Thursday, January 19, 2006

Second Week after Epiphany.

"Spiritual Canticle" by St John of the Cross. Stanza the first. Part 2

7. Here it is to be observed that in the Songs the Bride compares the Spouse to the hart and the mountain goat saying: My Beloved is like to the goat, and to the young of the harts. And this because of the swiftness wherewith He hides and reveals Himself, as the Beloved is wont to do in the visits which he makes to the soul, and in the withdrawals and absences which He makes them experience after such visits. In this way He makes them to grieve the more bitterly for His absence, as the soul now declares when she says:

8. Which is as though she had said: Not sufficient of themselves were the sorrow and grief which I suffer ordinarily in Thy absence: Thou didst wound me yet more, by love, with Thine arrow, and, having increased my passion and desire for the sight of Thee, didst flee with the swiftness of the heart and allowedst not Thyself to be in the smallest degree comprehended.
9. For further exposition of this line we must know that, beside many other different ways wherein God visits the soul, wounding it and upraising it in love, He is wont to bestow on it a certain enkindling touches of love, which like a fiery arrow strike and pierce the soul and leave it wholly cauterized with the fire of love. And these are properly called the wounds of love, whereof the soul here speaks. So greatly do these wounds enkindle the will in affection that the soul finds itself burning in the fire and flame of love, so much so that it appears to be consumed in that flame, which causes it to go forth from itself and be wholly renewed and enter upon another mode of being, like the phoenix, that is burned up and re-born anew. Of this David speaks and says: My heart was kindled and my reins were changed and I was brought to nothing and I knew not. The desires and affection, which the Prophet here describes as reins, are all stirred, and in that loving enkindlement of the heart are changed into Divine affections, and the soul through love is reduced to naught, and knows naught, save love only. And at this season of love there takes place this stirring of these reins of the desire of the will, which is much like to a torture of yearning to see God.....not because it has been wounded thereby (for afortime it held such wounds of love to be health), but because it is left thus wounded and grieving, and has not been wounded further, even to the point of death, in which case it would see itself united with Him in a clear and revealed vision of perfect love. Wherefore the soul magnifies or describes the pain of the wound of love caused her by this absence, and says: "Having wounded me".
10. And thus there comes to pass in the soul this grief, that is great, inasmuch as when God inflicts upon the soul that wound of love its will rises with sudden celerity to the possession of the Beloved, Whom it has felt to be near by reason of that His touch of love which it has experienced. And with equal celerity it feels His absence and is conscious of sighing thereat, since in one and the same moment He disappears from the soul and hides Himself, and it remains in emptiness and with the greater sorrow and sighing.....For these visits of love that wound are not like others wherein God is wont to refresh and satisfy the soul by filling it with gentle peace and repose. These visits He makes to wound the soul rather to heal it, and to afflict rather than to satisfy, since they serve but to quicken the knowledge and increase the desire, and consequently, the pain. These are called wounds of love, and are most delectable to the soul, for which cause it would fain ever dying a thousand deaths from these lance-thrusts, for they cause it to issue forth from itself and enter into God.