Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
You detach and withdraw the soul from all the other touches of created things by the might of Your delicacy, and reserve it for and unite it to Yourself alone, so mild an effect do You leave in the soul that every other touch of all things both high and low seems course and spurious.
O Word, indescribably delicate touch, produced in the soul only by Your most simple being, which, since it is infinite, is infinitely delicate and hence touches so subtly, lovingly, and delicately.
This is a touch of substances, that is, of the substance of God in the substance of the soul.
The delicateness of delight felt in this contact is inexpressible. There is no way to catch in words the sublime things of God which happen in these souls. The appropriate language for a person receiving these favours is that she understand them, experience them within herself, enjoy them, and be silent.
- St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love. (2:18-21)
Flame, living flame, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret center of my soul !
Since this flame is a flame of divine life, it wounds the soul with the tenderness of God’s life, and it wounds and stirs it so deeply as to make it dissolve in love. What the bride affirmed in the Canticle is fulfilled in the soul. She was so moved that her soul melted, and thus she says: “As soon as He spoke my soul melted.”[Ct. 5:6] For God’s speech is the effect He produces in the soul.
- St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love.
Soft breathing of the air,
sweet song of nightingale above the plain,
the graceful thicket, where
a night serene and fair
brings flame that burns, consuming with no pain.
One should not think it impossible that the soul be capable of so sublime an activity as this breathing in God, through participation as God breathes in her.
The result of the soul’s breathing the air is that she hears the sweet voice of her Beloved calling to her.
She hears the sweet voice of her Bridegroom Who is her sweet nightingale, renewing and refreshing the substance of the soul with the sweetness and mellowness of His voice, He calls her as He would call one now disposed to make the journey to eternal life, and she hears the pleasant voice urge: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come; for now the winter has passed, the rains have gone far off, the flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. [Ct. 2:10-12]
… the soul rejoices in and praises God with God Himself in this union, as we have said she loves God with God Himself.
Such is the song of the soul in the transformation that is hers…
… in the clear and serene contemplation of the vision of God.
- St John of the Cross. The Spiritual Canticle. (Stanza 39)
There you’ll reveal to me
all that my soul has longed for on the way –
you, Love, my life will be! –
there give without delay
the gift you gave to me that other day.
That which the soul says He will reveal to her is essential glory, consisting in the vision of God’s being.
… it is impossible to attain to the perfect love of God without the perfect vision of God.
… as the ultimate reason for everything is love, whose property is to give and not to receive, whereas the property of the intellect lies in receiving and not giving, the soul in the inebriation of love does not put first the glory she will receive from God, but rather puts first the surrender of herself to Him…
With love the soul gives herself to Him; with the intellect, on the contrary, she receives from Him.
- St John of the Cross. The Spiritual Canticle. (Stanza 38)
Well now let’s get back to our castle with its many dwelling places. You mustn’t think of these dwelling places in such a way that each one would follow in file after the other; but turn your eyes toward the centre, the royal chamber.
The soul is capable of much more than we can imagine, and the sun that is in the royal chamber shines in all parts.
It should be kept in mind here that the fount, the shining sun that is the centre of the soul, does not lose its beauty and splendour; it is always present in the soul, and nothing can take away its loveliness. But if a black cloth is placed over a crystal that is in the sun, obviously the sun’s brilliance will have no effect on the crystal even though the sun is shining on it.
You shouldn’t want to know anything else than the fact that, although the very sun that gave the soul so much brilliance and beauty is still in the centre, the soul is as though not there to share these things
You must note that hardly any of the light coming from the King’s royal chamber reaches the first dwelling places. They are darkened so that the soul cannot see the light. The darkness is not caused by a flaw in the room, but by so many things that enter with the soul and don’t allow it to be aware of the light. It’s as if a person were to enter a place where the sun is shining but be hardly able to open his eyes because of the mud in them. The room is bright but he doesn’t enjoy it because of the impediments that make him close his eyes to everything but them.
In the first rooms souls are still absorbed in the world and engulfed in their pleasures and vanities, with their honours and pretences, the senses and faculties.
The soul is so involved in worldly things and so absorbed with its possessions, honour, or business affairs, that even if it would want to see and enjoy its beauty, these things do not allow it to; nor does it seem that it can slip free from so many impediments. If a person is to enter the second dwelling places, it is important that he strive to give up unnecessary things and business affairs. Each one should do so in conformity with his state in life.
St Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle. 1:2