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a night serene and fair

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)

the gift

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)

still in the centre

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

this His dwelling place

Now then let us deal with the divine and spiritual marriage…
In the spiritual marriage, there is still much less remembrance of the body because this secret union takes place in the very interior centre of the soul, which must be where God himself is…
What God communicates here to the soul in an instant is a secret so great and a favour so sublime – and the delight the soul experiences so extreme…
Thus the soul could be joined in this heavenly union with the uncreated Spirit…

The first effect is a forgetfulness of self, for truly the soul, seemingly, no longer is…
It experiences strange forgetfulness, for, as I say, seemingly the soul no longer is, or would want to be…

When the impulse comes to you, remember that it comes from this interior dwelling place where God is in our soul…
Nor does the Lord in all the favours He grants the soul here receive any assistance from the soul itself, except what it has already done in surrendering itself totally…

So in this temple of God, in this His dwelling place, He alone and the soul rejoice together in the deepest silence.

  • St Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle.

method

One has to follow this method…

this method of emptying
the faculties of their natural occupations

to make room for illumination.

Remain alone in a loving awareness,
without particular considerations,
in interior quiet,
without the acts and exercises of the faculties.
Remain only in general loving awareness,
without any particular knowledge or understanding.

The preparation for this union is not an understanding,
nor the taste, feeling, or imagining of God or any other object,
but the stripping off
of all experiences for God alone.

If individuals would eliminate these impediments
and live in pure nakedness,
their soul in its simplicity and purity
would then be immediately transformed
into simple and pure Wisdom.

  • St John of the Cross. Ascent of Mt Carmel.

It should be known that if a person is seeking God, her beloved is seeking her much more.

The soul, then, should advert that God is the principal agent in this matter, and that He acts as the blind man’s guide who must lead it by the hand to the place it does not know how to reach (beyond the reach of the mind and senses).

Since the soul cannot function naturally except by means of the senses, it is God who in this state is the agent, and the soul is the receiver. The soul conducts itself only as the receiver and as one in whom something is being done; God is the giver and the one Who works in it, by according spiritual goods in contemplation, without the soul’s natural acts and discursive reflections.

Since God, then, as the giver communes with her through simple, loving knowledge, the individual also, as the receiver, communes with God, through a simple and loving knowledge or attention, so that knowledge is thus joined with knowledge and love with love. The receiver should act according to the mode of what is received, and not otherwise, in order to receive and keep it in the way it is given.

If as I say – and it is true – this loving knowledge is received passively in the soul according to the supernatural mode of God, and not according to the natural mode of the soul, a person, if she wants to receive it should be quite annihilated in her natural operations. A person should not bear attachment to anything, neither the practice of meditation, nor to any savour, whether sensory or spiritual, nor to any other apprehensions. She should be quite free and annihilated regarding all things, because any thought or discursive reflection or satisfaction upon which she may want to lean would impede and disquiet her, and make noise in the profound silence of her senses and her spirit, which she possesses for the sake of this deep and delicate listening. God speaks to the heart in this solitude, in supreme peace and tranquility, while the soul listens to what the Lord God speaks to it, for He speaks this peace in solitude.

When it happens, therefore, that a person is conscious in this manner of being placed in solitude and in the state of listening, she should even forget the practice of loving attentiveness I mentioned so as to remain free for what the Lord then desires of her. She should make use of that loving awareness only when she does not feel herself placed in this solitude, this oblivion, this spiritual listening.

When a person approaches this state, strive that she become detached from all satisfaction, relish, pleasure, and spiritual meditations, and do not disquiet her with cares or solicitude concerning heavenly things, and still less earthly things. Bring her to as complete a withdrawal and solitude as possible, for the more solitude she obtains and the more she approaches this silent tranquillity, the more abundantly will the spirit of divine wisdom be infused into her soul.

The least that a person can manage to feel is a withdrawal and an estrangement as to all things, sometimes more than at other times, accompanied by an inclination toward solitude in the gentle breathing of love and life in the spirit.

  • St John of the Cross. The Living Flame of Love.