The Living Flame

Flame, living flame, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret centre of my soul!
Since now evasion’s over,
finish your work, my Lover,
break the last thread, wound me and make me whole!

Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
killing, you give me life for death’s distress.

O lamps of fire bright-burning
with splendid brilliance, turning
deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
now their strange new-found glowing
gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.

Ah! gentle and so loving
you wake within me, proving
that you are there in secret and alone;
your fragrant breathing stills me,
your grace, your glory fills me
so tenderly your love becomes my own.

  • St John of the Cross.  (tr. Marjorie Flowers)


God’s speech is the effect He produces in the 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”.

This feast takes place in the substance of the soul where the mind and senses cannot reach. God is the doer of all without the soul doing anything. Since the soul cannot do any work of its own save by means of the corporal senses, from which in this event it is very free and far removed, its sole occupation now is to receive.

And this is what happens, in an indescribable way, at the time this flame of love rises up within the soul. Since the soul is completely purged in its substance and faculties, the divine substance which, because of its purity, touches everywhere profoundly, subtly and sublimely, absorbs the soul in itself with its divine flame. Immersion of the soul in wisdom.


Work in progress.