Spiritual Dialogue Between The Soul, The Body, Self-Love, The Spirit, Humanity, and The Lord God Divided Into Three Parts, by Saint Catherine of Genoa
In the first part Saint Catherine relates in what manner she was captivated by worldly allurements, and how, from this state, she was entirely converted to God, and devoted herself to austere works of penance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
The soul and the body propose to travel in company, and to take self-love for a third party.
I saw, said the saint, a Soul and a Body conversing with one another; and first, the Soul said: My Body, God has created me to love, and to enjoy myself; I wish, therefore, to go where I can best accomplish this design, and to have you accompany me in a friendly way, since it will be to your advantage also. We will go through the world; if I find anything which pleases me, I will enjoy it; you can do the same when you find anything which pleases you; and let him do better that can.
The Body answered: Though I may be obliged to do whatever pleases you, yet I see that you cannot accomplish all that you wish without me. Therefore, if we are to set forth together let us come to a perfect understanding before we start, in order that we may not fall out by the way. For my own part, I agree to your proposal, but let each of us be satisfied with the success of the other when he meets with anything that pleases him, for such forbearance, will keep us in peace. I advise this beforehand, because I do not wish that you should deceive me, and say whenever I find something that I like: “I do not wish you to linger here, for I am going elsewhere to attend to my own concerns,” and thus I might find myself obliged to abandon my own plans in order to follow yours. In that case, I assure you I should die, and our design would be frustrated. To prevent this, I think it would be well to take with us a third companion, some just person who has no share in our partnership, and to whom all our differences could be referred.
Soul. I am well-pleased with this proposal; but who shall this third person be?
Body. Let it be Self-Love, who lives with us both; he will see that I have what belongs to me, and I shall enjoy with him. He will do the same for you, and thus, both will be satisfied, each in his own way.
Soul. What shall we do if we find food equally gratifying to both?
Body. Let him eat who may. If there is enough for both there will be no disagreement. If there is not enough, Self-Love will give to each his share. But since our tastes are so different, it will be most extraordinary if we should find food equally pleasing to both, unless one or the other should change; which is contrary to the nature of things.
Soul. By nature I am more powerful than you, and therefore I have no fear of your converting me to your tastes.
Body. But this is my home, where I have so many delightful things to enjoy, that although you may be more powerful than I, you could not possibly awaken in me the desire to be converted to yours. But I, being, as I have said, at home, might more easily convert you to my tastes, doing it from love and from a wish to please you, for you are seeking things which you neither see, taste, nor understand, – nor do you even know where your home is.
Soul. Let us try the experiment; but, in the first place, we must make some agreement by which we may secure harmony. Let us take alternate weeks. When it is my turn you must do whatever is pleasing to me; and, in like manner, when yours comes, I will do whatever you wish, always excepting, so long as I live, whatever would offend our Creator. If I die, that is, if you induce me to offend him, I shall then be your servant to do your bidding, for in that case I shall be wholly converted to your wishes, and shall take pleasure in whatever pleases you. Being thus united, no one but God can ever interrupt our union,for it will always be protected by free-will; and both in this world and the next we shall receive together the reward of all the good and evil that we do. A like fate will be yours, if I succeed in conquering you.
But here comes Self-Love. You have heard the whole. Will you be our third party, our judge, and the companion of our journey?
Self-Love. I consent, and shall find it greatly to my advantage. I shall give each of you what belongs to him, for this will not injure me; and thus I shall live on equal terms with both. But if either of you should wrong me, and deprive me of my support, I shall immediately have recourse to the other, for on no account would I be deprived of my own subsistence.
Body. I am not one who would ever abandon you.
Soul. Nor would I ever do so, especially as we all agree and understand that, above all things, we are to avoid offending God. Therefore, if either of us sins, the others will check the offender. Now, in God’s name, let us go, and I, being the most worthy, will take the first week.
Body. I am contented; guide me, and do with me whatever reason directs. Self-Love and I yield to you.
Part 1, Chapter 2
The Soul and the Body take their turns, in which each enjoys itself according to its wishes and tastes.
Then the Soul said within itself:
Soul. I, who am pure and without a stain of sin, will begin by considering my first creation and all the other benefits I have received from God. I know that I was created for such blessedness, and of such dignity, that I can almost soar above the choirs of angels, and I find myself in possession of a mind all but divine; for I am always drawn by my pure intelligence to the meditation and contemplation of divine things, and filled with the constant desire to eat my bread with the bread of angels. I am, in truth, invisible. I would have, then, all my food and all my delight in things invisible, for to this end was I created, and here I find my rest. I have nothing to do but to draw down from heaven the strength which I need, and to put all things else beneath my feet; I will, therefore, spend this entire week in contemplation, and take heed of naught else. Let him live thus who can do so; and he who cannot must have patience.
But I see that my companions are growing restless. I will go towards them. Well, my comrades, I have finished my week; do you, O Body! treat me in yours as you see fit. But tell me, how has it fared with you while I took my turn?
Self-Love. Not well; for into your regions neither Self-Love nor mortal Body can enter. We have had not the slightest nourishment and are nearly dead; now, however, we hope to have our revenge.
Body. Now it is my turn. Come, Soul, with me. I will show you how much God has done for me. Behold the heavens and the earth with all that adorns them; the sea with its fish, the air with its birds; and then, so many kingdoms, principalities, cities, provinces, as well spiritual as temporal: great dignities, numerous treasures; songs, sounds, and food of every kind for my support in never-failing supplies to the end of time, as well as innumerable other delights. And I can enjoy all these without offending God, for he created them all for me. You have not shown me your country as I am showing you mine. But as I cannot have my will unless you deign to indulge me in it, I venture to remind you that you are under great obligations to me, and that you must not think of going into that country of yours, and leaving me starving on the earth. You cannot do it, for I should die, and it would be your fault; you would offend God, and then we should all be your enemies. I have the advantage of being able to enjoy all these things while I live, and in the next life of enjoying your country also, saving myself, as I shall do, by your means. Remember that I am concerned in your salvation, for I shall be always with you; and do not believe that I desire anything contrary to reason, or displeasing to God. Ask your comrade, Self-Love, if I am not speaking the truth. I would not be unreasonable in my demands, and I will abide by his decision. I am sure that what I am seeking for you, is not only needful, but also agreeable to the will of God.
Part 1, Chapter 3
How Self-Love blames both the Soul and the Body, and wishes to rule them himself. – The Soul complains, and the Body, adhering to Self-Love, demands what its needs require.
Self-Love. I see your motives, which seem to me very reasonable when you do not go beyond the bounds of charity which God prescribed when he said: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” But, in the first place, the Soul has made no account of us, so that we have been actually in peril of our lives; and, on the other hand, I have seen the Body making too great a display to the Soul, of things that are unnecessary to both. In short, O Soul, you must restrain your impulses, and condescend to the necessities of your neighbors, your Body, and myself, if we undertake to live with you in that country of yours I have found nothing for myself; it is, in good truth, the very last of all places in which I should choose to take up my abode. As for you, O Body, it is enough for you to have the necessaries of life, since superfluities are as injurious to you as they would be to the Soul, were she to yield to you. But if you give them up, each of you will be able to live moderately, and according to his taste; I shall find it possible to remain with you, and being thus united, each will enjoy, with discretion, the advantages belonging to the others. If you wish, O Soul, to avail yourself of the Body, you must give it the requisite support, or it will complain; if you nourish it, it will be quiet, and you can use it as you please. In that case, both of you will be at peace, and I shall be obliged to go away, for I could not live with you. This is my opinion.
Soul. I am greatly displeased and dissatisfied to be obliged to condescend, in so many things, to the Body; and I fear that feeding it, under this plea of necessity, will lead to my taking part in its gratifications, and thus finally losing the greater for the less. Seeing both of you so craving, makes me fear that you will give me so much to do, that you will change me from spiritual into earthly; for, after tasting earthly things, I shall lose my relish for heavenly ones. I fear, too, lest the intellect should be defiled and the will corrupted. Help me, O my God!
Body. It seems to me that Self-Love has settled the question, and we may go on joyfully in company. As far as you are concerned, O Soul, do not forget that God would not have created the things that he has created, if they were injurious to souls. The Soul was endowed with so much power and dignity, that she cannot be held back without her own consent, for her will is so much respected by God that He never forces it. Neither I nor others, therefore, can take anything from you but by your own consent. You hold the reins; give to each what he needs, and then let him complain who will.
The Soul. What are these necessities of which you speak as indispensable? Tell me, that I may, once for all, provide for them, and never think of them again; the mere idea of them greatly disturbs me.
Body. I must have clothes, food, drink, and sleep; and be served, and amused, if you wish me to be in a condition to serve you when occasion requires; when you desire to occupy yourself with spiritual things, you must not weary me, for if I am taxed too much I shall not be able to attend to your affairs. But if you will look after my necessities, you can entertain your mind with the thought that God, who has made so many delightful things for this mortal body, has provided much greater goods for you, O immortal Soul! Thus God will ever be praised, and each of us be satisfied in his own way. If any difference occurs between us, our Self-Love, who is so wise, will adjust it, and we shall all be able to live together in most holy peace.
Soul. Come, then; I will provide for your necessities, since I cannot do otherwise; but I suspect that you have joined against me. Yet your words appear so reasonable that I am obliged to submit although I distrust you when I hear you so often refer to me, and say that you can do nothing without me. Perhaps, by the help of God, I shall one day escape your hands, and live in his service without you.
Part 1, Chapter 4
The Soul, the Body, and Self-Love pursue their journey, during which the Soul cannot complete her whole week, and the Body encroaches upon it. – The Soul allows herself to be persuaded by Self-Love under pretext of the necessities of her two companions. – The Soul laments her condition and proposes not to take her turn again.
Body. Let us go straight forward on our journey, and thus traveling through the world in harmony, each will accomplish his own business, seeking, according to his condition, support, food, and pleasure.
Soul. My turn has come again, but alas! I cannot do as I did at first. I find myself drawn to earth by the pressing necessities of others, for which I am bound to provide; and thus my time passes only half-improved, while I live with these my companions on the best terms I can. It seems to me a heavy mortification to be obliged to leave so great a thing as divine contemplation, in order to employ myself in providing food for animals; so that the difference between this week and the other is as great as between light and darkness.
Body. This is my week, and I find myself almost famished through the fastings imposed upon me by the Soul. Yet I see that she condescends to my necessities, and therefore, I must take good care of myself and gain all the strength I can. Indeed I feel better already. In this way, I need not fear what the Soul may do to harm me during her week, especially as she is not able to keep the high stand she took at first, and thus I have not only my own week, but half of hers; and my needs, which she cannot but supply, are growing greater every day.
Soul. O Self-Love! I see that I am robbed of my rights by condescending to your endless necessities, and leaving the right path by permitting myself to be led by you, who are so self-seeking; in the end, we may find ourselves all astray. Will you, then, who are the umpire, tell me candidly what you think?
Self-Love. Soul, you have, without any cause, become so estranged from us, that you think it a great matter to condescend to the needs of others, especially from the height to which you had ascended. By degrees, however, you will become more settled; and keeping company with us will not appear so great a hardship to you as it now does. Have no doubts – God will provide. You are not to enjoy perfect happiness in this life, but in the next. Now take what you can get, and do the best you can.
Soul. I see not how I can defend myself, since I live with you, and you are united against me. It does me no good to take my turn, for your wants are so incessant that you allow me not a day’s rest, and so engrossing that I have no time for myself.
And when your turn comes, you wish to have everything according to your own pleasure and proclaim yourselves masters. I cannot but be a loser in the end, and therefore, I think seriously that I will try this plan no longer, but will let each one provide for himself, and find food where he can. I shall try to bear myself toward each of you in the best way I am able, since I have no choice in the matter, but must, perforce, remain with you.
Body and Self-Love. In our judgment this will answer very well. We can all live peaceably without quitting our own spheres, the more easily, since you, O Soul! have at length discovered your mistake.
Part 1, Chapter 5
The Soul yields to the allurements of the Body and of Self-Love, and falls into the depths of sin. – Of the little satisfaction she takes in earthly things, and the trifles that are sufficient to content the Body. – Of the troubles of the Soul.
And thus they went traveling through the world, each seeking to gratify his own desires, and living according to his own pleasure. The Soul looked after the Body, and granted it many things that it esteemed necessary; but, day by day, its appetites increased, incited by Self-Love, which bound them closely together, that they might not become divided. Everything appeared to them reasonable and necessary. They were never willing to deny themselves anything, and if they were not permitted to obtain every day something new, some fresh nourishment, they murmured, and complained that they were injured. Thus was the Soul finally led into an unfathomable sea of earthly love and delight, which effected in her so great a transformation, that she could no longer think or speak of anything, except according to the will of the Body and Self-Love. If she wished to turn to her own concerns, overpowered by her disorderly appetites, she dared not speak; and, in her discontent, she thus reflected within herself:
“If they should lead me as far into their own country as I led them into mine, during the first week, who will rescue me from their power? Without doubt, they will, under the plea of necessity, do with me whatever they see fit.”
Now this Soul, which still craved some support for her life, in order not to fall into despondency, as she had been created for love and happiness, trimmed her sail to the wind, although it was contrary, and finding herself no longer able to live in her own region, she still sustained herself, as best she could, saying, with some show of truth: “This beauty, pleasure, goodness, grandeur, and delight, together with all that adorns created things, furnish one means of knowing and tasting those that are divine;” and when she had tasted them she exclaimed: “Oh, how beautiful must be celestial things!”
And thus, still traveling with her two companions, she daily lost something of her natural, divine instinct, and fed on the husks for swine, as bestial as the body, so that, in a short time, the three found themselves on very good terms with one another.
While they were journeying on, in such great love and harmony, without any dissension, we may imagine what became of the rights of the superior reason. Nothing more was said about it. All their attention was turned to earthly things, to temporal pleasures, delights, and loves; and spiritual things seemed so unpalatable to them that they had no desire either to speak or hear of them, lest they should interfere with their earthly satisfactions. Thus they continued for some time, until nothing remained to the soul but a little compunction, which she seldom noticed, although at times she did so when it remained her of the risk she ran of losing everything at death. This thought caused her great fear, but when it left her she returned to the same course as before. One thing alone was against her, and that was, that although her companions and herself were all agreed to satisfy their appetites as fully as possible, yet they were not able to do so; for the soul having a boundless capacity, all finite and earthly things could neither satisfy her nor give her peace; the more she sought, the more restless she became, because she wandered farther every day from God, her true rest.
Yet earthly things so far blinded her that she believed she found peace here below; she strove, therefore, to keep herself continually occupied, in order to satisfy herself, and when she could not accomplish this in the manner she proposed, she became disgusted, and, in her interior blindness, tried something else. Thus passing from one thing to another, and from one hope to another, she forgot herself; and losing her time in these pursuits, she never obtained her wish, for so it was mercifully ordained by the Lord God. And certainly if man could find rest on earth, few souls would be saved, for they would become so absorbed in earthly things that they would make no effort to free themselves from them. The Soul, by her natural instinct, seeks enjoyment; and when she is blinded by the Body, she procures her pleasures through its means. So the Body leads her on from one thing to another, as they seek their food together; and though the Soul has an infinite capacity, and cannot, by means of the Body, find aught that will content her, yet she foolishly allows herself to be led by it, without receiving any satisfaction.
But the more the Body assimilates the Soul to itself, the more ways has it to enjoy and please itself with earthly things, since all its satisfaction comes through the condescension of the Soul; so that, if the Soul did not give her consent, the Body would have neither enjoyment nor delight. But as the Body is so closely united with the Soul, which cannot be contented with the things of earth, and as it cannot further her wishes, nor yield her the enjoyment she desires, therefore she is famished. And this is because the tastes of the Body are capable of satisfaction; for when its wants, of whatever nature, are appeased, the appetite is lost, and it can enjoy no more. It is true that it does not lose the desire to seek new pleasures in accordance with its natural tastes, but it can find nothing to satisfy it entirely; not, indeed, that the Soul will not condescend, nor that the health of the Body will not permit, but only because it has gone to the limit of its capacity, and hence both Soul and Body are ill at ease.
The Soul is disquieted because she finds herself in this vessel of the Body, so narrow and requiring so little to replenish it, although whenever it is empty, all created things seem insufficient to fill it. She is obliged to remain in it, although she is well nigh famished while urged on by her natural instinct for enjoyment. This happens by reason of the sympathy of the Soul when she wishes to procure enjoyment by means of the Body, for when she finds that the Body is satisfied with a trifle, and that it cannot further indulge itself because its desires are blunted, she is distressed by this, and also, because she cannot herself enjoy what still remains to be enjoyed. The more she gratifies her tastes, the less enjoyment she obtains from them; for it is in vain that man strives to regain his lost appetites, since he endangers his life thereby. Therefore the Soul addresses Self-Love, in the following words:
Part 1, Chapter 6
How the Soul discourses further with Self-Love, proposing a new mode of action. – Of the nature of Self-Love. – Of the little required to satisfy the desires of the Body. – How the Soul falls into misery and despair.
Soul. O Self-Love! do you not see how we molest each other, and how ill-fed we are? You have made me yield to your appetites, and now I am wretched indeed. I no longer pasture in heaven, and you starve me to death on earth: how is it with you?
Self-Love. I see that you are both dissatisfied, and thus far, not without reason. Let us go on, however, and perhaps we shall, by and by, find upon the road some good that may suit us all. I see plainly that this Body can consume but little, so that I, too, am not supplied with all the nourishment I am capable of taking. In one instant I devour what would satisfy the Body for a year, and how must it be then with you, whose capacity so far exceeds mine? This we will go: let us go in search of food better suited to us than we have hitherto found, give the Body as much of it as it requires (which is a trifle when compared to our needs), and then let it complain as much as it likes.
Soul. On what do you nourish yourself, and what can we find that will satisfy us both, and yet sustain the Body?
Self-Love. I have a great appetite; I feed both on earthly and on spiritual food; but do not take me to that place where you went the first week, but rather to any other spot. When I travel with any one and find enough to live upon, I seldom abandon my company; I collect such supplies that my followers are never in want, and I make them all rich.
Soul. I know that there is not on earth food suited to us both, from the fact that there is not enough to satisfy us. We have wandered so far from heaven (where there is food in plenty) that I know and can find no way that will lead us thither again; and I see that God closed the door of this grace at the moment when we deliberated whether we should feed according to the tastes of his world, and has left us to gratify our appetites. Now that we are perplexed and discouraged about our pasturage, we wish to return to him for our own benefit, and not through true and pure charity, which the Lord requires from us, and by which he always works in us. When I think of all I have done for you, and of all that I have justly lost, I see that I deserve to be abhorred by God, by you, by the world, and by hell. I am almost in despair through shame at finding myself led by you into the midst of earthly things, in which I believed I could find a supply for our joint necessities, while we remained together in this world. But, after trying everything, I find that not one of us could be contented or satisfied even if we had all we asked on earth. I have witnessed and proved all your appetites, and I have found that your way of quieting them greatly inflamed them; and yet, that they are so quickly satiated that after even a little gratification they were disordered, although there had been such an intense craving for that little. Yet, though blunted, they were never appeased. They were always finding themselves in the same condition. When they seemed satisfied I was famishing; and when I wished to return to my own country, to gratify my instincts, I found no cooperation as at first, for I had withdrawn from my first path, which was straight, clear, and open for all spiritual operations. Having consented to this, by reason of certain disorders of the Body, under the plea of supposed necessity, at once superfluity followed in the train of necessity, and shortly I was buried in sin; and in this snare I lost grace, became blind and dull; and from spiritual, wholly earthly. Now, alas! I am in such a condition that I can only move earthward, whereby I am drawn into every evil, like one who has wandered from his home. I leave myself to be led by you, O Body and Self-Love, wherever it pleases you, and you have carried me so far that I cannot even resist your appetites.
You have, by degrees, so changed me, or I might rather say, perverted me, that I feed on the same food as yourselves; and we are so united and agree so well, that I blindly fall in with all your desires, and have, thus, from a spiritual soul become almost an earthly body. And you, Self-Love, are so closely bound to us, and keep us so closely bound to each other, that I, poor creature, am like one chained and stifled, and, as it were, dead to spiritual things. As if deprived of interior light and taste, I go on, gazing at and tasting things earthly and corporeal, and there is no good thing remaining to me, except a certain secret remorse which leaves me but little rest. Yet I continue neglecting myself, and enjoying, as I may, these earthly things which I feed upon, and wasting my time, while daily I bring myself into greater slavery; and the farther I withdraw from God, the more dissatisfied am I with my estrangement from my natural good, which is God himself.
Thus did this unhappy Soul often bewail her wretchedness, while yet she was ignorant of its cause. This was the divine instinct which she naturally possessed; for the all-merciful God never abandons one of his creatures while it remains in this life, but often visits it with some inspiration, by which man finds himself aided when he listens to it, although, if he resists it, he often becomes worse, by reason of his ungrateful neglect of preventing grace.
This unhappy Soul soon became so burdened with sins and ingratitude, with no visible remedy, that she lost all hope of being delivered from them, and went so far as not only to take pleasure in sin, but even to boast of it. The greater were the graces she had received, so much the greater was her blindness of heart and her despair of doing right; so that it was impossible that, by any human means, she should ever obtain relief. Nothing remained but that God should rescue her by his infinite grace and goodness; for she had now fallen so low that all her desires, affections, interests, and delights, were fixed upon earthly objects. Everything else she hated and never mentioned, for she was so perverted that what once seemed sweet to her, now appeared very bitter, through the change of her taste from heavenly to earthly.
Part 1, Chapter 7
Of the light which God gave to the Soul to discover all her faults, and the state into which she had sunk. – Of her submission, confidence, and conversion.
After God in his goodness had left the Soul to wander for awhile among the things of this world until she became disgusted (for she soon found by experience that such things could never satisfy her; but that, on the contrary, they became daily more distasteful), this merciful God sent a light which penetrated her intellect, and showed her all the errors and dangers into which she had fallen, and from which God alone could deliver her. When she saw just where she was, and what path she was pursuing, and that the death of the body was on one side, and the death of the soul on the other, and found herself in the midst of so many enemies whom she allowed to lead her like a beast to the shambles, and even seemed to go joyfully on her way, terror seized upon her and with a deep and piteous sigh she turned to God, and cried to him as best she could.
Soul. O wretched creature that I am! who will deliver me from all this misery? God alone is able: Domine, fac ut videam lumen, that I may escape these snares.
No sooner had she directed her thoughts to God, and implored his help, without which she saw she had no power to move, but could only go from bad to worse, than suddenly her confidence in him became firm, and she left him to do his own will in what manner, and so far as it pleased him; and she added:
Soul. From henceforth all that befalls me I will receive as from the benign hand of God, excepting my sins, for they are all my own; committing them is always contrary to the divine will, and therefore they are our own property; nothing is ours but voluntary sin.
This firm resolution, made by the Soul before God, was secret and in her own spirit alone, without any outward demonstration. Now, when God sees that man distrusts himself, and places his whole confidence in Providence, he immediately stretches forth his holy hand to help him. He stands ever at our side, he knocks, and, if we open to him, he enters; he drives forth our enemies one after another, and restores to the Soul its baptismal robe of innocence; and all this God does in different modes and ways, operating according to the state in which he finds his creature. For the present we will speak of his dealings with Self-Love, and how he purifies the soul from it.
Part 1, Chapter 8
Of many illuminations received by the Soul, and of the pure love of God. – Of conscience, and the remorse which God awakens in it.
When God wills to purify a soul from self-love, he first sends her his divine light, that by it she may discern a spark of that pure love wherewith he loves her, and how much he has done and still does by means of this love; for he has need of us in nothing, not even the least thing. We are his enemies, not only by our nature, which is inclined to evil, but by our manifold offences, which we are ever ready to repeat.
He also discovers to her that our sins can never excite his anger so far that he ceases to do us good while we are in this world; rather does it seem that the more our sins remove us from him, so much the more does he seek to draw us toward himself by many incentives and inspirations, in order that his continued love and his benefits may keep us still in his love. The better to effect this, he uses countless ways and means, so that every soul, beholding what he has done for her, may exclaim, full of admiration: “What am I that God seems truly to have no care for any one but me?”
And, among other things, he discovers to her that pure love with which he created us, and how he requires nothing of us but that we should love him with that same love wherewith he has loved us, and that we should remain ever with him, expecting no return except that he may unite himself to us.
And he shows her how this love was chiefly proved in the pure angelic creation, and afterwards in that of our father Adam, created in his purity and sincerity by that divine love of his, wherewith God desired to be loved and obeyed; for if he had not required submission in something from Adam and his posterity, such was the excellence in which they were created that each one could have believed himself a god, by reason of the rare gifts bestowed on both the body and the soul, and of the dominion given him over all created things; but God placed him under a slight restraint only, in order that he might ever know his Maker, and render him obedience.
God, moreover, made known to this Soul that he had created man for the highest good, namely, that with soul and body he might enter into his heavenly home.
He also showed her how great an evil is sin, into which she had herself fallen, and for which there was no remedy but another manifestation of his love, which he was obliged to make in her behalf. And he further instructed her in that ardent love for us of which our Lord Jesus Christ gave such proof on the earth, from the Incarnation even unto the Ascension, and all to save us from eternal damnation.
All this did God, by his most pure act, reveal in an instant to the Soul.
She then saw the liberty in which he had created her, not subjecting her to any creature, but to her Creator alone; for he had given her free-will, over which, while she remains in this world, nothing on earth or in heaven has any power.
He allowed her to see the great patience with which he had waited for her, and borne with so many of her sins, in which, if she had died, she would have been lost forever.
He reminded her how often she had been in danger of death; and how, through pure love alone, he had rescued her, that she might have time to know her error and escape eternal damnation.
He also reminded her of the many inspirations he had given her to save her from sin, and although she had not only disregarded, but even gone contrary to his will, yet in his goodness, he did not cease to send them, now in one way, now in another, and so allured her free-will, that he had, as it were, forced her to do that which in his goodness he required. And this, too, he did so gently and patiently, that no example of human love was ever known on earth, which could compare with it.
God also made known to this Soul that, by reason of the great love he bears him, his anger is never inflamed against man, but that he always loves him, and is ever seeking to unite him to himself in love; and that on his side this instinct never fails, so that his pure love, which ever burns yet never consumes, is always active on our behalf, and he shows himself terrible only toward sin. Moreover he hates nothing but sin, which alone prevents his love from doing its work in us; for even the devils, if it were not for the heinousness of their sins, would burn with divine love.
God made plain to her, also, how he is always waiting to inflame and penetrate the hearts of men with burning rays of love, and how he is thwarted by sin. Therefore, if sin is taken away, all things are in peace; where sin is, there is never aught but strife.
She saw, likewise, the love of God for man, which, however great a sinner he may be, is never so entirely extinguished as not to bear with him while life lasts; beyond that, all is hatred and never-ending wrath.
She saw, too, a ray of his mercy shining into hell; for the wicked deserve infinite punishment for an infinite time; but the divine mercy has made the time only infinite, but has limited the extent of the punishment, and therefore a greater one might justly have been inflicted.
This Soul also beheld a certain ray of love issuing from that divine fountain, and darting towards man with a force as if to annihilate him; and she saw that when it found impediments, then, if it were possible for God to feel pain, he would suffer the greatest of all grief. This ray aimed only to penetrate the soul, and it was her own fault if she were not penetrated by it, for the ray surrounded her on all sides, seeking entrance; but the soul, blinded by self-love, did not perceive it. And when God saw a soul self-condemned, who through her willfulness would not give entrance to the light, he seemed to say: “So great is the love which I bear to this soul, that I desire never to abandon her.”
This is because the Soul, deprived of divine love, becomes almost as malignant as the divine love is good and gracious: I say, almost, for God still grants it a little mercy. She heard these words, also: “So great is the love I bear thee, that I would never willingly see thee lost; gladly would I suffer for thee, if I could, but love and evil cannot dwell together, and therefore I must abandon thee; and as through me thou wouldst have become capable of all blessedness, so, abandoned by me, thou wilt be capable of all wickedness.” So many operations and effects of love were shown to this Soul, that words fail to narrate them.
Touched by this ray, the Soul saw and felt a certain flame of love proceeding from that divine source, which, for the moment, left her like one bereft of sense, without understanding, without speech, without feeling. In that pure and simple love, as God manifested it to her, she remained at that moment wholly absorbed, and never more did this sight depart from her memory; always she beheld that pure, divine love turned toward her.
She was then shown how she had lived without the knowledge of this great love, and how great were the faults in which she saw herself, and what she could do to correspond to this pure love; and so humbled was she in her own eyes that she would have publicly proclaimed her sins through the whole city, and could do nothing but incessantly repeat these words: “O Lord! no more world, no more sin,” with a cry of inward anguish which came from the depths of her heart.
But all that she beheld did not prevent the other vision of that first love infused by the ray from doing its work within her; so that her mind was lost in that pure love in which she saw all things, especially those imperfections which were to be removed. Yet she did not estimate her sins according to the punishment they merited, but rather as committed against the great mercy of God, for she saw his pure love for the Soul, and it remained always in her heart, continually drawing her towards God, from whom it descended. This love so melted her that all her actions were done with that purity which now dwelt in her; and she continued so united with that ray, that nothing inferior to God could come between that light and the soul, either as to the will or its effects.
Part 1, Chapter 9
The Soul speaks to Self-Love and the Body of the truth she had seen, and tells them that she should be lost if she followed them. – She warns them of her purpose to do to them what they had designed to do to her, namely, to subject them to herself. – Of the disgust they felt at this.
After the Soul had seen the many things so skillfully, purely, and carefully wrought in her by love she paused, and said to the Body and Self-Love:
Soul. My brothers, I have come to know that God is about to do a work of love on my behalf and therefore I shall take no more heed of you, your needs, or your words, for I surely know that if I heed you I shall perish, although I would never have believed it, if I had not experienced it. Under the appearance of good and necessity, you have well-nigh led me to the death of sin, and have done all you could to bring me to perdition. Now I intend to do to you what you have wished to do to me, and I shall hold you in no more respect than if you were my deadly enemies. Never expect to be on good terms with me again, – give up all hopes of it as if you were among the lost. I shall strive to return to that path which I first entered, and from which you caused me to swerve by your deceits. I hope, however, through the divine light, that you will deceive me no more, and in the meanwhile I shall do all things in such a manner, that the necessities of each will be satisfied. If you have led me to do what I ought not, in order to satisfy your appetites, I will lead you to what you do not desire, in order to satisfy the spirit. I shall not spare you, even if you are worn out, even as you spared me not when I was so enslaved by you, that you did with me according to your pleasure. I hope to bring you into such subjection to myself as to change your natures.
The Body and Self-Love were greatly displeased when they found that the Soul had received so much light that they could no longer deceive her.
Body and Self-Love. We are subject to you, O Soul! let justice be done, and be the rest according to your pleasure. If we cannot subsist in any other way, we can live by violence; that is, you will oppose us as much as you can, and we will do all we can to injure you, and in the end each will be rewarded according to his deserts.
Soul. I will say one thing for your consolation: for a time you will be greatly dissatisfied, but when I have deprived you of your superfluities (which will distress you very much), you will be satisfied with all I have said and done, and you will participate forever in my welfare; dispose yourselves, therefore, to patience, for in the end we shall all enter into the divine peace. At present I will supply your necessities only, but afterwards you will have everything you desire. I will lead you to a joy so great and so secure, that you will wish for nothing more even in this life. Hitherto you have had nothing whatever in which you could take any satisfaction, and now, having tried all things, I hope to bring you to a place of the greatest happiness, which will have no end. It will begin, and go on increasing, until at length there will be such peace in the soul that the body too will feel it, and it will be enough to mitigate the suffering not alone of one, but of a thousand hells. Before this can be attained, much remains to be done, but (with light and help from God), we shall come out safely on every side; let this suffice for your encouragement. Henceforth I shall not speak, but act.
Body. You appear so terrible to me, and have made so deliberate an attack on me, that I fear you will go to some excess, to the injury of us all. I wish, therefore, to recall some things to your remembrance, and discourse with you concerning them, and then I will leave you to act your own pleasure. I would remind you that after the love of God, comes the love of the neighbor, which begins with one’s own body and its concerns, and you are bound to preserve it not only in life but in health. If you fail to do so, you cannot succeed in your designs. I am necessary to your existence, for when I am dead, you will have no means of adding to your glory, nor time to purify yourself from all your imperfections, and purgatory must do this for you. That kind of penance you will find very different from bearing with a body in this world. As to health, when the body is sound, the powers of the soul and the bodily senses are in a better state to receive divine light and inspiration, even through the sense of taste, which, in the soul’s esteem, passes for a superfluity. Now, if I am infirm, these things and many others that I could name would fail you, even as time fails me to enumerate them. I have said to you what seems to me most important both for your interest and mine that each may have his due, and both reach the port of salvation, without reproach in heaven or on earth.
Soul. I am made aware of all that is needful to me, interiorly by the divine light, and exteriorly by your reasons, and many more that might be thought of. But, henceforth, let me hear no more reasoning, or external persuasions, for I wish to give my attention to superior considerations, which are of such a sort that they can do injustice to no one, but will rather give to each all that he needs, so that none can complain, except of his own imperfections. Whoever complains, shows that he is not yet well-ordered, and that his appetites are not in subjection to reason. Leave all this to me, O Body, and I will make you change your opinion. You shall live in such content that you could never believe it, did you not experience it.
I was once mistress, when I first turned my thoughts to spiritual things; but afterwards I was deluded into making myself your equal, and we made with Self-Love a compact to do good, but only in such a manner that one should not take advantage of the other; by degrees, however, you so contrived that I became completely enslaved, and could do nothing but what was pleasing to you. Now, I am determined to be mistress again, with this understanding, that if you are willing to become my servant, I shall be contented, and you shall want for nothing that a servant needs. But if you will not be my servant, I shall compel you to become my slave, and so completely my slave, that you will be willing to serve me for love, and thus will all our opposition end, for in every way I will be served, and will be mistress.
Part 1, Chapter 10
Of the view which the Soul has of the goodness and providence of God. – Of her faults and imperfections. – Of her esteem of herself and hatred of her Humanity.
And thus this enlightened Soul began to see all her irregularities and the perils, both of the spirit and the flesh, which she had unawares encountered, and to which she would have fallen a victim, had not the divine Providence interposed. She was overwhelmed with astonishment at the great mercy of God towards a being so deeply plunged in sin. But when man begins to see the goodness and providence of God, then God shows him also all his defects, for which he will supply the remedy, and the soul perceives them in an instant by that divine light, the light of pure love. The Soul, having these two clear views, so definite and precise, the one of the goodness of God in his bounty, granted in virtue of love, and the other of herself, plunged in sins, and voluntarily acting in opposition to the infinite goodness of God, took thought and said:
Soul. O Lord! never more will I offend thee, nor do anything in opposition to thy goodness; for this thy great goodness has so overpowered me and drawn me so closely unto thee, that I have resolved never more to withdraw from thy disposal, even should it cost life itself.
Then this Soul looked within, and seeing all her defects and evil instincts, said:
Soul. Does it seem to you that you are prepared to present yourself before your Maker? How is it with you? Who will deliver you from all your difficulties? Now you see how wretched and vile you are, although you believed yourself so beautiful and good. And this happened because you were so blinded by Self-Love, that you believed in no other paradise than that of sensual delights. And now, behold how all these things appear in the divine presence – truly no better than the work of the devil!
Then this Soul turned with a deep and bitter hatred toward Humanity, and said:
Soul. I warn you, O Humanity! that if henceforth you speak to me of aught unseemly, you shall suffer for it. For the future, I shall treat you as if you were an evil spirit, for you have ever been, and ever will be, diabolical in your behavior, since nothing else is known to you. And as you now see as well as I what a terrible thing it is to offend God, I know not how you will ever have the courage to think or speak according to your own natural appetites, when you know that you are thereby acting contrary to his will; however, should you do so, I shall inflict a penance upon you that you will not speedily forget.
When Humanity heard the Soul utter these words, and became conscious of the greatness of her offences, she answered not a word, but stood with downcast looks, like a criminal led to justice.
Part 1, Chapter 11
How the Soul turns to God and perceives her own sinfulness, and also what she would have become had she continued her former course. – Almost in despair she bewails her offences. – Of the confidence with which our Lord inspires her, appearing to her spirit; and of the wound she receives.
The Soul then turned towards God, and in that clear light spoke thus:
Soul. O Master! what has moved thee to give such light to this Soul, so blind and so corrupt, thy enemy, who goes astray from thee, ever feeding upon sensual things, and who is so unwilling to be lifted out of that condition, that she always shuns whatever would elevate her? I am stupefied when I consider myself – a creature so entirely vile!
And while in this condition it was given her to see where she was, whither she was going, what would have been her end, and what she would have carried with her to that end had she persevered in her course. She saw at a glance all these things as they were, and as they would have been if God had not interposed. At which sight she was beside herself with fear and agitation, and could do nothing but weep, and sigh, and inwardly lament, thus bewailing her sad condition:
Soul. Oh, wretched and most miserable! had I continued in this course, how many trials and sorrows should I have brought upon myself in this world; and in the next have found myself the enemy of God, and condemned eternally to hell!
For a time this vision remained with her, and caused her such interior suffering that she could neither think of other things nor perform any cheerful action, but remained in a settled melancholy, and knew not what to do with herself, for she could find no rest; neither in heaven, which had no place for such as she, nor on earth, for she merited that it should swallow her up; nor did she feel that she had a right to appear among men, or to take heed of aught that concerned her comfort or discomfort. She saw that she alone had done all the evil, and earnestly desired that alone, and without help from any other creature, she might make satisfaction to the extent of her power; and for this reason she said:
Soul. I see that hell is my place, but I cannot reach it except through death. Alas! my God! what will become of me? I know not where to hide myself: I wander on, lamenting, and find no place of rest, for I am so stained with sin that I cannot appear where thou art, and yet I find thee everywhere. In this condition I am insupportable to myself. What, then, shall I do with this foul and tattered garment in which I find myself clothed? Tears are useless, sighs do not help me, contrition is not accepted, penances are fruitless; for nothing will satisfy for my sins if God will not be merciful and come to my assistance.
Thus the Soul remained almost in despair, powerless to make satisfaction, unable to have recourse to the mercy of God (for she found in herself nothing which could give her confidence, yet was not able wholly to despair), tormented within herself at the sight of the heavy burden which she carried, in agony of spirit at the evil she had done; she grieved interiorly, yet was unable to shed a tear, only heaving secret sighs which wellnigh consumed her life. She could neither speak, eat, sleep, smile, nor look up to heaven. She had neither spiritual nor natural feeling; nor did she know where she was, whether in heaven or on earth, but was like one stunned and senseless; gladly would she have hidden herself that she might not be found, nor be obliged to enter into the company of others.
So abstracted was she, and lost in this vision of the offended God, that she no longer seemed a rational creature, but like a frightened animal. And this happened because it was given her to see the greatness of her sins and the ruin that they caused – a sight which, had she beheld it longer, would have consumed her body had it been adamant.
But when God had left her to contemplate it until the impression could never be forgotten, he came to her assistance as we shall here relate.
One day in her dwelling our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to her interior vision, bleeding from head to foot, so that the blood seemed pouring in a stream from his body as he passed; and in secret she heard these words: “Seest thou this blood? it is shed for love of thee, and in satisfaction for they sins.” At these words she was pierced with a deep wound of love for him, our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time her confidence returned and banished her despair, so that she began to rejoice a little in our Lord.
Part 1, Chapter 12
How God once more manifested to the Soul the love with which he had suffered for her. – She sees the malice of man and the pure love of God. – Of the offering, which she makes of herself to God, and of the wound she receives. – Of the five fountains of Jesus. – Of his constant and jealous watchfulness.
Another sight was shown her, greater than the first, so much greater that no tongue could describe, nor intellect imagine it, and it was this: God showed her the love with which he had suffered for love of her. When the Soul saw this most pure and strong love wherewith God loved her, she was pierced with a wound so deep, so keen, that it made her despise every other love and everything that could interpose between herself and God, except it were God himself. In the light of this love she saw the malignity of man the the benignity of the pure love of God. These two visions never again faded away from her memory, and the one revealed to her the other; for, beholding the infinite mercy of God performing such works of pure love towards man, the Soul would have fainted from excess of delight if any more had been manifested to her. Such a vision, moreover, made clear to her the malice of man, seeing that great love of God continually employed in her behalf, almost, as it were, in spite of herself; for God, looking not at the sins that she committed, never ceased in his mercy to do her good in many ways, being moved by none of her offences but rather with pure love repairing them, always watchful for her benefit. Hereupon the Soul, turning towards herself, saw how sinful she had been in acting in opposition to the great goodness of God. And then she began to see the nature of man, with all his malice, as bad almost as God is good. But at this sight she fell into despair of herself, for man seemed to her the demon, with all his malignity; and if God had not in part veiled the sight, both Soul and Body would have fainted with fear. Hence as at the former vision of the divine love towards man she despaired within herself, as believing it to be irremediable, and wishing to lose no more time in seeking for a remedy, she turned, as her sole confidence, to God, her Love, and said to him:
Soul. Lord! I give myself to thee. I know not what I am fitted for but to make a hell by myself alone. O Lord! I desire to make this compact with thee: I will give this sinful being of mine into thy hands, for thou alone canst hide it in thy mercy, and so dispose of me that nothing of myself can any more be seen. Occupy me wholly with thy love, which will enlighten in me every other love and keep me wholly lost in thee, holding me so engrossed by thee that I shall find neither time nor place for self.
Her most sweet Lord made answer that he was content, and from that moment all thought and memory of self was lost, so that it never more disturbed her peace. On the other hand, a ray of love so burning and penetrating was infused into her heart and wounded her so deeply that in an instant it bereft her of every attachment, appetite, delectation, and natural quality that ever did or ever could belong to her. She was shorn of everything, though not without her own consent, by virtue of her correspondence with the love revealed to her, and by this she was so powerfully drawn that it astonished, absorbed, and transformed her. She sighed and lamented far more than when she beheld what a sinful creature she was.
This ray of love passed into her soul with the impression of the five wounds of Christ, as five fountains from which were flowing forth drops of blood and burning love for man. God gave her also the power to discern readily the nature of man; and she beheld alternately the one sight and then the other, so far as she could look upon them then the other, so far as she could look upon them and live. The sight of herself caused her no suffering, for her merciful God had relieved her of all sorrow on that account, and yet she saw herself plainly, and in what manner she was upheld by God. If ever God had left her to herself, she comprehended that she would have been ready to fall into all manner of wrong doing, for she saw herself as perverse as the evil spirit himself; but, finding herself in the hands of God, it was not possible in such good hands to feel any fear.
But the sight that tortured and consumed her was of that burning, divine love towards man; she said that no human tongue could describe how inflamed she was with that glowing fire. The love that God manifested to her made her instinctively reject whatever was displeasing to him, with a jealous watchfulness against the least defect; and her eyes were opened not to her sins only, but to her slightest imperfections and unnecessary practices. She heeded not the world, the flesh, nor the devil. All the devils who opposed her were not so strong as this soul in her union with God, who is the true strength of those who fear, love, and serve him; and so much the more because she did not perceive how she could be injured by self, it being in the hands of God and upheld by his goodness.
Part 1, Chapter 13
Of the instinct which led her to cast off every superfluous thing, and even that appear necessary. – Of her instinct for prayer and her mortification.
An instinct was given her to despise herself, and to hold everything under heaven in no more esteem than if for her it did not exist. This love gave her the further instinct to deny the body not only all superfluous food but also many things that appeared needful, and the same with regard to clothing, and all society, whether good or bad. She was led into solitude of mind and body, and was reduced to herself alone. An instinct for prayer was also given her, so that she would have remained for hours together, on her bare knees, to the great discomfort of Humanity, which, although it resented and disapproved of this, did not refuse to serve the Soul, and to follow wherever she led.
All these instincts were called into action by God alone, for the Soul had no wish or aim but God, who had taken the direction, and wished to regulate all her desires and inclinations, and free her from all those that were human and worldly by giving her contrary ones. She was deprived of the use of fruits for which she had a natural inclination and an especial fondness. She ate no flesh nor anything superfluous, and when she needed food, that which she might eat appeared to be always at hand. That she might lose all relish of what she ate she was taught to carry always about her some dust of aloes, and when she found herself taking pleasure in any food or preferring one kind to another she secretly sprinkled it with a little of the bitter power before eating it. Her eyes were always cast down; she never laughed, and recognized no one who passed her, for she was so occupied with what was taking place within that her sense of exterior things was, as it were, dead.
She seemed ever discontented, yet was ever most content. She tried to rob herself of sleep by placing rough objects in her bed, but God would not permit this, for however she resisted it, sleep overcame her against her will. When Humanity saw all this spiritual ardor, and that itself was no more esteemed than if it were not, and that there was no help for it, it was greatly dissatisfied, yet, like a thief in prison who dares not utter a word in his own behalf because he knows the crime he has committed, it feared to make the matter worse, knowing that Christ, the Judge, was in anger against it. One hope it could have (and but one was possible), as when it is raining there is hope that bad weather will soon be over, and with this poor hope it waited in patience; but the Spirit in its vehemence restrained Humanity by so many bonds that it could find no relief but in sleep, and became withered, colorless, and dry like a stick; on this account the following conversation took place one day between the Spirit and Humanity:
Part 1, Chapter 14
Of the words that passed between the Spirit and Humanity. – Of the complaints made by Humanity against the fervor of the Spirit which she thought she could endure no longer.
Spirit. Tell me, Humanity, what think you of this mode of life?
Humanity. It seems to me, Spirit, that you have entered upon this course so vehemently that you will hardly be able to persevere in it; I hope that death, or at the least, infirmity, will not fail to follow, and that perhaps sooner than you think; and thus you will not be able to attain what you are seeking in this world, but will be obliged to go to purgatory, where you will suffer more in a moment than you would here in a whole lifetime. I shall be in the grave, and that will be far better for me than to live in this world. You will go into that fire where it will be worse with you than with me. Retrace your steps; I have no more to say.
Spirit. I hope that neither death nor infirmity will follow: at present, however, you are at the height of your misery. From this time forth you are purged of all bad humors; abstinence has been good for you; I see that your color and flesh are gone; the divine love will soon have consumed everything; I know that if I do not provide you with food you will wither away, but I will make such provision that everybody will be satisfied without calling on death or infirmity.
Such light was given to the Spirit that she perceived the least thing that might be injurious to her, and at once removed it. Humanity did all that was required of it without offering any resistance, for the spirit was so powerful that otherwise it would have fared all the worse. Finding itself in this situation and wholly without comfort, it said within itself:
Humanity. If I could have a little nourishment from spiritual things, and were able to content myself with what satisfies the Spirit, it would comfort me; otherwise I know not what to do, nor how to remain patient, thus tormented and imprisoned.
While occupied with these thoughts it chanced that the saint found herself in a church, and received communion, and there came upon her a ray of spiritual light with such force that both Soul and Body seemed to have entered together into life eternal (according to those words: Cor meum et caro mea exultaverunt, etc.). So great was the illumination and the feeling of divine things which they enjoyed that even Humanity feasted upon them, and said:
Now in this way I could live, but when that moment had passed, and this new vision had been seen by her in the light of pure love, she began to exclaim: Oh, Master, Master, I ask no sign from thee. I ask not for sensible delights, rather would I flee from them as from demons, for they are hindrances to pure love, which should be bare, lest man should with spirit and with body attach himself to it under the pretext of perfection. I pray thee, Lord, give not such things to me, they are not for me, nor for him who desires pure love in its simplicity.
Part 1, Chapter 15
Humanity complains that the Spirit does not keep its promises and the Spirit defends itself against this charge. – Of the perils of spiritual delights under the semblance of good, and how they are more dangerous than bodily pleasures, which are evidently contrary to the Spirit. – Of the threats of the Spirit against its Humanity.
When Humanity found how hateful to the Spirit was that food upon which it fed and hoped always to feed, it was greatly dissatisfied and turned again to address her. It seemed to the body that there was no just cause why nourishment should be refused it, and especially now that it had become spiritual, for the Spirit had promised that the time would come when it too should be satisfied with the things that were according to the spirit; but, finding the contrary to be the case, and that the Spirit had no desire even for spiritual food and unwilling to regale the body with it, Humanity spoke as follows:
Humanity. You do not keep your promises, Spirit, and it will be impossible for me to persevere in such austerity without some nourishment, either natural or spiritual.
Spirit. You complain, and, as you think, with reason: I will, therefore, explain myself. You have misunderstood me. I did, indeed, promise that in the end you should be contented with what contents me, but you are looking for what will fatten, and not for what will satisfy; and not for what will satisfy; and because I am not pleased with this sensible delight, nay, even abhor it, I would have you abhor it also. You still have natural cravings for this pleasure, and you think I ought to gratify them; know that I wish to deaden and to regulate them that they may desire only in accordance with my pleasure: it is plain that you are unfirm, and I shall treat you as a sick person should be treated. What you desire would injure your health; and since you affirm that spiritual delights are given by God and cannot do harm, know that your intellect partakes also of sensuality and therefore you are not a good judge; my desire is to devote myself to love, pure and simple, which attaches itself to nothing which can excite either a natural or a spiritual sentiment or feeling, and I declare to you that I dread far more an attachment to a spiritual than to a natural delight.
This is because the spiritual recaptures man under the pretext of being a good, and it is impossible without great difficulty to make him understand that it is not one; thus he continues to nourish himself on that which weans him from God. But in good truth I tell you that these hinges must of necessity be shunned by him who wishes to enjoy God as simply and purely as may be, for they are like venom to the pure love of God; and spiritual pleasure must be fled from as from the devil himself; because wherever it fastens itself it produces incurable infirmities which man does not perceive; but, believing that he is well, sees not that he is hindered from perfect good, that is, God himself, pure, simple, separated from all things human.
But natural gratifications, being evidently contrary to the spirit, cannot be disguised under the appearance of good, and I do not fear them as much. The contentment and the peace that will give you are that which will satisfy me, and which, I am certain, will also satisfy you; but it is impossible that you should yet attain it, being still far too impure.
I wish first to cleanse the house and then to adorn and fill it with good things, which will satisfy us both but nourish neither. And because you say that you cannot endure this, know that I must compel you to endure it; what cannot be done in one year can be done in ten. I am not sorry to combat with you, being willing to subdue you by any means; I wish to free myself from this constant goading at my heels, for otherwise it will never be well with me. You are gall and poison in every viand that I attempt to taste, and until I have destroyed you I shall never be at peace, for you seem bent upon doing your worst. I too shall do what is possible to free myself quickly from you; yet the worst that I can do to you will but redound to your benefit and advantage. I warn you not to get angry with me, for you can never obtain your desire and purpose in that way, but rather the contrary; console yourself with patience unmixed with hope. Conform for the present to my will – hereafter I may do yours.
Part 1, Chapter 16
Humanity prays the Spirit to act justly and with equity, reminding her that she had been the first to sin and that the body had been merely the instrument. – The Spirit proves the contrary, and shows who has been the cause of their fall. – The Spirit demonstrates also the necessity of purification here, and that it is better to suffer for a thousand years in this world than one hour in purgatory.
Humanity. I am, as you see, very dissatisfied and unhappy; I can escape from what you wish neither by reason nor by force; yet I implore you to satisfy me in this matter, and then you may continue what you have begun and I will have what patience I can. Oh, Spirit, you who are bringing me to justice, I pray you deal justly with me. You know that I am only a body, bestial, without reason, without prayer, without will, and without memory; because all these are in the spirit, and I work as an instrument and can do nothing but what you will. Tell me; have you not been the first to sin, with the reason and with the will? Have I been more than the instrument of sin, truly conceived and resolved upon in the spirit? Who, then, deserves the punishment?
Spirit. Your reasoning seems at the first sight to be very good; yet I believe I can refute it satisfactorily, as I intend to do.
If you, Humanity, never have sinned and never can sin, as you maintain, God, who has made the body to accompany the Soul wherever she goes, to heaven as well as to hell, must be as unjust judge; for, whoever does neither good nor evil should have neither reward nor punishment; but, since it is impossible for God to be unjust, it follows that my reasoning is sound. I confess I was the first to commit sin, for, having free-will, I cannot be constrained against it, nor can either good or evil be done if I do not first consent. If I resolve upon the good, heaven and earth yield me their support, and on every side I am encouraged to perform it; it is not possible that I should be impeded, either by the devil, or by the world, or by the flesh.
If I am bent upon evil, I find also support on every side, from the devils, the world, and myself, that is, from the flesh and its malignant instincts; and since God rewards all that is good and punishes all that is evil, it follows that all who aid in doing good will be rewarded, and all who aid in doing evil will be punished. You know that in the beginning I wished to follow my spiritual inclinations, and commenced with great impetuosity; but you assailed me with so many reasons and under the plea of such pressing necessity, that we were in continual conflict with each other; then Self-Love came as a mediator, disagreed with both, and led us so far astray that to please you and supply your needs I left the right path, and for this we shall be justly punished. It is true that if that great misery, mortal sin, is found among us, which God forbid, I, as the chief and the most noble, shall be more sorely tormented than you, but we shall both wish that we had never been created. Therefore it behooves us to purify ourselves, not alone from every stain of sin, but also from every smallest imperfection which we have contracted through our evil habits. I will tell you, moreover that God has given me a light so subtle and clear that of a surety, unless I fail before I leave you, there will remain in me no single taint of imperfection either of soul or body.
Note this well: How long, think you, will this season of purification last? You know well that it can endure but a short time. In the beginning it seems terrible to you, but as it goes on you will suffer less, because your wicked habits will be destroyed; do not fear lest you should want powerful support, for know that God, by the decree of his goodness, never allows man to suffer beyond his strength. If we regarded our own proper good, it would seem better to us to suffer here for a little than to remain in torments forever; better to suffer for a thousand years every woe possible to this body in this world, than to remain one hour in purgatory. I have briefly made this little speech for your comfort.
Part 1, Chapter 17
God pours into and diffuses throughout the soul a divine sweetness, whereat she complains, not desiring any proof of love. – God, notwithstanding, leaves her plunged in a sea of divine love. – He gives her, also, a vision of pure Love, and another of Self-Love and of her own evil inclinations.
When the Spirit had thus satisfied Humanity, it left her and returned to its first simple and pure object, steadily pursuing that intimate and penetrating love which was so interiorly restrained that it left Humanity scarcely any breath for either natural or spiritual things, so that she seemed like one beside herself.
From the time that God established her in pure and simple love, he began to try this, his creature, with suitable temptations, mostly spiritual. He infused into her the great sweetness and divine tenderness of a most sweet love, and both Soul and Body were so overpowered by it that they could scarcely live. But as the eye of love sees all, suddenly the Soul beheld these great things, and she commenced to grieve and to say that she did not wish for such sweetness and delight in this present life, nor desire these proofs of love because they corrupt love itself.
I will guard myself, she said, as far as I am able, and neither approach them nor provide any quiet and solitary spot where I might feed upon these things, for they are poison to pure love. Yet God pursued her and kept her in the fountain of this divine sweetness; and however much the soul might protest against these proofs of his love, she nevertheless remained plunged in them as in a sea; not always in one vision, but in many and diverse.
One of these visions was that God showed her a ray of that purest love wherewith he himself loved the Soul; and the sight was such that if he had not tempered the amorous flame with a vision of Self-Love with which, the Soul saw herself stained, she could not have lived.
He showed her at another time a vision of herself, that is, of her evil inclinations, so contrary to pure love, and thus tempered that devouring flame; for after beholding it she would have rather died than offended his love in the least, not alone by sin but by imperfection. The Soul, thus occupied, neither thought nor even wished to think of her body any more than if she had none, and in this way was relieved from its annoyances, and habituated it to do her will.
Part 1, Chapter 18
Humanity laments and asks for something to do. – The Spirit consents and enjoins upon it that it should be obedient to all things, stopping at nothing for any pleasure or displeasure that it might feel therein. – Of the rules he wishes to observe; and of the prohibition he imposes upon it of forming no particular friendships.
When Humanity perceived that its path became daily narrower, it again addressed the Spirit, and said humbly and with great fear and reverence:
Humanity. I find that you have deprived me of every human, external consolation, so that I may count myself as dead to the world; and if you persevere in this strictness, I see that the time will come when I shall desire death rather than lead any longer such a life.
Spirit. I am willing to give you something external to do, but it will not be agreeable. You will even abhor it, but if you complain it will be the worse for you.
Humanity. I shall be entirely satisfied if only I can have some employment.
Spirit. I warn you in the outset that I wish to teach you what it is to be obedient, in order that you may become humble, and subject to every creature; and that you may be trained to this, you shall labor for your own support. I wish, further, that whenever and wherever you are called to perform works of mercy, you should go to the infirm and to the poor of every condition. I wish you never to refuse.
You will do, as if by instinct, all that I command you, even to nursing the most loathsomely diseased persons, and whenever you are called to this duty, even should you be conversing with God, I wish you to leave all and go quickly to your work and wherever you are led; never regard either the person who summons you or the work you are to do. I wish you to have no choice; rather let the will of every other creature be yours; let your own be always thwarted.
In these exercises, so terrible to you, it is necessary to employ you, because I wish to extinguish in you every inordinate pleasure or displeasure which it is possible to feel in this life. I will root out every imperfection, and allow you to pause for either pleasure or pain no more than if you were dead. This I will see for myself, for it is necessary to try you, and therefore I shall put you to every needful proof; when I give you something abhorrent to you to do, and see that you so feel or regard it, I shall keep you at it until you do neither. I shall do likewise in those things from which you might obtain any consolation. I will force you from them until you lose all sense of pleasure or pain that might proceed therefrom. And to try you in all possible ways, you shall always be occupied in that which is either pleasurable or painful.
Moreover, you will neither form any friendship for any one, nor retain a special regard for your own kindred; but you will love every one without partiality and without affection, the poor as well as the rich, friends as well as kindred. I would wish you not really to know one from another, to make friends with no one, no matter how religious or spiritual, or to seek intimacy with none. Let it be enough for you to do your duty, as I have told you, and in this way I wish you to conduct yourself in your conversation with creatures on the earth.
Part 1, Chapter 19
Of the poverty in which the Spirit compelled Humanity to live. – How she was obliged to visit the poor and sick. – Of the suffering she found among them. – Of the oppression and interior distress which she experienced.
After the Spirit had thus discoursed with Humanity, she found everything ordered for her in the following manner: In the first place, she was reduced to such poverty that she could not have lived, if God had not provided for her by alms.
When the Ladies of Mercy requested her, according to their custom, to visit the poor for various charitable purposes, she always went with them among these wretched beings, many of whom were intolerable from the filth and vermin with which they were covered, and some of them in their misery and want would break forth in fearful exclamations of despair, so that the entrance to their dwellings seemed like the entrance into a sepulchre, frightful to every human being. In spite of this she was eager to draw near and even touch them, that she might do something for their bodies and their souls.
There were some among the infirm who, beside their uncleanness and offensiveness, were always complaining of their attendants and loading them with abuse.
She visited, too, the poor of Saint Lazarus, where the greatest suffering was to be seen, as if the Spirit sent her there in search of all sorts of misery and woe. She found her task far worse than she believed, and was assailed, as it were, on both sides, namely, on the side of Humanity, which loathed these miseries, and by the Spirit, which was so lost to every external impression as to be unable to hold converse with creatures.
Humanity was so overawed by the Spirit, and thrown into such consternation by all these things, that she knew not what to do. For, on the one hand, when she was assailed by the Spirit, she would have done anything to escape its power, and when she afterwards beheld the misery of these poor creatures, she would gladly have fled from them, and yet could not. Everything was distressing to her, especially when she found that the Spirit required of her to devote herself to her work, without agitation or disgust, as she would take bread and put it into her mouth when she was hungry. And thus poor Humanity had all these difficult affairs on her hands, without a single remedy. No one could have looked upon her, in such fearful conflicts, without great compassion; but because these things were done for the attainment of liberty of spirit, everything that was required of her became easy of execution.
Part 1, Chapter 20
Humanity having tried both exterior suffering and interior distress, the Spirit allows her to choose between them.
When the Spirit had given Humanity a trial of all the misery above described, and made her to understand all that was to be done, he thus addressed her.
Spirit. Now that you have seen for yourself what before you had only heard of, what will you do? You have tried both ways, and one of these you must pursue. You may choose for yourself, however, but with the condition, that I will make you live with creatures in a state of great subjection, as long as it shall please me; in subjection so great that you will have no place in the world where you can turn for the least repose, and I shall look to it that this shall soon begin.
Humanity. I have seen and tried the two extremes, and however great and terrible are the miseries I have witnessed, heard of, and endured, yet I would choose rather to live in the midst of them than in the piercing light of that divine ray. I fear both exterior suffering and that interior divine light which terrifies me still more; and hence I am in great perplexity.
Spirit. If you choose one of these you will not have the other; but still I warn you that you will lose everything superfluous, in order that I may live, so far as possible, pure and disengaged, as I was created; to accomplish this, I shall disregard whatever opposes me.
Humanity. Since you are so determined, all further talk would be a loss of time. I submit to all you require, and give myself up into your hands, as one dead yet still alive. Would that I were dead.
The Spirit, wishing to annihilate Humanity yet further, and finding that to approach the filth and vermin of the poor, and to touch them, overcame her with disgust, said to her: “Take some of this vermin, put it in your mouth, and eat it, if you wish to free yourself from this loathing.”
When Humanity heard this, she was aghast for a moment; but she resolved at once to obey, and so doing was hence forward free.
These things were so contrary to Humanity, that no effort of nature could make them endurable; yet when she had forced herself to comply, her contentment was so great that it gave her courage for the future, and she was able to endure the outcries and complaints of impatient persons, and practice every kind of self-denial.
Thus the Spirit exercised her for about three years, all the while occupying her interior in such a manner that she performed all these acts without any interior consciousness of them, and she was made to persevere until she ceased to care for them.
Part 1, Chapter 21
The Spirit brings Humanity to consent to take up her abode in a hospital, where she served the sick in the humblest manner, doing everything that she was ordered to do. – When she became accustomed to whatever she naturally most abhorred, she was made directress of the hospital, and was gifted with the prudence necessary for this office. – How the burning flame of love ever increased within her.
The Spirit now obliged Humanity to take another step, requiring great submission of mind and body; namely, she was directed to live in the hospital, with her husband, and devote herself to the service of the sick; and here she was under the authority of these who governed, as if she had been their servant, hardly daring to speak, living quietly in one of the apartments, and obedient to all that was imposed upon her. When a charge was given her she fulfilled it with alacrity, although she was held in no esteem by the inmates. But of all this she had no interior recognition, for she was wholly lifted above herself, and hereupon said to the Spirit:
Humanity. If you wish me to perform these works, give me the power to do them. I refuse none of them, but they must of necessity be done with some little accidental love, or they will be ill done.
Accordingly some interest in her work was granted her, for which and with which she continued it, but it was only given just at the point where the work in which she was engaged required it, then it was taken from her, together with the memory of the work; and in these employments, and in great poverty, the Spirit left her for many years.
When the Spirit had disciplined Humanity, by such trials and humiliations, until she was able to look not only without disgust upon things which at first she naturally loathed, but busied herself unweariedly and willingly with whatever was most offensive, she was put to another trial, being placed as superior in charge of this hospital, that it might be seen if her humanity would anywhere discover itself, by reason of this elevation. She was tried by the Spirit, in this way, for many years, aided by him, however, with all needed hints and suggestions, without which she could not have fulfilled this charge. And with all these employments she remained recollected in that love which was secretly increasing as Humanity was destroyed, for just so far as she became rid of Self-Love, did she become possessed by pure love, which penetrated and filled her in proportion as she became dead to self. And thus this soul, burning with pure love, melted in that divine flame, and as this continually increased, the soul was always consuming with love; therefore she discharged all her duties with alacrity, never resting, that she might forget the flame that devoured her more and more. She never could speak of this to any one, but she talked of it to herself, unheard by others.
Now the Spirit having thus taken possession of her, said: “I will no longer call her a human creature, so entirely do I behold her in God, and with nothing human remaining.”
In the second part Saint Catherine describes the sublime perfection of the spiritual life in which she is engaged.
Part 2, Chapter 1
Of a new love which God poured into her heart, by which he drew her Spirit to himself. – The Soul follows it, so that her powers are absorbed and lost in this love, and the Body, being subject to the Soul, becomes bewildered and changed from its natural condition.
After this creature had been despoiled of the world, of the flesh, of her possessions, habits, affections, and, in short, of everything but God, it was his will to deprive her of herself also, and to separate the Soul from the Spirit by a suffering so acute that it is difficult to describe it or to make it understood by one who has not experienced it. God infused into that heart a new love, so ardent and so powerful that it absorbed into itself the Soul, with all her powers, so that she was raised above her natural condition and so constantly occupied within herself that she could no more take delight in anything nor look toward heaven or earth.
This Soul was unable to correspond with the body, which being thrown out of its natural condition, stood bewildered, not knowing where it was, nor what to do or say. By this new method, unknown, and as yet not understood by any creature, strange and new operations were then effected. It was as if a chain were extended, by which God, who is Spirit, draws to himself the spirit of man, and holds it absorbed in him. The soul, which cannot exist without her spirit, follows, and is also thus absorbed. There she remains, unable to do otherwise, so long as God binds the spirit to himself. The body, being subject to the soul, is deprived of its natural ailment, which without her aid she cannot receive, and is thrown out of its natural state. The spirit, meanwhile, is in the fit condition for that end for which it was created by God; and, stripped of all things, it rests in him as long as it is his good pleasure, provided that the body can endure it and live.
The soul and the body then return to their natural action, and having been refreshed by the repose of the spirit, God again elevates it to its former state, and in this manner the animal imperfections are by degrees destroyed, and the soul, thus cleansed, remains pure spirit, and the body, purged from its evil habits and inclinations, is also pure and fitted to unite itself, without hindrance to the Spirit in due season. This work God effects by love alone, which is so great that it is incessantly seeking the profit and advantage of this Soul, his beloved.
But the special work of which I speak, God performs without the aid of the Soul, and in the following manner: he fills her with a secret love, which deprives her of her natural life, so that the work carried on in her is wholly supernatural. She remains meanwhile in that sea of secret love which is so great that all who are drawn within it sink overwhelmed, for it overpowers the memory, the understanding, and the will: and to these powers, thus submerged in the divine love, all things else which approached them would be their hell, for they have been deprived of the natural life for which she Soul was created.
Such a soul, while yet in this life, shares, in some degree, the happiness of the blessed; but this is hidden even from herself, for it is so great and high that she is unable to comprehend it, exceeding as it does the capacity of her powers, which look to nothing beyond, but rest satisfied and submerged in this sea of love. When created things are spoken of, her facilities, like fools, are powerless and lifeless, not knowing where they are; so hidden is this work in God. The further it advances, the more contented and strong to bear all that God pleases to accomplish in it, does the spirit become; but it comprehends no more on the account, for the soul, as if dead, knows nothing of this work nor takes any part therein.
But the body, which must needs live on this earth while God is bringing the soul by its means to her destined perfection, how can it exist, alienated in all things from its natural condition? It can no longer use the understanding, the memory, or the will, for earthly purposes, nor does it take pleasure in spiritual things. It will live, then, in this way, in great torments: but God, whose works this is, is not willing that any but himself shall take part in it, and we shall now explain the means he uses.
Part 2, Chapter 2
In what manner God keeps the Soul occupied in his love. – Of the weakness of the body and of the support it receives from creatures. – Of the extreme sufferings of Humanity, which it bemoans without complaining, being interiorly conformed to the will of God. – And how purgatory in this life is severe and sweet and full of mercy.
Sometimes this occupation of love was lightened and the Spirit allowed to take a breath, and to communicate with the Soul and the Soul with the Body, so that the senses of both were in a condition to receive some aid from created things, and were thus revived. But when God withdrew the Spirit into himself, all the rest followed it, the body remaining, as it were, dead, and so estranged from its natural state that when it again returned to it, it was entirely exhausted and could receive no help from any creature. Humanity could neither eat nor drink nor give any sign of life, so that it was led as a little child who can do nothing but weep. It could not enjoy that which nature desires, for it was deprived of taste and drawn out of its natural state.
When the Soul had remained awhile in this condition, she turned toward her Lord with bitter lamentation, and said to him:
Soul. Oh, my Lord, hitherto I have been in entire peace, contentment, and delight, for all my powers were in the enjoyment of the love bestowed on me by thee, and seemed as if they were in Paradise. Now they are driven from their home and find themselves in an unknown and strange country. Formerly the intellect, the memory, and the will, were conscious of thy love in all their operations, which they performed according to thy ordination, with great satisfaction to themselves and to all with whom they had to do: this was through thy sweet concurrence, which gave a zest to every act. Now I am naked and despoiled of all things and deprived of the power to love and to operate as I was wont to do. What then shall I do, living and yet dead, without understanding, without memory, and without will, and what is worse, without love, bereft of which I did not believe it possible to live, since man was created for love and for enjoyment, especially of God, his first object and his last end?
This operation, which I behold for the first time, deprives me of love and of joy, and I am lost in myself, not knowing what to do or say. Oh, how hard and intolerable it is to live thus, especially since I see that all my powers accord with one another, having found repose in God, their object and their end; and although they are ignorant of this work, yet in their ignorance they remain content!
But abandoned and deserted Humanity, how shall it live, parched, naked, and powerless? It has eyes and sees not; nostrils and smells not; ears and hears not; mouth and tastes not; a heart and cannot love! Every mode of life is found in that hidden love; but how is he to live to whom that love brings death, whose senses are all awake, but who cannot use them as others do?
And therefore, Humanity said, lamenting:
Me, miserable, alone in this world, what shall I do? I shall live in wretchedness, and none will have compassion on me, because this work will not be recognized as that of God, inasmuch as I must needs live, almost continually, in a different way from others, whether they be seculars or religious, and do things that will be looked upon as folly. There remains neither order nor regularity in my life, and for this reason it will rather scandalize than edify.
Alas! alas! that I should behold a work so cruel to Humanity! It is as if I were in a heated furnace, with the entrance closed, neither dead nor alive, and in dread of being reduced to ashes; yet I complain not, for interiorly I am in conformity with the will of God, who holds me in this condition according to a design neither known nor comprehended by the Soul herself; but the effect is shown in the execution of the work. It is Humanity which feels the torment, without complaining; yet if it could lament it would be refreshed.
Oh, what a sweet and cruel purgatory is this hidden one on earth! It is sweet in comparison with the purgatory of the life to come, but to us it appears cruel when we see a body on this earth suffering so intolerably. Yet what seems cruelty to us is truly a great mercy of God, although a hidden and unsuspected one. To him who is enlightened, this work is evidently done by love only the blind would endeavor to escape it, but in vain. We are all sinners, and how much better is it to be cleansed here than in the other life! For whoever suffers purgation in this life pays but a small portion of what is due, by reason of the liberty of his free-will cooperating with infused grace. God never subjects man to this discipline until he has obtained from him his free consent. For a moment it is put before him, and accepting it of his own free-will, he puts himself into the hands of God to be dealt with according to his pleasure. But this is hidden from Humanity.
The Spirit having given consent, God binds the Soul unto himself, and thereafter it remains in these bonds, which are never broken. All this is done without Humanity, which must be subject to the decree of God and the good pleasure of the Spirit. And when it finds itself in such subjection, it cries aloud like one who is suddenly wounded, and because it does not know the end, it is left to its lamentations while God continues his work, giving no heed unto its cries.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Humanity, thus menaced, desires to know the cause. – This is promised her. – God, while seeking men, draws them by different means and inspirations. – Of her continual sorrow. How, in her affliction, she calls upon God to relieve her by one ray of his love. – When she comes to understand the grace God has given her, she is pierced by a new dart of love. – Of her confession and contrition.
Humanity, finding itself menaced by various sufferings, through which it must needs pass, being unable to defend itself, sought to know the cause for which it must endure a martyrdom without alleviation. It was answered interiorly, that a release would be granted in due season, and it became as one sentenced to death, who, having heard the sentence pronounced upon his evil deeds resigns himself to an ignominious end and thus sometimes escapes it.
“In my infinite and ever-active love,” spake God, “I continually go forth in search of souls, in order to guide them to life eternal; and, illuminating them with my light, I move the free-will of men in many and diverse ways. When man yields to my inspirations, I increase this light, and by its aid he sees himself imprisoned, as it were, in a foul and dismal den, surrounded by a brood of venomous reptiles which strive to destroy him but which he saw not before by reason of the darkness. By the light I grant him, he sees his peril and calls upon me to free him in mercy from the miseries which hem him in on every side. I am ever illuminating him more and more, and, as his light grows clearer, and he discovers more plainly the dangers which surround him, he cries aloud and with bitter tears: `O my God! take me hence and do with me what thou wilt. I can endure all things if thou wilt release me from this misery and peril!'”
It appeared to this Soul that God turned a deaf ear to her lamentations; but he increased her light daily, and with its growth her anguish likewise deepened, for by it she saw not only her own danger, but that no way of escape was open to her. Long did she cry to God for help, for so he had decreed, and though he gave her no reply, he yet had regard to her perseverance, and kindled in her heart a hidden fire, while at the same time he reveled to her her imperfections. In this manner she was for a season restrained and overwhelmed in her own wretchedness. She ate no other bread, and lived in continual sorrow; moreover, as the light of grace increased, the flesh was consumed away and the blood cleansed from its superfluous humors. She was so weakened and afflicted that she could scarcely move, and in her desolation she cried aloud to God: Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Psalm 50).
And God, when he saw her entirely abandoned to his mercy and despairing of herself, revived her with a ray of his love whereby he made her see anew the magnitude of her defects, and that hell alone was their fitting retribution. She recognized, moreover, the singular grace which God had bestowed upon her, and as she beheld it, she was pierced afresh with love and grief at her offences against such great goodness. She began to confess her sins with such deep and extraordinary contrition that she seemed ready to perform every possible penance of soul and body.
Contrition, confession, and satisfaction, are the first works of the Soul after it has been enlightened by God. By this means she is freed from her sins and imperfections, clothed with virtue, and remains thus until she has formed the habit of virtue.
Part 2, Chapter 4
God sends into that heart another ray of love, which, diffusing itself, fills the soul and revives the body. – There is nothing but exceeding love and joy, until this love, which is wholly from God, has completed its work.
God once more infused into the Soul another ray of love, and by its superabundance the body also was refreshed, and there was nothing but love and rejoicing of heart, for the Soul believed herself in paradise. In this state the Soul continued until every love except that of God was entirely consumed, and with his love alone she remained until she was wholly absorbed in him. He bestowed upon her many graces and sent her many sweet consolations, upon which she fed as do all those who share the divine love. He spoke to her also in those loving words which, like flame, penetrate the hearts of those who hear them. The body, moreover, was so inflamed, that it seemed as if the Soul must quit it in order to unite herself with her Love. This was to her a season of great peace and consolation, for all her nourishment was the food of eternal life.
In this state she feared neither martyrdom nor hell nor any opposition or adversity that might befall her, for it seemed to her that with this love she could endure all things. O loving and rejoicing heart! O happy soul that has tasted this love! Thou canst no longer enjoy or behold aught beside, for thou hast attained thy rest for which thou wert created! O sweet and secret love: whoever tastes thee can no longer exist without thee! Thou, O man! who wert created for this love, how canst thou be satisfied and at peace without it? How canst thou live? In it is comprised all that can be desired, and it yields a satisfaction so entire that man can neither obtain it for himself nor even conceive it until he has experienced it. O love! in which are united all bliss and all delight, and which satisfies all desire!
Whoever could express the emotions of a heart enamored of God, would break every other heart with longing, although it were harder than the diamond and perverser than the devil. O flame of love! thou dost consume all rust, and so completely removest every shadow of defect that the least imperfection disappears before thee. So perfectly dost thou thy work in the Soul, that she is cleansed even from those defects that are seen by thine eye alone, to which even that which seems to us perfection is full of faults.
O Love! thou dost wholly cleanse and purify us; thou dost enlighten and strengthen our understanding, and dost even perform for us our necessary works, and this through thy pure love alone which meets with no return from us.
And now this Soul, filled with astonishment at beholding God so enamored of her, questions him concerning his love.
Part 2, Chapter 5
The Soul asks concerning this love. – Our Lord in part answers her and discourses to her upon its greatness, nature, properties, causes and effects.
Soul. O Lord! what is that soul which thou holdest in such esteem and which we value so little? I would that I knew the cause of thy great and pure love for the rational creature whom I behold so contrary in all things to thee!
Our Lord listened favorably to her request and thus replied: “If you were to know how much I love the soul, you would never know aught further, for you would either die or continue to live by a miracle. And if you were able to compare your own misery with that great love and goodness which I never cease to exercise toward man, you would live in despair. So powerful is my love that the knowledge of it would annihilate not only the body but the soul of man, if that were possible. My love is infinite, and I cannot but love that which I have created; my love is pure, simple, and sincere, neither can I love except with such a love.
“To him who could in the least understand this, every other love would seem, what in truth it is, an aberration. The cause of my love is only love itself; and because you cannot comprehend, it be at peace and seek not for what you cannot find. This, my love, is better comprehended by an interior sense than by any other way, and to acquire this the action of love must wholly detach man from himself, for he is his own worst impediment. This love destroys malice and fits man to understand the nature of love.”
O admirable work of love, which gives God to man that he may do all that is needful to attain that perfection for which he is designed! God gives him, too, all needful light and grace, increasing them gradually in such a manner and to such a degree that they never fail and never exceed; for if they fell short, man might excuse himself from doing his part because grace was wanting to him, and if they exceeded, the work he might have done through their means but failed to do, would be his punishment.
Grace increases in proportion as man makes use of it. Hence it is evident that God gives man from day to day all that he needs, no more and no less, and to each according to his condition and capacity. All this he does for the love and benefit of man; but because we are so cold and negligent in our endeavors, and because the instinct of the spirit is to arrive quickly at perfection, it seems as if grace were insufficient. Yet it is not so, and the fault is wholly ours, in not cooperating with the grace already received, which therefore ceases to increase.
O wretched man! how shall you be excused for failing to correspond with that great love and care which God has always bestowed and still bestows upon you? At the hour of death you will behold and know all this, and you will then be speechless through astonishment. Then the truth will be made plain and you will have no power to contradict it. Shame will overpower you for having failed to do your part in response to all this aid, this grace, this loving care of your Lord, who, in order to satisfy your other request, speaks to you thus:
Part 2, Chapter 6
God reveals to the Soul that the body is to be purgatory for her in this world. – How necessary it is that man should deny himself and become wholly lost in God. – Of the misery of man when he occupies himself with aught beside, since he has no time but the present to acquire a treasure of merit.
The Lord. The cause of all the suffering through which you have to pass is better understood by experience than by reasoning. Yet know this: I make of the body a purgatory for the soul, and thus augment her glory by drawing her to me through this purgatory alone. And thus I am ever knocking at the door of the heart, and if man yields consent and opens to me, I lead him with continual and loving care to that degree of glory for which I created him. If he could see and understand the care with which I promote his salvation and his welfare, quitting and despising all ease, even were the universe at his command, he would abandon himself without reserve to me.
There is no martyrdom that he would not endure, if it would preserve him from losing this loving care which is leading him to the highest glory. I would draw him to me by love and faith alone, to which fear and self-interest are opposed, because they spring from the love of self, which cannot coexist with that pure and simple love which alone must absorb man if he would not cast off my care of him. Without this aid he could not enter into the clear depths of my love, for it would be a hell to him. And man, having no other way and no other time but this life in which to purify his soul by love and faith, and with the assistance of my grace, is it not a misery for him to occupy himself with aught beside, and thus lose the precious time which was given him for this work alone? Once passed, it will never more return. Listen then, O Soul, my beloved! listen to my voice; open thine ears to thy Lord who so much loves thee, who is ever caring for thee, and who alone is thy salvation! Steeped in sin as thou art, sunk in such misery and weighed down with evil habits, thou wilt never know the greatness of thy woes until my light unveils them to thee and frees thee from them!
Soul. Thou hast given me, Lord, many persuasive reasons why I should suffer as I have done and must still do; yet, I pray thee, if it please thee, satisfy my understanding concerning the cause of this suffering, for I need it greatly when I am overpowered by the vehemence of thy love.
The Lord. Thou knowest that when thou didst yield up thy will to me thou wert sunk so low that had I not prevented thee thou wouldst have fallen into hell. Thou wert borne away into sin and misery like one bound hand and foot. I granted thee light and contrition, by the help of which thou didst make thy confession. Thou hast performed many penances, and for a long time offered prayers and alms in satisfaction for thy sins. I left thee to struggle and torment thyself until thou wert well established in virtue, that thou mightest not hence forward fall into sin. I allowed thee to practice various virtues in order that thou shouldst be confirmed and take pleasure in them and never more turn to other enjoyments.
And now the Soul began to delight in spiritual things, and was assailed by many temptations, and was thus practised in the ways of God. The providence of God was also made plain to her in many trials and persecutions which she endured from men, from devils, and from herself. For, being accustomed to wrong-doing, it was necessary for her to combat all these enemies until she had destroyed them, inasmuch as it is they who were ever warring against her. And if it were not for our evil habits no one would ever be tempted except in consequence of the increase of grace, and this is a temptation which is without danger, because God sustains by his love those upon whom he permits it to fall.
Part 2, Chapter 7
The Soul, confirmed in virtue, begins to rest in her Lord. – God permits her to see that loving operations whereby, through his great goodness alone, he had liberated her. – The Soul, perceiving her own miseries, burns with a continual flame and is unable to speak or thing of aught besides.
When God had despoiled this Soul of her evil habits and clothed her with virtue, and had well instructed her in the spiritual life, she began to rest in her Lord. Her battle and her servitude being ended, she was filled with a great joy, especially when God opened her eyes to see how greatly he had assisted her, and how he had defended her from her enemies, both visible and invisible, and from herself, who was the worst of all. The Soul, discerning the providence of God, and finding herself entirely freed from her interior trials, began to turn towards her Lord, who, designing to raise her to a higher state, caused her to behold with the eye of divine love the loving operation which he had accomplished in her. When she beheld his great and watchful care she was lost in astonishment, and considered what God was and what she herself was; that is, how low she was in misery and sorrow and how his goodness alone had rescued her by pure and simple love, and prepared her by amorous modes and ways to receive his divine love. This vision made her confess with bitter tears her woes and sins; and the love which God manifested to her continued to inflame her in such a manner that she could speak and think of nothing else. And in this state she remained until all other loves, both spiritual and natural, were entirely consumed.
And because the love of God, inasmuch as it is lonely and remote from other loves, is so much the greater, and more vehemently occupies the soul (for it is ever increasing, and works secretly, not only on others but also on itself), therefore the Soul, finding herself in this state, enjoyed all things, interior as well as exterior, in peace, in love, and in delight; for she did not yet know the way by which God intended to lead her, although she was approaching it. And God spake thus to her:
Part 2, Chapter 8
Our Lord makes known to the Soul that she had merited nothing, having employed in purifying herself the time which was given her to increase in grace and glory. – Also he shows her that without his help she could have done nothing.
The Lord. My daughter, hitherto you have followed the odor of my perfumes, which have guided and supported you thus far upon your way; but without me you could have done nothing. In this way, my grace assisting, you are purged from your sins, despoiled of your affections, habited in virtue, burning with love, and as it were, united with me in love, and so full of delight, both inwardly and outwardly, that you seem to yourself to be in paradise.
But understand that hitherto you have merited nothing, for whatever you have done in the way of penance, fasting, alms, and prayers, you were obliged to do; it was needful for you to perform them all by my light in order to cancel your debts. And having not the means wherewith to satisfy, I have granted you these through love for you, that you might by them make satisfaction: and know, that all this time which you have spent in satisfying for your sins is as if it were lost, for it was given you that you might increase in love, grace, and glory; therefore, you have merited nothing, although it may seem to you that you have done great things, and such as are highly esteemed by those who do not understand them.
It was also necessary that you should be clothed with the virtues which attract love, that they might protect you from evil and prepare you to receive greater light; and knowing that of yourself you were unfit for any good work and also incapable of it, I have given you (in order that you might work and persevere in work) a hidden love, by whose operations all your facilities and also your bodily senses should be voluntarily disposed to make satisfaction. I have given you, moreover, the power to love me, in order to detach you from every other love, and finally I have conducted you to the portals of my true and perfect love, beyond which you have not advanced, for to do so is beyond your strength. And with all this you are not yet content, for you have the instinct to advance, although you know not even what you desire.
Part 2, Chapter 9
The Spirit, seeing the Soul brought to the gates of divine love, resolves to subject both Soul and Body to severe suffering. – He tells the Soul that he will separate himself from her, and that in order to recover her first purity, she must pass through many trials.
When the Spirit saw the Soul led to the portals of divine love, from which she was neither able to advance nor to recede, and saw, moreover, that she had been conducted thus far with much assistance from God, who had pleasantly occupied without wholly satisfying all her facilities, he thus spake:
Spirit. Now is the time for me to repay the Soul for what she has done to me. For many years I have been subject to her, and, with cruelties too great to be described, excluded from my home; for she was so restrained and oppressed by earthly things that the powers I possessed were not sufficient to enable me to attend to my own spiritual concerns. I called to my aid the certainty of death, the fear of hell, the hope of heaven, preaching, and all other aids afforded by the Church; and also divine inspirations, infirmities, poverty, and other worldly tribulations, in order that, deprived of all things earthly, she might, in her extreme need, when all other resources had failed her, have recourse unto God. But, though in her great necessity she sometimes turned to him and promised with his assistance to do great things, yet when that moment was passed she returned to her accustomed practices and I to my prison; and this has happened many times. But now that I see my Soul, with her senses, and also those of the body, arrived at a point from which she can neither advance nor recede, I will subject and restrain them all in such a way that they can neither impede nor retard me. Complaints will not avail them; they will be as much at my discretion as I have been at theirs; but I shall not be as cruel to them as they have been to me, for they never afforded me the smallest help, even when I was most oppressed and surrounded by my enemies. I will keep the Soul in restraint and in subjection, and inflict upon her, without mercy, all the suffering she can bear. I have her in my hands, and I will leave her so naked, desolate, and forsaken, that she will know not where to turn except for the bare necessities which will keep her alive to suffer a yet longer martyrdom; and this will be in secret in order that no one may give her any remedy. Not one of her members shall escape suffering until my work is finished; whosoever shall behold her in such torments will wish her dead, and she would herself wish it if she could do so without sin.
Soul. I have heard enough of your threats, and am sufficiently well acquainted with the prospect of what I am to suffer; but the reason of this suffering I have not been able to understand, although it has been promised to me.
Spirit. I mean to separate myself from you, and for the present I will answer you in words; hereafter I will do so more effectually by deeds which will make you envy the dead.
You have been conducted even to this threshold by many gentle means and divine graces, which you have assumed and appropriated to yourself, and have hidden them with a subtlety of which you are not yourself aware, for they have become your by such long use that no eye but that of God can discern them; neither would you believe it, did not God himself declare it. Gradually you will come to understand by experience, that even in the first light that was given you, you appropriated your share, and so of contrition, confession, satisfaction, prayer, and other virtuous acts; of interior and exterior detachment; of the sweet love of God, of the alienation of the bodily senses, so that they appeared as if dead because they were entirely controlled by the divine operation. And inasmuch as those works had long sustained your faculties, and the love of God was so strong and powerful within you, you seemed to yourself to be in heaven, and enjoyed it all within yourself as if it were yours by right, and had been bestowed on you by God as the reward of your merits. You did not return it wholly and entirely to him as you should have done in all simplicity and uprightness, and in this you have been dishonest and have defiled yourself, and therefore you must suffer all I have foretold you. Learn what a task it is to purge a soul here below and restore her with no further purgatory to her pristine purity. And when it is God’s will to elevate her to a high degree of glory, it becomes more especially necessary, not alone to purify her but to make her pass through many cruel sufferings that she may gain merit by many and grievous pains.
When the time came which pleased God, he drew the Spirit so secretly and closely to himself, that it held no communication with the Soul nor the Soul with the Body, and both were left so bare and dry that it was hard for them to live at all, and especially at the first, when they were passing from one extreme to the other, although God was secretly attracting them by little and little. At length that befell the Soul, which happens to a bombshell, when the fire being applied it explodes and loses both fire and powder; thus the Soul, having conceived the fire of pure, divine love, suddenly lost that which had before inflamed her, and, deprived of all sensibility, could never more return to it. She resembled a musical instrument which, while furnished with strings, sends forth sweet melody, but, being deprived of them, is silent. So she, who had hitherto with the senses of both Soul and body, discoursed such sweet music, now, bereft of these, remained stringless and mute. When she found herself closely pressed by the Spirit, with no hope of relief (for she remembered all his threats), she cried to God, and said:
Part 2, Chapter 10
The Soul discovers that she must make satisfaction voluntarily, and it seems to her that she is abandoned by God. – She calls upon others for help. – How Humanity, by whom she had been threatened, is put to the proof. – Of the sufferings of the Body when deprived of communications with the Spirit.
Soul. Lord, I see it to be necessary that I should atone for my dishonest appropriation of thy spiritual graces, and I begin to understand that as I have consented to take part with the body in sin, and have found pleasure in it, I must also consent that it shall be expiated by my own sufferings as well as by those of the body, and that I must pay, even to the last farthing. I see that I have secretly robbed thee of what was thine, and have appropriated many satisfactions, and delighted in many spiritual graces, without referring them all to thee as was my duty; namely, many sweet consolations in speaking, hearing, tasting, and in various other things. I perceive that this robbery was very serious, since nothing more precious could be stolen. For these are the things which essentially differ from all that is man’s own. Nothing is of real value to him, except that which it pleases thee to give him by thy grace. Therefore it is necessary for us to comprehend that every grace proceeds from thee, and to thee it must be returned, if we would not be robbers: this robbery originated with the devil by whom we are continually tempted and by whom many are led astray.
But how shall I satisfy myself for this great and subtle sin, since I have neither strength nor feeling, either of soul or body? I know not whether I am alive or dead. It is hard to live in this world, and yet I must both live and suffer greatly, in order to expiate my offences. I seem to be abandoned by the divine and through the knowledge of that which, not to others but to thee alone, my God, is fully known, that I would always rob thee. Finding myself deserted on every side, give me at least one who can understand and comfort me, as is done to the condemned, that they may not wholly despair.
Then God comforted Humanity somewhat, and afterwards exercised her in that with which she had before been threatened. The body by degrees became infirm, being deprived of the correspondence of the Spirit, which held the powers of the Soul suspended and engaged, while the body remained naked, famished, wretched, and unconscious that this was the work of God. Hence, it rapidly consumed away and felt every slight evil as a great calamity, and its infirmity increased to such a degree that if it kept the Soul intent on some hidden operation, the body would not have been able to support itself. Exteriorly, too, he gave her a director adapted to her need, who comprehended the work of God within her. This was a great consolation, for her natural forces could not have sustained her under trials so great that they could neither be described by human tongue, nor, if described, be understood. Even if witnessed by the bodily eye they would be incomprehensible, so much greater was the interior suffering than the exterior, and so impossible was it for any way or kind of relief to be found. But God now and then afforded Humanity a little relief, and she seemed restored, although the interior oppression was constantly increasing. So she wandered about the house, wasting away, and ignorant of the nature of her malady, so subtle, hidden, and penetrating was that divine work.
Then she was assailed in a different manner and with strange and new afflictions, against which she struggled with all her powers. When God afflicted the body, he fortified the mind, and when the mind was suffering, he consoled the body, and thus supported each in turn. She continued in this state for about ten years, Humanity being always more and more unconscious of those hidden operations by which God held her, as it were, bound.
Afterwards he took from her her confessor, and everything else towards which she looked for help. Then the Spirit drew her forcibly to himself, because he, in turn, was drawn by God with a hidden love, so penetrating and powerful, though without delight, that it melted into itself both Soul and Spirit, while the bodily senses, with everything else, were absorbed in God.
This hidden love checked, purged, and exterminated all those sins of robbery which had been so secretly and cunningly committed, and thus in secret the penance was performed while the cause remained concealed. Humanity was so oppressed and crushed that she was constrained to cry to our Lord in piteous accents:
“Oh, my God! how hast thou abandoned me to such cruel sufferings, both interior and exterior! Yet, while I suffer I am still unable to complain, for even when I am most grievously afflicted, I am in secret satisfied by a sharp and searching flame of love, which is gradually consuming all my natural and spiritual strength, so that it is most strange to see a creature living thus deprived of vital force. My confessor, too, is taken from me, so that I can no longer take counsel of him, and so weak have I become that I can turn to nothing with any spirit. Interiorly I find the secret strength which was given me decaying, nor am I in a condition to receive anything from heaven, or earth, but am left like one dead. Yet I must live so long as it pleases God, though I know not how I can live without the help which I am not even able to receive when it is offered me.”
Part 2, Chapter 11
Of the brightness of eternal glory, and of the strength imparted to Humanity by a glimpse of it. – How God draws the Spirit to himself, so that it may be wholly occupied in him. – Of its sufferings. – What it is to live on earth while the Spirit is in heaven, and through what sufferings one must pass in order to escape purgatory.
Towards the close of this process, God came to her aid in a different manner. He sometimes revealed to her a ray of that glory towards which she approached, as the affections of the Soul and the bodily sensations became weaker. This revived her so much, both interiorly and exteriorly, that it supported her for many days; for although she beheld it but a moment, the impression, without any renewal, remained within. And she saw that God held her Spirit so fixed upon himself that he did not allow it to weaver for an instant. The longer this continued the more difficult it was to withdraw from it, the difficulty being too great for words to express. And this was by reason of that hidden Spirit which found itself drawn into greater depths the higher it ascended towards God, and continually losing its own strength as it became more and more absorbed in God, who thus spake to the Soul:
The Lord. Henceforth I will not have you interfere with my designs, for you would always rob me by appropriating to yourself what is not yours. I will finish the work, and you shall be unconscious of it. I will separate you from your Spirit, and he shall be lost in my abyss.
Humanity on hearing this was filled with consternation, and said:
“I am in misery. I do not live, and yet I cannot die, but find myself every day more and more oppressed, and, as it were, consuming away. When I beheld what it was to be centered entirely in God without a single moment’s respite, and that I was myself the miserable creature who was to support this siege, and how very terrible it was, all my flesh was in torment. To remain thus steadily occupied in God, without a moment’s wavering, is a thing for the blessed in heaven, who, lost to themselves, live only in him. That I should live in this way upon earth while my Spirit is in heaven, is a work surpassing all that I have known, and is the most terrible suffering that can be endured in this world.”
It was shown to Humanity that whoever would enter life eternal without passing through purgatory, must die to this world while yet in it; that is, that all the imperfections of the Soul must be so consumed that she may remain absorbed in God. “But hearing thee weep, O Humanity! it is plain that thou art not yet dead, and thou must still live until thou findest life without impediment. When thy vivacity is all passed away, and thy sensibility is weakened, thou wilt have less to endure. Thou wilt not anticipate thy sufferings afar off as now thou dost, with agitation, but wilt abandon thyself to God, not through the powers of the Soul, nor through any instinct of nature, but purely because God has taken upon himself all these things, and works so secretly and subtly that he in whom the work is wrought is not himself aware of it.”
This God does, that man may be sensible of the suffering inflicted on him, for otherwise he would feel it less, and if he comprehended what was going on, he would always be guilty of robbery, even if he were not led to it by his evil instincts, united to the bad habits, hidden in the depths of his soul. But God, knowing that man could not live in so great an extremity if he did not provide for him, does so secretly and in various modes and times, according to his necessity. At first the assistance is very evident, that he may with love persevere and form the habit of doing spiritual works; then, by degrees, God withdraws these supports whenever he finds the man strong enough to endure the battle. The greater strength he has at the beginning, the greater suffering he may look for toward the end, although God always assists him according to his necessities; yet he does this far more secretly than openly, and never ceases but at death.
In the third part Saint Catherine discourses of the divine love and of its wonderful effects, and how she has experienced them all in herself.
Part 3, Chapter 1
The Soul inquires of God the reason of his great love for man, who is so opposed to him; and also what is man, for whom he cares so much.
Soul. O, Lord, when I see thee so enamored of man, I long to know the cause of this great love, especially as in his manner of life, man is so opposed to thy will, estranged from thy love, averse to thy operations, contrary to thee in all things, full of this world, blind, deaf, dumb, and stupid, without the power and without the means of acting according to thy will. I confess, O Lord, that I know not what is this man of whom thou art so mindful; I know not whether thou art his master or his servant; it seems to me as if love had so blinded thee that thou seest not the depth of his miseries. I pray thee, O my Lord, to satisfy me fully in this matter.
The Lord. You demand a thing beyond your comprehension; yet, in order to satisfy your understanding, which in these matters is weak and uninformed, I will show you a scintillation of this love which if you should behold clearly you could not live if I did not sustain you by my grace.
Know then, in the first place, that I am God, with whom there is no change; and know too that I loved man before I created him. I loved him with a love which is infinite, pure, simple, and sincere, and without any cause; it is impossible that I should not love those whom I have created and designed for my glory, each in his own degree. I have also provided him amply with all needful means of attaining his end, both with natural gifts and supernatural graces, and on my part these never fail him. I am ever surrounding him with my infinite love, now in one way and now in another, that I may bring him under my care. I find in him nothing which is contrary to me but the free-will which I have given him, and this I am always combating through love, until he yields it to me, and when I have accepted it I reform it little by little by my secret operations and loving care, and never abandon him until I have conducted him to his appointed end.
To your other question, as to why I love man, who is opposed to me and laden with sins that are so hateful in the sight of heaven, I answer, that by reason of the infinite bounty and pure love with which I love him, I can neither see his defects nor fail to accomplish my work, which is purely to benefit him; I cast such a light on his defects that perforce he sees them, and doing so he bewails them, and bewailing them he purges himself from them. He offends me only when he puts hindrances in the way by which I am endeavoring to lead him to his end; that is, when he hinders me, by mortal sin, from accomplishing my loving designs according to his necessities. But that love which you desire to know is beyond your comprehension, for it has neither form nor limit; neither can you know it through the intellect, for it is not intelligible; it is in part made known by its effects, which are small or great in proportion to the measure of love which is brought into action.
If one who had not lost faith should desire to see the effects of this work which is accomplished in man by that spark of love which infuses into his heart, be assured that he would be so inflamed by love that he could not live, for so great would be its power that he would melt away and be no more. Though men are for the most part forever in ignorance of it, yet, for this hidden love, you see those who abandon the world, leave their possessions, friends, and kindred, and hold in abhorrence all other loves and joys. For this love men have sold themselves as slaves, and remained in bondage to others until death; and its force increases so continually that they would suffer martyrdom for it a thousand times, as they have often done and will ever continue to do.
You see this love transforms beasts into men, men into angels, and angels becoming God, as it were, by participation. You see men changed from earthly into heavenly, and devoting themselves with both soul and body to the practice of spiritual things. Their whole life and manner of speech are altered, and they do and say the contrary of what was formerly their custom. All are surprised at this, and yet it seems good to all, and men are almost envious of it.
But unless by experience, no one comprehends how this has been brought about. That deep sweet, and penetrating love which man feels in his heart is unknown, and can neither be described nor understood except by the light of the affections in whose exercise he feels himself occupied, bound, transformed, in peace and harmony with the bodily sensations, and without any contradiction, so that he has nothing, wills nothing, and desires nothing. He remains quiet and satisfied in his inmost heart, knowing this love and knowing it alone. He is kept closely bound by a very subtle thread, held secretly by the hand of God, who leaves him to struggle and combat with the world, the devils, and himself, while fainting weak, and helpless, he fears ruin on every side but God does not let him fall.
The true love which you are striving, O Soul, to comprehend, is not this, but is seen only when I have consumed the imperfections of man by every mode of human misery, both exterior and interior. As for that which cannot be seen, this is my mode of action. I let down into the heart of man the slender, golden thread of my hidden love, to which is attached a hook which enters the heart, and man feels himself wounded, but knows not by whom he is bound and taken. He neither moves nor wishes to move, because his heart is drawn by me, its object and its end, although he does not comprehend it; but it is I who hold the thread in my hand, and draw it even closer with a love so penetrating and so subtle, that man is conquered and subdued and entirely taken out of himself.
As the feet of one who has been hanged do not touch the earth, but his body remains attached to the cord by which he received his death, so the Spirit remains suspended by the slender thread of love whereby all the subtle and hidden imperfections of man receive their death: all that he now loves he loves by virtue of the tie by which he is bound. All his actions are done by means of that love and through sanctifying grace, because it is now God who works alone, by his pure love and without man’s assistance. And God, having thus taken man into his own keeping, and drawn him entirely to himself, so enriches him with his favors that when he comes to die he finds himself drawn unconsciously by that thread of love into the divine abyss. And although man in this state appears a lifeless, lost, and abject thing, yet his life is hidden in God amid the treasures of eternal life; nor can it be told or imagined what God has prepared for this beloved Soul.
The Soul, hearing all this, is so inflamed by ardent love that she breaks forth into exclamations:
Part 3, Chapter 2
Exclamations of the Soul. – Our Lord demands the cause of her surprise, and questions her concerning her enjoyment in the company of spiritual persons, and of the pleasing conversations held with them.
Soul. O tongue, why dost thou speak, when thou canst find no fitting words for the love felt by my heart? O heart, inflamed with love, why dost thou not consume the body where thou dwellest? O Spirit, what dost thou, thus bound upon the earth? Seest thou not that vehemence of love wherewith God attracts and desires thee? Destroy this body, that each may go to his own place!
And God, when he beheld the Soul kindled with a flame so great and limitless, desiring in some measure to restrain her, showed her one spark of that love with which he loves man, and which is so pure, simple, and sincere that the Soul when she beheld it was well-nigh overpowered with astonishment; then the Lord demanded of her, saying:
The Lord. Why do I behold you thus changed? What new thing have you seen that kindles in you such a flame of love? Hitherto you have seemed ready to break through the body in order to find your love, by reason of the great delight and sweet enjoyment you tasted, together with many other of your friends, with whom you were united in the bonds of that sweet and winning love; but now I see you pausing and bewildered, and caring to converse with no one.
Until now this Soul had often occupied herself in conversing with her spiritual friends on the divine love, until it seemed to them as if they were already in paradise. Oh, how sweet were these colloquies! Both he who spoke and he who listened were fed alike upon that spiritual, sweet, and delicious food, and were not satisfied to see time pass so quickly while they talked, but all inflamed and burning, could neither speak nor separate, and seemed as if beside themselves. O feasts of love! O food most exquisite! What delicious viands, what sweet union, what divine company! They spoke only of the love of God, of its operations, and how all hindrances to it might be removed. All that took place between them was so clearly seen to be from God and for the benefit of souls, that no one could think otherwise, and hence the Soul responded:
Part 3, Chapter 3
The Soul discovers that what she had been doing, as if for God, proceeded truly from Self-Love. – She is filled with astonishment at the sight of pure love, and inquires concerning its nature. – Our Lord answers her that she could not understand it, and that he himself, being love, can be comprehended only in his effects.
Soul. Thou hast shown me, O Lord, another light in which I have seen that it is Self-Love which has hitherto moved me, and that all which has had the semblance of being wrought so lovingly for thee and in thee was self-defiled and of my own doing, and secretly appropriated to myself. It was hidden in me, my God, beneath thy shadow, under which I rested. But now that I behold thy simple, pure, and ardent love, with its operations, I am lost and bewildered, and all other loves seem to me worse than selfish. O divine love, where shall I find words to speak of thee? I am conquered and subdued by thee; I am dying of love and I do not feel love; I am annihilated in love and I do not know love; I feel love acting within me, and its action I do not understand; I feel my heart burning with love, and yet I do not see the flame of love.
O my God, I cannot cease to search for tokens of thy care; and although I am wholly overpowered by the new light which thou hast shown me, I do not yet despair of knowing more fully this love which, containing within itself everything that is desirable in heaven and on earth, satisfies man without satiating him, and even constantly increases the appetite which feeds upon it. It is so sweet and gentle, this pure and simple love, and so adapted to the heart of man, that he who has once enjoyed it, though but a little, would never cease to seek it, though the search should cost him a thousand lives. What is this love which conquers all things? Thou, Lord, hast told me many things concerning it, but they all seem to me to fall short; and since thou hast given me the burning desire to penetrate it more deeply, I will not believe that it can be in vain. Thou hast promised me a fuller satisfaction than I have attained. Thou hast shown me a spark of thy pure and simple love, and it has kindled in my heart a flame that devours me. Nowhere on earth can I find repose, nor can I feel or see aught beside. I am lost and beside myself; I am led captive and wounded nigh unto death, and wait only on thy providence, which will satisfy every one of my desires, which is in the order of salvation.
The Lord. O Soul, my beloved, thou art seeking to know what thou canst not comprehend. Thy instinct and thy desire, so far as the natural man is concerned, are supernatural; but as concerning the spiritual, and the end for which thou wert created, they are natural, because love is thy beginning, thy middle, and ought to be thy end. Thou canst not live without love, for it is thy life, both in this world and in the other. It is for this reason that the desire consumed thee to know what love may be, but thou canst not comprehend it with the intellect, nor with the Spirit, nor with all the love thou mayest possess; even those who are in heaven, their home, know it only according to the measure of grace and charity they have had in this life.
For love is God himself, who cannot be comprehended, except by the wonderful effects of the great love which he is ever manifesting, and which can neither be estimated nor imagined. And when I reveal to the Soul but one spark of my pure love, she is constrained to return me that love, whose power compels her to do her all for me, even, if need were, to suffer torture and a thousand deaths. How much love may be infused into the hearts of men, can be learned from what men have done for love of me. But I see, my beloved, that thou seekest not this operative love in its effects, but those gentle drops that I pour into the hearts of my elect, and which melt the Soul, the Spirit, and even the bodily powers, so that they act no longer. By these drops the Soul remains immersed in the sweetness of that love, and is incapable of performing any action: she is lost in herself and alienated from every creature: serene in the depths of her heart, at peace with all, and passive, she is absorbed with that love, which satisfies her, without nourishment; hence she exclaims in her ardor:
Soul. O food without taste, O taste without flavor, O flavor without food, O food of love on which angels, saints, and men are nourished! O beatific food, he who tastes thee knows not what thou art! O real food, satisfying the appetite, thou dost destroy every other desire! He who enjoys this food esteems himself already blessed even in this life, where God communicates it but in the smallest measure: if he should bestow only a little more, man would die of that subtle, penetrating love, for the Spirit would be so inflamed that the weak body would perish. O celestial love! O divine love! thou hast sealed my lips: I know not how to speak, nor will I seek what never can be found. I am conquered and overpowered.
Part 3, Chapter 4
That he whose heart is pure knows the love of God. – How that love works secretly, subtly, and without exterior occupation. – Some of its effects. – Exclamations of the Soul upon this love. – Of its properties.
The Lord. O beloved Soul, knowest thou who it is that employs my love? He whose heart is pure and empty of every other love. When he has found it, he remains content and satisfied, although he knows not my mode of operation nor his own condition; because love works in secret and subtly, without external show.
Such a one is continually occupied, yet without occupation; he is bound, yet knows not who holds him, he is in a prison without an outlet. The Soul can avail herself of neither her understanding, her memory, nor her will, and seems like a thing insensate, dumb, and blind, because the divine love has overpowered all the sensibilities of both Soul and Body. And therefore the Soul and Spirit, finding themselves so transformed from their wonted habit of loving and acting, and secretly and strongly swayed by a higher love, are constrained to ask: “O Lord, what manner of love is this? What is this love which is ever changing man from good to better, continually bringing him nearer to his end, and yet, as he approaches it more closely, plunges him into ever profounder ignorance of his situation?”
Man in this state is kept alive by the rays of love with which God pierces his heart, and which return to heaven in ardent sighs. If he did not find this relief he would die through the vehemence of this fire. Sometimes it so restrains him that he can neither speak nor sigh, in order that its work may be more quickly done; but it does not hold him long in this condition, because he could not remain in it and live. Then the Soul, enlightened, inflamed with divine love, and filled with sweetness and delight, exclaims:
Soul. O love, the Soul that feels thee, begins even in this world to possess eternal life; but thou, Lord, dost conceal this work even from its possessor, lest he should spoil it by making it his own. O love, he who feels thee understands thee not; he who desires to comprehend thee cannot know thee. O love, our life, our blessedness, our rest! Divine love brings with it every good and banishes every evil. O heart, wounded with divine love, thou art forever incurable, and dying of this sweet wound, thou dost enter upon never-ending life. O fire of love, what doest thou in man? Thou purifiest him as gold is purified by fire, and dost conduct him with thee to that country and that end for which he was created.
Love is a divine flame: and as material fire ever burns and consumes, according to its nature, so in man the love of God is by its nature ever working toward its end, and for its part never ceases to benefit and serve him whom it holds so dear; he who does not know its power has but himself to blame, since God never tires of doing good to man while he is in this life, and has always the most tender love for him.
O love, I can no longer be silent, and yet I cannot speak as I desire of thy sweet and gentle operation, for I am filled with love which inspires me with the wish to speak but deprives me of the power. Within myself I speak with the heart and with the mind, but when I would pronounce the words, something checks me, and I find myself betrayed by this poor tongue. I would be silent but I cannot, for still the instinct for speech urges me on. If I could utter that love of which my heart is full, I think that every other heart would be inflamed, however remote from love it might be. Before I leave this life I long to speak once of this love, to speak of it as I feel it within me, of its effects in me, and of what it requires of him into whom it is infused, and whom it fills to overflowing with a sweetness above all sweetness, and with an indescribable content, so great that for it one would willingly be burned alive; for God unites a certain zeal with this love, by the power of which man disregards all contradictions how great soever.
O love, powerful and sweet, happy is he who is possessed by thee, for thou dost strengthen, defend, and preserve him from all ills of body and soul. Thou gently guidest all things to their end, and never dost abandon man. Thou art ever faithful, thou givest light against the deceite of the devil, the malice of the world, and against ourselves, who are so full of self and so perverse. This love is so illuminative and efficacious that it draws all imperfections from their secret caverns, that we may apply the remedy and purge ourselves from them.
This love, which rules and governs our will, in order that it may grow strong and firm to resist temptation, so occupies the affections and the intellect that they desire naught beside. The memory is engrossed, and the powers of the soul are satisfied, so that love remains her sole possessor and inhabitant, and she allows nothing else to enter there. Love exhales a continual sweet perfume, by which man suffers himself to be allured, and so powerful is this fragrance that however great may be the torments through which he passes to salvation, there is no martyrdom he would not suffer gladly to attain it.
O love, no words of mine can express the sweetness and delight with which thou fillest the heart; it remains enclosed within, and by speaking it is inflamed. Whoever hears or reads these words without the sentiment of love, makes little account of them, and they pass by him like the wind. But if I could express the joy, the pleasure, and the peace which it brings to the beloved heart, all men who hear or read these words would surrender without resistance. For it is so adapted to the human heart that at its first touch it opens wide its door, although man never can receive this celestial gift till he is free from every other love. If the heart receives but the smallest drop, it so earnestly desires to increase it that it rates as nothing all the goods of this world. With this love, man conquers the evil habits which are a hindrance to him, and in its strength he stands ever ready to perform great deeds.
Part 3, Chapter 5
Other effects of love. – What it accomplishes at its will. – The work is all its own. – Of works wrought through love, in love, and by love, with some explanation of them.
O love, with thy sweetness thou breakest the heart that is harder than adamant, and meltest it like wax in the fire. O love, thou makest great men to esteem themselves as the least of the earth, and the richest as the poorest. O love, thou causest wise men to appear as fools, and thou takest their knowledge from the learned and givest them an understanding surpassing all other understanding. O love, thou banishest from the heart all melancholy, hardness, and natural inclinations, and all delight in worldly things. O love, thou makest bad men good, and artful men simple. Thou dost ingeniously deprive men of their free will, so that they are contented to be guided by thee alone, because thou art our guide.
O love, thine operations are alien to this earth; and therefore thou changest man from earthly to celestial, and, depriving him of every human mode of operation, dost unfit him for all earthly occupations. O love, thou dost accomplish the whole work of our salvation, which we neither know how to do nor are able to do without thee. O love, thy name is so sweet that it imparts sweetness to all things. Sweet is the mouth that names thee, most of all when the words proceed from a heart full of thy liquid sweetness, which makes man benign, meek, gracious, joyous, bountiful, and ready, so far as may be, to serve all men. O love, when by any way thou art able to penetrate the heart of man with thy sweet and gracious darts, if it be unoccupied by any other love, however slight may be thy flame, it is powerful enough to make him abandon all things else for thee.
This love makes every affliction and contradiction appear sweet. O love, what sweet quiet, and what quiet sweetness thou bringest with thee! As thou belongest to all, the more thou art diffused among creatures, so much the more fully is thy will accomplished; the more man feels and comprehends thy gentle warmth, the more he is inflamed with desire, and he neither asks for any proof beyond his own feeling, nor knows how to give any other reason for it: but love carries with it its own reason, and the will likewise, and remains lord of the whole man, subjecting him entirely to its will according to its pleasure, and this work is wholly its own; for then its operations are effected through love, in love, and by love.
By works done through love, those works are understood which man performs through the love of God, when God gives him an instinctive desire to work for the benefit of himself or his neighbor; in this first state of love, God causes man to undertake many and various useful and necessary works, which he performs with a pious intention. The works of the second state of love are done in God; these are such as are done with no view either to the advantage of one’s self or of one’s neighbor, but rest in God, with no motive in him who does them. Here man perseveres in good works through the habits of virtue which he has formed, although God has deprived him of that share in them which gave him aid and pleasure. This work is more perfect than the other, for in that there were many motives which nourished both soul and body. The works done by love are more perfect than the other two, because man has no part whatever in them; love has so subdued and conquered him that he finds himself drowned in the sea of love, and knows not where he is, but is lost in himself and left without the power to act. In this case it is love itself which works in man, and its works are works of perfection, inasmuch as they are not wrought by human power, and are works of sanctifying grace, and God accepts them all.
This sweet and pure love takes possession of man, absorbs him and deprives him of himself. It keeps possession of him and continually works within him, solely for his benefit and advantage, and without any thought or care on his part.
O love, what a sweet companion and faithful guide art thou! Neither speech nor thought can do justice to thy excellence. Blessed is the heart possessed and occupied by thee. Love makes men just, simple, pure, rich, wise, and contented, and with its sweetness lessens every grief.
O love, all that is done through thee is done with ease, with gladness and goodwill; and though the toil be great, thy sweetness tempers every trial. Oh, the torment of working without love! It is beyond belief. Love gives a sweet flavor to every viand. if it is bad it makes it good, and if good it makes it better. According to the grade and the capacity of the subject, God infuses love into the heart of man.
Oh, how sweet a thing it would be to speak of this love, if fitting words were found to express the delight with which it fills the heart. But because the Soul is immortal, and capable of greater love than it can feel in this life, on account of the weakness of the body, which does not allow the Soul to support all that it desires, it remains ever craving, and in this life can never be fully satisfied.
O love, thou fillest the heart, but thou art so great that it cannot contain thee; it remains filled but not satisfied: by the road of his heart thou takest possession of the entire man and permittest none but thyself to find entrance; with a strong bond thou bindest all the facilities of soul and body. O sweet servitude of love, which gives man freedom and contentment in this life, and eternal blessedness in the other!
O love, thy bonds are so sweet and so strong that they bind angels and saints together, and so firm and close that they are never broken; men who are bound by this chain are so united that they have but one will and one aim, and all things among them are in common, both temporal and spiritual. In this union there is no difference between rich, and poor, between nation and nation; all contradiction is excluded, for by this love crooked things are made straight and difficulties reconciled.
Part 3, Chapter 6
The Soul asks various questions of our Lord. – What the martyrs have suffered for this love. – That charity is the shortest and most secure road to salvation, and that without it the Soul would rather cast itself into a thousand hells than enter the presence of God.
O sweet Jesus, my Love, what has brought thee from heaven to earth? Love. What has caused thee to suffer such great and terrible torments, even unto death? Love. What has induced thee to give thyself as food to thy beloved Soul? Love. What moved thee to send us, what still continually moves thee to send us, the Holy Spirit for our support and guide? Love.
Many other things can be said of thee. Through love thou didst appear in this world so poor, so abject, and so humiliated in the eyes of men, that thou wast not esteemed a God, but scarcely as a man. A servant, however faithful and loving, could not endure so much for his master, even were he to promise him heaven itself, because without that interior love which thou bestowest upon man he cannot patiently suffer any torment either of soul or body.
But thou, Lord, hast brought from heaven the sweet manna, this delicious food, which has in itself such vigor that it gives strength for every trial: as we have witnessed first in thee, our most sweet Master, and afterwards in thy saints. Oh, how much they have done and suffered in the strength of the love infused by thee into their hearts, and by which they were so inflamed and united to thee, that no torture could separate them from thee! For in the midst of their torments a zeal was kindled that increased with their sufferings, and by it they were kept from yielding to the most cruel martyrdoms that tyrants could invent. The spectators saw only the weakness of the body, but the sweet and powerful love which God infused into the heart, and which is so vital and strong that he who abandons himself to it can never be lost, was hidden from them.
There is no briefer or securer way of salvation than this sweet nuptial robe of charity, which gives such confidence and vigor to the Soul that she enters the presence of God without misgiving. But if at death she is found destitute of charity, she is left in such an abject and wretched condition that she would seek the gloomiest and most wretched spot, rather than appear in the divine presence. For God, who is simple and pure, can receive into himself nothing but pure and simple love; and being a sea of love in which all the saints are plunged, it is impossible that even the slightest imperfection should enter therein: hence the Soul, naked of charity when she is separated from the body (aware of her condition), would cast herself into hell rather than approach so bright and pure a presence.
O pure love! Every stain of evil, even the least, is a great hell to thee, and even, by reason of thy vehemence, mere cruel that that of the damned. None but those who have experienced thee can understand and believe this. This love of which I speak, although in itself infinite, can be described in its gracious and familiar action in the beloved Soul, even as if it were one with her.
Part 3, Chapter 7
Our Lord questions the Soul concerning the love she feels and on what he has said to her. – The Soul responds according to her ability, but cannot express the intensity of her love. – She asks our Lord how the loving Soul can live on earth, and concerning her condition.
The Lord. What hast thou to say, O my Soul, of this sweet love, so dear to thee, which never leaves thee to thyself, is always speaking to thee comforting thee, inflaming thee, and revealing to thee some new and celestial beauty, that so thy affection for it may become more and more ardent? Tell me some of those loving words it speaks to thee when thou art with it alone.
Soul. I find myself repeating certain words which are understood in the depths of my heart, which is glowing with an amorous flame. These words, and this sentiment of love, I do not understand and am unable to express, for they are unlike other words. Love opens my heart and is ever making such gracious communications to it that it is wholly inflamed and dissolved in love; yet in particular can discern neither words, flames, nor love; the heart is seized, possessed, and held fast by a loving satisfaction.
Yet the Soul does not comprehend this work, although she perceives that in this visitation, love bestows all possible caresses upon the beloved Soul that a true lover can give when his affection is the greatest that can be conceived. This operation melts the Soul, detaches her from earth, purifies her, makes her simple, strengthens her, and draws her deeper and deeper into its loving flame. But she is not allowed to remain long in this great and penetrating fire, for humanity could not endure its vehemence; yet in the heart there remains always the impression that she is living in that love with God.
O love! thou absorbest this heart into thyself and leavest Humanity deserted on the earth, where it finds no resting place. It appears an exiled creature, with no object either in heaven or in this world.
O love, how burning and enamored is this Soul in which thou art performing such a work of love! I would that I knew how this creature lives upon the earth, both as to her body and her Soul, and how it is that she has her conversation as well with heaven as with creatures; I see her living a life very different from that of others, and one more for admiration than for edification. She sets no value upon anything: she appears like the mistress of heaven and the queen of earth, although she has nothing of her own; few can understand her; she is very free and fearless, and dreads not that anything can ever be wanting to her; she has nothing, and yet, to her seeming, all things are hers.
The Lord. The answer is not for men, blind and deprived of celestial light, who having their intellects occupied with earthly things, cannot comprehend my words; yet, I will answer for those who, aided by the divine ray, will be able to understand it. My love so delights the Soul that it destroys every other joy which can be possessed by man here below. The taste of me extinguishes every other taste; my light blinds all who behold it; all the facilities of the Soul are so possessed and bound by love that she is lost and understands neither what she has done nor what she should do. She is raised above herself and bereft of reason, memory, and will.
Creatures like these no longer take part in the things of this world, save through necessity, and then as if they knew them not. They are always occupied interiorly, and this prevents their being nourished by temporal things. God sends into their hearts rays and flames of love so subtle and penetrating that they know not where they are, but remain silently plunged in the serene depths of that love. And if God did not sometimes deprive them of this vehement love, the Soul could not remain in the body; yet, when he thus departs, he leaves the Soul so sweetly occupied in him that naught beside is seen, known, or understood. Rarely does she remember anything but what she has felt, and until the impression grows weaker it is impossible for her to think of her own affairs, however pressing they may be.
Part 3, Chapter 8
Of the condition of the loving Soul. – How God delays imparting to her the knowledge of her defects, since she could not endure it. – She has no repose so long as she suspects the existence of any fault by which her Spirit is hindered of its satisfaction.
The state of the Soul is this: she is very sensitive, so that her mind cannot endure the least suspicion of defect, because pure love cannot remain where there is even the slightest fault, and the loving Soul, unable to endure it, would be thrown into intolerable pain. In this world man cannot be wholly free from imperfections, but at times God keeps him in ignorance of them, because he could not support the sight; at other times he reveals them all; and in this way man is purified.
If a suspicion of sin falls upon this Soul, she cannot be pacified nor at rest until her mind is satisfied. The Soul which dwells in that amorous peace cannot be disturbed either by herself or by others; if any misunderstanding arises between herself and another, she is unquiet until she has done all in her power to remove it. And when souls habituated to divine love are, for any cause, permitted by God to be disturbed, for the time they are wretched at being cast out of the tranquil paradise in which they are accustomed to abide; and if God did not return them to their accustomed state it would be impossible for them to live. They live in great liberty and take little heed of earthly things. They are in a manner taken out of themselves, especially as they near the close of this life, of which they are stripped remaining immersed in that love into which the Soul has already found by long experience that God, by the operation of his gracious love, has taken both Soul and body, so that he allows them to want for nothing.
God shows the Soul also, that all the benefits bestowed on her by creatures (whether spiritual or temporal) are given because God moves them to it; and hence she learns to take no heed of creatures, what service soever they may have rendered her, for she perceives clearly that it is God who has done it by the action of his providence. By this vision the Soul is more and more inflamed, and finally abandons herself to love, casting aside all creatures, and finding in God such fulness that she can regard nothing else but him.
And although such a Soul may seem to have some affection for exterior things, do not believe it. It is impossible that any love should enter into hearts like these, except the love of God, unless God himself permits it by reason of some necessity either of the soul or the body. And should this occur, all love and care, coming from such a source, would be no impediment, and would not touch the depths of the heart; but would only be ordered of God for some necessity, because it is needful that pure love should be free from every exterior and interior concern; for, where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty.
O that we could behold this sweet correspondence, and hear those burning words with their joyous vigor, where one can distinguish neither God nor man, but the heart remains in such a state that it seems a little paradise, given by God to souls that are dear to him, as a foretaste of that true and glorious paradise, but hidden from all except those lovers who are absorbed and lost in the ocean of divine love.
O love! the heart which thou possessest becomes through peace of mind so great and so magnanimous, that it would rather suffer martyrdom to gain thee than without thee to be in possession of every other good in heaven or earth. Yet, this is beyond the comprehension of all who have not felt and tasted thee. A heart which finds itself in God sees all created things beneath itself, not through pride or conceit of self, but by reason of its union with God, which makes all that is God’s appear to be its own, and beside him it sees, know, and comprehends nothing. A heart enamored of God is unconquerable, for God is its strength; hell does not affright it nor heaven allure it, for it is so disposed that it receives all that befalls as from the hand of God, remaining with him in immovable peace, and inwardly strengthened and fortified by him.
Soul. O Love! how namest thou these beloved souls?
The Lord. I have said, Ye are gods, and all children of the Most High (Psalm 81).
Soul. O Love! thou annihilatest thy lovers in themselves, and then restorest them to a true and perfect liberty, and makest them masters of themselves. They wish nothing but what God wishes and finds all things else a grave impediment to them.
O Love! I find no words to express thy benign and joyous sway, thy strong and assured freedom, thy sweet and gentle goodness: but all that thy true lover could express would be unequal to what he would desire to say. He seeks everywhere for loving words appropriate to that love, and finds them nowhere; for love and its effects are infinite, and the tongue is not only finite but very feeble, and is always dissatisfied and confused by its powerlessness to say what it desires. And although all that he says is as nothing, yet when man speaks of this love as he feels it in his heart, it relieves him that so he may not die of love. What sayest thou, my Lord, of this thy beloved Soul, who is so enamored of thee?
The Lord. That she is wholly mine. And thou, my Soul, what sayest thou of thy heart?
Soul. That I am wounded, O my God, with love, in which I live joyful and at peace.
Part 3, Chapter 9
Of the condition of the Body, and in what suffering Humanity found itself, living as though dead. – How God provided for it. – Of the joy experienced by the Soul in the interchange of love, and how she is left like one dead when deprived of it.
As the state of a Soul enkindled and glowing with divine love has been explained, something now remains to be said of the condition of the body. The body cannot live on love, like the Soul, but it is nourished by material food. And as God has willed to separate the Soul from earthly things and from her body, and engage her wholly in spiritual operations, therefore it is left without vigor and almost without nourishment, for all communication having ceased between it and the Soul, without which it has no strength, it becomes like a Soul deprived of God, like one dead, without enjoyment, without vigor, and without aid or comfort. And if God should for a long time keep the Soul thus vehemently occupied within herself, it would be impossible in the nature of things for the body to survive.
But God, who sees all things, provides for all necessities, and although, by reason of the union of the Soul with God, Humanity has little comfort, and can neither smile, nor relish food, nor sleep, nor take delight in the emotions of the Soul or the sensations of the body, nor in any earthly thing, yet God concedes it a sufficiency for the support of its wearisome life. And in order that every imperfection which exists in man may die in God (while man still lives upon the earth), God seems to open a vien and let out the blood of Humanity, the Soul meanwhile remaining as if in a bath, and when there is no more blood within the body, and the Soul is wholly transformed in God, then each goes to its own place, the Soul to her rest in God and the body to the grave; and this work is done in secret and by love alone. If you know how harassed and besieged is this poor Humanity, you would in truth believe that no creature suffers so greatly as itself; but because this is invisible it is neither credited nor understood, nor has any one compassion for it, especially as it is endured for the love of God. But I say (with all this for the love of God), it is necessary that this creature should live always as if dead, like a man hanging by his feet, who, notwithstanding, lives. And though it may be said, and truly, that the heart is contented, yet what enjoyment can the body have? Thus Humanity, no longer able to live according to its nature, appears to me to be always tortured and greatly afflicted. It lives, but knows not how it lives, nor on what food. It desires nothing, but remains in God, who pierces often this beloved heart with darts of love so keen that they almost destroy the body by the ardor of their penetrating and amorous flame, and absorbs the Soul in an obscure and hidden satisfaction from which she would never part, since in it she finds her own proper repose and natural beatitude, which God often reveals to the heart he loves.
But the body, constrained to follow the Soul (without which it cannot live or do aught, not being Spirit), remains during this time as if without a Soul and without human comfort, in almost mortal weakness, and knows not how to aid itself. Therefore in this necessity it is assisted by others or secretly provided for by God himself, for otherwise this creature would be as helpless as a little child, who having no one to care for it, can do nothing but weep until its wants are supplied. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that for creatures like this, God should provide particular persons to assist them, by whose means all their necessities both of Soul and body are supplied, for otherwise they would die. Behold how our Lord Jesus Christ left his beloved Mother to the special care of Saint John; he did the same for his disciples, and does it still for other devout persons; in such a manner that one succors another both in spiritual and temporal things with this divine union. And because people in general do not understand these operations, and have no such union, therefore particular persons are needed for such cares, through whom God may operate by his grace and light.
Those who behold such creatures and do not understand them, admire, rather than are edified by them; do not judge them, then, if you do not wish to err. But consider how besieged and how afflicted is this Humanity, living as if without life. She lives because God gives her the grace to live; but by nature her life would be impossible. When the Soul was able to give love for love, that love yielded Humanity a certain satisfaction which sustained it; but now, when the Soul is deprived of all sensible and active love, Humanity is left abandoned and forsaken, like one dead. But God performs another loving work, so secret and so subtle that the Soul becomes more noble and more perfect than before, by reason of the destitution and the nakedness in which God leaves her, so that without other support she rests, firm and stable, on him alone.
Part 3, Chapter 10
How the Soul, the heart, and the Spirit of this creature are devoid of form, and employed in an occupation which cannot be known by their means. – That the heart becomes the tabernacle of God, into which he infuses many graces and consolations, which produce admirable fruits. – That few creatures are led by this road. – Of the nudity of the Spirit and of its union with God.
The Lord. What will you do, O Soul, thus naked and despoiled? What will you do, O heart and mind, which are both so empty? How is it with you in this state, before unknown to you?
Soul. I know not where I am; I have lost will, understanding, memory, love, and all enjoyment; I can give no reason for myself, and am lost, and can neither place myself nor seek or find any other thing.
The heart and the mind of this creature being deprived of all the ways by means of which heaven seemed to make an entrance, now exclaim: We are absorbed in an operation too subtle and secret to be made known by us, but in that occupation a loving and ethereal spirit is hidden and restrained which fills the whole man so entirely, that Soul, heart, mind, and body, every bone and nerve and vein, are overflowing with it, so that all are absorbed with such a secret and concentrated force, that every sigh struggling from the heart is felt interiorly as a vehement flame. But the body, unable to endure the action of so powerful a flame, grieves, yet finds no words to express its grief; the mouth is filled with burning sighs and amorous conceits, which rise from the heart, and seem ready to break forth in words powerful enough to break a heart of stone. But they find no utterance; the true and loving colloquy is going on within, and its sweetness cannot be conceived. The heart is made the tabernacle of God, into which, by himself and also by others, many graces are infused, which bear in secret wondrous fruits. This creature has a heaven within herself.
If such as she (and they are rare in this world) were understood, they would be adored upon earth; but God hides them from themselves and from all others until the hour of death, at which time the true and false are made known. Oh, how few creatures are conducted by this road of secret and penetrating love, which keeps both Soul and body in such subjection that it leaves no imperfection in them, for pure love can comport with none, however slight; and it perseveres in its sweet action in the Soul until it purifies her entirely, so that she can reach her proper end without passing through purgatory.
O Soul, O mind, bound and imprisoned in that divine flame! who could comprehend that beauty, that wisdom, that amorous care wrought in you by divine love and for love – those colloquies so sweet, so loving, and so gracious – and not feel his heart melt within him, though it were harder than a stone.
O love! thou art called love until all that love is perfected which God has infused into the heart of man, in which he rests inebriated and immersed until he knows no longer what love is; for then it becomes Spirit and unites with the Spirit of man, so that he becomes spiritual. And the Spirit, being invisible and inscrutable to all the powers of the Soul, man is conquered and subdued, and knows no longer where he is, where he should be, nor whither he should go. But by reason of this secret and intimate union with God, there remains in the Soul a sweet impression, so firm and assured a satisfaction, that no torture, however cruel, could overpower it, and a zeal so ardent that a man, had he a thousand lives, would risk them all for that hidden consciousness which is so strong that hell itself could not destroy it. O Spirit, naked and invisible, none is able to lay hold of thee, by reason of thy nakedness! Thy habitation is in heaven, albeit with thy body thou yet remainest on the earth. Thou knowest not thyself, nor art thou known by others in this world. All thy lovers and thy kindred who are in heaven are known to thee only by virtue of an interior instinct implanted within thee by the Spirit of God.
O that I could find words fitting to describe that gracious friendship and that vanished union. Vanished, I say, because so far as man is concerned he has lost completely all expressions, that is, of love, union, annihilation, transformation, sweetness, softness, goodness; has lost, in short, all forms of speech by means of which the absolute union of two separate things could be expressed and comprehended, where nothing remains but one pure Spirit, active, and simple, and incomprehensible.
Part 3, Chapter 11
Of the secret means used by God for the purification of man. – Of the loving care he takes of him. – How he sweetly leads him by love, and does not allow him to work for his own advantage. – That true nakedness of spirit cannot be expressed by words.
O sweetest, my Lord, in how many hidden ways thou workest in man when thou desirest to purify him by means of thy most pure love, which removes all rust from the Soul and prepares it for the most holy union with thee! Oh, vast and happy country, unknown to wretched mortals, but for which they were created by God!
O infinite God, how is it possible that thou shouldst not be known and loved by him whom thou hast made capable of knowing and enjoying thee, unless solely by reason of the little taste and feeling which by thy grace thou hast bestowed upon him! For, if in this world man possessed thee, he would leave all things beside.
O Lord, what loving care thou takest, day and night, of man, who knoweth not himself, and much less knoweth thee, although thou lovest him so much, seekest him with such diligence, and waitest for and bearest him with so much patience, out of thy divine love!
Thou art that great most high God of whom we can neither speak nor think, because of the ineffable supereminence of thy glory, wisdom, power, and infinite goodness: and all these thou employest in the service of man, who is so vile, but whom thou wouldst make so great and worthy; and therefore thou art ever luring him with thy love because thou art unwilling to force the free-will which thou hast given him. Thou drawest him to thee by love, and desirest that he consent to thee through love. Thou workest in him by love and with thy love. Thou wouldst have the whole man act through love, that so, without thy love he might do nothing. Thou, who art our God and Lord, hast disregarded thine own ease, both of soul and body, that thou mightest save man; and thou willest that he also should disregard all ease of soul and body that he may do thy will: and this chiefly because thy will is our best good: but this, by blind and miserable man is never understood.
I have not spoken well of the nakedness of the Spirit. It is because there are no words by which this nakedness might be expressed, and the soul which finds herself in that condition has in her mind a fulness, a repletion, of which she knows not how to speak: and yet by reason of the vehemence of her emotions she is forced to speak, and in a language more fitting than she is aware. This language is like the ink, black and unseemly, and yet by its means many thoughts are made plain which could not otherwise be understood.
Alas! if man could comprehend what it is that the mind feels in such a state, these words would indeed appear to him dark and unseemly. What, then, are these hearts and tongues to do which cannot utter their thoughts? So secret and hidden are they that to him who feels them it seems impossible that he should find any who can understand, and much less express them. Will he then remain silent wonder? No, for he is unable to be silent, finding his heart ever more inflamed by the marvelous operations of divine love, which God increased day by day within him, and which bind him so closely by the invisible chains of love that Humanity can hardly endure it, more especially when it sees the madness of men, who are so wrapped in exterior things that they neither know, conjecture, nor comprehend this divine operation. But God loves us so much that although he sees us so blind and deaf to our own advantage, yet he does not for that reason cease to knock continually at our hearts by his holy inspirations, that so he may enter and make therein tabernacles for himself into which creatures can never enter more.
Part 3, Chapter 12
Exclamations of the Soul upon the blindness which creatures offer to the love of God. – Of the secret operations of God in man, arousing and admonishing him with love. – The Soul inquires concerning this work, and desires to know what grace is, and what is the ray of love.
Alas! how few and rare are they in whom God abides by these operations! O God, thou retainest thy love within thyself because thou canst not infuse it into creatures so occupied with earthly affairs.
O earth, earth, what wilt thou do with those whom thou dost so absorb? The Soul lost and the body corrupted, all things are lost in infinite and incredible torments. Reflect upon this, O Soul! Reflect, and no longer lose the time and the power which are now given thee to escape all danger; thy God is now gracious and propitious to thee. He is very anxious for thy salvation, and is ever seeking and calling thee with measureless love. The operations which God is continually working on our behalf are so many and great, that they can neither be recounted nor imagined: but all the good which he has done to us, is still doing, will do, and desires to do, will result in our condemnation and our confusion if we fail to cooperate with him in the time which we so undervalue.
Soul. Show me, O my Lord, if it please thee, how thou dost work within man by thy secret love, in which he is taken captive by thee, not knowing how, nor understanding in what manner, but only finding himself a prisoner of love and greatly satisfied.
The Lord. I move with my love the heart of man, and with that movement give him light by which he sees that I am inspiring him to well-doing; and in that light he ceases to do ill, and struggles with his evil inclinations.
Soul. What is this movement, and how does it begin in man, who knows not of its existence and asks not for it?
The Lord. The pure, simple, and boundless love which I bear toward all men, impels me to grant him this grace, to knock at his heart, to see whether he will open and give me entrance, that so I may make my abode there and banish all things else.
Soul. And what is this grace?
The Lord. It is an inspiration which I send him by means of a ray of love, with which I give him also the instinct of love; it is impossible for him not to love, and although he knows not what he loves, yet he learns it by little and little.
Soul. What is the ray of love?
The Lord. Behold the rays of the sun, which are so subtle and penetrating that human eyes cannot behold them without losing their sight; such are the rays of my love which I send into human hearts, and which deprive man of all knowledge and all delight in worldly things.
Soul. And these rays, how do they enter into the hearts of men?
The Lord. Like darts directed at this one and at that; they touch the heart in secret, inflame it, and make it heave with sighs; man knows not what he wishes, but finding himself wounded with love can give no account of his condition, and remains lost in wonder.
Soul. And what is this dart?
The Lord. It is a scintillation of love which I infuse into man, which softens his obduracy and melts him as wax is melted by the fire. I give him also the instinct to refer to me all the love which I infuse.
Soul. And what is this scintillation?
The Lord. It is an inspiration sent by me which sets on fire the human heart, and so ardently and powerfully inflames it, that it can do nothing but love. By its power man is kept constantly intent on me, and is continually admonished by it within his heart.
What this interior inspiration is, which works so secretly, cannot be told in words. Ask of the heart which feels it. Ask of the intellect which understands it. Ask of the mind filled with the operations which God effects by means of it, for the least conception that can be formed of it is that given by the tongue. God fills man with love; he draws him to himself by love, and by its force enables him to overcome the world, the devils, and himself; but man cannot understand this love nor put it into words.