr ance of the jasmi ne, and the whi sper of
the amor ous gal es, the fr ui ti on of whi ch i s gr anted to the soul i n the estate of
uni on, and i n the same way al l the other vi r tues and gr aces, the cal m knowl edge,
si l ent musi c, mur mur i ng sol i tude, and the sweet supper of l ove; and the joy of al l
thi s i s such as to make the soul say i n tr uth, “Our bed i s of fl ower s, by dens of
l i ons encompassed.” Bl essed i s that soul whi ch i n thi s l i fe deser ves at ti mes to
enjoy the per fume of these di vi ne fl ower s.
“Hung with purple.”
10. Pur pl e i n Hol y Scr i ptur e means char i ty, and ki ngs ar e cl ad i n i t, and for that
r eason the soul says that the bed of fl ower s i s hung wi th pur pl e, because al l the
vi r tues, r i ches, and bl essi ngs of i t ar e sustai ned, fl our i sh, and ar e del i ghted onl y
i n chari ty and l ove of the Ki ng of heaven; wi thout that l ove the soul can never
del i ght i n the bed nor i n the fl ower s ther eof. Al l these vi r tues, ther efor e, ar e, i n
the soul , as i f hung on the l ove of God, as on that whi ch pr eser ves them, and they
ar e, as i t wer e, bathed i n l ove; for al l and each of them al ways make the soul l ove
God, and on al l occasi ons and i n al l acti ons they advance i n l ove to a gr eater l ove
of God. That i s what i s meant by sayi ng that the bed i s hung wi th pur pl e.
11. Thi s i s wel l expr essed i n the sacr ed Canti cl e: “Ki ng Sol omon has made
hi msel f a l i tter of the wood of Lebanon; the pi l l ar s ther eof he has made of si l ver ,
the seat of gol d, the goi ng up of pur pl e; the mi dst he has paved wi th char i ty.”
1
The
vi r tues and gr aces whi ch God l ays i n the bed of the soul ar e si gni fi ed by the wood
of Lebanon: the pi l l ar s of si l ver and the seat of gol d ar e l ove, for , as I have sai d,
the vi rtues are mai ntai ned by l ove, and by the l ove of God and of the soul are
or der ed and br i ng for th fr ui t.
“Made in peace.”
12. Thi s i s the four th excel l ence of the bed, and depends on the thi r d, of whi ch I
have just spoken. For the thi r d i s per fect char i ty, the pr oper ty of whi ch i s, as the
Apostl e says, to cast out fear ;
2
hence the per fect peace of the soul , whi ch i s the
four th excel l ence of thi s bed. For the cl ear er under standi ng of thi s we must keep
i n mi nd that each vi r tue i s i n i tsel f peaceful , gentl e, and str ong, and
consequentl y, i n the soul whi ch possesses them, pr oduces peace, gentl eness, and
for ti tude. Now, as the bed i s of fl ower s, for med of the fl ower s of vi r tues, al l of
whi ch ar e peaceful , gentl e, and str ong, i t fol l ows that the bed i s wr ought i n peace,
and the soul i s peaceful , gentl e, and str ong, whi ch ar e thr ee qual i ti es
unassai l abl e by the wor l d, Satan, and the fl esh. The vi r tues pr eser ve the soul i n
such peace and secur i ty that i t seems to be whol l y bui l t up i n peace. The fi fth
pr oper ty of thi s bed of fl ower s i s expl ai ned i n the fol l owi ng wor ds:
“Crowned with a thousand shields of gold.”
13. The shi el ds ar e the vi r tues and gr aces of the soul , whi ch, though they ar e al so
the fl ower s, ser ve for i ts cr own, and the r ewar d of the toi l by whi ch they ar e
acqui r ed. They ser ve al so, l i ke str ong shi el ds, as a pr otecti on agai nst the vi ces,
1
Cant. 3:9,10
2
1 John 4:18
Stanza XXIV 95
whi ch i t over came by the pr acti ce of them; and the br i dal bed of fl ower s
ther efor e—that i s, the vi r tues, the cr own and defense—i s ador ned wi th them by
way of r ewar d, and pr otected by them as wi th a shi el d. The shi el ds ar e sai d to be
of gol d, to show the great worth of the vi rtues. The bri de i n the Canti cl e sets forth
the same tr uth, sayi ng: “Thr ee scor e val i ant men of the most val i ant of I sr ael
sur r ound the l i ttl e bed of Sol omon, al l hol di ng swor ds; . . . ever y man’s swor d
upon hi s thi gh, because of fear s i n the ni ght.”
1
14. Thus i n thi s stanza the br i de speaks of a thousand shi el ds, to expr ess the
var i ety of the vi r tues, gi fts, and gr aces wi th whi ch God has endowed the soul i n
thi s state. The Br i degr oom al so i n the Canti cl e has empl oyed the same
expr essi on, i n or der to show for th the i nnumer abl e vi r tues of the soul , sayi ng:
“Your neck i s as the tower of Davi d, whi ch i s bui l t wi th bul war ks; a thousand
shi el ds hang upon i t, al l the ar mor of val i ant men.”
2
NOTE
THE soul , havi ng attai ned to per fecti on, i s not sati sfi ed wi th magni fyi ng and
extol l i ng the excel l enci es of the Bel oved, the Son of God, nor wi th r ecounti ng and
gi vi ng thanks for the gr aces r ecei ved at Hi s hands and the joy i nto whi ch i t has
enter ed, but r ecounts al so the gr aces confer r ed on other soul s. I n thi s bl essed
uni on of l ove the soul i s abl e to contempl ate both i ts own and other s’ gr aces; thus
pr ai si ng Hi m and gi vi ng Hi m thanks for the many gr aces bestowed upon other s,
i t si ngs as i n the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Cant. 3:7,8
2
Cant. 4:4
STANZA XXV
I n 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 br i de gi ves thanks to her Bel oved for thr ee gr aces whi ch devout soul s
r ecei ve fr om Hi m, by whi ch they encour age and exci te themsel ves to l ove God
mor e and mor e. She speaks of them her e because she has had exper i ence of them
her sel f i n thi s state of uni on. The fi r st i s sweetness, whi ch He gi ves them, and
whi ch i s so effi caci ous that i t makes them r un swi ftl y on the r oad of per fecti on.
The second i s a vi si t of l ove, by whi ch they are suddenl y set on fi re wi th l ove. The
thi r d i s over fl owi ng char i ty i nfused i nto them, wi th whi ch He so i nebr i ates them
that they are as much exci ted by i t as by the vi si t of l ove, to utter the prai ses of God,
and to l ove Hi m wi th al l sweetness.
“I n Your footsteps.”
2. These ar e the mar ks on the gr ound by whi ch we tr ace the cour se of one we seek.
The sweetness and knowl edge of Hi msel f whi ch God communi cates to the soul
that seeks Hi m ar e the footsteps by whi ch i t tr aces and r ecogni zes Hi m. Thus the
soul says to the Wor d, the Br i degr oom, “I n Your footsteps”—“i n the tr aces of Your
sweetness whi ch You di ffuse, and the odor s whi ch You scatter .”
“The young ones run Your way.”
3. “Devout soul s r un wi th youthful vi gor i n the sweetness whi ch Your footsteps
communi cate.” They r un i n many ways and i n var i ous di r ecti ons—each
accor di ng to the spi r i t whi ch God bestows and the vocati on He has gi ven—i n the
di ver si fi ed for ms of spi r i tual ser vi ce on the r oad of ever l asti ng l i fe, whi ch i s
evangel i cal per fecti on, wher e they meet the Bel oved i n the uni on of l ove, i n
spi r i tual detachment fr om al l thi ngs.
4. Thi s sweetness and i mpr essi on of Hi msel f whi ch God l eaves i n the soul r ender
i t l i ght and acti ve i n r unni ng after Hi m; for the soul then does l i ttl e or nothi ng i n
i ts own str ength towar ds r unni ng al ong thi s r oad, bei ng r ather attr acted by the
di vi ne footsteps, so that i t not onl y advances, but even r uns, as I sai d befor e, i n
many ways. The br i de i n the Canti cl e, ther efor e, pr ays for the di vi ne attr acti on,
sayi ng, “ Dr aw me, we wi l l r un after You to the odor of Your oi ntments” ;
1
and
Davi d says, “ I have r un the way of Your commandments, when You di l ated my
hear t.”
2
“At the touch of the fire, and by the spiced wine,
the divine balsam flows.”
1
Cant. 1:3
2
Ps. 118:32
96
Stanza XXV 97
5. I sai d, whi l e expl ai ni ng the pr evi ous l i nes, that soul s r un i n Hi s footsteps i n the
way of exteri or works. But the three l i nes I have just quoted refer to the i nteri or
acts of the wi l l , when soul s ar e under the i nfl uence of the other two gr aces, and
i nter i or vi si ts of the Bel oved. These ar e the touch of fi r e, and spi ced wi ne; and the
i nter i or act of the wi l l , whi ch i s the r esul t of these vi si ts, i s the fl owi ng of the
di vi ne bal sam. The contact of the fi re i s that most del i cate touch of the Bel oved
whi ch the soul feel s at ti mes even when l east expecti ng i t, and whi ch sets the
hear t on fi r e wi th l ove, as i f a spar k of fi r e had fal l en upon i t and made i t bur n.
Then the wi l l , i n an i nstant, l i ke one r oused fr om sl eep, bur ns wi th the fi r e of
l ove, l ongs for God, pr ai ses Hi m and gi ves Hi m thanks, wor shi ps and honor s
Hi m, and pr ays to Hi m i n the sweetness of l ove.
6. Thi s i s the fl owi ng of the di vi ne bal sam, whi ch obeys the touch of the fi r e that
i ssues for th fr om the consumi ng l ove of God whi ch that fi r e ki ndl ed; the di vi ne
bal sam whi ch comfor ts the soul and heal s i t wi th i ts odor and i ts substance.
7. The br i de i n the Canti cl e speaks of thi s di vi ne touch, sayi ng, “My Bel oved put
Hi s hand thr ough the openi ng, and my bel l y tr embl ed at Hi s touch.”
1
The touch of
the Bel oved i s the touch of l ove, and Hi s hand i s the grace He bestows upon the
soul , and the openi ng thr ough whi ch He puts Hi s hand i s the vocati on and the
per fecti on, at l east the degr ee of per fecti on of the soul ; for accor di ngl y wi l l Hi s
touch be heavi er or l i ghter, i n proporti on to i ts spi ri tual state. The bel l y that
tr embl ed i s the wi l l , i n whi ch the touch i s effected, and the tr embl i ng i s the
sti r r i ng up of the desi r es and affecti ons to l ove, l ong for , and pr ai se God, whi ch i s
the fl owi ng of the bal sam fr om thi s touch.
8. “ The spi ced wi ne” i s that exceedi ngl y gr eat gr ace whi ch God someti mes
bestows upon advanced soul s, when the Hol y Spi r i t i nebr i ates them wi th the
sweet, l usci ous, and str ong wi ne of l ove. Hence i t i s her e cal l ed spi ced wi ne, for as
such wi ne i s pr epar ed by fer mentati on wi th many and di ver se ar omati c and
str engtheni ng her bs; so thi s l ove, the gi ft of God to the per fect, i s i n the soul
pr epar ed and seasoned wi th the vi r tues al r eady acqui r ed. Thi s l ove, seasoned
wi th the pr eci ous spi ces, communi cates to the soul such a str ong, abundant
i nebr i ati on when God vi si ts i t that i t pour s for th wi th gr eat effect and for ce those
acts of r aptur ous pr ai se, l ove, and wor shi p whi ch I r efer r ed to befor e, and that
wi th a mar vel ous l ongi ng to l abor and to suffer for Hi m.
9. Thi s sweet i nebr i ati on and gr ace, however , do not pass qui ckl y away, l i ke the
touch of the fi r e, for they ar e of l onger conti nuance. The fi r e touches and passes,
but the effects abi de often; and someti mes the spi ced wi ne conti nues for a
consi der abl e ti me, and i ts effects al so; thi s i s the sweet l ove of the soul , and
conti nues occasi onal l y a day or two, someti mes even many days together , though
not al ways i n the same degr ee of i ntensi ty, because i t i s not i n the power of the
soul to contr ol i t. Someti mes the soul , wi thout any effor t of i ts own, i s consci ous of
a most sweet i nter i or i nebr i ati on, and of the di vi ne l ove bur ni ng wi thi n, as Davi d
says, “My hear t waxed hot wi thi n me, and i n my medi tati on a fi r e shal l bur n.”
2
10. The outpour i ngs of thi s i nebr i ati on l ast someti mes as l ong as the i nebr i ati on
1
Cant. 5:4
2
Ps. 38:4
98 A Spiritual Canticle
i tsel f. At other ti mes ther e ar e no outpour i ngs; and they ar e mor e or l ess i ntense
when they occur , i n pr opor ti on to the gr eater or l ess i ntensi ty of the i nebr i ati on
i tsel f. But the outpour i ngs, or effects of the fi r e, gener al l y l ast l onger than the fi r e
whi ch caused them; i ndeed the fi r e l eaves them behi nd i n the soul , and they ar e
mor e vehement than those whi ch pr oceed fr om the i nebr i ati on, for someti mes
thi s di vi ne fi r e bur ns up and consumes the soul i n l ove.
11. As I have menti oned fer mented wi ne, i t wi l l be wel l to touch br i efl y upon the
di ffer ence between i t, when i t i s ol d, and new wi ne; the di ffer ence between ol d
wi ne and new wi ne i s the same, and wi l l fur ni sh a l i ttl e i nstr ucti on for spi r i tual
men. New wi ne has not settl ed on the l ees, and i s ther efor e fer menti ng; we cannot
ascer tai n i ts qual i ty or wor th befor e i t has settl ed, and the fer mentati on has
ceased, for unti l then ther e i s gr eat r i sk of i ts cor r upti on. The taste of i t i s r ough
and shar p, and an i mmoder ate dr aught of i t i ntoxi cates. Ol d wi ne has settl ed on
the l ees, and fer ments no mor e l i ke new wi ne; the qual i ty of i t i s easi l y
ascer tai ned and i t i s now ver y safe fr om cor r upti on, for al l fer mentati on whi ch
mi ght have pr oved per ni ci ous has enti r el y ceased. Wel l -fer mented wi ne i s ver y
r ar el y spoi l ed, the taste of i t i s pl easant, and i ts str ength i s i n i ts own substance,
not i n the taste, and dr i nki ng i t pr oduces heal th and a sound consti tuti on.
12. New l over s ar e compar ed to new wi ne; these ar e begi nner s i n the ser vi ce of
God, because the fer vor of thei r l ove mani fests i tsel f outwar dl y i n the senses;
because they have not settl ed on the l ees of sense, fr ai l and i mper fect; and because
they measure the strength of l ove by the sweetness of i t, for i t i s sensi bl e sweetness
that or di nar i l y gi ves them thei r str ength for good wor ks, and i t i s by thi s they ar e
i nfl uenced; we must, ther efor e, pl ace no confi dence i n thi s l ove ti l l the
fer mentati on has subsi ded, wi th the coar se sati sfacti on of sense.
13. For as these fer vor s and sensi bl e war mth may i ncl i ne men to good and per fect
l ove, and ser ve as an excel l ent means to i t, when the l ees of i mper fecti ons ar e
cl ear ed; so al so i s i t ver y easy at fi r st, when sensi bl e sweetness i s fr esh, for the
wi ne of l ove to fai l , and the sweetness of the new to vani sh. New l over s ar e al ways
anxi ous, sensi bl y tor mented by thei r l ove; i t i s necessar y for them to put some
r estr ai nt upon themsel ves, for i f they ar e ver y acti ve i n the str ength of thi s wi ne,
thei r natur al power s wi l l be r ui ned wi th these anxi eti es and fati gues of the new
wi ne, whi ch i s r ough and shar p, and not made sweet i n the per fect fer mentati on,
whi ch then takes pl ace when the anxi eti es of l ove ar e over , as I shal l show
i mmedi atel y.
14. The Wi se Man empl oys the same i l l ustr ati on; sayi ng, “ A new fr i end i s as new
wi ne; i t shal l gr ow ol d, and you shal l dr i nk i t wi th pl easur e.”
1
Ol d l overs,
ther efor e, who have been tr i ed and pr oved i n the ser vi ce of the Br i degr oom, ar e
l i ke ol d wi ne settl ed on the l ees; they have no sensi bl e emoti ons, nor outbur sts of
exteri or zeal , but they taste the sweetness of the wi ne of l ove, now thoroughl y
fermented, not sweet to the senses as was that of the l ove of begi nners, but rather
settl ed wi thi n the soul i n the substance and sweetness of the spi r i t, and i n per fect
good wor ks. Such soul s as these do not seek after sensi bl e sweetness and fer vor s,
nei ther do they wi sh for them, l est they shoul d suffer fr om l oathi ng and
wear i ness; for he who gi ves the r ei ns to hi s desi r es i n matter s of sense must of
necessi ty suffer pai n and l oathi ng, both i n mi nd and body.
1
Eccl us. 9:15
Stanza XXV 99
15. Ol d l over s, ther efor e, fr ee fr om that spi r i tual sweetness whi ch has i ts r oots i n
the senses, suffer nei ther i n sense nor spi r i t fr om the anxi eti es of l ove, and thus
scar cel y ever pr ove fai thl ess to God, because they have r i sen above that whi ch
mi ght be an occasi on of fal l i ng, namel y, the fl esh. These now dr i nk of the wi ne of
l ove, whi ch i s not onl y fer mented and fr ee fr om the l ees, but spi ced al so wi th the
ar omati c her bs of per fect vi r tues, whi ch wi l l not al l ow i t to cor r upt, as may
happen to new wi ne.
16. For thi s cause an ol d fr i end i s of gr eat pr i ce i n the eyes of God: “For sake not an
ol d fr i end, for the new wi l l not be l i ke to hi m.”
1
I t i s thr ough thi s wi ne of l ove,
tri ed and spi ced, that the di vi ne Bel oved produces i n the soul that di vi ne
i nebr i ati on, under the i nfl uence of whi ch i t sends for th to God the sweet and
del i ci ous outpour i ngs. The meani ng of these thr ee l i nes, ther efor e, i s as fol l ows:
“At the touch of the fi r e, by whi ch You sti r up the soul , and by the spi ced wi ne
wi th whi ch You do so l ovi ngl y i nebr i ate i t, the soul pour s for th the acts and
movements of l ove whi ch ar e Your wor k wi thi n i t.”
NOTE
SUCH, then, i s the state of the bl essed soul i n the bed of fl owers, where al l these
bl essi ngs, and many mor e, ar e gr anted i t. The seat of that bed i s the Son of God,
and the hangi ngs of i t ar e the char i ty and l ove of the Br i degr oom Hi msel f. The
soul now may say, wi th the br i de, “Hi s l eft hand i s under my head,”
2
and we may
ther efor e say, i n tr uth, that such a soul i s cl othed i n God, and bathed i n the
Di vi ni ty, and that, not as i t wer e on the sur face, but i n the i nter i or spi r i t, and
fi l l ed wi th the di vi ne del i ghts i n the abundance of the spi r i tual water s of l i fe; for i t
exper i ences that whi ch Davi d says of those who have dr awn near to God: “They
shal l be i nebr i ated wi th the pl enty of Your house, and You shal l make them dr i nk
of the tor r ent of Your pl easur e, for wi th You i s the fountai n of l i fe.”
3
2. Thi s ful l ness wi l l be i n the ver y bei ng of the soul , seei ng that i ts dr i nk i s
nothi ng el se but the torrent of del i ghts, and that torrent the Hol y Spi ri t, as i t i s
wr i tten: “ And he showed me a r i ver of l i vi ng water , cl ear as cr ystal , pr oceedi ng
fr om the thr one of God and the Lamb.”
4
Thi s water, bei ng the very l ove i tsel f of
God, fl ows i nto the soul , so that i t dr i nks of the tor r ent of l ove, whi ch i s the spi r i t
of the Br i degr oom i nfused i nto the soul i n uni on. Thence the soul i n the
over fl owi ng of i ts l ove si ngs the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Eccl us. 9:14
2
Cant. 2:6
3
Ps. 35:9
4
Rev. 22:1
STANZA XXVI
I n the i nner cel l ar
Of my Beloved have I drunk; and when I went forth
Over all the plain
I knew nothi ng,
And lost the flock I followed before.
HERE the soul speaks of that soverei gn grace of God i n taki ng i t to Hi msel f i nto the
house of Hi s l ove, whi ch i s the uni on, or tr ansfor mati on of l ove i n God. I t
descr i bes two effects pr oceedi ng ther efr om: for getful ness of, and detachment
fr om, al l the thi ngs of thi s wor l d, and the mor ti fi cati on of i ts tastes and desi r es.
“I n the i nner cel l ar.”
2. I n or der to expl ai n i n any degr ee the meani ng of thi s, I have need of the speci al
hel p of the Hol y Spi r i t to di r ect my hand and gui de my pen. The cel l ar i s the
hi ghest degr ee of l ove to whi ch the soul may attai n i n thi s l i fe, and i s ther efor e
sai d to be the i nner . I t fol l ows fr om thi s that ther e ar e other cel l ar s not so i nter i or ;
that i s, the degr ees of l ove by whi ch soul s r each thi s, the l ast. These cel l ar s ar e
seven i n number , and the soul has enter ed i nto them al l when i t has i n per fecti on
the seven gi fts of the Hol y Spi ri t, so far as i t i s possi bl e for i t. When the soul has
the spi r i t of fear i n per fecti on, i t has i n per fecti on al so the spi r i t of l ove, i nasmuch
as thi s fear , the l ast of the seven gi fts, i s fi l i al fear , and the per fect fear of a son
pr oceeds fr om hi s per fect l ove of hi s father . Thus when the Hol y Scr i ptur e speaks
of one as havi ng per fect char i ty, i t says of hi m that he fear s God. So the pr ophet
I sai ah, announci ng the per fecti ons of Chr i st, says of Hi m, “The spi r i t of the fear
of the Lor d shal l r epl eni sh hi m.”
1
Hol y Si meon al so i s spoken of by the Evangel i st
as a “ just man ful l of fear ,”
2
and the same appl i es to many other s.
3. Many soul s r each and enter the fi r st cel l ar , each accor di ng to the per fecti on of
i ts l ove, but the l ast and i nmost cel l ar i s enter ed by few i n thi s wor l d, because
ther ei n i s wr ought the per fect uni on wi th God, the uni on of the spi r i tual
mar r i age, of whi ch the soul i s now speaki ng. What God communi cates to the soul
i n thi s i nti mate uni on i s utter l y i neffabl e, beyond the r each of al l possi bl e wor ds—
just as i t i s i mpossi bl e to speak of God Hi msel f so as to convey any i dea of what He
i s—because i t i s God Hi msel f who communi cates Hi msel f to the soul now i n the
mar vel ous bl i ss of i ts tr ansfor mati on. I n thi s state God and the soul ar e uni ted, as
the wi ndow i s wi th the l i ght, or coal wi th the fi r e, or the l i ght of the star s wi th that
of the sun, yet, however, not so essenti al l y and compl etel y as i t wi l l be i n the l i fe to
come. The soul , ther efor e, to show what i t r ecei ved fr om the hands of God i n the
cel l ar of wi ne, says nothi ng el se, and I do not bel i eve that anythi ng coul d be sai d
but the wor ds whi ch fol l ow:
“Of my Beloved have I drunk.”
1
I sa. 11:3
2
Luke 2:25. Justus et ti moratus.
100
Stanza XXVI 101
4. As a dr aught di ffuses i tsel f thr ough al l the member s and vei ns of the body, so
thi s communi cati on of God di ffuses i tsel f substanti al l y i n the whol e soul , or
r ather , the soul i s tr ansfor med i n God. I n thi s tr ansfor mati on the soul dr i nks of
God i n i ts ver y substance and i ts spi r i tual power s. I n the under standi ng i t dr i nks
wi sdom and knowl edge, i n the wi l l the sweetest l ove, i n the memor y r efr eshment
and del i ght i n the thought and sense of i ts bl i ss. That the soul r ecei ves and dr i nks
del i ght i n i ts ver y substance, appear s fr om the wor ds of the br i de i n the Canti cl e:
“My soul mel ted as He spoke”
1
—that i s, when the Br i degr oom communi cated
Hi msel f to the soul .
5. That the under standi ng dr i nks wi sdom i s evi dent fr om the wor ds of the br i de
l ongi ng and pr ayi ng for the ki ss of uni on: “ Ther e You shal l teach me, and I wi l l
gi ve you a cup of spi ced wi ne.”
2
“ You shal l teach me wi sdom and knowl edge i n
l ove, and I wi l l gi ve You a cup of spi ced wi ne—that i s, my l ove mi ngl ed wi th
Your s.” The br i de says that the wi l l al so dr i nks of l ove, sayi ng: “He br ought me
i nto the cel l ar of wi ne; He has or der ed i n me char i ty,”
3
—that i s, “He gave me Hi s
l ove, embr aci ng me, to dr i nk of l ove”; or , to speak mor e cl ear l y, “He or der ed i n me
Hi s char i ty, temper i ng Hi s char i ty and to the pur pose maki ng i t mi ne.” Thi s i s to
gi ve the soul to dri nk of the very l ove of i ts Bel oved, whi ch the Bel oved i nfuses i nto
i t.
6. Ther e i s a common sayi ng that the wi l l cannot l ove that of whi ch the
under standi ng has no knowl edge. Thi s, however , i s to be under stood i n the or der
of natur e, i t bei ng i mpossi bl e, i n a natur al way, to l ove anythi ng unl ess we fi r st
know what i t i s we l ove. But i n a super natur al way God can cer tai nl y i nfuse l ove
and i ncr ease i t wi thout i nfusi ng and i ncr easi ng di sti nct knowl edge, as i s evi dent
fr om the texts al r eady quoted. Yes, many spi r i tual per sons have exper i ence of
thi s; thei r l ove of God bur ns mor e and mor e, whi l e thei r knowl edge does not gr ow.
Men may know l i ttl e and l ove much, and on the other hand, know much and l ove
but l i ttl e.
7. I n gener al , those spi r i tual per sons whose knowl edge of God i s not ver y gr eat
ar e usual l y ver y r i ch i n al l that bel ongs to the wi l l , and i nfused fai th suffi ces them
for thi s knowl edge, by means of whi ch God i nfuses and i ncr eases char i ty i n them
and the acts ther eof, whi ch ar e to l ove Hi m mor e and mor e though knowl edge i s
not i ncr eased. Thus the wi l l may dr i nk of l ove whi l e the under standi ng dr i nks i n
no fr esh knowl edge. I n the pr esent i nstance, however , al l the power s of the soul
together , because of the uni on i n the i nner cel l ar , dr i nk of the Bel oved.
8. As to the memory, i t i s cl ear that the soul dri nks of the Bel oved i n i t, because i t
i s enl i ghtened wi th the l i ght of the under standi ng i n r emember i ng the bl essi ngs
i t possesses and enjoys i n uni on wi th the Bel oved.
“And when I went forth.”
9. That i s, after thi s gr ace: the di vi ne dr aught havi ng so dei fi ed the soul , exal ted
i t, and i nebr i ated i t i n God. Though the soul i s al ways i n the hi gh estate of
mar r i age ever si nce God has pl aced i t ther e, never thel ess actual uni on i n al l i ts
1
Cant. 5:6
2
Cant. 8:2
3
Cant. 2:4
102 A Spiritual Canticle
power s i s not conti nuous, though the substanti al uni on i s. I n thi s substanti al
uni on the power s of the soul ar e most fr equentl y i n uni on, and dr i nk of Hi s cel l ar ,
the under standi ng by knowl edge, the wi l l by l ove, etc. We ar e not, ther efor e, to
suppose that the soul , when sayi ng that i t went out, has ceased fr om i ts
substanti al or essenti al uni on wi th God, but onl y fr om the uni on of i ts facul ti es,
whi ch i s not, and cannot be, per manent i n thi s l i fe; i t i s fr om thi s uni on, then, i t
went for th when i t wander ed over al l the pl ai n—that i s, thr ough the whol e
br eadth of the wor l d.
“I knew nothi ng.”
10. Thi s dr aught of God’s most deep wi sdom makes the soul for get al l the thi ngs
of thi s wor l d, and consi der al l i ts pr evi ous knowl edge, and the knowl edge of the
whol e wor l d besi des, as pur e i gnor ance i n compar i son wi th thi s knowl edge.
11. For a cl ear er under standi ng of thi s, we must r emember that the most r egul ar
cause of the soul ’s i gnor i ng the thi ngs of the wor l d, when i t has ascended to thi s
hi gh state, i s that i t i s i nfor med by a super natur al knowl edge, i n the pr esence of
whi ch al l natur al and wor l dl y knowl edge i s i gnor ance r ather than knowl edge.
For the soul i n possessi on of thi s knowl edge, whi ch i s most pr ofound, l ear ns fr om
i t that al l other knowl edge not i ncl uded i n thi s knowl edge i s not knowl edge, but
i gnor ance, and wor thl ess. We have thi s tr uth i n the wor ds of the Apostl e when he
sai d that “the wi sdom of thi s wor l d i s fool i shness wi th God.”
1
12. Thi s i s the r eason why the soul says i t knows nothi ng, now that i t has dr unk of
the di vi ne wi sdom. The tr uth i s that the wi sdom of men and of the whol e wor l d i s
mer e i gnor ance, and not deser vi ng any attenti on, but i t i s a tr uth that can be
l ear ned onl y i n that tr uth of the pr esence of God i n the soul communi cati ng to i t
Hi s wi sdom and maki ng i t str ong by thi s dr aught of l ove that i t may see i t
di sti nctl y. Thi s i s taught us by Sol omon, sayi ng: “The vi si on that the man spoke,
wi th whom God i s, and who bei ng str engthened by God abi di ng wi th hi m, sai d: I
am the most fool i sh of men, and the wi sdom of men i s not wi th me.”
2
13. When the soul i s r ai sed to thi s hi gh wi sdom of God, the wi sdom of man i s i n
i ts eyes the l owest i gnor ance: al l natur al sci ence and the wor ks of God, i f
accompani ed by i gnor ance of Hi m, ar e as i gnor ance; for wher e He i s not known,
ther e nothi ng i s known. “The deep thi ngs of God ar e fool i shness to men.”
3
Thus
the di vi nel y wi se and the wor l dl y wi se ar e fool s i n the esti mati on of each other ; for
the l atter cannot under stand the wi sdom and sci ence of God, nor the for mer those
of the wor l d, for the wi sdom of the wor l d i s i gnor ance i n compar i son wi th the
wi sdom of God; and the wi sdom of God i s i gnor ance wi th r espect to that of the
wor l d.
14. Mor eover , thi s dei fi cati on and el evati on of the spi r i t i n God, wher eby the soul
i s, as i t wer e, r apt and absor bed i n l ove, one wi th God, suffer i t not to dwel l upon
any wor l dl y matter . The soul i s now detached, not onl y fr om al l outwar d thi ngs,
but even fr om i tsel f: i t i s, as i t wer e, undone, assumed by, and di ssol ved i n, l ove—
that i s, i t passes out of i tsel f i nto the Bel oved. Thus the bri de, i n the Canti cl e, after
1
1 Cor. 3:19
2
Prov. 30:1,2
3
1 Cor. 2:14
Stanza XXVI 103
speaki ng of her own tr ansfor mati on by l ove i nto the Bel oved, expr esses her state of
i gnor ance by the wor ds “I knew not.”
1
The soul i s now, i n a cer tai n sense, l i ke
Adam i n par adi se, who knew no evi l . I t i s so i nnocent that i t sees no evi l ; nei ther
does i t consi der anythi ng to be ami ss. I t wi l l hear much that i s evi l , and wi l l see i t
wi th i ts eyes, and yet i t shal l not be abl e to understand i t, because i t has no evi l
habi ts whereby to judge of i t. God has rooted out of i t those i mperfect habi ts and
that i gnor ance r esul ti ng fr om the evi l of si n, by the per fect habi t of tr ue wi sdom.
Thus, al so, the soul knows nothi ng on thi s subject.
15. Such a soul wi l l scar cel y i nter meddl e wi th the affai r s of other s, because i t
for gets even i ts own; for the wor k of the Spi r i t of God i n the soul i n whi ch He
dwel l s i s to i ncl i ne i t to i gnor e those thi ngs whi ch do not concer n i t, especi al l y
such as do not mi ni ster to edi fi cati on. The Spi r i t of God abi des wi thi n the soul to
wi thdr aw i t fr om outwar d thi ngs r ather than to l ead i t among them; and thus the
soul knows nothi ng as i t knew i t for mer l y. We ar e not, however , to suppose that i t
l oses the habi ts of knowl edge pr evi ousl y acqui r ed, for those habi ts ar e i mpr oved by
the mor e per fect habi t of super natur al knowl edge i nfused, though these habi ts
ar e not so power ful as to necessi tate knowl edge thr ough them, and yet ther e i s no
r eason why they shoul d not do so occasi onal l y.
16. I n thi s uni on of the di vi ne wi sdom, these habi ts ar e uni ted wi th the hi gher
wi sdom of other knowl edge, as a l i ttl e l i ght wi th another whi ch i s gr eat; i t i s the
gr eat l i ght that shi nes, over whel mi ng the l ess, yet the l atter i s not ther efor e l ost,
but r ather per fected, though i t i s not the l i ght whi ch shi nes pr e-emi nentl y. Thus,
I i magi ne, wi l l i t be i n heaven; the acqui r ed habi ts of knowl edge i n the just wi l l
not be destroyed, though they wi l l be of no great i mportance there, seei ng that the
just wi l l know mor e i n the di vi ne wi sdom than by the habi ts acqui r ed on ear th.
17. But the par ti cul ar noti ons and for ms of thi ngs, acts of the i magi nati on, and
ever y other appr ehensi on havi ng for m and fi gur e ar e al l l ost and i gnor ed i n thi s
absor bi ng l ove, and thi s for two r easons. Fi r st, the soul cannot actual l y attend to
anythi ng of the ki nd, because i t i s actual l y absorbed by thi s draught of l ove.
Secondl y, and thi s i s the pr i nci pal r eason, i ts tr ansfor mati on i n God so confor ms
i t to Hi s pur i ty and si mpl i ci ty—for ther e i s no for m or i magi nar y fi gur e i n Hi m—
as to r ender i t pur e, cl eansed and empty of al l the for ms and fi gur es i t enter tai ned
befor e, bei ng now pur i fi ed and enl i ghtened i n si mpl e contempl ati on. Al l spots and
stai ns i n the gl ass become i nvi si bl e when the sun shi nes upon i t, but they appear
agai n as soon as the l i ght of the sun i s wi thhel d.
18. So i s i t wi th the soul ; whi l e the effects of thi s act of l ove conti nue, thi s
i gnor ance conti nues al so, so that i t cannot obser ve anythi ng i n par ti cul ar unti l
these effects have ceased. Love has set the soul on fi r e and tr ansmuted i t i nto l ove,
has anni hi l ated i t and destr oyed i t as to al l that i s not l ove, accor di ng to the wor ds
of Davi d: “My hear t has been i nfl amed, and my r ei ns have been changed; and I
am br ought to nothi ng, and I knew not.”
2
The changi ng of the r ei ns, because the
hear t i s i nfl amed, i s the changi ng of the soul , i n al l i ts desi r es and acti ons, i n
God, i nto a new manner of l i fe, the utter undoi ng and anni hi l ati on of the ol d man,
and ther efor e the pr ophet sai d that he was br ought to nothi ng and knew not.
1
Cant. 6:11
2
Ps. 72:21,22
104 A Spiritual Canticle
19. These are the two effects of dri nki ng the wi ne of the cel l ar of God; not onl y i s
al l pr evi ous knowl edge br ought to nothi ng and made to vani sh, but the ol d l i fe al so
wi th i ts i mper fecti ons i s destr oyed, and i nto the new man r enewed; thi s i s the
second of the two effects descr i bed i n the wor ds that fol l ow:
“And lost the flock I followed before.”
20. Unti l the soul r eaches the state of per fecti on, however spi r i tual i t may be, ther e
al ways r emai ns a tr oop of desi r es, l i ki ngs, and other i mper fecti ons, someti mes
natur al , someti mes spi r i tual , after whi ch i t r uns, and whi ch i t tr i es to feed whi l e
fol l owi ng and sati sfyi ng them. Wi th r egar d to the under standi ng, ther e ar e
cer tai n i mper fecti ons of the desi r e of knowl edge. Wi th r egar d to the wi l l , cer tai n
l i ki ngs and pecul i ar desi r es, at ti mes i n tempor al thi ngs, as the wi sh to possess
cer tai n tr i fl es, and attachment to some thi ngs mor e than to other s, cer tai n
pr ejudi ces, consi der ati ons, and puncti l i os, wi th other vani ti es, sti l l savor i ng of
the wor l d: and agai n i n natur al thi ngs, such as eati ng and dr i nki ng, the
pr efer ence of one ki nd of food over another , and the choi ce of the best: at another
ti me, i n spi r i tual thi ngs, such as seeki ng for sweetness, and other fol l i es of
spi r i tual per sons not yet per fect, too numer ous to r ecount her e. As to the memor y,
ther e ar e many i nconsi stenci es, anxi eti es, unseeml y r emi ni scences, whi ch dr ag
the soul capti ve after them.
21. The four passi ons of the soul al so i nvol ve i t i n many usel ess hopes, joys, gr i efs,
and fear s, after whi ch i t r uns. As to thi s fl ock, some men ar e mor e i nfl uenced by
i t than other s; they r un after and fol l ow i t, unti l they enter the i nner cel l ar , wher e
they l ose i t al together , bei ng then tr ansfor med i n l ove. I n that cel l ar the fl ock of
i mper fecti ons i s easi l y destr oyed, as r ust and mol d on metal i n the fi r e. Then the
soul feel s i tsel f fr ee fr om the petti ness of sel f-l i ki ngs and the vani ti es after whi ch
i t r an befor e, and may wel l say, “I have l ost the fl ock whi ch I fol l owed befor e.”
NOTE
GOD communi cates Hi msel f to the soul i n thi s i nter i or uni on wi th a l ove so
i ntense that the l ove of a mother , who so tender l y car esses her chi l d, the l ove of a
brother, or the affecti on of a fri end bear no l i keness to i t, for so great i s the
tender ness, and so deep i s the l ove wi th whi ch the I nfi ni te Father comfor ts and
exal ts the humbl e and l ovi ng soul . O wonder s wor thy of al l awe and r ever ence! He
humbl es Hi msel f i n real i ty before that soul that He may exal t i t, as i f He were i ts
ser vant, and the soul Hi s l or d. He i s as anxi ous to comfor t i t as i f He wer e a sl ave,
and the soul God. So gr eat i s the humi l i ty and tender ness of God. I n thi s
communi on of l ove He r ender s i n a cer tai n way those ser vi ces to the soul whi ch
He says i n the Gospel He wi l l per for m for the el ect i n heaven. “Amen, I say to you,
that He wi l l gi r d Hi msel f and make them si t down to meat, and passi ng wi l l
mi ni ster to them.”
1
2. Thi s ver y ser vi ce He r ender s now to the soul , comfor ti ng and cher i shi ng i t, as a
mother her chi l d whom she nur tur es i n her bosom. And the soul r ecogni zes
her ei n the tr uth of the wor ds of I sai ah, “You shal l be car r i ed at the br easts, and
upon the knees they shal l car ess you.”
2
What must the feel i ngs of the soul be ami d
1
Luke 12:37
2
I sa. 66:12
Stanza XXVI 105
these sover ei gn gr aces? How i t wi l l mel t away i n l ove, behol di ng the bosom of God
opened for i t wi th such over fl owi ng l ove. When the soul per cei ves i tsel f i n the
mi dst of these del i ghts, i t sur r ender s i tsel f whol l y to God, gi ves to Hi m the br easts
of i ts own wi l l and l ove, and under the i nfl uence ther eof addr esses the Bel oved i n
the wor ds of the br i de i n the Canti cl e, sayi ng: “I to my Bel oved, and Hi s tur ni ng i s
towar ds me. Come, my Bel oved, l et us go for th i nto the fi el d, l et us abi de i n the
vi l l ages. Let us r i se ear l y to the vi neyar ds, l et us see i f the vi neyar d fl our i sh, i f the
fl ower s ar e r eady to br i ng for th fr ui ts, i f the pomegr anates fl our i sh; ther e wi l l I
gi ve You my br easts”
1
—that i s, “I wi l l empl oy al l the joy and str ength of my wi l l
i n the ser vi ce of Your l ove.” Thi s mutual sur r ender i n thi s uni on of the soul and
God i s the subject of the stanza whi ch fol l ows:
1
Cant. 7:10-12
STANZA XXVII
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 contr acti ng par ti es i n thi s spi r i tual betr othal ,
i tsel f and God. I n the i nner cel l ar of l ove they both met together , God gi vi ng to the
soul the br easts of Hi s l ove fr eel y, wher eby He i nstr ucts i t i n Hi s myster i es and
wi sdom, and the soul al so actual l y sur r ender i ng i tsel f, maki ng no r eser vati on
whatever ei ther i n i ts own favor or i n that of other s, pr omi si ng to be Hi s for ever .
“There He gave me His breasts.”
2. To gi ve the br east to another i s to l ove and cher i sh hi m and communi cate one’s
secr ets to hi m as a fr i end. The soul says her e that God gave i t Hi s br easts—that
i s, He gave i t Hi s l ove and communi cated Hi s secr ets to i t. I t i s thus that God
deal s wi th the soul i n thi s state, and mor e, too, as i t appear s fr om the wor ds that
fol l ow:
“There He taught me the science full of sweetness.”
3. Thi s sci ence i s mysti cal theol ogy, whi ch i s the secr et sci ence of God, and whi ch
spi r i tual men cal l contempl ati on. I t i s most ful l of sweetness because i t i s
knowl edge by l ove, l ove i s the master of i t, and i t i s l ove that renders i t al l so sweet.
I nasmuch as thi s sci ence and knowl edge ar e communi cated to the soul i n that
l ove wi th whi ch God communi cates Hi msel f, i t i s sweet to the under standi ng,
because knowl edge bel ongs to i t, and sweet to the wi l l , because i t comes by l ove
whi ch bel ongs to the wi l l .
“There I gave to Him myself without reserve”
4. The soul i n thi s sweet dr aught of God, sur r ender s i tsel f whol l y to Hi m most
wi l l i ngl y and wi th gr eat sweetness; i t desi r es to be whol l y Hi s, and never to r etai n
anythi ng whi ch i s unbecomi ng Hi s Majesty. God i s the author of thi s uni on, and
of the pur i ty and per fecti on r equi si te for i t; and as the tr ansfor mati on of the soul
i n Hi msel f makes i t Hi s, He empti es i t of al l that i s al i en to Hi msel f. Thus i t
comes to pass that, not i n wi l l onl y, but i n act as wel l , the whol e soul i s enti r el y
gi ven to God wi thout any r eser ve whatever , as God has gi ven Hi msel f fr eel y to i t.
The wi l l of God and of the soul ar e both sati sfi ed, each gi ven up to the other , i n
mutual del i ght, so that nei ther fai l s the other i n the fai th and constancy of the
betr othal ; ther efor e the soul says:
“There I promised to be His bride.”
5. As a br i de does not gi ve her l ove to another , and as al l her thoughts and acti ons
ar e di r ected to her br i degr oom onl y, so the soul now has no affecti ons of the wi l l ,
106
Stanza XXVII 107
no acts of the under standi ng, nei ther object nor occupati on of any ki nd whi ch i t
does not whol l y r efer to God, together wi th al l i ts desi r es. The soul i s, as i t wer e,
absor bed i n God, and even i ts fi r st movements have nothi ng i n them—so far as i t
can compr ehend them—whi ch i s at var i ance wi th the wi l l of God. The fi r st
movements of an i mper fect soul i n gener al ar e, at l east, i ncl i ned to evi l , i n the
under standi ng, the memor y, the wi l l , the desi r es and i mper fecti ons; but those of
the soul whi ch has attai ned to the spi r i tual state of whi ch I am speaki ng ar e
or di nar i l y di r ected to God, because of the gr eat hel p and cour age i t der i ves fr om
Hi m, and i ts per fect conver si on to goodness. Thi s i s set for th wi th gr eat cl ear ness
by Davi d, when he says: “Shal l not my soul be subject to God? For fr om Hi m i s my
sal vati on. For He i s my God and my Savi or ; He i s my pr otector , I shal l be moved
no mor e.”
1
“He i s my pr otector ” means that the soul , bei ng now r ecei ved under the
pr otecti on of God and uni ted to Hi m, i s no l onger subject to any movements
contr ar y to God.
6. I t i s qui te cl ear fr om thi s that the soul whi ch has attai ned the spi r i tual
betrothal knows nothi ng el se but the l ove of the Bri degroom and the del i ghts
ther eof, because i t has ar r i ved at per fecti on, the for m and substance of whi ch i s
l ove, accor di ng to St. Paul .
2
The mor e a soul l oves, the mor e per fect i t i s i n i ts l ove,
and hence i t fol l ows that the soul whi ch i s al r eady per fect i s, i f we may say so, al l
l ove, al l i ts acti ons ar e l ove, al l i ts ener gi es and str ength ar e occupi ed i n l ove. I t
gi ves up al l i t has, l i ke the wi se mer chant,
3
for thi s tr easur e of l ove whi ch i t fi nds
hi dden i n God, and whi ch i s so pr eci ous i n Hi s si ght, and the Bel oved car es for
nothi ng el se but l ove; the soul , ther efor e, anxi ous to pl ease Hi m per fectl y,
occupi es i tsel f whol l y i n pur e l ove for God, not onl y because l ove does so occupy i t,
but al so because the l ove wher ei n i t i s uni ted i nfl uences i t towar ds l ove of God i n
and thr ough al l thi ngs. As the bee dr aws honey fr om al l pl ants, and makes use of
them onl y for that end, so the soul most easi l y dr aws the sweetness of l ove fr om al l
that happens to i t; makes al l thi ngs subser ve i t towar ds l ovi ng God, whether they
ar e sweet or bi tter ; and bei ng ani mated and pr otected by l ove, has no sense,
feel i ng, or knowl edge, because, as I have sai d, i t knows nothi ng but l ove, and i n
al l i ts occupati ons, i ts joy i s i ts l ove of God. Thi s i s expl ai ned by the fol l owi ng
stanza.
NOTE
I HAVE sai d that God i s pl eased wi th nothi ng but l ove; but before I expl ai n thi s, i t
wi l l be as wel l to set for th the gr ounds on whi ch the asser ti on r ests. Al l our
wor ks, and al l our l abor s, however gr and they may be, ar e nothi ng i n the si ght of
God, for we can gi ve Hi m nothi ng, nei ther can we by them ful fi l l Hi s desi r e,
whi ch i s the gr owth of our soul . As to Hi msel f He desi r es nothi ng of thi s, for He
has need of nothi ng, and so, i f He i s pl eased wi th anythi ng i t i s wi th the gr owth of
the soul ; and as ther e i s no way i n whi ch the soul can gr ow but i n becomi ng i n a
manner equal to Hi m, for thi s r eason He i s onl y pl eased wi th our l ove. I t i s the
property of l ove to pl ace hi m who l oves on an equal i ty wi th the object of hi s l ove.
Hence the soul , because of i ts perfect l ove, i s cal l ed the bri de of the Son of God,
whi ch si gni fi es equal i ty wi th Hi m. I n thi s equal i ty and fr i endshi p al l thi ngs ar e
common, as the Br i degr oom Hi msel f sai d to Hi s di sci pl es: “ I have cal l ed you
1
Ps. 61:2,3
2
Col . 3:14
3
Matt. 13:44
108 A Spiritual Canticle
fr i ends, because al l thi ngs, whatsoever I have hear d of my Father , I have made
known to you.”
1
1
John 15:15
STANZA XXVIII
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 r ather the br i de havi ng gi ven her sel f whol l y to the Br i degr oom
wi thout any r eser ve whatever , now r ecounts to the Bel oved how she ful fi l l s her
task. “My soul and body,” she says, “al l my abi l i ti es and al l my capaci ti es, ar e
occupi ed not wi th other matter s, but wi th those per tai ni ng to the ser vi ce of the
Br i degr oom.” She i s ther efor e not seeki ng her own pr oper sati sfacti on, nor the
gr ati fi cati on of her own i ncl i nati ons, nei ther does she occupy her sel f i n anythi ng
whatever whi ch i s al i en to God; yes, even her communi on wi th God Hi msel f i s
nothi ng el se but acts of l ove, i nasmuch as she has changed her for mer mode of
conver si ng wi th Hi m i nto l ovi ng.
“My soul is occupied.”
2. Thi s r efer s to the soul ’s sur r ender of i tsel f to the Bel oved i n thi s uni on of l ove,
wher ei n i t devotes i tsel f, wi th al l i ts facul ti es, under standi ng, wi l l , and memor y,
to Hi s ser vi ce. The under standi ng i s occupi ed i n consi der i ng what most tends to
Hi s ser vi ce, i n or der that i t mi ght be accompl i shed; the wi l l i n l ovi ng al l that i s
pl easi ng to God, and i n desi r i ng Hi m i n al l thi ngs; the memor y i n r ecal l i ng what
mi ni ster s to Hi m, and what may be mor e pl easi ng to Hi m.
“And all my substance in His service.”
3. By substance her e i s meant al l that r el ates to the sensual par t of the soul , whi ch
i ncl udes the body, wi th al l i ts power s, i nter i or and exter i or , together wi th al l i ts
natur al capaci ti es—that i s, the four passi ons, the natur al desi r es, and the whol e
substance of the soul , al l of whi ch i s empl oyed i n the ser vi ce of the Bel oved, as wel l
as the r ati onal and spi r i tual par t, as I expl ai ned i n the pr evi ous secti on. As to the
body, that i s now or der ed accor di ng to God i n al l i ts i nter i or and exter i or senses,
al l the acts of whi ch ar e di r ected to God; the four passi ons of the soul ar e al so
under contr ol i n Hi m; for the soul ’s joy, hope, fear , and gr i ef ar e conver sant wi th
God onl y; al l i ts appeti tes, and al l i ts anxi eti es al so, ar e di r ected to Hi m onl y.
4. The whol e substance of the soul i s now so occupi ed wi th God, so i ntent upon
Hi m, that i ts ver y fi r st movements, even i nadver tentl y, have God for thei r object
and thei r end. The under standi ng, memor y, and wi l l tend di r ectl y to God; the
affecti ons, senses, desi r es and l ongi ngs, hope and joy, the whol e substance of the
soul , r i se i nstantl y towar ds God, though the soul i s maki ng no consci ous effor ts
i n that di r ecti on. Such a soul i s ver y often doi ng the wor k of God, i ntent upon Hi m
and the thi ngs of God, wi thout thi nki ng or r efl ecti ng on what i t i s doi ng for Hi m.
The constant and habi tual pr acti ce of thi s has depr i ved i t of al l consci ous
r efl ecti on, and even of that fer vor whi ch i t usual l y had when i t began to act. The
whol e substance of the soul bei ng thus occupi ed, what fol l ows cannot be but tr ue
109
110 A Spiritual Canticle
al so.
“Now I guard no flock.”
5. “I do not now go after my l i ki ngs and desi r es; for havi ng fi xed them upon God, I
no l onger feed or guar d them.” The soul not onl y does not guar d them now, but
has no other occupati on than to wai t upon God.
“Nor have I any other employment.”
6. Befor e the soul succeeded i n effecti ng thi s gi ft and sur r ender of i tsel f, and of al l
that bel ongs to i t, to the Bel oved, i t was entangl ed i n many unprofi tabl e
occupati ons, by whi ch i t sought to pl ease i tsel f and other s, and i t may be sai d that
i ts occupati ons of thi s ki nd wer e as many as i ts habi ts of i mper fecti on.
7. To these habi ts bel ong that of speaki ng, thi nki ng, and the doi ng of thi ngs that
ar e usel ess; and l i kewi se, the not maki ng use of these thi ngs accor di ng to the
r equi r ements of the soul ’s per fecti on; other desi r es al so the soul may have, wi th
whi ch i t mi ni ster s to the desi r es of other s, to whi ch may be r efer r ed di spl ay,
compl i ments, fl atter y, human r espect, ai mi ng at bei ng wel l thought of, and the
gi vi ng pl easur e to peopl e, and other usel ess acti ons, by whi ch i t l abor ed to content
them, wasti ng i ts effor ts her ei n, and fi nal l y al l i ts str ength. Al l thi s i s over , says
the soul her e, for al l i ts wor ds, thoughts, and wor ks ar e di r ected to God, and,
conver sant wi th Hi m, fr eed fr om thei r pr evi ous i mper fecti ons. I t i s as i f i t sai d: “I
fol l ow no l onger ei ther my own or other men’s l i ki ngs, nei ther do I occupy or
enter tai n mysel f wi th usel ess pasti mes, or the thi ngs of thi s wor l d.”
“My sole occupation is love.”
8. “Al l my occupati on now i s the pr acti ce of the l ove of God, al l the power s of soul
and body, memor y, under standi ng, and wi l l , i nter i or and exter i or senses, the
desi r es of spi r i t and of sense, al l wor k i n and by l ove. Al l I do i s done i n l ove; al l I
suffer , I suffer i n the sweetness of l ove.” Thi s i s the meani ng of Davi d when he
sai d, “ I wi l l keep my str ength to You.”
1
9. When the soul has ar r i ved at thi s state al l the acts of i ts spi r i tual and sensual
natur e, whether acti ve or passi ve, and of whatever ki nd they may be, al ways
occasi on an i ncr ease of l ove and del i ght i n God: even the act of pr ayer and
communi on wi th God, whi ch was once car r i ed on by r efl ecti ons and di ver se other
methods, i s now whol l y an act of l ove. So much so i s thi s the case that the soul
may al ways say, whether occupi ed wi th tempor al or spi r i tual thi ngs, “ My sol e
occupati on i s l ove.” Happy l i fe! happy state! and happy the soul whi ch has
attai ned to i t! where al l i s the very substance of l ove, the joyous del i ghts of the
betrothal , when i t may trul y say to the Bel oved wi th the bri de i n the Canti cl e, “The
new and the ol d, my Bel oved, have I kept for You”
2
“Al l that i s bi tter and pai nful I
keep for Your sake, al l that i s sweet and pl easant I keep for You.” The meani ng of
the wor ds, for my pur pose, i s that the soul , i n the state of spi r i tual betr othal , i s for
the most par t l i vi ng i n the uni on of l ove—that i s, the wi l l i s habi tual l y wai ti ng
l ovi ngl y on God.
1
Ps. 58:10
2
Cant. 7:13
Stanza XXVIII 111
NOTE
I N tr uth the soul i s now l ost to al l thi ngs, and gai ned onl y to l ove, and the mi nd i s
no l onger occupi ed wi th anythi ng el se. I t i s, ther efor e, defi ci ent i n what concer ns
the acti ve l i fe, and other exteri or duti es, that i t may appl y i n earnest to the one
thi ng whi ch the Br i degr oom has pr onounced necessar y;
1
and that i s wai ti ng
upon God, and the conti nuous pr acti ce of Hi s l ove. So pr eci ous i s thi s i n the eyes of
God that He r ebuked Mar tha because she woul d wi thdr aw Mar y fr om Hi s feet to
occupy her acti vel y i n the ser vi ce of our Lor d. Mar tha thought that she was doi ng
ever ythi ng her sel f, and that Mar y at the feet of Chr i st was doi ng nothi ng. But i t
was far other wi se: for ther e i s nothi ng better or mor e necessar y than l ove. Thus,
i n the Canti cl e, the Br i degr oom pr otects the br i de, adjur i ng the daughter s of
Jer usal em—that i s, al l cr eated thi ngs—not to di stur b her spi r i tual sl eep of l ove,
nor to waken her , nor to l et her open her eyes to anythi ng ti l l she pl eased. “I
adjur e you, O daughter s of Jer usal em, that you do not sti r up, nor awake my
bel oved ti l l she pl ease.”
2
2. Observe, however, that i f the soul has not reached the state of uni ti ve l ove, i t i s
necessar y for i t to make acts of l ove, as wel l i n the acti ve as i n the contempl ati ve
l i fe. But when i t has r eached i t, i t i s not r equi si te i t shoul d occupy i tsel f i n other
and exter i or duti es—unl ess they ar e matter s of obl i gati on—whi ch mi ght hi nder ,
wer e i t but for a moment, the l i fe of l ove i n God, though they may mi ni ster gr eatl y
to Hi s ser vi ce; because an i nstant of pur e l ove i s mor e pr eci ous i n the eyes of God
and the soul , and mor e pr ofi tabl e to the Chur ch, than al l other good wor ks
together , though i t may seem as i f nothi ng wer e done. Thus, Mar y Magdal ene,
though her pr eachi ng was most edi fyi ng, and mi ght have been sti l l mor e so
after war ds, out of the gr eat desi r e she had to pl ease God and benefi t the Chur ch,
hi d her sel f, never thel ess, i n the deser t thi r ty year s, that she mi ght sur r ender
her sel f enti r el y to l ove; for she consi der ed that she woul d gai n mor e i n that way,
because an i nstant of pur e l ove i s so much mor e pr ofi tabl e and i mpor tant to the
Chur ch.
3. When the soul , then, i n any degr ee possesses the spi r i t of sol i tar y l ove, we must
not i nter fer e wi th i t. We shoul d i nfl i ct a gr i evous wr ong upon i t, and upon the
Chur ch al so, i f we wer e to occupy i t, wer e i t onl y for a moment, i n exter i or or
acti ve duti es, however i mpor tant they mi ght be. When God Hi msel f adjur es al l
not to waken i t fr om i ts l ove, who shal l ventur e to do so, and be bl amel ess? I n a
word, i t i s for thi s l ove that we are al l created. Let those men of zeal , who thi nk by
thei r pr eachi ng and exter i or wor ks to conver t the wor l d, consi der that they woul d
be much mor e edi fyi ng to the Chur ch, and mor e pl easi ng to God—setti ng asi de
the good exampl e they woul d gi ve—i f they woul d spend at l east one hal f thei r ti me
i n prayer, even though they may have not attai ned to the state of uni ti ve l ove.
Cer tai nl y they woul d do mor e, and wi th l ess tr oubl e, by one si ngl e good wor k than
by a thousand: because of the mer i t of thei r pr ayer , and the spi r i tual str ength i t
suppl i es. To act other wi se i s to beat the ai r , to do l i ttl e mor e than nothi ng,
someti mes nothi ng and occasi onal l y even mi schi ef; for God may gi ve up such
per sons to vani ty, so that they may seem to have done somethi ng, when i n r eal i ty
thei r outwar d occupati ons bear no fr ui t; for i t i s qui te cer tai n that good wor ks
1
Luke 10:42
2
Cant. 3:5
112 A Spiritual Canticle
cannot be done but i n the power of God. O how much mi ght be wr i tten on thi s
subject! thi s, however , i s not the pl ace for i t.
4. I have sai d thi s to expl ai n the stanza that fol l ows, i n whi ch the soul r epl i es to
those who cal l i n questi on i ts hol y tr anqui l l i ty, who wi l l have i t whol l y occupi ed
wi th outwar d duti es, that i ts l i ght may shi ne befor e the wor l d: these per sons have
no concepti on of the fi ber s and the unseen r oot whence the sap i s dr awn, and
whi ch nour i sh the fr ui t.
STANZA XXIX
I f 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 r epl i es her e to a taci t r epr oach. Wor l dl y peopl e ar e i n the habi t of
censur i ng those who gi ve themsel ves up i n ear nest to God, r egar di ng them as
extr avagant, i n thei r wi thdr awal fr om the wor l d, and i n thei r manner of l i fe.
They say al so of them that they ar e usel ess for al l matter s of i mpor tance, and l ost
to ever ythi ng the wor l d pr i zes and r espects! Thi s r epr oach the soul meets i n the
best way; bol dl y and cour ageousl y despi si ng i t wi th ever ythi ng el se that the wor l d
can l ay to i ts charge. Havi ng attai ned to a l i vi ng l ove of God, i t makes l i ttl e
account of al l thi s; and that i s not al l : i t confesses i t i tsel f i n thi s stanza, and
boasts that i t has commi tted that fol l y, and that i t i s l ost to the worl d and to i tsel f
for the Bel oved.
2. That whi ch the soul i s sayi ng her e, addr essi ng i tsel f to the wor l d, i s i n
substance thi s: “I f you see me no l onger occupi ed wi th the subjects that engr ossed
me once, wi th the other pasti mes of the wor l d, say and bel i eve that I am l ost to
them, and a str anger to them, yes, that I am l ost of my own choi ce, seeki ng my
Bel oved whom I so gr eatl y l ove.” But that they may see that the soul ’s l oss i s gai n,
and not consi der i t fol l y and del usi on, i t adds that i ts l oss was gai n, and that i t
therefore l ost i tsel f del i beratel y.
“I f then on the common I am no longer seen or found.”
3. The common i s a publ i c pl ace wher e peopl e assembl e for r ecr eati on, and wher e
shepher ds feed thei r fl ocks. By the common her e i s meant the wor l d i n gener al ,
wher e men amuse themsel ves and feed the her d of thei r desi r es. The soul says to
the wor l dl y-mi nded: “I f you see me no mor e wher e I used to be befor e I gave
mysel f up whol l y to God, l ook upon me as l ost, and say so”: the soul r ejoi ces i n
that and woul d have men so speak of i t.
“Say that I am lost.”
4. He who l oves i s not ashamed befor e men of what he does for God, nei ther does
he hi de i t thr ough shame though the whol e wor l d shoul d condemn i t. He who
shal l be ashamed to confess the Son of God befor e men, negl ecti ng to do Hi s wor k,
the Son of God al so wi l l be ashamed to acknowl edge hi m befor e Hi s Father . “He
that shal l deny Me befor e men, I wi l l al so deny hi m befor e My Father Who i s i n
heaven.”
1
The soul , ther efor e, i n the cour age of i ts l ove, gl or i es i n what mi ni ster s
to the honor of the Bel oved, i n that i t has done anythi ng for Hi m and i s l ost to the
thi ngs of the wor l d.
1
Matt. 10:33
113
114 A Spiritual Canticle
5. But few spi r i tual per sons ar r i ve at thi s per fect cour age and r esol uti on i n thei r
conduct. For though some attempt to pr acti ce i t, and some even thi nk themsel ves
pr ofi ci ent ther ei n, they never enti r el y l ose themsel ves on cer tai n poi nts connected
wi th the worl d or sel f, so as to be perfectl y detached for the sake of Chri st,
despi si ng appear ances and the opi ni on of the wor l d. These can never answer ,
“Say that I am l ost,” because they ar e not l ost to themsel ves, and ar e sti l l ashamed
to confess Chr i st befor e men thr ough human r espect; these do not ther efor e r eal l y
l i ve i n Chr i st.
“That being enamored,”
That i s, pr acti ci ng vi r tues for the l ove of God,
“I lost myself; and yet was found.”
6. The soul r emember s wel l the wor ds of the Br i degr oom i n the Gospel : “No man
can ser ve two master s; for ei ther he wi l l hate the one and l ove the other ,”
1
and
ther efor e, i n or der not to l ose God, l oses al l that i s not God, that i s, al l cr eated
thi ngs, even i tsel f, bei ng l ost to al l thi ngs for the l ove of Hi m. He who trul y l oves
makes a shi pwr eck of hi msel f i n al l el se that he may gai n the mor e i n the object of
hi s l ove. Thus the soul says that i t has l ost i tsel f—that i s, del i beratel y, of set
pur pose.
7. Thi s l oss occur s i n two ways. The soul l oses i tsel f, maki ng no account whatever
of i tsel f, but of the Bel oved, resi gni ng i tsel f freel y i nto Hi s hands wi thout any
sel fi sh vi ews, l osi ng i tsel f del i ber atel y, and seeki ng nothi ng for i tsel f. Secondl y, i t
l oses i tsel f i n al l thi ngs, maki ng no account of anythi ng save that whi ch concer ns
the Bel oved. Thi s i s to l ose onesel f—that i s, to be wi l l i ng that others shoul d have
al l thi ngs. Such i s he that l oves God; he seeks nei ther gai n nor r ewar d, but onl y to
l ose al l , even hi msel f, accor di ng to God’s wi l l ; thi s i s what such a one counts
gai n. Thi s i s r eal gai n, for the Apostl e says, “to di e i s gai n”
2
—that i s, to di e for
Chr i st i s my gai n and pr ofi t spi r i tual l y. Thi s i s why the soul says that i t “was
found”; for he who does not know how to l ose, does not fi nd, but r ather l oses
hi msel f, as our Savi or teaches us i n the Gospel , sayi ng, “He that wi l l save hi s l i fe
shal l l ose i t; and he that shal l l ose hi s l i fe for My sake shal l fi nd i t.”
3
8. But i f we wi sh to know the deeper spi r i tual meani ng of thi s l i ne, and i ts
pecul i ar fi tness her e, i t i s as fol l ows: When a soul has advanced so far on the
spi r i tual r oad as to be l ost to al l the natur al methods of communi ng wi th God;
when i t seeks Hi m no l onger by medi tati on, i mages, i mpr essi ons, nor by any
other cr eated ways, or r epr esentati ons of sense, but onl y by r i si ng above them al l ,
i n the joyful communi on wi th Hi m by fai th and l ove, then i t may be sai d to have
found God of a truth, because i t has trul y l ost i tsel f as to al l that i s not God, and
al so as to i ts own sel f.
NOTE
THE soul bei ng thus gai ned, al l i ts wor ks ar e gai n, for al l i ts power s ar e exer ted i n
1
Matt. 6:24
2
Phi l . 1:21
3
Matt. 16:25
Stanza XXVIX 115
the spi r i tual i nter cour se of most sweet i nter i or l ove wi th the Bel oved. The i nter i or
communi cati ons between God and the soul ar e now so del i ci ous, so ful l of
sweetness, that no mor tal tongue can descr i be them, nor human under standi ng
compr ehend them. As a br i de on the day of her betr othal attends to nothi ng but to
the joyous festi val of her l ove, and br i ngs for th al l her jewel s and or naments for
the pl easur e of the br i degr oom, and as he too i n the same way exhi bi ts hi s own
magni fi cence and r i ches for the pl easur e of hi s br i de, so i s i t i n the spi r i tual
betr othal wher e the soul feel s that whi ch the br i de says i n the Canti cl e, “I to my
Bel oved and my Bel oved to me.”
1
The vi r tues and gr aces of the br i de-soul , the
gr andeur and magni fi cence of the Br i degr oom, the Son of God, come for th i nto the
l i ght, for the cel ebr ati on of the br i dal feast, communi cati ng each to the other the
goods and joys wi th the wi ne of sweet l ove i n the Hol y Spi ri t. The present stanza,
addr essed to the Br i degr oom by the soul , has thi s for i ts subject.
1
Cant. 6:2
STANZA XXX
Of emeralds, and of flowers
I n the early morning gathered,
We will make the garlands,
Flowering in Your love,
And bound together with one hair of my head.
THE br i de now tur ns to the Br i degr oom and addr esses Hi m i n the i nter cour se and
comfor t of l ove; the subject of the stanza bei ng the sol ace and del i ght whi ch the
br i de-soul and the Son of God fi nd i n the possessi on of the vi r tues and gi fts of each
other , and i n the exer ci se ther eof, both r ejoi ci ng i n thei r mutual l ove. Thus the
soul , addr essi ng the Bel oved, says that they wi l l make gar l ands r i ch i n gr aces
and acqui r ed vi r tues, obtai ned at the fi tti ng and conveni ent season, beauti ful and
l ovel y i n the l ove He bears the soul , and kept together by the l ove whi ch i t i tsel f has
for Hi m. Thi s r ejoi ci ng i n vi r tue i s what i s meant by maki ng gar l ands, for the
soul and God r ejoi ce together i n these vi r tues bound up as fl ower s i n a gar l and, i n
the common l ove whi ch each bear s the other .
“Of emeralds, and of flowers.”
2. The fl ower s ar e the vi r tues of the soul ; the emer al ds ar e the gi fts i t has r ecei ved
fr om God. Then of these fl ower s and emer al ds
“I n the early morning gathered.”
3. That i s, acqui r ed i n youth, whi ch i s the ear l y mor ni ng of l i fe. They ar e sai d to
be gather ed because the vi r tues whi ch we acqui r e i n youth ar e most pl easi ng to
God; because youth i s the season when our vi ces most r esi st the acqui si ti on of
them, and when our natur al i ncl i nati ons ar e most pr one to l ose them. Those
vi r tues al so ar e mor e per fect whi ch we acqui r e i n ear l y youth. Thi s ti me of our l i fe
i s the ear l y mor ni ng; for as the fr eshness of the spr i ng mor ni ng i s mor e
agr eeabl e than any other par t of the day, so al so ar e the vi r tues acqui r ed i n our
youth mor e pl easi ng i n the si ght of God.
4. By the fr esh mor ni ng we may under stand those acts of l ove by whi ch we acqui r e
vi r tue, and whi ch ar e mor e pl easi ng to God than the fr esh mor ni ng i s to the sons
of men; good wor ks al so, wr ought i n the season of spi r i tual dr yness and
har dness; thi s i s the fr eshness of the wi nter mor ni ng, and what we then do for
God i n dr yness of spi r i t i s most pr eci ous i n Hi s eyes. Then i t i s that we acqui r e
vi r tues and gr aces abundantl y; and what we then acqui r e wi th toi l and l abor i s for
the most par t better , mor e per fect and l asti ng than what we acqui r e i n comfor t
and spi r i tual sweetness; for vi r tue sends for th i ts r oots i n the season of dr yness,
toi l , and tr i al : as i t i s wr i tten, “Vi r tue i s made per fect i n i nfi r mi ty.”
1
I t i s wi th a
vi ew to show for th the excel l ence of these vi r tues, of whi ch the gar l and i s wr ought
for the Bel oved, that the soul says of them that they have been gathered i n the
ear l y mor ni ng; because i t i s these fl ower s al one, wi th the emer al ds of vi r tue, the
1
2 Cor 12:9
116
Stanza XXX 117
choi ce and per fect gr aces, and not the i mper fect, whi ch ar e pl easi ng to the
Bel oved, and so the bri de says:
“We will make the garlands.”
5. Al l the vi r tues and gr aces whi ch the soul , and God i n i t, acqui r e ar e as a
gar l and of di ver se fl ower s wi th whi ch the soul i s mar vel ousl y ador ned as wi th a
vestur e of r i ch embr oi der y. As mater i al fl ower s ar e gather ed, and then for med
i nto a gar l and, so the spi r i tual fl ower s of vi r tues and gr aces ar e acqui r ed and set
i n or der i n the soul : and when the acqui si ti on i s compl ete, the gar l and of
per fecti on i s compl ete al so. The soul and the Br i degr oom r ejoi ce i n i t, both
beauti ful , ador ned wi th the gar l and, as i n the state of per fecti on.
6. These ar e the gar l ands whi ch the soul says they wi l l make. That i s, i t wi l l
wr eathe i tsel f wi th thi s var i ety of fl ower s, wi th the emer al ds of vi r tues and per fect
gi fts, that i t may present i tsel f worthi l y before the face of the Ki ng, and be on an
equal i ty wi th Hi m, si tti ng as a queen on Hi s r i ght hand; for i t has mer i ted thi s by
i ts beauty. Thus Davi d says, addr essi ng hi msel f to Chr i st: “The queen stood on
Your r i ght hand i n vestments of gol d, gi r t wi th var i ety.”
1
That i s, at Hi s r i ght
hand, cl ad i n per fect l ove, gi r t wi th the var i ety of gr aces and per fect vi r tues.
7. The soul does not say, “ I wi l l make gar l ands,” nor “ You wi l l make them,” but,
“We wi l l make them,” not separ atel y, but both together ; because the soul cannot
pr acti ce vi r tues al one, nor acqui r e them al one, wi thout the hel p of God; nei ther
does God al one cr eate vi r tue i n the soul wi thout the soul ’s concur r ence. Though i t
i s true, as the Apostl e says, that “every best gi ft, and every perfect gi ft, i s from
above, descendi ng fr om the Father of l i ghts,”
2
sti l l they enter i nto no soul wi thout
that soul ’s concur r ence and consent. Thus the br i de i n the Canti cl e says to the
Br i degr oom; “ Dr aw me; we wi l l r un after you.”
3
Ever y i ncl i nati on to good comes
fr om God al one, as we l ear n her e; but as to r unni ng, that i s, good wor ks, they
pr oceed fr om God and the soul together , and i t i s ther efor e wr i tten, “We wi l l
r un”—that i s, both together , but not God nor the soul al one.
8. These wor ds may al so be fi tti ngl y appl i ed to Chr i st and Hi s Chur ch, whi ch, as
Hi s br i de, says to Hi m, “We wi l l make the gar l ands.” I n thi s appl i cati on of the
wor ds the gar l ands ar e the hol y soul s bor n to Chr i st i n the Chur ch. Ever y such
soul i s by i tsel f a gar l and ador ned wi th the fl ower s of vi r tues and gr aces, and al l
of them together a gar l and for the head of Chr i st the Br i degr oom.
9. We may al so under stand by these beauti ful gar l ands the cr owns for med by
Chr i st and the Chur ch, of whi ch ther e ar e thr ee ki nds. The fi r st i s for med of the
beauty and whi te fl ower s of the vi r gi ns, each one wi th her vi r gi nal cr own, and
for mi ng al together one cr own for the head of the Br i degr oom Chr i st. The second,
of the br i l l i ant fl ower s of the hol y doctor s, each wi th hi s cr own of doctor , and al l
together for mi ng one cr own above that of the vi r gi ns on the head of Chr i st. The
thi r d i s composed of the pur pl e fl ower s of the mar tyr s, each wi th hi s own cr own of
mar tyr dom, and al l uni ted i nto one, per fecti ng that on the head of Chr i st.
Ador ned wi th these gar l ands He wi l l be so beauti ful , and so l ovel y to behol d, that
1
Ps. 44:10
2
James 1:17
3
Cant. 1:3
118 A Spiritual Canticle
heaven i tsel f wi l l r epeat the wor ds of the br i de i n the Canti cl e, sayi ng: “Go for th,
you daughter s of Zi on, and see ki ng Sol omon i n the di adem wi th whi ch hi s
mother cr owned hi m i n the day of hi s betr othal , and i n the day of the joy of hi s
hear t.”
1
The soul then says we wi l l make gar l ands.
“Flowering in Your love.”
10. The fl ower i ng of good wor ks and vi r tues i s the gr ace and power whi ch they
deri ve from the l ove of God, wi thout whi ch they not onl y fl ower not, but even
become dr y, and wor thl ess i n the eyes of God, though they may be humanl y
per fect. But i f He gi ves Hi s gr ace and l ove they fl our i sh i n Hi s l ove.
“And bound together with one hair of my head.”
11. The hai r i s the wi l l of the soul , and the l ove i t bears the Bel oved. Thi s l ove
per for ms the functi on of the thr ead that keeps the gar l and together . For as a
thr ead bi nds the fl ower s of a gar l and, so l oves kni ts together and sustai ns vi r tues
i n the soul . “Char i ty”—that i s, l ove—says the Apostl e, “i s the bond of per fecti on.”
2
Love, i n the same way, bi nds the vi r tues and super natur al gi fts together , so that
when l ove fai l s by our depar tur e fr om God, al l our vi r tue per i shes al so, just as the
fl ower s dr op fr om the gar l and when the thr ead that bound them together i s
br oken. I t i s not enough for God’s gi ft of vi r tues that He shoul d l ove us, but we too
must l ove Hi m i n or der to r ecei ve them, and pr eser ve them.
12. The soul speaks of one hai r, not of many, to show that the wi l l by i tsel f i s fi xed
on God, detached fr om al l other hai r s; that i s, fr om str ange l ove. Thi s poi nts out
the gr eat pr i ce and wor th of these gar l ands of vi r tues; for when l ove i s si ngl e,
fi r ml y fi xed on God, as her e descr i bed, the vi r tues al so ar e enti r e, per fect, and
fl ower i ng i n the l ove of God; for the l ove He bear s the soul i s beyond al l pr i ce, and
the soul al so knows i t wel l .
13. Were I to attempt a descri pti on of the beauty of that bi ndi ng of the fl owers and
emer al ds together , or of the str ength and majesty whi ch thei r har moni ous
ar r angement fur ni shes to the soul , or the beauty and gr ace of i ts embr oi der ed
vestur e, expr essi ons and wor ds woul d fai l me; for i f God says of the evi l spi r i t,
“Hi s body i s l i ke mol ten shi el ds, shut cl ose up wi th scal es pr essi ng upon one
another , one i s joi ned to another , and not so much as any ai r can come between
them” ;
3
i f the evi l spi r i t i s so str ong, cl ad i n mal i ce thus compacted together —for
the scal es that cover hi s body l i ke mol ten shi el ds ar e mal i ce, and mal i ce i s i n
i tsel f but weakness—what must be the str ength of the soul that i s cl othed i n
vi r tues so compacted and uni ted together that no i mpur i ty or i mper fecti on can
penetr ate between them; each vi r tue sever al l y addi ng str ength to str ength, beauty
to beauty, weal th to weal th, and to majesty, domi ni on and gr andeur ?
14. What a mar vel ous vi si on wi l l be that of the br i de-soul , when i t shal l si t on the
r i ght hand of the Br i degr oom-Ki ng, cr owned wi th gr aces! “ How beauti ful ar e your
steps i n shoes, O pr i nce’s daughter !”
4
The soul i s cal l ed a pr i nce’s daughter
1
Cant. 3:11
2
Col . 3:14
3
Job 41:6,7
4
Cant. 7:1
Stanza XXX 119
because of the power i t has; and i f the beauty of the steps i n shoes i s great, what
must be that of the whol e vesture? Not onl y i s the beauty of the soul crowned wi th
admi r abl e fl ower s, but i ts str ength al so, fl owi ng fr om the har moni ous or der of the
fl ower s, i nter twi ned wi th the emer al ds of i ts i nnumer abl e gr aces, i s ter r i bl e:
“Ter r i bl e as the ar my of a camp set i n ar r ay.”
1
For , as these vi r tues and gi fts of
God r efr esh the soul wi th thei r spi r i tual per fume, so al so, when uni ted i n i t, do
they, out of thei r substance, mi ni ster str ength. Thus, i n the Canti cl e, when the
br i de was weak, l angui shi ng wi th l ove—because she had not been abl e to bi nd
together the fl ower s and the emer al ds wi th the hai r of her l ove—and anxi ous to
str engthen her sel f by that uni on of them, cr i es out: “Stay me wi th fl ower s,
compass me about wi th appl es; because I l angui sh wi th l ove.”
2
The fl ower s ar e
the vi r tues, and the appl es ar e the other gr aces.
NOTE
I BELI EVE I have now shown how the i nter twi ni ng of the gar l ands and thei r
l asti ng pr esence i n the soul expl ai n the di vi ne uni on of l ove whi ch now exi sts
between the soul and God. The Br i degr oom, as He says Hi msel f, i s the “fl ower of
the fi el d and the l i l y of the val l eys,”
3
and the soul ’s l ove i s the hai r that uni tes to
i tsel f thi s fl ower of fl ower s. Love i s the most pr eci ous of al l thi ngs, because i t i s the
“bond of per fecti on,” as the Apostl e says,
4
and per fecti on i s uni on wi th God. The
soul i s, as i t wer e, a sheaf of gar l ands, for i t i s the subject of thi s gl or y, no l onger
what i t was before, but the very perfect fl ower of fl owers i n the perfecti on and
beauty of al l ; for the thread of l ove bi nds so cl osel y God and the soul , and so uni tes
them, that i t tr ansfor ms them and makes them one by l ove; so that, though i n
essence di ffer ent, yet i n gl or y and appear ance the soul seems God and God the
soul . Such i s thi s mar vel ous uni on, baffl i ng al l descr i pti on.
2. We may for m some concepti on of i t fr om the l ove of Davi d and Jonathan, whose
“soul was kni t wi th the soul of Davi d.”
5
I f the l ove of one man for another can be
thus str ong, so as to kni t two soul s together , what must that l ove of God be whi ch
can kni t the soul of man to God the Br i degr oom? God Hi msel f i s her e the sui tor
Who i n the omni potence of Hi s unfathomabl e l ove absor bs the soul wi th gr eater
vi ol ence and effi cacy than a tor r ent of fi r e a si ngl e dr op of the mor ni ng dew whi ch
r esol ves i tsel f i nto ai r . The hai r , ther efor e, whi ch accompl i shes such a uni on
must, of necessi ty, be most str ong and subtl e, seei ng that i t penetr ates and bi nds
together so effectual l y the soul and God. I n the pr esent stanza the soul decl ar es
the qual i ti es of thi s hai r .
1
Cant. 6:3
2
Cant. 2:5
3
Cant. 2:1
4
Col . 3:14
5
1 Ki ngs 18:1
STANZA XXXI
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 ar e thr ee thi ngs menti oned her e. The fi r st i s, that the l ove by whi ch the
vi r tues ar e bound together i s nothi ng l ess than a str ong l ove; for i n tr uth i t need be
so i n or der to pr eser ve them. The second i s, that God i s gr eatl y taken by thi s hai r
of l ove, seei ng i t to be al one and str ong. The thi r d i s, that God i s deepl y enamor ed
of the soul , behol di ng the puri ty and i ntegri ty of i ts fai th.
“By that one hair You have observed fluttering
on my neck.”
2. The neck si gni fi es that str ength i n whi ch, i t i s sai d, fl utter ed the hai r of l ove,
str ong l ove, whi ch bound the vi r tues together . I t i s not suffi ci ent for the
preservati on of vi rtues that l ove be al one, i t must be al so strong so that no contrary
vi ce may anywher e destr oy the per fecti on of the gar l and; for the vi r tues so ar e
bound up together i n the soul by the hai r, that i f the thread i s once broken, al l the
vi r tues ar e l ost; for wher e one vi r tue i s, al l ar e, and wher e one fai l s, al l fai l al so.
The hai r i s sai d to fl utter on the neck, because i ts l ove of God, wi thout any
hi ndr ance whatever , fl utter s str ongl y and l i ghtl y i n the str ength of the soul .
3. As the ai r causes hai r to wave and fl utter on the neck, so the breath of the Hol y
Spi ri t sti rs the strong l ove that i t may fl y upwards to God; for wi thout thi s di vi ne
wi nd, whi ch exci tes the power s of the soul to the pr acti ce of di vi ne l ove, al l the
vi r tues the soul may possess become i neffectual and fr ui tl ess. The Bel oved
obser ved the hai r fl utter i ng on the neck—that i s, He consi der ed i t wi th par ti cul ar
attenti on and r egar d; because str ong l ove i s a gr eat attr acti on for the eyes of God.
“And on my neck regarded.”
4. Thi s shows us that God not onl y esteems thi s l ove, seei ng i t al one, but al so l oves
i t, seei ng i t strong; for to say that God regards i s to say that He l oves, and to say
that He observes i s to say that He esteems what He observes. The word “neck” i s
r epeated i n thi s l i ne, because i t, bei ng str ong, i s the cause why God l oves i t so
much. I t i s as i f the soul sai d, “You have l oved i t, seei ng i t str ong wi thout
weakness or fear , and wi thout any other l ove, and fl yi ng upwar ds swi ftl y and
fer ventl y.”
5. Unti l now God had not l ooked upon thi s hai r so as to be capti vated by i t, because
He had not seen i t al one, separ ate fr om the other s, wi thdr awn fr om other l oves,
feel i ngs, and affecti ons, whi ch hi nder ed i t fr om fl utter i ng al one on the neck of
str ength. After war ds, however , when mor ti fi cati ons and tr i al s, temptati ons and
penance had detached i t, and made i t str ong, so that nothi ng whatever coul d
break i t, then God behol ds i t, and i s taken by i t, and bi nds the fl owers of the
120
Stanza XXXI 121
gar l ands wi th i t; for i t i s now so str ong that i t can keep the vi r tues uni ted together
i n the soul .
6. But what these temptati ons and tr i al s ar e, how they come, and how far they
reach, that the soul may attai n to that strength of l ove i n whi ch God uni tes i t to
Hi msel f, I have descr i bed i n the “Dar k Ni ght,”
1
and i n the expl anati on of the four
stanzas
2
whi ch begi n wi th the wor ds, “O l i vi ng fl ame of l ove!” The soul havi ng
passed thr ough these tr i al s has r eached a degr ee of l ove so hi gh that i t has
mer i ted the di vi ne uni on.
“You were captivated.”
7. O joyful wonder ! God capti ve to a hai r . The r eason of thi s captur e so pr eci ous i s
that God was pl eased to obser ve the fl utter i ng of the hai r on the soul ’s neck; for
wher e God r egar ds He l oves. I f He i n Hi s gr ace and mer cy had not fi r st l ooked
upon us and l oved us,
3
as St. John says, and humbl ed Hi msel f, He never coul d
have been taken by the fl utteri ng of the hai r of our mi serabl e l ove. Hi s fl i ght i s not
so l ow as that our l ove coul d l ay hol d of the di vi ne bi rd, attract Hi s attenti on, and
fl y so hi gh wi th a str ength wor thy of Hi s r egar d, i f He had not fi r st l ooked upon
us. He, however , i s taken by the fl utter i ng of the hai r ; He makes i t wor thy and
pl easi ng to Hi msel f, and then i s capti vated by i t. “You have seen i t on my neck,
You wer e capti vated by i t.” Thi s r ender s i t cr edi bl e that a bi r d whi ch fl i es l ow may
capture the royal eagl e i n i ts fl i ght, i f the eagl e shoul d fl y so l ow and be taken by i t
wi l l i ngl y.
“And wounded by one of my eyes.”
8. The eye i s fai th. The soul speaks of but one, and that thi s has wounded the
Bel oved. I f the fai th and tr ust of the soul i n God wer e not one, wi thout admi xtur e
of other consi der ati ons, God never coul d have been Wounded by l ove. Thus the eye
that wounds, and the hai r that bi nds, must be one. So str ong i s the l ove of the
Br i degr oom for the br i de, because of her si mpl e fai th, that, i f the hai r of her l ove
bi nds Hi m, the eye of her fai th i mpr i sons Hi m so cl osel y as to wound Hi m
thr ough that most tender affecti on He bear s her , whi ch i s to the br i de a fur ther
pr ogr ess i n Hi s l ove.
9. The Br i degr oom Hi msel f speaks i n the Canti cl e of the hai r and the eyes, sayi ng
to the br i de, “You have wounded My hear t, My si ster , My br i de; you have wounded
My hear t wi th one of your eyes, and wi th one hai r of your neck.”
4
He says twi ce
that Hi s hear t i s wounded, that i s, wi th the eye and the hai r , and ther efor e the
soul i n thi s stanza speaks of them both, because they si gni fy i ts uni on wi th God i n
the under standi ng and the wi l l ; for the under standi ng i s subdued by fai th,
si gni fi ed by the eye, and the wi l l by l ove. Her e the soul exul ts i n thi s uni on, and
gi ves thanks to the Br i degr oom for i t, i t bei ng Hi s gi ft; accounti ng i t a gr eat matter
that He has been pl eased to requi te i ts l ove, and to become capti ve to i t. We may
al so obser ve her e the joy, happi ness, and del i ght of the soul wi th i ts pr i soner ,
havi ng been for a l ong ti me Hi s pr i soner , enamor ed of Hi m.
1
‘Dar k Ni ght,’ Bk. 1, ch. 14.
2
Stanza i i . sect. 26 ff.
3
1 John 4:10
4
Cant. 4:9
122 A Spiritual Canticle
NOTE
GREAT i s the power and cour age of l ove, for God i s i ts pr i soner . Bl essed i s the soul
that l oves, for i t has made a capti ve of God Who obeys i ts good pl easur e. Such i s
the nature of l ove that i t makes those who l ove do what i s asked of them, and, on
the other hand, wi thout l ove the utmost effor ts wi l l be fr ui tl ess, but one hai r wi l l
bi nd those that l ove. The soul , knowi ng thi s, and consci ous of bl essi ngs beyond i ts
mer i ts, i n bei ng r ai sed up to so hi gh a degr ee of l ove, thr ough the r i ch
endowments of gr aces and vi r tues, attr i butes al l to the Bel oved, sayi ng:
STANZA XXXII
When You regarded me,
Yours eyes i mpri nted i n me Your grace:
For this You loved me again,
And thereby my eyes merited
To adore what in You they saw.
I T i s the nature of perfect l ove to seek or accept nothi ng for i tsel f, to attri bute
nothi ng to i tsel f, but to refer al l to the Bel oved. I f thi s i s true of earthl y l ove, how
much mor e so of the l ove of God, the r eason of whi ch i s so constr ai ni ng. I n the
two for egoi ng stanzas the br i de seemed to attr i bute somethi ng to her sel f; for she
sai d that she woul d make gar l ands wi th her Bel oved, and bi nd them wi th a hai r
of her head; that i s a gr eat wor k, and of no sl i ght i mpor tance and wor th:
after war ds she sai d that she exul ted i n havi ng capti vated Hi m by a hai r , and
wounded Hi m wi th one of her eyes. Al l thi s seems as i f she attr i buted gr eat mer i ts
to her sel f. Now, however , she expl ai ns her meani ng, and r emoves the wr ong
i mpr essi on wi th gr eat car e and fear , l est any mer i t shoul d be attr i buted to her sel f,
and ther efor e l ess to God than Hi s due, and l ess al so than she desi r ed. She now
r efer s al l to Hi m, and at the same ti me gi ves Hi m thanks, sayi ng that the cause of
Hi s bei ng the capti ve of the hai r of her l ove, and of Hi s bei ng wounded by the eye of
her fai th, was Hi s mer cy i n l ooki ng l ovi ngl y upon her , ther eby r ender i ng her
l ovel y and pl easi ng i n Hi s si ght; and that the l ovel i ness and wor th she r ecei ved
fr om Hi m mer i ted Hi s l ove, and made her wor thy to ador e her Bel oved, and to
br i ng for th good wor ks wor thy of Hi s l ove and favor .
“When You regarded me.”
2. That i s, wi th l ovi ng affecti on, for I have al r eady sai d, that wher e God r egar ds
there He l oves.
“Yours eyes i mpri nted i n me Your grace.”
3. The eyes of the Br i degr oom si gni fy her e Hi s mer ci ful di vi ni ty, whi ch,
mer ci ful l y i ncl i ned to the soul , i mpr i nts or i nfuses i n i t the l ove and gr ace by
whi ch He makes i t beauti ful , and so el evates i t that He makes i t the partaker of
Hi s di vi ni ty. When the soul sees to what hei ght of di gni ty God has r ai sed i t, i t
says:
“For this You loved me again.”
4. To l ove agai n i s to l ove much; i t i s mor e than si mpl e l ove, i t i s a twofol d l ove,
and for two r easons. Her e the soul expl ai ns the two moti ves of the Br i degr oom’s
l ove; He not onl y l oved i t because capti vated by the hai r, but He l oved i t agai n,
because He was wounded wi th one of i ts eyes. The reason why He l oved i t so deepl y
i s that He woul d, when He l ooked upon i t, gi ve i t the gr ace to pl ease Hi m,
endowi ng i t wi th the hai r of l ove, and ani mati ng wi th Hi s char i ty the fai th of the
eye. And ther efor e the soul says:
123
124 A Spiritual Canticle
“For this You loved me again.”
5. To say that God shows favor to the soul i s to say that He renders i t worthy and
capabl e of Hi s l ove. I t i s ther efor e as i f the soul sai d, “Havi ng shown Your favor to
me, wor thy pl edges of Your l ove, You have ther efor e l oved me agai n”; that i s,
“ You have gi ven me gr ace upon gr ace” ; or , i n the wor ds of St. John, “ gr ace for
gr ace” ;
1
gr ace for the gr ace He has gi ven, that i s mor e gr ace, for wi thout gr ace we
cannot mer i t Hi s gr ace.
6. I f we coul d cl ear l y under stand thi s tr uth, we must keep i n mi nd that, as God
l oves nothi ng besi de Hi msel f, so l oves He nothi ng mor e than Hi msel f, because He
l oves al l thi ngs wi th r efer ence to Hi msel f. Thus l ove i s the fi nal cause, and God
l oves nothi ng for what i t i s i n i tsel f. Consequentl y, when we say that God l oves
such a soul , we say, i n effect, that He br i ngs i t i n a manner to Hi msel f, maki ng i t
Hi s equal , and thus i t i s He l oves that soul i n Hi msel f wi th that very l ove wi th
whi ch He l oves Hi msel f. Ever y good wor k, ther efor e, of the soul i n God i s
mer i tor i ous of God’s l ove, because the soul i n Hi s favor , thus exal ted, mer i ts God
Hi msel f i n ever y act.
“And thereby my eyes merited.”
7. That i s, “By the gr ace and favor whi ch the eyes of Your compassi on have
wr ought, when You l ooked upon me, r ender i ng me pl easi ng i n Your si ght and
wor thy of Your r egar d.”
“To adore what in You they saw.”
8. That i s: “The power s of my soul , O my Br i degr oom, the eyes by whi ch I can see
You, al though once fal l en and mi ser abl e i n the vi l eness of thei r mean
occupati ons, have mer i ted to l ook upon You.” To l ook upon God i s to do good wor ks
i n Hi s gr ace. Thus the power s of the soul mer i t i n ador i ng because they ador e i n
the gr ace of God, i n whi ch ever y act i s mer i tor i ous. Enl i ghtened and exal ted by
gr ace, they ador ed what i n Hi m they saw, and what they saw not befor e, because
of thei r bl i ndness and meanness. What, then, have they now seen? The gr eatness
of Hi s power , Hi s over fl owi ng sweetness, i nfi ni te goodness, l ove, and compassi on,
i nnumer abl e benefi ts r ecei ved at Hi s hands, as wel l now when so near Hi m as
befor e when far away. The eyes of the soul now mer i t to ador e, and by ador i ng
mer i t, for they ar e beauti ful and pl easi ng to the Br i degr oom. Befor e they wer e
unworthy, not onl y to adore or behol d Hi m, but even to l ook upon Hi m at al l : great
i ndeed i s the stupi di ty and bl i ndness of a soul wi thout the gr ace of God.
9. I t i s a mel anchol y thi ng to see how far a soul depar ts fr om i ts duty when i t i s
not enl i ghtened by the l ove of God. For bei ng bound to acknowl edge these and
other i nnumer abl e favor s whi ch i t has ever y moment r ecei ved at Hi s hands,
tempor al as wel l as spi r i tual , and to wor shi p and ser ve Hi m unceasi ngl y wi th al l
i ts facul ti es, i t not onl y does not do so, but i s unworthy even to thi nk of Hi m; nor
does i t make any account of Hi m whatever . Such i s the mi ser y of those who ar e
l i vi ng, or r ather who ar e dead, i n si n.
NOTE
1
John 1:16
Stanza XXXII 125
FOR the better under standi ng of thi s and of what fol l ows, we must keep i n mi nd
that the r egar d of God benefi ts the soul i n four ways: i t cl eanses, ador ns,
enr i ches, and enl i ghtens i t, as the sun, when i t shi nes, dr i es, war ms, beauti fi es,
and br i ghtens the ear th. When God has vi si ted the soul i n the thr ee l atter ways,
wher eby He r ender s i t pl easi ng to Hi msel f, He r emember s i ts for mer uncl eanness
and si n no mor e: as i t i s wr i tten, “Al l the i ni qui ti es that he has wr ought, I wi l l not
r emember .”
1
God havi ng once done away wi th our si n and uncl eanness, He wi l l l ook upon
them no mor e; nor wi l l He wi thhol d Hi s mer cy because of them, for He never
puni shes twi ce for the same si n, accor di ng to the wor ds of the pr ophet: “Ther e
shal l not r i se a doubl e affl i cti on.”
2
Sti l l , though God for gets the si n He has once for gi ven, we ar e not for that r eason
to forget i t oursel ves; for the Wi se Man says, “Be not wi thout fear about si n
for gi ven.”
3
Ther e ar e thr ee r easons for thi s. We shoul d al ways r emember our si n,
that we may not pr esume, that we may have a subject of per petual thanksgi vi ng,
and because i t ser ves to gi ve us mor e confi dence that we shal l r ecei ve gr eater
favor s; for i f, when we wer e i n si n, God showed Hi msel f to us so mer ci ful and
for gi vi ng, how much gr eater mer ci es may we not hope for when we ar e cl ean
fr om si n, and i n Hi s l ove?
The soul , ther efor e, cal l i ng to mi nd al l the mer ci es i t has r ecei ved, and seei ng
i tsel f uni ted to the Br i degr oom i n such di gni ty, r ejoi ces gr eatl y wi th joy,
thanksgi vi ng, and l ove. I n thi s i t i s hel ped exceedi ngl y by the r ecol l ecti on of i ts
for mer condi ti on, whi ch was so mean and fi l thy that i t not onl y di d not deser ve
that God shoul d l ook upon i t, but was unworthy that He shoul d even utter i ts
name, as He says by the mouth of the pr ophet Davi d: “Nor wi l l I be mi ndful of
thei r names by My l i ps.”
4
Thus the soul , seei ng that ther e was, and that ther e can
be, nothi ng i n i tsel f to attract the eyes of God, but that al l comes from Hi m of pure
gr ace and goodwi l l , attr i butes i ts mi ser y to i tsel f, and al l the bl essi ngs i t enjoys to
the Bel oved; and seei ng fur ther that because of these bl essi ngs i t can mer i t now
what i t coul d not mer i t befor e, i t becomes bol d wi th God, and pr ays for the di vi ne
spi r i tual uni on, wher ei n i ts mer ci es ar e mul ti pl i ed. Thi s i s the subject of the
fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Ezek. 18:22
2
Nahum 1:9
3
Eccl us. 5:5
4
Ps. 15:4
STANZA XXXIII
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 i s becomi ng bol d, and r espects i tsel f, because of the gi fts and
endowments whi ch the Bel oved has bestowed upon i t. I t r ecogni zes that these
thi ngs, whi l e i tsel f i s wor thl ess and under ser vi ng, ar e at l east means of mer i t,
and consequentl y i t ventures to say to the Bel oved, “Do not di sregard me now, or
despi se me”; for i f befor e i t deser ved contempt because of the fi l thi ness of i ts si n,
and the meanness of i ts natur e, now that He has once l ooked upon i t, and ther eby
ador ned i t wi th gr ace and beauty, He may wel l l ook upon i t a second ti me and
i ncr ease i ts gr ace and beauty. That He has once done so, when the soul di d not
deser ved i t, and had no attr acti ons for Hi m, i s r eason enough why He shoul d do
so agai n and agai n.
“Despise me not.”
2. The soul does not say thi s because i t desi res i n any way to be esteemed—for
contempt and i nsul t ar e of gr eat pr i ce, and occasi ons of joy to the soul that tr ul y
l oves God—but because i t acknowl edges that i n i tsel f i t mer i ts nothi ng el se, wer e
i t not for the gi fts and gr aces i t has r ecei ved fr om God, as i t appear s fr om the
wor ds that fol l ow.
“For if I was swarthy once.”
3. “ I f, befor e You gr aci ousl y l ooked upon me You found me i n my fi l thi ness, bl ack
wi th i mper fecti ons and si ns, and natur al l y mean and vi l e,”
“You can regard me now; si nce You have regarded me.”
4. After once l ooki ng upon me, and taki ng away my swar thy compl exi on, defi l ed
by si n and di sagr eeabl e to l ook upon, when You r ender ed me l ovel y for the fi r st
ti me, You may wel l l ook upon me now—that i s, now I may be l ooked on and
deser ve to be r egar ded, and ther eby to r ecei ve fur ther favor s at Your hands. For
Your eyes, when they fi r st l ooked upon me, not onl y took away my swar thy
compl exi on, but r ender ed me al so wor thy of Your r egar d; for i n Your l ook of
l ove,—
“Grace and beauty have You given me.”
5. The two pr ecedi ng l i nes ar e a commentar y on the wor ds of St. John, “gr ace for
gr ace,”
1
for when God behol ds a soul that i s l ovel y i n Hi s eyes He i s moved to
bestow mor e gr ace upon i t because He dwel l s wel l -pl eased wi thi n i t. Moses knew
1
John 1:16
126
Stanza XXXIII 127
thi s, and pr ayed for fur ther gr ace: he woul d, as i t wer e, constr ai n God to gr ant i t
because he had al r eady r ecei ved so much “ You have sai d: I know you by name,
and you have found favor i n My si ght: i f ther efor e I have found favor i n Your
si ght, show me Your face, that I may know You, and may fi nd gr ace befor e Your s
eyes.”
1
6. Now a soul whi ch i n the eyes of God i s thus exal ted i n gr ace, honor abl e and
l ovel y, i s for that reason an object of Hi s unutterabl e l ove. I f He l oved that soul
befor e i t was i n a state of gr ace, for Hi s own sake, He l oves i t now, when i n a state
of gr ace, not onl y for Hi s own sake, but al so for i tsel f. Thus enamor ed of i ts beauty,
thr ough i ts affecti ons and good wor ks, now that i t i s never wi thout them, He
bestows upon i t conti nual l y fur ther gr ace and l ove, and the mor e honor abl e and
exal ted He renders that soul , the more i s He capti vated by i t, and the greater Hi s
l ove for i t.
7. God Hi msel f sets thi s truth before us, sayi ng to Hi s peopl e, by the mouth of the
pr ophet, “si nce you became honor abl e i n My eyes, and gl or i ous, I have l oved
you.”
2
That i s, “Si nce I have cast My eyes upon you, and ther eby showed you favor ,
and made you gl or i ous and honor abl e i n My si ght, you have mer i ted other and
fur ther favor s”; for to say that God l oves, i s to say that He mul ti pl i es Hi s gr ace.
The br i de i n the Canti cl e speaks to the same effect, sayi ng, “I am bl ack, but
beauti ful , O you daughter s of Jer usal em.”
3
and the Chur ch adds,
4
sayi ng,
“Ther efor e has the Ki ng l oved me, and br ought me i nto Hi s secr et chamber .” Thi s
i s as much as sayi ng: “ O you soul s who have no knowl edge nor under standi ng of
these favor s, do not mar vel that the heavenl y Ki ng has shown such mer cy to me
as to pl unge me i n the depths of Hi s l ove, for , though I am swar thy, He has so
r egar ded me, after once l ooki ng upon me, that He coul d not be sati sfi ed wi thout
betr othi ng me to Hi msel f, and cal l i ng me i nto the i nner chamber of Hi s l ove.”
8. Who can measur e the gr eatness of the soul ’s exal tati on when God i s pl eased
wi th i t? No l anguage, no i magi nati on i s suffi ci ent for thi s; for i n tr uth God does
thi s as God, to show that i t i s He who does i t. The deal i ngs of God wi th such a soul
may i n some degr ee be under stood; but onl y i n thi s way, namel y, that He gi ves
mor e to hi m who has mor e, and that Hi s gi fts ar e mul ti pl i ed i n pr opor ti on to the
pr evi ous endowments of the soul . Thi s i s what He teaches us Hi msel f i n the
Gospel , sayi ng; “He that has to hi m shal l be gi ven, and he shal l abound: but he
that has not, fr om hi m shal l be taken away even that whi ch he has.”
5
9. Thus the tal ent of that ser vant, not then i n favor wi th hi s l or d, was taken fr om
hi m and gi ven to another who had gai ned other s, so that the l atter mi ght have al l ,
together wi th the favor of hi s l or d.
6
God heaps the nobl est and the greatest favors
of Hi s house, whi ch i s the Chur ch mi l i tant as wel l as the Chur ch tr i umphant,
upon hi m who i s most Hi s fr i end, or dai ni ng i t thus for Hi s gr eater honor and
gl or y, as a gr eat l i ght absor bs many l i ttl e l i ghts. Thi s i s the spi r i tual sense of
1
Exod. 33:12,13
2
I sa. 43:4
3
Cant. 1:4
4
Anti phon i n Vesper B. M. V.
5
Matt. 13:12
6
Matt. 25:28
128 A Spiritual Canticle
those wor ds, al r eady ci ted,
1
the pr ophet I sai ah addr essed to the peopl e of I sr ael :
“I am the Lor d your God, the Hol y One of I sr ael , your Savi or : I have gi ven Egypt
for your atonement and Seba for you. I wi l l gi ve men for you, and peopl e for your
l i fe.”
2
10. Wel l may You then, O God, gaze upon and pr i ze that soul whi ch You r egar d,
for You have made i t pr eci ous by l ooki ng upon i t, and gi ven i t gr aces whi ch i n
Your si ght ar e pr eci ous, and by whi ch You ar e capti vated. That soul , ther efor e,
deser ves that You shoul d r egar d i t not onl y once, but often, seei ng that You have
once l ooked upon i t; for so i s i t wri tten i n the book of Esther by the Hol y Spi ri t:
“ Thi s honor i s he wor thy of, whom the ki ng has a mi nd to honor .”
3
NOTE
THE gi fts of l ove whi ch the Br i degr oom bestows on the soul i n thi s state ar e
i nesti mabl e; the pr ai ses and endear i ng expr essi ons of di vi ne l ove whi ch pass so
fr equentl y between them ar e beyond al l utter ance. The soul i s occupi ed i n
pr ai si ng Hi m, and i n gi vi ng Hi m thanks; and He i n exal ti ng, pr ai si ng, and
thanki ng the soul , as we see i n the Canti cl e, wher e He thus speaks to the br i de:
“Behol d, you ar e fai r , O My l ove, behol d, you ar e fai r ; your eyes ar e as those of
doves.” The br i de r epl i es: “Behol d, you ar e fai r , my Bel oved, and comel y.”
4
These,
and other l i ke expr essi ons, ar e addr essed by them each to the other .
2. I n the pr evi ous stanza the soul despi sed i tsel f, and sai d i t was swar thy and
uncl ean, pr ai si ng Hi m for Hi s beauty and gr ace, Who, by l ooki ng upon the soul ,
r ender ed i t gr aci ous and beauti ful . He, Whose way i t i s to exal t the humbl e, fi xi ng
Hi s eyes upon the soul , as He was entr eated to do, pr ai ses i t i n the fol l owi ng
stanza. He does not cal l i t swar thy, as the soul cal l s i tsel f, but He addr esses i t as
Hi s whi te dove, pr ai si ng i t for i ts good di sposi ti ons, those of a dove and a tur tl e-
dove.
1
Sect. 7.
2
I sa. 43:3
3
Esth. 6:11
4
Cant. 4:1, 6:3
STANZA XXXIV
THE BRI DEGROOM
The little white dove
Has returned to the ark with the bough;
And now the turtle-dove
I ts desired mate
On the green banks has found.
I T i s the Br i degr oom Hi msel f who now speaks. He cel ebr ates the pur i ty of the soul
i n i ts pr esent state, the r i ch r ewar ds i t has gai ned, i n havi ng pr epar ed i tsel f, and
l abor ed to come to Hi m. He al so speaks of i ts bl essedness i n havi ng found the
Br i degr oom i n thi s uni on, and of the ful fi l l ment of al l i ts desi r es, the del i ght and
joy i t has i n Hi m now that al l the tr i al s of l i fe and ti me ar e over .
“The little white dove.”
2. He cal l s the soul , on account of i ts whi teness and pur i ty—effects of the gr ace i t
has recei ved at the hands of God—a dove, “the l i ttl e whi te dove,” for thi s i s the
ter m He appl i es to i t i n the Canti cl e, to mar k i ts si mpl i ci ty, i ts natur al gentl eness,
and i ts l ovi ng contempl ati on. The dove i s not onl y si mpl e, and gentl e wi thout gal l ,
but i ts eyes ar e al so cl ear , ful l of l ove. The Br i degr oom, ther efor e, to poi nt out i n i t
thi s char acter or l ovi ng contempl ati on, wher ei n i t l ooks upon God, says of i t that
i ts eyes ar e those of a dove: “Your eyes ar e dove’s eyes.”
1
“Has returned to the ark with the bough.”
3. Her e the Br i degr oom compar es the soul to the dove of Noah’s ar k, the goi ng and
r etur ni ng of whi ch i s a fi gur e of what befal l s the soul . For as the dove went for th
fr om the ar k, and r etur ned because i t found no r est for i ts feet on account of the
water s of the del uge, unti l the ti me when i t r etur ned wi th the ol i ve br anch i n i ts
mouth—a si gn of the mer cy of God i n dr yi ng the water s whi ch had cover ed the
ear th—so the soul went for th at i ts cr eati on out of the ar k of God’s omni potence,
and havi ng tr aver sed the del uge of i ts si ns and i mper fecti ons, and fi ndi ng no r est
for i ts desi r es, fl ew and r etur ned on the ai r of the l ongi ngs of i ts l ove to the ar k of
i ts Cr eator ’s bosom; but i t onl y effected an entr ance when God had dr i ed the
water s of i ts i mper fecti ons. Then i t r etur ned wi th the ol i ve br anch, that i s, the
vi ctor y over al l thi ngs by Hi s mer ci ful compassi on, to thi s bl essed and per fect
r ecol l ecti on i n the bosom of the Bel oved, not onl y tr i umphant over al l i ts enemi es,
but al so rewarded for i ts meri ts; for both the one and the other are symbol i zed by
the ol i ve bough. Thus the dove-soul returns to the ark of God not onl y whi te and
pur e as i t went for th when He cr eated i t, but wi th the ol i ve br anch of r ewar d and
peace obtai ned by the conquest of i tsel f.
“And now the turtle dove its desired mate
on the green banks has found.”
1
Cant. 4:1
129
130 A Spiritual Canticle
4. The Br i degr oom cal l s the soul the tur tl e-dove, because when i t i s seeki ng after
the Bel oved i t i s l i ke the turtl e-dove when i t cannot fi nd i ts desi red mate. I t i s sai d
of the turtl e-dove, when i t cannot fi nd i ts mate, that i t wi l l not si ts on the green
boughs, nor dr i nk of the cool r efr eshi ng water s, nor r eti r e to the shade, nor
mi ngl e wi th compani ons; but when i t fi nds i ts mate then i t does al l thi s.
5. Such, too, i s the condi ti on of the soul , and necessar i l y, i f i t i s to attai n to uni on
wi th the Br i degr oom. The soul ’s l ove and anxi ety must be such that i t cannot r est
on the gr een boughs of any joy, nor dr i nk of the water s of thi s wor l d’s honor and
gl or y, nor r ecr eate i tsel f wi th any tempor al consol ati on, nor shel ter i tsel f i n the
shade of cr eated hel p and pr otecti on: i t must r epose nowher e, i t must avoi d the
soci ety of al l i ts i ncl i nati ons, mour n i n i ts l onel i ness, unti l i t shal l fi nd the
Br i degr oom to i ts per fect contentment.
6. And because the soul , before i t attai ned to thi s estate, sought the Bel oved i n
gr eat l ove, and was sati sfi ed wi th nothi ng shor t of Hi m, the Br i degr oom her e
speaks of the end of i ts l abor s, and the ful fi l l ment of i ts desi r es, sayi ng: “Now the
tur tl e-dove i ts desi r ed mate on the gr een banks has found.” That i s: Now the br i de-
soul si ts on the gr een bough, r ejoi ci ng i n her Bel oved, dr i nks of the cl ear water s of
the hi ghest contempl ati on and of the wi sdom of God; i s r efr eshed by the
consol ati ons i t fi nds i n Hi m, and i s al so shel ter ed under the shadow of Hi s favor
and pr otecti on, whi ch she had so ear nestl y desi r ed. Ther e i s she del i ci ousl y and
di vi nel y comfor ted, r efr eshed and nour i shed, as she says i n the, Canti cl e: “ I sat
down under Hi s shadow Whom I desi r ed, and Hi s fr ui t was sweet to my pal ate.”
1
NOTE
THE Br i degr oom pr oceeds to speak of the sati sfacti on whi ch He der i ves fr om the
happi ness whi ch the br i de has found i n that sol i tude wher ei n she desi r ed to l i ve—
a stabl e peace and unchangeabl e good. For when the br i de i s confi r med i n the
tr anqui l l i ty of her soul and sol i tar y l ove of the Br i degr oom, she r eposes so sweetl y
i n the l ove of God, and God al so i n her , that she r equi r es no other means or
master s to gui de her i n the way of God; for God Hi msel f i s now her l i ght and
gui de, ful fi l l i ng i n her what He pr omi sed by the mouth of Hosea, sayi ng: “I wi l l
l ead her i nto the wi l der ness, and I wi l l speak to her hear t.”
2
That i s, i t i s i n
sol i tude that He communi cates Hi msel f, and uni tes Hi msel f, to the soul , for to
speak to the heart i s to sati sfy the heart, and no heart can be sati sfi ed wi th l ess
than God. And so the Br i degr oom Says:
1
Cant. 2:3
2
Hos. 2:14
STANZA XXXV
I n solitude she lived,
And in solitude built her nest;
And in solitude, alone
Has the Beloved guided her,
I n solitude also wounded with love.
I N thi s stanza the Br i degr oom i s doi ng two thi ngs: one i s, He i s pr ai si ng the
sol i tude i n whi ch the soul once l i ved, for i t was the means wher eby i t found the
Bel oved, and r ejoi ced i n Hi m, away fr om al l i ts for mer anxi eti es and tr oubl es.
For , as the soul abode i n sol i tude, abandoni ng al l cr eated hel p and consol ati on, i n
order to obtai n the fel l owshi p and uni on of the Bel oved, i t deserved thereby
possessi on of the peace of sol i tude i n the Bel oved, i n Whom i t r eposes al one,
undi stur bed by any anxi eti es.
2. The second i s thi s: the Br i degr oom i s sayi ng that, i nasmuch as the soul has
desi r ed to be al one, far away, for Hi s sake, fr om al l cr eated thi ngs, He has been
enamor ed of i t because of i ts l onel i ness, has taken car e of i t, hel d i t i n Hi s ar ms,
fed i t wi th al l good thi ngs, and gui ded i t to the deep thi ngs of God. He does not
mer el y say that He i s now the soul ’s gui de, but that He i s i ts onl y gui de, wi thout
any i nter medi ate hel p, ei ther of angel s or of men, ei ther of for ms or of fi gur es; for
the soul i n thi s sol i tude has attai ned to true l i berty of spi ri t, and i s whol l y
detached fr om al l subor di nate means.
“I n solitude she lived.”
3. The turtl e-dove, that i s, the soul , l i ved i n sol i tude before she found the Bel oved
i n thi s state of uni on; for the soul that l ongs after God der i ves no consol ati on fr om
any other compani onshi p,—yes, unti l i t fi nds Hi m ever ythi ng does but i ncr ease
i ts sol i tude.
“And in solitude built her nest.”
4. The pr evi ous sol i tude of the soul was i ts vol untar y pr i vati on of al l the comfor ts
of thi s wor l d, for the sake of the Br i degr oom—as i n the i nstance of the
tur tl edove—i ts str i vi ng after per fecti on, and acqui r i ng that per fect sol i tude
wher ei n i t attai ns to uni on wi th the Wor d, and i n consequence to compl ete
r efr eshment and r epose. Thi s i s what i s meant by “nest”; and the wor ds of the
stanza may be thus expl ai ned: “I n that sol i tude, wher ei n the br i de for mer l y l i ved,
tr i ed by affl i cti ons and tr oubl es, because she was not per fect, ther e, i n that
sol i tude, has she found r efr eshment and r est, because she has found per fect r est
i n God.” Thi s, too, i s the spi r i tual sense of these wor ds of the Psal mi st: “The
spar r ow has found her sel f a house, and the tur tl e a nest for her sel f, wher e she
may l ay her young ones;
1
that i s, a sur e stay i n God, i n Whom al l the desi r es and
power s of the soul ar e sati sfi ed.”
“And in solitude.”
1
Ps. 83:4
131
132 A Spiritual Canticle
5. I n the sol i tude of per fect detachment fr om al l thi ngs, wher ei n i t l i ves al one
wi th God—ther e He gui des i t, moves i t, and el evates i t to di vi ne thi ngs. He gui des
the under standi ng i n the per cepti on of di vi ne thi ngs, because i t i s now detached
fr om al l str ange and contr ar y knowl edge, and i s al one. He moves the wi l l fr eel y to
l ove Hi msel f, because i t i s now al one, di sencumber ed fr om al l other affecti ons. He
fi l l s the memor y wi th di vi ne knowl edge, because that al so i s now al one, empti ed
of al l i magi nati ons and fanci es. For the i nstant the soul cl ear s and empti es i ts
facul ti es of al l ear thl y objects, and fr om attachments to hi gher thi ngs, keepi ng
them i n sol i tude, God i mmedi atel y fi l l s them wi th the i nvi si bl e and di vi ne; i t
bei ng God Hi msel f Who gui des i t i n thi s sol i tude. St. Paul says of the per fect, that
they “are l ed by the Spi ri t of God,”
1
and that i s the same as sayi ng “I n sol i tude has
He gui ded her .”
“Alone has the Beloved guided her.”
6. That i s, the Bel oved not onl y gui des the soul i n i ts sol i tude, but i t i s He al one
Who wor ks i n i t di r ectl y and i mmedi atel y. I t i s of the natur e of the soul ’s uni on
wi th God i n the spi r i tual mar r i age that God wor ks di r ectl y, and communi cates
Hi msel f i mmedi atel y, not by the mi ni str y of angel s or by the hel p of natur al
capaci ti es. For the exter i or and i nter i or senses, al l cr eated thi ngs, and even the
soul i tsel f, contr i bute ver y l i ttl e towar ds the r ecepti on of those gr eat super natur al
favor s whi ch God bestows i n thi s state; i ndeed, i nasmuch as they do not fal l
wi thi n the cogni zance of natur al effor ts, abi l i ty and appl i cati on, God effects them
al one.
7. The r eason i s, that He fi nds the soul al one i n i ts sol i tude, and ther efor e wi l l not
gi ve i t another compani on, nor wi l l He entr ust Hi s wor k to any other than
Hi msel f.
8. Ther e i s a cer tai n fi tness i n thi s; for the soul havi ng abandoned al l thi ngs, and
passed thr ough al l the or di nar y means, r i si ng above them to God, God Hi msel f
becomes the gui de, and the way to Hi msel f. The soul i n sol i tude, detached fr om al l
thi ngs, havi ng now ascended above al l thi ngs, nothi ng now can pr ofi t or hel p i t to
ascend hi gher except the Br i degr oom Wor d Hi msel f, Who, because enamor ed of
the br i de, wi l l Hi msel f al one bestow these gr aces on the soul . And so He says:
“I n solitude also wounded with love.”
9. That i s, the l ove of the bri de; for the Bri degroom not onl y l oves greatl y the
sol i tude of the soul , but i s al so wounded wi th l ove of her , because the soul woul d
abi de i n sol i tude and detachment, on account of i ts bei ng i tsel f wounded wi th l ove
of Hi m. He wi l l not, ther efor e, l eave i t al one; for bei ng wounded wi th l ove because
of the soul ’s sol i tude on Hi s account, and seei ng that nothi ng el se can sati sfy i t,
He comes Hi msel f to be al one i ts gui de, dr awi ng i t to, and absor bi ng i t i n,
Hi msel f. But He woul d not have done so i f He had not found i t i n thi s spi r i tual
sol i tude.
NOTE
1
Rom. 8:14
Stanza XXXV 133
I T i s a str ange char acter i sti c of per sons i n l ove that they take a much gr eater
pl easur e i n thei r l onel i ness than i n the company of other s. For i f they meet
together i n the pr esence of other s wi th whom they need have no i nter cour se, and
fr om whom they have nothi ng to conceal , and i f those other s nei ther addr ess
them nor i nter fer e wi th them, yet the ver y fact of thei r pr esence i s suffi ci ent to r ob
the l over s of al l pl easur e i n thei r meeti ng. The cause of thi s l i es i n the fact that
l ove i s the uni on of two per sons, who wi l l not communi cate wi th each other i f they
ar e not al one. And now the soul , havi ng r eached the summi t of per fecti on, and
l i ber ty of spi r i t i n God, al l the r esi stance and contr adi cti ons of the fl esh bei ng
subdued, has no other occupati on or empl oyment than i ndul gence i n the joys of i ts
i nti mate l ove of the Bri degroom. I t i s wri tten of hol y Tobi t, after the tri al s of hi s
l i fe wer e over , that God r estor ed hi s si ght, and that “the r est of hi s l i fe was i n
joy.”
1
So i s i t wi th the per fect soul , i t r ejoi ces i n the bl essi ngs that sur r ound i t.
2. The pr ophet I sai ah says of the soul whi ch, havi ng been tr i ed i n the wor ks of
per fecti on has ar r i ved at the goal desi r ed: “ Your l i ght shal l ar i se up i n dar kness,
and your dar kness shal l be as the noonday. And the Lor d wi l l gi ve you r est
al ways, and wi l l fi l l your soul wi th br i ghtness, and del i ver your bones, and you
shal l be as a water ed gar den and as a fountai n of water whose water s shal l not
fai l . And the deser ts of the wor l d shal l be bui l t i n you: you shal l r ai se up the
foundati ons of gener ati on and gener ati on; and you shal l be cal l ed the bui l der of
the hedges, tur ni ng the paths i nto r est. I f you tur n away your foot fr om the
Sabbath, fr om doi ng your wi l l i n My hol y day, and cal l the Sabbath del i cate, and
the Hol y of our Lor d gl or i ous, and gl or i fy Hi m whi l e you do not your own ways,
and your wi l l be not found, to speak a wor d: then shal l you be del i ghted i n the
Lor d, and I wi l l l i ft you up above the hei ghts of the ear th, and wi l l feed you wi th
the i nher i tance of Jacob your father ,”
2
Who i s God Hi msel f. The soul , ther efor e,
has nothi ng el se to do now but to r ejoi ce i n the del i ghts of thi s pastur e, and one
thi ng onl y to desi r e—the per fect fr ui ti on of i t i n ever l asti ng l i fe. Thus, i n the next
and the fol l owi ng stanzas i t i mpl ores the Bel oved to admi t i t i nto thi s beati fi c
pastur e i n the cl ear vi si on of God, and says:
1
Tob. 14:4
2
I sa. 58:10-14
STANZA XXXVI
THE BRI DE
Let us rejoice, O my Beloved,
Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty,
To the mountain and the hill,
Where the pure water flows:
Let us enter into the heart of the thicket.
THE per fect uni on of l ove between i tsel f and God bei ng now effected, the soul l ongs
to occupy i tsel f wi th those thi ngs that bel ong to l ove. I t i s the soul whi ch i s now
speaki ng, maki ng thr ee peti ti ons to the Bel oved. I n the fi r st pl ace, i t asks for the
joy and sweetness of l ove, sayi ng, “Let us r ejoi ce.” I n the second pl ace, i t pr ays to
be made l i ke Hi m, sayi ng, “Let us go for th to see our sel ves i n Your beauty.” I n the
thi rd pl ace, i t begs to be admi tted to the knowl edge of Hi s secrets, sayi ng, “Let us
enter i nto the heart of the thi cket.”
“Let us rejoice, O my Beloved.”
2. That i s, i n the sweetness of our l ove; not onl y i n that sweetness of or di nar y
uni on, but al so i n that whi ch fl ows fr om acti ve and affecti ve l ove, whether i n the
wi l l by an act of affecti on, or outwar dl y i n good wor ks whi ch tend to the ser vi ce of
the Bel oved. For l ove, as I have sai d, wher e i t i s fi r ml y r ooted, ever r uns after
those joys and del i ghts whi ch ar e the acts of exter i or and i nter i or l ove. Al l thi s the
soul does that i t may be made l i ke to the Bel oved.
“Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty.”
3. “Let us so act, that, by the practi ce of thi s l ove, we may come to see oursel ves i n
Your beauty i n ever l asti ng l i fe.” That i s: “Let me be so tr ansfor med i n Your
beauty, that, bei ng al i ke i n beauty, we may see oursel ves both i n Your beauty;
havi ng Your beauty, so that, one behol di ng the other , each may see hi s own
beauty i n the other, the beauty of both bei ng Yours onl y, and mi ne absorbed i n i t.
And thus I shal l see You i n Your beauty, and mysel f i n Your beauty, and You
shal l see me i n Your beauty; and I shal l see mysel f i n You i n Your beauty, and
You Your sel f i n me i n Your beauty; so shal l I seem to be Your sel f i n Your beauty,
and You mysel f i n Your beauty; my beauty shal l be Your s, Your s shal l be mi ne,
and I shal l be You i n i t, and You mysel f i n Your own beauty; for Your beauty wi l l
be my beauty, and so we shal l see, each the other , i n Your beauty.”
4. Thi s i s the adopti on of the sons of God, who may tr ul y say what the Son Hi msel f
says to the Eter nal Father : “ Al l My thi ngs ar e Your s, and Your s ar e Mi ne,”
1
He
by essence, bei ng the Son of God by nature, we by parti ci pati on, bei ng sons by
adopti on. Thi s He says not for Hi msel f onl y, Who i s the Head, but for the whol e
mysti cal body, whi ch i s the Chur ch. For the Chur ch wi l l shar e i n the ver y beauty
of the Br i degr oom i n the day of her tr i umph, when she shal l see God face to face.
1
John 17:10
134
Stanza XXXVI 135
And thi s i s the vi si on whi ch the soul pr ays that the Br i degr oom and i tsel f may go
i n Hi s beauty to see.
“To the mountain and the hill.”
5. That i s, to the mor ni ng and essenti al knowl edge of God,
1
whi ch i s knowl edge i n
the Di vi ne Wor d, Who, because He i s so hi gh, i s her e si gni fi ed by “the mountai n.”
Thus I sai ah says, cal l i ng upon men to know the Son of God: “Come, and l et us go
up to the mountai n of our Lor d”;
2
and befor e: “I n the l ast days the mountai n of the
house of the Lor d shal l be pr epar ed.”
3
“And to the hill.”
6. That i s, to the eveni ng knowl edge of God, to the knowl edge of Hi m i n Hi s
cr eatur es, i n Hi s wor ks, and i n Hi s mar vel ous l aws. Thi s i s si gni fi ed by the
expr essi on “hi l l ,” because i t i s a ki nd of knowl edge l ower than the other . The soul
pr ays for both when i t says “to the mountai n and the hi l l .”
7. When the soul says, “Let us go forth to see oursel ves i n Your beauty to the
mountai n,” i ts meani ng i s, “ Tr ansfor m me, and make me l i ke the beauty of the
Di vi ne Wi sdom, the Wor d, the Son of God.” When i t says “to the hi l l ,” the meani ng
i s, “ I nstr uct me i n the beauty of thi s l ower knowl edge, whi ch i s mani fest i n Your
cr eatur es and myster i ous wor ks.” Thi s al so i s the beauty of the Son of God, wi th
whi ch the soul desi r es to shi ne.
8. But the soul cannot see i tsel f i n the beauty of God i f i t i s not transformed i n Hi s
wi sdom, wher ei n al l thi ngs ar e seen and possessed, whether i n heaven or i n
ear th. I t was to thi s mountai n and to thi s hi l l the br i de l onged to come when she
sai d, “I wi l l go to the mountai n of myr r h, and to the hi l l of fr anki ncense.”
4
The
mountai n of myr r h i s the cl ear vi si on of God, and the hi l l of fr anki ncense the
knowl edge of Hi m i n Hi s wor ks, for the myr r h on the mountai n i s of a hi gher
or der than the i ncense on the hi l l .
“Where the pure water flows.”
9. Thi s i s the wi sdom and knowl edge of God, whi ch cl eanse the under standi ng,
and detach i t fr om al l acci dents and fanci es, and whi ch cl ear i t of the mi st of
i gnor ance. The soul i s ever i nfl uenced by thi s desi r e of per fectl y and cl ear l y
under standi ng the di vi ne ver i ti es, and the mor e i t l oves the mor e i t desi r es to
penetr ate them, and hence the thi r d peti ti on whi ch i t makes:
“Let us enter into the heart of the thicket;”
10. I nto the depths of God’s mar vel ous wor ks and pr ofound judgments. Such i s
1
St. Augusti ne, ‘De Genesi ad Li tt.’ i v., xxi v. (and el sewher e) and the schol asti cs (St. Thomas, ‘S.
Th.’ I . l vi i i . 7) di sti ngui sh between the ‘mor ni ng knowl edge’ wher eby angel s and sai nts know
cr eated thi ngs by seei ng the Di vi ne Wor d, and ‘eveni ng knowl edge’ wher e they der i ve thei r
knowl edge fr om the cr eated thi ngs themsel ves.
2
I sa. 2:3
3
I sa. 2:2
4
Cant. 4:6
136 A Spiritual Canticle
thei r mul ti tude and vari ety, that they may be cal l ed a thi cket. They are so ful l of
wi sdom and myster y, that we may not onl y cal l them a thi cket, but we may even
appl y to them the wor ds of Davi d: “The mountai n of God i s a r i ch mountai n, a
mountai n cur dl ed as cheese, a r i ch mountai n.”
1
The thi cket of the wi sdom and
knowl edge of God i s so deep, and so i mmense, that the soul , however much i t
knows of i t, can al ways penetr ate fur ther wi thi n i t, because i t i s so i mmense and
so i ncompr ehensi bl e. “O the depth,” cr i es out the Apostl e, “of the r i ches of the
wi sdom and of the knowl edge of God! How i ncompr ehensi bl e ar e Hi s judgments,
and how unsear chabl e Hi s ways!”
2
11. But the soul l ongs to enter thi s thi cket and i ncomprehensi bi l i ty of Hi s
judgments, for i t i s moved by that l ongi ng for a deeper knowl edge of them. That
knowl edge i s an i nesti mabl e del i ght, tr anscendi ng al l under standi ng. Davi d,
speaki ng of the sweetness of them, says: “The judgments of our Lor d ar e tr ue,
justi fi ed i n themsel ves, to be desi r ed above gol d and many pr eci ous stones, and
sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. For Your ser vant keeps them.”
3
The soul
ther efor e ear nestl y l ongs to be engul fed i n Hi s judgments, and to have a deeper
knowl edge of them, and for that end woul d esteem i t a joy and gr eat consol ati on to
endur e al l suffer i ngs and affl i cti ons i n the wor l d, and whatever el se mi ght hel p i t
to that end, however har d and pai nful i t mi ght be; i t woul d gl adl y pass thr ough
the agoni es of death to enter deeper i nto God.
12. Hence, al so, the thi cket, whi ch the soul desi r es to enter , may be fi tti ngl y
under stood as si gni fyi ng the gr eat and many tr i al s and tr i bul ati ons whi ch the
soul l ongs for , because suffer i ng i s most sweet and most pr ofi tabl e to i t, i nasmuch
as i t i s the way by whi ch i t enter s mor e and mor e i nto the thi cket of the del i ci ous
wi sdom of God. The most pur e suffer i ng l eads to the most pur e and the deepest
knowl edge, and consequentl y to the pur est and hi ghest joy, for that i s the i ssue of
the deepest knowl edge. Thus, the soul , not sati sfi ed wi th or di nar y suffer i ng, says,
“Let us enter i nto the heart of the thi cket,” even the angui sh of death, that I may
see God.
13. Job, desi r i ng to suffer that he mi ght see God, thus speaks “Who wi l l gr ant that
my r equest may come, and that God may gi ve me what I l ook for ? And that He
that has begun may destr oy me, that He may l et l oose Hi s hand and cut me off?
And that thi s may be my comfor t, that affl i cti ng me wi th sor r ow, He spar e not.”
4
O that men woul d under stand how i mpossi bl e i t i s to enter the thi cket, the
mani fol d r i ches of the wi sdom of God, wi thout enter i ng i nto the thi cket of
mani fol d suffer i ng maki ng i t the desi r e and consol ati on of the soul ; and how that
the soul whi ch r eal l y l ongs for the di vi ne wi sdom l ongs fi r st of al l for the
suffer i ngs of the Cr oss, that i t may enter i n.
14. For thi s cause i t was that St. Paul admoni shed the Ephesi ans not to fai nt i n
thei r tr i bul ati ons, but to take cour age: “That bei ng r ooted and founded i n char i ty,
you may be abl e to compr ehend wi th al l the sai nts what i s the br eadth, and
l ength, and hei ght, and depth; to know al so the char i ty of Chr i st, whi ch
1
Ps. 67:16
2
Rom. 11:33
3
Ps. 18:10-12
4
Job 6:8-10
Stanza XXXVI 137
sur passes al l knowl edge, that you may be fi l l ed to al l the ful l ness of God.”
1
The
gate by whi ch we enter i nto the r i ches of the knowl edge of God i s the Cr oss; and
that gate i s nar r ow. They who desi r e to enter i n that way ar e few, whi l e those who
desi r e the joys that come by i t ar e many.
NOTE
ONE of the pr i nci pal r easons why the soul desi r es to be r el eased and to be wi th
Chri st i s that i t may see Hi m face to face, and penetrate to the depths of Hi s ways
and the eter nal myster i es of Hi s i ncar nati on, whi ch i s not the l east par t of i ts
bl essedness; for i n the Gospel of St. John He, addr essi ng the Father , sai d: “Now
thi s i s eter nal l i fe: that they may know You, the onl y tr ue God, and Jesus Chr i st
Whom You have sent.”
2
As the fi r st act of a per son who has taken a l ong jour ney
i s to see and conver se wi th hi m whom he was i n sear ch of, so the fi r st thi ng
whi ch the soul desi r es, when i t has attai ned to the beati fi c vi si on, i s to know and
enjoy the deep secr ets and myster i es of the i ncar nati on and the anci ent ways of
God dependi ng on them. Thus the soul , havi ng sai d that i t l onged to see i tsel f i n
the beauty of God, si ngs as i n the fol l owi ng stanza:
1
Eph. 3:17-19
2
John 17:3
STANZA XXXVII
We shall go at once
To the deep caverns of the rock
Which are all secret;
There we shall enter in,
And taste of the new wine of the pomegranate.
ONE of the r easons whi ch most i nfl uence the soul to desi r e to enter i nto the
“thi cket” of the wi sdom of God, and to have a mor e i nti mate knowl edge of the
beauty of the di vi ne wi sdom, i s, as I have sai d, that i t may uni te the
under standi ng wi th God i n the knowl edge of the myster i es of the I ncar nati on, as
of al l Hi s wor ks the hi ghest and most ful l of sweetness, and the most del i ci ous
knowl edge. And her e the br i de ther efor e says, that after she has enter ed i n wi thi n
the di vi ne wi sdom—that i s, the spi r i tual mar r i age, whi ch i s now and wi l l be i n
gl or y, seei ng God face to face—her soul uni ted wi th the di vi ne wi sdom, the Son of
God, she wi l l then under stand the deep myster i es of God and Man, whi ch ar e the
hi ghest wi sdom hi dden i n God. They, that i s, the br i de and the Br i degr oom, wi l l
enter i n—the soul engul fed and absor bed—and both together wi l l have the
fr ui ti on of the joy whi ch spr i ngs fr om the knowl edge of myster i es, and attr i butes
and power of God whi ch ar e r eveal ed i n those myster i es, such as Hi s justi ce, Hi s
mer cy, wi sdom, power , and l ove.
“We shall go at once to the deep caverns of the rock.”
2. “Thi s r ock i s Chr i st,” as we l ear n fr om St. Paul .
1
The deep caver ns of the r ock
ar e the deep myster i es of the wi sdom of God i n Chr i st, i n the hypostati cal uni on of
the human natur e wi th the Di vi ne Wor d, and i n the cor r espondence wi th i t of the
uni on of man wi th God, and i n the agr eement of God’s justi ce and mer cy i n the
sal vati on of manki nd, i n the mani festati on of Hi s judgments. And because Hi s
judgments ar e so hi gh and so deep, they ar e her e fi tti ngl y cal l ed “deep caver ns”;
deep because of the depth of Hi s myster i es, and caver ns because of the depth of Hi s
wi sdom i n them. For as caver ns ar e deep, wi th many wi ndi ngs, so each myster y
of Chr i st i s of deepest wi sdom, and has many wi ndi ngs of Hi s secr et judgments of
pr edesti nati on and for eknowl edge wi th r espect to men.
3. Notwi thstandi ng the mar vel ous myster i es whi ch hol y doctor s have di scover ed,
and hol y soul s have under stood i n thi s l i fe, many mor e r emai n behi nd. Ther e ar e
i n Chr i st gr eat depths to be fathomed, for He i s a r i ch mi ne, wi th many r ecesses
ful l of tr easur es, and however deepl y we may descend we shal l never r each the
end, for i n ever y r ecess new vei ns of new tr easur es abound i n al l di r ecti ons: “I n
Whom,” accor di ng to the Apostl e, “ ar e hi d al l the tr easur es of wi sdom and
knowl edge.”
2
But the soul cannot r each these hi dden tr easur es unl ess i t fi r st
passes thr ough the thi cket of i nter i or and exter i or suffer i ng: for even such
knowl edge of the myster i es of Chr i st as i s possi bl e i n thi s l i fe cannot be had
wi thout gr eat suffer i ngs, and wi thout many i ntel l ectual and mor al gi fts, and
1
1 Cor. 10:4
2
Col . 2:3
138
Stanza XXXVII 139
wi thout pr evi ous spi r i tual exer ci ses; for al l these gi fts ar e far i nfer i or to thi s
knowl edge of the myster i es of Chr i st, bei ng onl y a pr epar ati on for i t.
4. Thus God sai d to Moses, when he asked to see Hi s gl or y, “Man shal l not see Me
and l i ve.” God, however , sai d that He woul d show hi m al l that coul d be r eveal ed i n
thi s l i fe; and so He set Moses “i n a hol e of the r ock,” whi ch i s Chr i st, wher e he
mi ght see Hi s “back par ts”;
1
that i s, He made hi m under stand the myster i es of the
Sacr ed Humani ty.
5. The soul l ongs to enter i n ear nest i nto these caver ns of Chr i st, that i t may be
absor bed, tr ansfor med, and i nebr i ated i n the l ove and knowl edge of Hi s myster i es,
hi di ng i tsel f i n the bosom of the Bel oved. I t i s i nto these caverns that He i nvi tes the
br i de, i n the Canti cl e, to enter , sayi ng: “Ar i se, My l ove, My beauti ful one, and
come; My dove i n the cl efts of the r ock, i n the hol l ow pl aces of the wal l .”
2
These
cl efts of the r ock ar e the caver ns of whi ch we ar e her e speaki ng, and to whi ch the
br i de r efer s, sayi ng:
“And there we shall enter in.”
6. That i s, i n the knowl edge of the di vi ne myster i es. The br i de does not say “I wi l l
enter ” al one, whi ch seems the most fi tti ng—seei ng that the Br i degr oom has no
need to enter i n agai n—but “we wi l l enter ,” that i s, the Br i degr oom and the br i de,
to show that thi s i s not the work of the bri de, but of the Bri degroom wi th her.
Mor eover , i nasmuch as God and the soul ar e now uni ted i n the state of spi r i tual
mar r i age, the soul does nothi ng of i tsel f wi thout God. To say “we wi l l enter ,” i s as
much as to say, “ ther e shal l we tr ansfor m our sel ves” —that i s, “ I shal l be
tr ansfor med i n You thr ough the l ove of Your di vi ne and sweet judgments” : for i n
the knowl edge of the pr edesti nati on of the just and i n the for esi ght of the wi cked,
wher ei n the Father pr evented the just i n the benedi cti ons of Hi s sweetness i n
Jesus Chr i st Hi s Son, the soul i s tr ansfor med i n a most exal ted and per fect way i n
the l ove of God accor di ng to thi s knowl edge, gi vi ng thanks to the Father , and
l ovi ng Hi m agai n and agai n wi th gr eat sweetness and del i ght, for the sake of
Jesus Chr i st Hi s Son. Thi s the soul does i n uni on wi th Chr i st and together wi th
Hi m. The del i ght fl owi ng fr om thi s act of pr ai se i s i neffabl y sweet, and the soul
speaks of i t i n the wor ds that fol l ow:
“And taste of the new wine of the pomegranates.”
7. The pomegr anates her e ar e the myster i es of Chr i st and the judgments of the
wi sdom of God; Hi s power and attr i butes, the knowl edge of whi ch we have fr om
these myster i es; and they ar e i nfi ni te. For as pomegr anates have many gr ai ns i n
thei r r ound or b, so i n each one of the attr i butes and judgments and power of God
i s a mul ti tude of admi r abl e ar r angements and mar vel ous wor ks contai ned wi thi n
the spher e of power and myster y, apper tai ni ng to those wor ks. Consi der the
r ound for m of the pomegr anate; for each pomegr anate si gni fi es some one power
and attr i bute of God, whi ch power or attr i bute i s God Hi msel f, symbol i zed her e by
the ci r cul ar fi gur e, whi ch has nei ther begi nni ng not end. I t was i n the
contempl ati on of the judgments and myster i es of the wi sdom of God, whi ch ar e
1
Exod. 33:20-23
2
Cant. 2:13,14
140 A Spiritual Canticle
i nfi ni te, that the br i de sai d, “Hi s bel l y i s of i vor y set wi th sapphi r es.”
1
The
sapphi r es ar e the myster i es and judgments of the di vi ne Wi sdom, whi ch i s her e
si gni fi ed by the “bel l y”—the sapphi r e bei ng a pr eci ous stone of the col or of the
heavens when cl ear and ser ene.
8. The wi ne of the pomegr anates whi ch the br i de says that she and the
Br i degr oom wi l l taste i s the fr ui ti on and joy of the l ove of God whi ch over fl ows the
soul i n the under standi ng and knowl edge of Hi s myster i es. For as the many
gr ai ns of the pomegr anate pr essed together gi ve for th but one wi ne, so al l the
mar vel s and magni fi cence of God, i nfused i nto the soul , i ssue i n but one fr ui ti on
and joy of l ove, whi ch i s the dr i nk of the Hol y Spi r i t, and whi ch the soul offer s at
once to God the Wor d, i ts Br i degr oom, wi th gr eat tender ness of l ove.
9. Thi s di vi ne dr i nk the br i de pr omi sed to the Br i degr oom i f He woul d l ead her
i nto thi s deep knowl edge: “Ther e You shal l teach me,” says the br i de, “and I wi l l
gi ve You a cup of spi ced wi ne, and new wi ne of my pomegr anates.”
2
The soul
cal l s them “my pomegr anates,” though they ar e God’s Who had gi ven them to i t,
and the soul offer s them to God as i f they wer e i ts own, sayi ng, “We wi l l taste of
the wi ne of the pomegranates”; for when He states i t He gi ves i t to the soul to taste,
and when the soul tastes i t, the soul gi ves i t back to Hi m, and thus i t i s that both
taste i t together.
NOTE
I N the two pr evi ous stanzas the br i de sung of those good thi ngs whi ch the
Br i degr oom i s to gi ve her i n ever l asti ng bl i ss, namel y, her tr ansfor mati on i n the
beauty of cr eated and uncr eated wi sdom, and al so i n the beauty of the uni on of the
Wor d wi th fl esh, wher ei n she shal l behol d Hi s face as wel l as Hi s back.
Accor di ngl y two thi ngs ar e set befor e us i n the fol l owi ng stanza. The fi r st i s the
way i n whi ch the soul tastes of the di vi ne wi ne of the pomegr anates; the second i s
the soul ’s putti ng befor e the Br i degr oom the gl or y of i ts pr edesti nati on. And
though these two thi ngs are spoken of separatel y, one after the other, they are both
i nvol ved i n the one essenti al gl or y of the soul .
1
Cant. 5:14
2
Cant. 8:2
STANZA XXXVIII
There you will show me
That which my soul desired;
And there You will give at once,
O You, my life,
That which You gave me the other day.
THE r eason why the soul l onged to enter the caver ns was that i t mi ght attai n to
the consummati on of the l ove of God, the object of i ts conti nual desi r es; that i s,
that i t mi ght l ove God wi th the pur eness and per fecti on wi th whi ch He has l oved
i t, so that i t mi ght thereby requi te Hi s l ove. Hence i n the present stanza the bri de
says to the Br i degr oom that He wi l l ther e show her what she had al ways ai med at
i n al l her acti ons, namel y, that He woul d show her how to l ove Hi m per fectl y, as
He has l oved her . And, secondl y, that He wi l l gi ve her that essenti al gl or y for
whi ch He has pr edesti ned her fr om the day of Hi s eter ni ty.
“There You wi l l show me
That which my soul desired.”
2. That whi ch the soul ai ms at i s equal i ty i n l ove wi th God, the object of i ts natur al
and super natur al desi r e. He who l oves cannot be sati sfi ed i f he does not feel that
he l oves as much as he i s l oved. And when the soul sees that i n the
tr ansfor mati on i n God, such as i s possi bl e i n thi s l i fe, notwi thstandi ng the
i mmensi ty of i ts l ove, i t cannot equal the per fecti on of that l ove wi th whi ch God
l oves i t, i t desi r es the cl ear tr ansfor mati on of gl or y i n whi ch i t shal l equal the
per fecti on of l ove wi th whi ch i t i s i tsel f bel oved of God; i t desi r es, I say, the cl ear
tr ansfor mati on of gl or y i n whi ch i t shal l equal Hi s l ove.
3. For though i n thi s hi gh state, whi ch the soul r eaches on ear th, ther e i s a r eal
uni on of the wi l l , yet i t cannot r each that per fecti on and str ength of l ove whi ch i t
wi l l possess i n the uni on of gl or y; seei ng that then, accor di ng to the Apostl e, the
soul wi l l know God as i t i s known of Hi m: “ Then I shal l know even as I am
known.”
1
That i s, “I shal l then l ove God even as I am l oved by Hi m.” For as the
under standi ng of the soul wi l l then be the under standi ng of God, and i ts wi l l the
wi l l of God, so i ts l ove wi l l al so be Hi s l ove. Though i n heaven the wi l l of the soul i s
not destroyed, i t i s so i nti matel y uni ted wi th the power of the wi l l of God, Who
l oves i t, that i t l oves Hi m as strongl y and as perfectl y as i t i s l oved of Hi m; both
wi l l s bei ng uni ted i n one sol e wi l l and one sol e l ove of God.
4. Thus the soul l oves God wi th the wi l l and str ength of God Hi msel f, bei ng made
one wi th that ver y str ength of l ove wi th whi ch i tsel f i s l oved of God. Thi s str ength
i s of the Hol y Spi r i t, i n Whom the soul i s ther e tr ansfor med. He i s gi ven to the soul
to str engthen i ts l ove; mi ni ster i ng to i t, and suppl yi ng i n i t, because of i ts
tr ansfor mati on i n gl or y, that whi ch i s defecti ve i n i t. I n the per fect
tr ansfor mati on, al so, of the state of spi r i tual mar r i age, such as i s possi bl e on
ear th, i n whi ch the soul i s al l cl othed i n gr ace, the soul l oves i n a cer tai n way i n
1
1 Cor. 13:12
141
142 A Spiritual Canticle
the Hol y Spi ri t, Who i s gi ven to i t i n that transformati on.
5. We ar e to obser ve her e that the br i de does not say, “Ther e wi l l You gi ve me Your
l ove,” though that i s tr ue—for that means onl y that God wi l l l ove her —but that He
wi l l ther e show her how she i s to l ove Hi m wi th that per fecti on at whi ch she ai ms,
because ther e i n gi vi ng her Hi s l ove He wi l l at the same ti me show her how to l ove
Hi m as He l oves her . For God not onl y teaches the soul to l ove Hi msel f pur el y,
wi th a di si nterested l ove, as He has l oved us, but He al so enabl es i t to l ove Hi m
wi th that str ength wi th whi ch He l oves the soul , tr ansfor mi ng i t i n Hi s l ove,
wher ei n He bestows upon i t Hi s own power , so that i t may l ove Hi m. I t i s as i f He
put an i nstr ument i n i ts hand, taught i t the use ther eof, and pl ayed upon i t
together wi th the soul . Thi s i s showi ng the soul how i t i s to l ove, and at the same
ti me endowi ng i t wi th the capaci ty of l ovi ng.
6. The soul i s not sati sfi ed unti l i t r eaches thi s poi nt, nei ther woul d i t be sati sfi ed
even i n heaven, unl ess i t fel t, as St. Thomas teaches,
1
that i t l oved God as much
as i t i s l oved of Hi m. And as I sai d of the state of spi r i tual mar r i age of whi ch I am
speaki ng, ther e i s now at thi s ti me, though i t cannot be that per fect l ove i n gl or y, a
cer tai n vi vi d vi si on and l i keness of that per fecti on, whi ch i s whol l y i ndescr i babl e.
“And there You will give me at once, O You my life,
that which You gave me the other day.”
7. What He wi l l gi ve i s the essenti al gl or y whi ch consi sts i n the vi si on of God.
Befor e pr oceedi ng fur ther i t i s r equi si te to sol ve a questi on whi ch ar i ses her e,
namel y, Why i s i t, seei ng that essenti al gl or y consi sts i n the vi si on of God, and not
i n l ovi ng Hi m, the soul says that i ts l ongi ng i s for Hi s l ove, and not for the
essenti al gl or y? Why i s i t that the soul begi ns the stanza wi th r efer r i ng to Hi s l ove,
and then i ntr oduces the subject of the essenti al gl or y after war ds, as i f i t wer e
somethi ng of l ess i mpor tance?
8. Ther e ar e two r easons for thi s. The fi r st i s thi s: As the whol e ai m of the soul i s
l ove, the seat of whi ch i s i n the wi l l , the property of whi ch i s to gi ve and not to
r ecei ve—the pr oper ty of the under standi ng, the subject of essenti al gl or y, bei ng to
recei ve and not to gi ve—to the soul i nebri ated wi th l ove the fi rst consi derati on i s
not the essenti al gl or y whi ch God wi l l bestow upon i t, but the enti r e sur r ender of
i tsel f to Hi m i n tr ue l ove, wi thout any r egar d to i ts own advantage.
9. The second r eason i s that the second object i s i ncl uded i n the fi r st, and has been
taken for granted i n the previ ous stanzas, i t bei ng i mpossi bl e to attai n to the
perfect l ove of God wi thout the perfect vi si on of Hi m. The questi on i s sol ved by the
fi r st r eason, for the soul r ender s to God by l ove that whi ch i s Hi s due, but wi th the
under standi ng i t r ecei ves fr om Hi m and does not gi ve.
10. I now r esume the expl anati on of the stanza, and i nqui r e what day i s meant by
the “other day,” and what i s i t that God then gave the soul , and what that i s whi ch
i t prays to recei ve afterwards i n gl ory? By “other day” i s meant the day of the
eterni ty of God, whi ch i s other than the day of ti me. I n that day of eterni ty God
pr edesti ned the soul to gl or y, and deter mi ned the degr ee of gl or y whi ch He woul d
gi ve i t and fr eel y gave fr om the begi nni ng befor e He cr eated i t. Thi s now, i n a
1
‘Opusc de Beati tudi ne,’ ch. 2.
Stanza XXXVIII 143
manner , so tr ul y bel ongs to the soul that no event or acci dent, hi gh or l ow, can
ever take i t away, for the soul wi l l enjoy for ever that for whi ch God had
pr edesti ned i t fr om al l eter ni ty.
11. Thi s i s that whi ch He gave i t “the other day”; that whi ch the soul l ongs now to
possess vi si bl y i n gl or y. And what i s that whi ch He gave i t? That what “eye has not
seen nor ear has hear d, nei ther has i t ascended i nto the hear t of man.”
1
“The eye
has not seen,” says I sai ah, “ O God, besi de You, what thi ngs You have pr epar ed
for them that expect You.”
2
The soul has no wor d to descr i be i t, so i t says “what.”
I t i s i n tr uth the vi si on of God, and as ther e i s no expr essi on by whi ch we can
expl ai n what i t i s to see God, the soul says onl y “that whi ch You gave me.”
12. But that I may not l eave the subject wi thout sayi ng somethi ng fur ther
concer ni ng i t, I wi l l r epeat what Chr i st has sai d of i t i n the Revel ati on of St. John,
i n many ter ms, phr ases, and compar i sons, because a si ngl e wor d once utter ed
cannot descr i be i t, for ther e i s much sti l l unsai d, notwi thstandi ng al l that Chr i st
has spoken at seven di ffer ent ti mes. “To hi m that over comes,” says He, “I wi l l gi ve
to eat of the tree of l i fe, whi ch i s i n the paradi se of My God.”
3
But as thi s does not
per fectl y descr i be i t, He says agai n: “Be fai thful to death; and I wi l l gi ve you the
cr own of l i fe.”
4
13. Thi s al so i s i nsuffi ci ent, and so He speaks agai n mor e obscur el y, but
expl ai ni ng i t mor e: “ To hi m that over comes I wi l l gi ve the hi dden manna, and
wi l l gi ve hi m a whi te counter , and on the counter a new name wr i tten whi ch no
man knows but he that r ecei ves i t.”
5
And as even thi s i s sti l l i nsuffi ci ent, the Son
of God speaks of gr eat power and joy, sayi ng: “He that shal l over come and keep
My wor ks to the end, I wi l l gi ve hi m power over the nati ons: and he shal l r ul e
them wi th a r od of i r on, and as a vessel of the potter they shal l be br oken: as I al so
have r ecei ved of My Father . And I wi l l gi ve hi m the mor ni ng star .”
6
Not sati sfi ed
wi th these wor ds, He adds: “He that shal l over come shal l thus be vested i n whi te
gar ments, and I wi l l not put hi s name out of the book of l i fe, and I wi l l confess hi s
name befor e My Father .”
7
14. Sti l l , al l thi s fal l s shor t. He speaks of i t i n wor ds of unutter abl e majesty and
gr andeur : “He that shal l over come I wi l l make Hi m a pi l l ar i n the templ e of My
God, and he shal l go out no mor e; and I wi l l wr i te upon hi m the name of My God,
and the name of the ci ty of My God, the new Jer usal em whi ch descends out of
heaven fr om My God, and My new name.”
8
The seventh ti me He says: “He that
shal l over come I wi l l gi ve to hi m to si t wi th Me i n My thr one: as I al so have
over come, and sat wi th My Father i n Hi s thr one. He that has an ear l et hi m hear
what the Spi r i t says to the Chur ches.”
9
1
1 Cor. 2:9
2
I sa. 64:4
3
Rev. 2:7
4
Rev. 2:10
5
Rev. 2:17
6
Rev. 2:26-28
7
Rev. 3:5
8
Rev. 3:12
9
Rev. 3:21,22
144 A Spiritual Canticle
15. These ar e the wor ds of the Son of God; al l of whi ch tend to descr i be that whi ch
was gi ven to the soul . The wor ds cor r espond most accur atel y wi th i t, but sti l l they
do not expl ai n i t, because i t i nvol ves i nfi ni te good. The nobl est expressi ons befi t i t,
but none of them r each i t, no, not al l together .
16. Let us now see whether Davi d has sai d anythi ng of i t. I n one of the Psal ms he
says, “O how gr eat i s the mul ti tude of your sweetness, O Lor d, whi ch You have
hi dden for them that fear You.”
1
I n another pl ace he cal l s i t a “tor r ent of
pl easur e,” sayi ng, “ You shal l make them dr i nk of the tor r ent of Your pl easur e.”
2
And as he di d not consi der thi s enough, he says agai n, “ You have pr evented hi m
wi th bl essi ngs of sweetness.”
3
The expressi on that ri ghtl y fi ts thi s “that” of the
soul , namel y, i ts pr edesti ned bl i ss, cannot be found. Let us, ther efor e, r est
sati sfi ed wi th what the soul has used i n r efer ence to i t, and expl ai n the wor ds as
fol l ows:
“That which You gave me.”
17. That i s, “That wei ght of gl or y to whi ch You pr edesti ned me, O my Br i degr oom,
i n the day of Your eter ni ty, when i t was Your good pl easur e to decr ee my cr eati on,
You wi l l then gi ve me i n my day of my betr othal and of my nupti al s, i n my day of
the joy of my hear t, when, r el eased fr om the bur den of the fl esh, l ed i nto the deep
caver ns of Your br i dal chamber and gl or i ousl y tr ansfor med i n You, we dr i nk the
wi ne of the sweet pomegr anates.”
NOTE
BUT i nasmuch as the soul , i n the state of spi r i tual mar r i age, of whi ch I am now
speaki ng, cannot but know somethi ng of thi s “that,” seei ng that because of i ts
tr ansfor mati on i n God somethi ng of i t must be exper i enced by i t, i t wi l l not omi t to
say somethi ng on the subject, the pl edges and si gns of whi ch i t i s consci ous of i n
i tsel f, as i t i s wr i tten: “Who can wi thhol d the wor ds He has concei ved?”
4
Hence i n
the fol l owi ng stanza the soul says somethi ng of the fr ui ti on whi ch i t shal l have i n
the beati fi c vi si on, expl ai ni ng so far as i t i s possi bl e the natur e and the manner of
i t.
1
Ps. 30:20
2
Ps. 35:9
3
Ps. 20:4
4
Job 4:2
STANZA XXXIX
The breathing of the air,
The song of the sweet nightingale,
The grove and its beauty
I n the serene ni ght,
With the flame that consumes, and gives no pain.
THE soul r efer s her e, under fi ve di ffer ent expr essi ons, to that whi ch the
Br i degr oom i s to gi ve i t i n the beati fi c tr ansfor mati on. 1. The aspi r ati on of the
Hol y Spi ri t of God after i t, and i ts own aspi rati on after God. 2. Joyous prai se of
God i n the fr ui ti on of Hi m. 3. The knowl edge of cr eatur es and the or der of them. 4.
The pur e and cl ear contempl ati on of the di vi ne essence. 5. Per fect tr ansfor mati on
i n the i nfi ni te l ove of God.
“The breathing of the air.”
2. Thi s i s a cer tai n facul ty whi ch God wi l l ther e gi ve the soul i n the
communi cati on of the Hol y Spi r i t, Who, l i ke one br eathi ng, r ai ses the soul by Hi s
di vi ne aspi r ati on, i nfor ms i t, str engthens i t, so that i t too may br eathe i n God wi th
the same aspi r ati on of l ove whi ch the Father br eathes wi th the Son, and the Son
wi th the Father , whi ch i s the Hol y Spi r i t Hi msel f, Who i s br eathed i nto the soul i n
the Father and the Son i n that transformati on so as to uni te i t to Hi msel f; for the
tr ansfor mati on wi l l not be tr ue and per fect i f the soul i s not tr ansfor med i n the
Thr ee Per sons of the Most Hol y Tr i ni ty i n a cl ear mani fest degr ee. Thi s br eathi ng
of the Hol y Spi r i t i n the soul , wher eby God tr ansfor ms i t i n Hi msel f, i s to the soul
a joy so deep, so exqui si te, and so gr and that no mor tal tongue can descr i be i t, no
human under standi ng, as such, concei ve i t i n any degr ee; for even that whi ch
passes i n the soul wi th r espect to the communi cati on whi ch takes pl ace i n i ts
tr ansfor mati on wr ought i n thi s l i fe cannot be descr i bed, because the soul uni ted
wi th God and tr ansfor med i n Hi m br eathes i n God that ver y di vi ne aspi r ati on
whi ch God br eathes Hi msel f i n the soul when i t i s tr ansfor med i n Hi m.
3. I n the tr ansfor mati on whi ch takes pl ace i n thi s l i fe, thi s br eathi ng of God i n the
soul , and of the soul i n God, i s of most fr equent occur r ence, and the sour ce of the
most exqui si te del i ght of l ove to the soul , but not however i n the cl ear and mani fest
degr ee whi ch i t wi l l have i n the l i fe to come. Thi s, i n my opi ni on, i s what St. Paul
r efer r ed to when he sai d: “Because you ar e sons, God has sent the Spi r i t of Hi s
Son i nto your hear ts, cr yi ng Abba, Father .”
1
The bl essed i n the l i fe to come, and
the per fect i n thi s, thus exper i ence i t.
4. Nor i s i t to be thought possi bl e that the soul shoul d be capabl e of so great a thi ng
as that i t shoul d br eathe i n God as God i n i t, i n the way of par ti ci pati on. For
granti ng that God has bestowed upon i t so great a favor as to uni te i t to the most
Hol y Tri ni ty, whereby i t becomes l i ke God, and God by parti ci pati on, i s i t
al together i ncr edi bl e that i t shoul d exer ci se the facul ti es of i ts under standi ng,
per for m i ts acts of knowl edge and of l ove, or , to speak mor e accur atel y, shoul d
1
Gal . 4:6
145
146 A Spiritual Canticle
have i t al l done i n the Hol y Tri ni ty together wi th I t, as the Hol y Tri ni ty i tsel f? Thi s,
however , takes pl ace by communi cati on and par ti ci pati on, God Hi msel f effecti ng
i t i n the soul , for thi s i s “to be tr ansfor med i n the Thr ee Per sons” i n power ,
wi sdom, and l ove, and her ei n i t i s that the soul becomes l i ke God, Who, that i t
mi ght come to thi s, cr eated i t to Hi s own i mage and l i keness.
5. How thi s can be so cannot be expl ai ned i n any other way than by showi ng how
the Son of God has r ai sed us to so hi gh a state, and mer i ted for us the “power to be
made the sons of God.”
1
He pr ayed to the Father , sayi ng: “Father , I wi l l that
wher e I am they al so whom You have gi ven Me may be wi th Me, that they may
see My gl or y whi ch You have gi ven Me.”
2
That i s, “that they may do by
par ti ci pati on i n Us what I do natur al l y, namel y, br eathe the Hol y Spi r i t.” He says
al so: “Not for them onl y do I pr ay, but for them al so who thr ough thei r wor d shal l
bel i eve i n Me; that they al l may be one, as You, Father , i n Me, and I i n You, that
they al so may be one i n Us: that the worl d may bel i eve that You have sent Me.
And the gl or y whi ch You have gi ven Me, I have gi ven to them: that they may be
one as We al so ar e one. I i n them and You i n Me, that they may be made per fect
i n one, and the wor l d may know that You have sent Me, and have l oved them as
You have al so l oved Me,”
3
—that i s, i n bestowi ng upon them that l ove whi ch He
bestows upon the Son, though not natur al l y as upon Hi m, but i n the way I speak
of, i n the uni on and tr ansfor mati on of l ove.
6. We ar e not to suppose fr om thi s that our Lor d pr ayed that the sai nts mi ght
become one i n essence and natur e, as the Father and the Son ar e; but that they
mi ght become one i n the uni on of l ove as the Father and the Son ar e one i n the
oneness of l ove. Soul s have by parti ci pati on that very God whi ch the Son has by
natur e, and ar e ther efor e r eal l y gods by par ti ci pati on l i ke unto God and of Hi s
soci ety.
7. St. Peter speaks of thi s as fol l ows: “Gr ace to you and peace be accompl i shed i n
the knowl edge of God, and Chr i st Jesus our Lor d; as al l thi ngs of Hi s di vi ne
power , whi ch per tai n to l i fe and godl i ness, ar e gi ven us by the knowl edge of Hi m
Who has cal l ed us by Hi s own pr oper gl or y and vi r tue, by Whom He has gi ven us
most gr eat and pr eci ous pr omi ses: that by these you may be made par taker s of the
di vi ne natur e.”
4
Thus far St. Peter , who cl ear l y teaches that the soul wi l l be a
par taker of God Hi msel f, and wi l l do, together wi th Hi m, the wor k of the Most
Hol y Tr i ni ty, because of the substanti al uni on between the soul and God. And
though thi s uni on i s perfect onl y i n the l i fe to come, yet even i n thi s, i n the state of
per fecti on, whi ch the soul i s sai d now to have attai ned, some anti ci pati on of i ts
sweetness i s gi ven i t, i n the way I am speaki ng of, though i n a manner whol l y
i neffabl e.
8. O soul s cr eated for thi s and cal l ed to thi s, what ar e you doi ng? What ar e your
occupati ons? Your ai m i s meanness, and your enjoyments mi ser y. Oh, wr etched
bl i ndness of the chi l dr en of Adam, bl i nd to so gr eat a l i ght, and deaf to so cl ear a
voi ce; you do not see that, whi l e seeki ng after gr eatness and gl or y, you ar e
mi ser abl e and contempti bl e, i gnor ant, and unwor thy of bl essi ngs so gr eat. I now
1
John 1:12
2
John 17:24
3
John 17:20-23
4
2 Pet. 1:2-4
Stanza XXXIX 147
pr oceed to the second expr essi on whi ch the soul has made use of to descr i be that
whi ch He gave i t.
“The song of the sweet nightingale.”
9. Out of thi s “breathi ng of the ai r” comes the sweet voi ce of the Bel oved addressi ng
Hi msel f to the soul , i n whi ch the soul sends for th i ts own sweet song of joy to Hi m.
Both ar e meant by the song of the ni ghti ngal e. As the song of the ni ghti ngal e i s
hear d i n the spr i ng of the year , when the col d, and r ai n, and changes of wi nter
ar e past, fi l l i ng the ear wi th mel ody, and the mi nd wi th joy; so, i n the tr ue
i nter cour se and tr ansfor mati on of l ove, whi ch takes pl ace i n thi s l i fe, the br i de,
now pr otected and del i ver ed fr om al l tr i al s and changes of the wor l d, detached,
and fr ee fr om the i mper fecti ons, suffer i ngs, and dar kness both of mi nd and body,
becomes consci ous of a new spr i ng i n l i ber ty, l ar geness, and joy of spi r i t, i n whi ch
she hear s the sweet voi ce of the Br i degr oom, Who i s her sweet ni ghti ngal e,
r enewi ng and r efr eshi ng the ver y substance of her soul , now pr epar ed for the
jour ney of ever l asti ng l i fe.
10. That voi ce i s sweet to her ear s, and cal l s her sweetl y, as i t i s wr i tten: “Ar i se,
make haste, My l ove, My dove, My beauti ful one, and come. For wi nter i s now
past, the r ai n i s over and gone. The fl ower s have appear ed i n our l and, the ti me of
pr uni ng i s come: the voi ce of the tur tl e i s hear d i n our l and.”
1
When the bri de
hear s the voi ce of the Br i degr oom i n her i nmost soul , she feel s that her tr oubl es
ar e over and her pr osper i ty begun. I n the r efr eshi ng comfor t and sweet sense of
thi s voi ce she, too, l i ke the ni ghti ngal e, sends for th a new song of r ejoi ci ng to God,
i n uni son wi th Hi m Who now moves her to do so.
11. I t i s for thi s that the Bel oved si ngs, that the br i de i n uni son wi th Hi m may si ng
to God; thi s i s the ai m and desi r e of the Br i degr oom, that the soul shoul d si ng
wi th the spi ri t joyousl y to God; and thi s i s what He asks of the bri de i n the
Canti cl e: “Ar i se, my l ove, my beauti ful one, and come; my dove i n the cl efts of the
r ock, i n the hol l ow pl aces of the wal l , show me your face, l et your voi ce sound i n
my ear s.”
2
12. The ear s of God si gni fy the desi r e He has that the soul shoul d si ng i n per fect
joy. And that thi s song may be per fect, the Br i degr oom bi ds the soul to send i t
for th, and to l et i t sound i n the cl efts of the r ock, that i s, i n the tr ansfor mati on
whi ch i s the fr ui t of the myster i es of Chr i st, of whi ch I spoke just now.
3
And
because i n thi s uni on of the soul wi th God, the soul si ngs to Hi m together wi th
Hi m, i n the way I spoke of when I was speaki ng of l ove,
4
the song of pr ai se i s most
per fect and pl easi ng to God; for the acts of the soul , i n the state of per fecti on, ar e
most per fect; and thus the song of i ts r ejoi ci ng i s sweet to God as wel l as to i tsel f.
13. “Your voi ce i s sweet,”
5
says the Bri degroom, “not onl y to you, but al so to Me, for
as we ar e one, your voi ce i s al so i n uni son and one wi th Mi ne.” Thi s i s the
Canti cl e whi ch the soul si ngs i n the tr ansfor mati on whi ch takes pl ace i n thi s l i fe,
1
Cant. 2:10-12
2
Cant. 2:13,14
3
Stanza xxxvi i . sect. 5.
4
Stanza xxxvi i i . sect. 6.
5
Cant. 2:14
148 A Spiritual Canticle
about whi ch no exagger ati on i s possi bl e. But as thi s song i s not so per fect as the
new song i n the l i fe of gl ory, the soul , havi ng a foretaste of that by what i t feel s on
ear th, shadows for th by the gr andeur of thi s the magni fi cence of that i n gl or y,
whi ch i s beyond al l compar i son nobl er , and cal l s i t to mi nd and says that what i ts
por ti on ther e wi l l be i s the song of the sweet ni ghti ngal e.
“The grove and its beauty.”
14. Thi s i s the thi r d thi ng whi ch the Br i degr oom i s to gi ve the soul . The gr ove,
because i t contai ns many pl ants and ani mal s, si gni fi es God as the Cr eator and
Gi ver of l i fe to al l cr eatur es, whi ch have thei r bei ng and or i gi n fr om Hi m, r eveal
Hi m and make Hi m known as the Cr eator . The beauty of the gr ove, whi ch the
soul pr ays for , i s not onl y the gr ace, wi sdom, and l ovel i ness whi ch fl ow fr om God
over al l cr eated thi ngs, whether i n heaven or on ear th, but al so the beauty of the
mutual har mony and wi se ar r angement of the i nfer i or cr eati on, and the hi gher
al so, and of the mutual r el ati ons of both. The knowl edge of thi s gi ves the soul
gr eat joy and del i ght. The four th r equest i s:
“I n the serene ni ght.”
15. That i s, contempl ati on, i n whi ch the soul desi r es to behol d the gr ove. I t i s
cal l ed ni ght, because contempl ati on i s di m; and that i s the r eason why i t i s al so
cal l ed mysti cal theol ogy—that i s, the secr et or hi dden wi sdom of God, wher e,
wi thout the sound of wor ds, or the i nter venti on of any bodi l y or spi r i tual sense, as
i t wer e i n si l ence and i n r epose, i n the dar kness of sense and natur e, God teaches
the soul —and the soul knows not how—i n a most secr et and hi dden way.
16. Some spi r i tual wr i ter s cal l thi s “ under standi ng wi thout under standi ng,”
because i t does not take pl ace i n what phi l osopher s cal l the acti ve under standi ng
whi ch i s conver sant wi th the for ms, fanci es, and appr ehensi ons of the physi cal
facul ti es, but i n the under standi ng as i t i s possi bl e and passi ve, whi ch wi thout
r ecei vi ng such for ms r ecei ves passi vel y onl y the substanti al knowl edge of them
fr ee fr om al l i mager y. Thi s occur s wi thout effor t or exer ti on on i ts par t, and for
thi s r eason contempl ati on i s cal l ed ni ght, i n whi ch the soul thr ough the channel
of i ts tr ansfor mati on l ear ns i n thi s l i fe that i t al r eady possesses, i n a supr eme
degr ee, thi s di vi ne gr ove, together wi th i ts beauty.
17. Sti l l , however cl ear may be i ts knowl edge, i t i s dar k ni ght i n compar i son wi th
that of the bl essed, for whi ch the soul pr ays. Hence, whi l e i t pr ays for the cl ear
contempl ati on, that i s, the fr ui ti on of the gr ove, and i ts beauty; wi th the other
objects her e enumer ated, i t says, l et i t be i n the ni ght now ser ene; that i s, i n the
cl ear beati fi c contempl ati on: l et the ni ght of di m contempl ati on cease her e bel ow,
and change i nto the cl ear contempl ati on of the ser ene vi si on of God above. Thus
the ser ene ni ght i s the cl ear and uncl ouded contempl ati on of the face of God. I t
was to thi s ni ght of contempl ati on that Davi d r efer r ed when he sai d, “Ni ght shal l
be my l i ght i n my pl easur es”;
1
that i s, when I shal l have my del i ght i n the
essenti al vi si on of God, the ni ght of contempl ati on wi l l have dawned i n the day
and l i ght of my under standi ng.
“With the flame that consumes, and gives no pain.”
1
Ps. 138:11
Stanza XXXIX 149
18. Thi s fl ame i s the l ove of the Hol y Spi r i t. “Consumes” means absol ute
perfecti on. Therefore, when the soul says that the Bel oved wi l l gi ve i t al l that i s
menti oned i n thi s stanza, and that they wi l l be i ts possessi on i n l ove absol ute and
per fect, al l of them and i tsel f wi th them i n per fect l ove, and that wi thout pai n, i ts
purpose i s to show forth the utter perfecti on of l ove. Love, to be perfect, must have
these two pr oper ti es: i t must consume and tr ansfor m the soul i n God; the bur ni ng
and tr ansfor mati on wr ought i n the soul by the fl ame must gi ve no pai n. But thi s
can be onl y i n the state of the bl essed, where the fl ame i s sweet l ove, for i n thi s
tr ansfor mati on of the soul ther ei n ther e i s a bl essed agr eement and contentment
on both si des, and no change to a gr eater or l ess degr ee gi ves pai n, as befor e,
when the soul had attai ned to the state of perfect l ove.
19. But the soul havi ng attai ned to thi s state abi des i n i ts l ove of God, a l ove so l i ke
Hi s and so sweet, God bei ng, as Moses says,
1
a consumi ng fi r e—“ the Lor d your
God i s a consumi ng fi r e”—that i t per fects and r enews i t. But thi s tr ansfor mati on
i s not l i ke that whi ch i s wr ought i n thi s l i fe, whi ch though most per fect and i n
l ove consummate was sti l l i n some measur e consumi ng the soul and wear i ng i t
away. I t was l i ke fi r e i n bur ni ng coal s, for though the coal s may be tr ansfor med
i nto fi r e, and made l i ke i t, and ceased fr om seethi ng, and smoke no l onger ar i ses
fr om them as befor e they wer e whol l y tr ansfor med i nto fi r e, sti l l , though they
have become per fect fi r e, the fi r e consumes them and r educes them to ashes.
20. So i s i t wi th the soul whi ch i n thi s l i fe i s tr ansfor med by per fect l ove: for
though i t i s whol l y confor med, yet i t sti l l suffer s, i n some measur e, both pai n and
l oss. Pai n, on account of the beati fi c tr ansfor mati on whi ch i s sti l l wanti ng; l oss,
thr ough the weakness and cor r upti on of the fl esh comi ng i n contact wi th l ove so
str ong and so deep; for ever ythi ng that i s gr and hur ts and pai ns our natur al
i nfi r mi ty, as i t i s wr i tten, “The cor r upti bl e body i s a l oad upon the soul .”
2
But i n
the l i fe of bl i ss ther e wi l l be nei ther l oss nor pai n, though the sense of the soul wi l l
be most acute, and i ts l ove wi thout measur e, for God wi l l gi ve power to the for mer
and str ength to the l atter , per fecti ng the under standi ng i n Hi s wi sdom and the
wi l l i n Hi s l ove.
21. As, i n the for egoi ng stanzas, and i n the one whi ch fol l ows, the br i de pr ays for
the boundl ess knowl edge of God, for whi ch she r equi r es the str ongest and the
deepest l ove that she may l ove Hi m i n pr opor ti on to the gr andeur of Hi s
communi cati ons, she pr ays now that al l these thi ngs may be bestowed upon her
i n l ove consummated, per fect, and str ong.
1
Deut. 4:24
2
Wi sd. 9:15
STANZA XL
None saw it;
Neither did Aminadab appear
The siege was intermitted,
And the cavalry dismounted
At the sight of the waters.
THE br i de per cei vi ng that the desi r e of her wi l l i s now detached fr om al l thi ngs,
cl eavi ng to God wi th most fer vent l ove; that the sensual par t of the soul , wi th al l
i ts power s, facul ti es, and desi r es, i s now confor med to the spi r i t; that al l r ebel l i on
i s quel l ed for ever ; that Satan i s over come and dr i ven far away i n the var i ed
contest of the spi r i tual str uggl e; that her soul i s uni ted and tr ansfor med i n the
r i ch abundance of the heavenl y gi fts; and that she her sel f i s now pr epar ed, str ong
and appar el l ed, “l eani ng upon her Bel oved,” to go up “by the deser t”
1
of death; ful l
of joy to the gl or i ous thr one of her espousal s,—she i s l ongi ng for the end, and puts
befor e the eyes of her Br i degr oom, i n or der to i nfl uence Hi m the mor e, al l that i s
menti oned i n the pr esent stanza, these fi ve consi der ati ons:
2. The fi r st i s that the soul i s detached fr om al l thi ngs and a str anger to them. The
second i s that the devi l i s over come and put to fl i ght. The thi r d i s that the passi ons
ar e subdued, and the natur al desi r es mor ti fi ed. The four th and the fi fth ar e that
the sensual and l ower natur e of the soul i s changed and pur i fi ed, and so
confor med to the spi r i tual , as not onl y not to hi nder spi r i tual bl essi ngs, but i s, on
the contr ar y, pr epar ed for them, for i t i s even a par taker al r eady, accor di ng to i ts
capaci ty, of those whi ch have been bestowed upon i t.
“None saw it.”
3. That i s, my soul i s so detached, so denuded, so l onel y, so estr anged fr om al l
cr eated thi ngs, i n heaven and ear th; i t has become so r ecol l ected i n You, that
nothi ng whatever can come wi thi n si ght of that most i nti mate joy whi ch I have i n
You. That i s, ther e i s nothi ng whatever that can cause me pl easur e wi th i ts
sweetness, or di sgust wi th i ts vi l eness; for my soul i s so far r emoved fr om al l such
thi ngs, absor bed i n such pr ofound del i ght i n You, that nothi ng can behol d me.
Thi s i s not al l , for :
“Neither did Aminadab appear.”
4. Ami nadab, i n the Hol y Wr i ti ngs, si gni fi es the devi l ; that i s the enemy of the
soul , i n a spi r i tual sense, who i s ever fi ghti ng agai nst i t, and di stur bi ng i t wi th
hi s i nnumer abl e ar ti l l er y, that i t may not enter i nto the for tr ess and secr et pl ace
of i nter i or r ecol l ecti on wi th the Br i degr oom. Ther e, the soul i s so pr otected, so
str ong, so tr i umphant i n vi r tue whi ch i t then pr acti ces, so defended by God’s
r i ght hand, that the devi l not onl y dar es not appr oach i t, but r uns away fr om i t i n
gr eat fear , and does not ventur e to appear . The pr acti ce of vi r tue, and the state of
per fecti on to whi ch the soul has come, i s a vi ctor y over Satan, and causes hi m
1
Cant. 3:6; 8:5
150
Stanza XL 151
such ter r or that he cannot pr esent hi msel f befor e i t. Thus Ami nadab di d not
appear wi th any r i ght to keep the soul away fr om the object of i ts desi r e.
“The siege was intermitted.”
5. By the si ege i s meant the passi ons and desi r es, whi ch, when not over come and
mor ti fi ed, sur r ound the soul and fi ght agai nst i t on al l si des. Hence the ter m
“si ege” i s appl i ed to them. Thi s si ege i s “i nter mi tted”—that i s, the passi ons ar e
subject to r eason and the desi r es mor ti fi ed. Under these ci r cumstances the soul
entr eats the Bel oved to communi cate to i t those gr aces for whi ch i t has pr ayed, for
now the si ege i s no hi ndr ance. Unti l the four passi ons of the soul ar e or der ed i n
r eason accor di ng to God, and unti l the desi r es ar e mor ti fi ed and pur i fi ed, the soul
i s i ncapabl e of seei ng God.
“The cavalry dismounted at the sight of the waters.”
6. The water s ar e the spi r i tual joys and bl essi ngs whi ch the soul now enjoys
i nter i or l y wi th God. The caval r y i s the bodi l y senses of the sensual par t, i nter i or
as wel l as exter i or , for they car r y wi th them the phantasms and fi gur es of thei r
objects. They di smount now at the si ght of the water s, because the sensual and
l ower par t of the soul i n the state of spi r i tual mar r i age i s pur i fi ed, and i n a
cer tai n way spi r i tual i zed, so that the soul wi th i ts power s of sense and natur al
for ces becomes so r ecol l ected as to par ti ci pate and r ejoi ce, i n thei r way, i n the
spi r i tual gr andeur s whi ch God communi cates to i t i n the spi r i t wi thi n. To thi s
the Psal mi st r efer r ed when he sai d, “My hear t and my fl esh have r ejoi ced i n the
l i vi ng God.”
1
7. I t i s to be observed that the caval ry di d not di smount to taste of the waters, but
onl y at the si ght of them, because the sensual par t of the soul , wi th i ts power s, i s
i ncapabl e of tasti ng substanti al l y and pr oper l y the spi r i tual bl essi ngs, not mer el y
i n thi s l i fe, but al so i n the l i fe to come. Sti l l , because of a cer tai n over fl owi ng of the
spi r i t, they ar e sensi bl y r efr eshed and del i ghted, and thi s del i ght attr acts them—
that i s, the senses wi th thei r bodi l y power s—towar ds that i nter i or r ecol l ecti on
wher e the soul i s dr i nki ng the water s of the spi r i tual benedi cti ons. Thi s condi ti on
of the senses i s r ather a di smounti ng at the si ght of the water s than a
di smounti ng for the pur pose of seei ng or tasti ng them. The soul says of them that
they di smounted, not that they went, or di d anythi ng el se, and the meani ng i s that
i n the communi cati on of the sensual wi th the spi r i tual par t of the soul , when the
spi r i tual water s become i ts dr i nk, the natur al oper ati ons subsi de and mer ge i nto
spi r i tual r ecol l ecti on.
8. Al l these per fecti ons and di sposi ti ons of the soul the br i de sets for th befor e her
Bel oved, the Son of God, l ongi ng at the same ti me to be transl ated by Hi m out of
the spi r i tual mar r i age, to whi ch God has been pl eased to advance her i n the
Chur ch mi l i tant, to the gl or i ous mar r i age of the Chur ch tr i umphant. To that end
may He br i ng of Hi s mer cy al l those who cal l upon the most sweet name of Jesus,
the Br i degr oom of fai thful soul s, to Whom be al l honor and gl or y, together wi th
the Father and the Hol y Spi ri t,
I N SÆCULA SÆCULORUM.
1
Ps. 83:3
152 A Spiritual Canticle
INDEX
the soul i n, 97, 118; cessati on
of, 99 Absence, pai n of, 32, 53
Adam, fal l of, 178 El i jah, St., 116
Adopti on, 270 Eterni ty, day of, 287
Al tr ui sm, 190
Ami nadab, 132, 305 Fai th, sol e means of uni on wi th God,
86; cr ystal spr i ng, 87 Angel s, ser vi ce of, 59
Ar i di ty, r emedy agai nst, 137; good
wor ks per for med i n ti me of, 232
Fl i ght of the soul , 102
Foxes, the spi r i tual , 130; oper ati ons
of, 131 Ark, the, 104, 259
Attracti on, the di vi ne, 192 Fr anci s. St. sayi ng of, 108
Bal sam, the di vi ne, 192 Garden, the, of the Bel oved, 139, 173
Beauty, the di vi ne, 271 Gar l ands, the, 233
Bed of the soul , 181 Gl ory, essenti al , 286
Begi nner s, l i kened to new wi ne, 196 God, hi dden, 16; vi si ts to the soul , 28;
how to be sought, 40, 42;
greatest works of, 58; l i ght of
the soul , 74; the gui de of the
per fect soul , 261; judgments of,
277
Betrothal , the spi ri tual , 105, 144; ti me
of, 171; effects of, 213
Breathi ng, the di vi ne, 292
Br i degr oom, the, among the fl ower s,
143; capti vi ty of, 242; sol i tude of,
265; beauty of, 269 Gr oani ngs of the soul , 26, 32
Chari ty, effects of, 104; purpl e robe of,
187; bond of perfecti on, 236
Heart, the, sati sfacti on of, 262
Hope, when pai nl ess, 163
Confi r mati on i n gr ace, 172
Contempl ati on, effects of, 101; not
gr anted to al l spi r i tual
per sons, 101; mysti cal theol ogy,
213; why cal l ed ni ght, 299
I mper fecti ons of the advanced, 210
I ncar nati on, the, 52
I nebri ati on, the di vi ne, 194
Contempt, 252 Judgments of God, 277
Cour age, tr ue, r ar e, 227
Cr eati on, medi tati on on, 47; the wor k
of God onl y, 48; testi mony of,
50; beauty of, 52; a revel ati on,
62; a mani festati on of God, 124
Knowl edge and l ove, 271; of the just i n
heaven, 273; the di vi ne, 273
Knowl edge, super natur al , 271;
worl dl y, 274
Cross, the, betrothal of, 179
Li fe, acti ve and contempl ati ve, 41;
natur al and spi r i tual , 64 Davi d and Jonathan, 239
Death, 82; why the soul desi res, 275 Li mbo, 82
Dei fi cati on, 204 Look, the di vi ne, 242, 256
Del i l ah, tr eacher y of, 25 Love, wounds of, 27; suffer i ngs of, 35;
tests of l ove of God, 68; l ove the
reward of, 69, 104; anxi eti es of,
72; mal ady of, 83; causes
equal i ty, 185, 217; vi si t of, 191;
sol i tary, 224; perfect, 286, 301;
property of, 286, 301
Detachment, perfect, 135, 176, 220,
265, 304
Di onysi us, St., 117
Di stracti ons, 157
Dove, the, 258
Ecstasi es, sour ce of, 96; suffer i ngs of
153
154 A Spiritual Canticle
Manoah, 81 Uni on, di vi ne, the hi ghest state i n
thi s l i fe, 23, 284; when perfect,
286; actual and habi tual , 135,
204
Marri age, the spi ri tual , 92, 154, 170,
201, 266
Mary Magdal ene, St., 71, 224
Meri t, 248
Mysteri es of God, 277 Vi r tues acqui r ed i n youth, 232; uni ty
of, 240
Neck, the, of the bri de, 175 Vi si ons, two, fatal to man, 80
Ni ght, di ffi cul ti es of, 43 Voi ce, i nter i or , 111
Ni ghti ngal e, song of the, 296
Noah, 104, 106 Waters, the di vi ne, 1
Nymphs, the, of Judea, 146 Wi ne, 196
Wi sdom, the di vi ne, 4; of God and the
worl d, 206 Par adi se, fl ower s of, 49
Passi ons, the effects of, 210 Wor l d, the wi sdom of, 226
Paul , St., vi si on of, 150 Wounds, of the soul , r emedy for , 30;
pai n of, 55; effects of, 65,66 Per fecti on, for m and substance of, 216
Pomegranates, 280; wi ne of, 281
Prayer, 25, 37
Pr eacher s, popul ar , 224
Predesti nati on, 282
Pr esence of God i n the soul , 75
Profi ci ents, l i abl e to ecstasi es, 99
Rapture, 96
Satan, power of, 45, 129; afrai d of
perfect soul , 184; overcome, 303
Si n forgi ven, 250
Sol i tude, 262
Soul , l ongi ngs of, 15; wounds of, 29;
pr esence of God i n 77; heal th
of, 84; greatest tri al of, 136
Sparrow, the l onel y, 122
Supper, the spi ri tual , 126
Sweetness, spi ri tual , effects of, 101
Ter esa, St., wr i ti ngs of, 100
Terrors of the ni ght, 161, 166
Theol ogy, mysti c, 213, 299; schol asti c,
4
Thi rst, the l i vi ng, 18, 92
Torrents, 110; of del i ght, 199
Touch, the di vi ne, 28, 114, 193
Transformati on, effects of, 202, 206,
283, 302
Tri ni ty, 292
Truths of the fai th, 90; the beati fi c,
291
Under standi ng wi thout
under standi ng, 300

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