Thursday, January 26, 2006

Third Week after Epiphany
"Spiritual Canticle" by St. John of the Cross. 'Stanza the First' cont. Translation by E. Allison Peers, Image Books edition, 1961


11. There can be no medicine for the wounds of love save that which comes from him that dealt the wounds. For this cause the soul says that she went out, calling - that is, after Him that had wounded her - begging for medicine and crying out at the violence of the burning that was caused by the wound. And it must be known that this going out is understood in two ways: the one, a going forth from all things, which she does by holy abhorrence of herself through love of God; and this raises her after such wise that it makes her to go out from herself and from her judgment and the ways that are natural to her, and to call for God. And to these two ways of going forth the soul refers when she says: 'I went out'; for both these, and no less, are needful for one that would go after God and enter within Him. And thus it is as if though she said: By this Thy torch and wound of love, my Spouse, Thou hast drawn me forth, not only from all things, from which Thou hast far withdrawn me, but likewise from myself (for truly it seems at such a time that God is drawing the soul away from her very flesh) and hast raised me up to Thyself, so that I cry for Thee and loose myself from all things that I may cling to Thee. 'And thou wert gone'.

12. As though she had said: At the time when I desired to possess Thy presence I found Thee not, and for Thy sake I remained empty and loosed from all things, and yet I bound not myself to Thee; I was buffeted woefully by the gales of love and found support neither in myself nor in Thee. This going forth in order to go to God, as the soul here terms it, is called by the Bride in the Songs to 'rise', where she says: I will rise and go about the city; in the streets and the broad ways I will seek
Him Whom my soul loveth. I sought Him and I found Him not. This rising is here understood, spiritually, as of an ascent from the low to the high, which is the same as to go out from oneself - that is, from one's own low way of life and love of self to the high love of God. But she gives it to be understood that she was afflicted because she found Him not. Thus one that is enamoured of God goes through this life ever in affliction, for he is already surrendered to God, and has expectation of being paid in the same coin - to wit, by the surrender to him of the clear possession and vision of God, for which he 'calls' and which in this life is not granted him. He has lost himself already for love of God, yet has found no gain to compensate him for his loss, for he lacks the said possession of the Beloved for which he lost himself. Wherefore, if a man goes about afflicted for God, it is sign that he has given himself to God and that he loves Him.

13. This affliction and sorrow for the absence of God is wont to be so great in those that are approaching ever nearer to perfection, at the time of these Divine wounds, that, if the Lord provided not for them, they would die. For, as they have kept the palate of the will and the spirit clean, healthy and well prepared for God, and as in that experience whereof we have spoken He gives that to taste something of the sweetness of love, for which they yearn above all things. For there is shown to them in glimpses an immense good and it is not granted to them; wherefore their affliction and torment are unspeakable.