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Light, Life, and Love by W. R. Inge

Part 2 out of 4

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which he showed in this prayer, for he asked only for a little
remembrance of himself, acknowledging that he was not worthy to ask
for anything great. Nor did he pray for the safety of his body, for
he gladly desired to die for his sins. It was more pleasant for him
to die with Christ than to live any longer. Nor did he pray that our
Lord would deliver him from the pains of hell, or of purgatory, nor
did he ask for the kingdom of heaven; but he resigned himself
entirely to the will of God, and offered himself altogether to
Christ, to do what He would with him. In his humility he prayed for
nothing except for grace and mercy, for which David also prayed when
he said, "Deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy." And
therefore, because he had prayed humbly and wisely, the Eternal
Wisdom, Who reads the hearts of all who pray, heard his prayer, and,
opening wide the rich storehouse of His grace, bestowed upon him
much more than he had dared to ask. O marvellous goodness of God!
How plainly dost Thou declare in this, that Thou desirest not the
death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live.
Now Thou hast manifested and fulfilled what Thou didst promise
aforetime by Thy prophet: "When the wicked man shall mourn for his
sins, I will remember his iniquity no more." Thou didst not impose
upon him many years of severe penance, nor many sufferings in
purgatory for the expiation of his sins; but just as if Thou hadst
quite forgotten his crimes, and couldst see nothing in him but
virtue, Thou didst say: "This day shalt thou be with Me in
paradise." O immeasurable compassion of God! Our tender Lord forgot
all the countless crimes which that poor thief had done, and forgave
him when he repented, and gave so great and splendid a reward to the
good which there was in him, small indeed though it was. Our loving
God is very rich; He needs not our gifts; but He seeks for a heart
which turns to Him with lowliness and resignation, such a heart as
He found in this poor thief. For He says Himself: "turn to Me, and I
will turn to you." And so when this thief so courageously and
effectively turned to God, his prayer was at once not only accepted
but answered. For our Lord did not reject his prayer, or say to him:
"See how I hang here in torment, and I behold before My eyes My
mother in sore affliction, and I have not yet spoken one word to
her, so that to hear thee now would not be just." No, our Lord said
nothing of this kind to the thief. Rather, He heard his prayer at
once, and made answer in that sweet word, "Amen, I say unto thee,
this day shalt thou be with Me in paradise." O tender goodness, O
marvellous mercy of God! O great wisdom of the thief! He saw that
the treasures of Christ were wide open, and were being scattered
abroad. Who then should forbid him to take as much as would pay what
he owed to his Lord? And O the accursed hardness of the impenitent
thief, whom neither the rebuke of his associate, nor the patience of
Christ, nor the many signs of love and mercy that shone forth in
Christ, could melt or convert! He saw that alms were plentiful at
the rich man's gate, that more was given than was asked for, and yet
he was too proud and obstinate to ask. He saw that life and the
kingdom of heaven were being granted, and yet he would not bend his
heart to wish for them: therefore he shall not have them. He loved
better revilings and curses, and they shall come unto him, and that
for all eternity. These new first-fruits of the grape, which our
Lord gathered on the wood of the Cross from our barren soil, by much
sweat of His brow and much watering with His own precious blood, He
sent with great joy as a precious gift to His heavenly Father, by
His celestial messengers the holy angels. But if there is joy among
the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, how must they
rejoice and exult at the salvation of this thief, of whom they had
almost despaired? We can picture to ourselves with what joy the
Father of heaven received these first-fruits of the harvest of His
Son's Passion. But Christ Himself, though He felt some joy at the
thief's conversion, was still more afflicted thereby, for by His
wisdom He foresaw that this thief would be the cause of perdition to
many, who would resolve to pass their whole lives in sin, hoping to
obtain pardon and grace at the moment of death. Truly a most foolish
hope, for nowhere in the Scriptures do we read that it has so
happened to any man. In truth, they who seek after God only when
they must, will not, it is to be feared, find Him near them in their
time of need. In the meantime, none can trust too much in God, and
no one has ever been forsaken by Him, who has turned to Him with his
whole heart, and leant upon Him with loving confidence.


THERE stood also by the Cross of Jesus His most holy and ever-virgin
mother Mary; not in order that His sufferings might thereby be
lessened, but that they might be greatly augmented. For if any
creature could have given consolation to the Lord while He hung on
the Cross, no one could have done it so fitly as His blessed mother.
But since it was God's will that Christ should die the most bitter
of deaths, and end His Passion without any comfort or relief, but
with true resignation, His mother's presence brought Him no
consolation, but rather added to His sufferings, for her sufferings
were thereby added to His, and this added yet more to His
affliction. Who then, O good Jesus can discover by meditation how
great was Thy inward grief, for Thou knowest the hearts of all, when
Thou sawest all the body of Thy holy mother tortured by inward
compassion, even as Thou wast tortured on the Cross, and her tender
heart and maternal breast pierced with the sword of sharp sorrow,
her face pale as death, telling the anguish of her soul, and almost
dead, yet unable to die. When Thou beheldest her hot tears, flowing
down abundantly like sweet rivers upon her gracious cheeks, and over
all her face, all witnesses to Thee that she shared in Thy sorrow
and love; when Thou heardest her sad laments, forced from her by the
weight of her affliction; when Thou sawest that same tender mother,
melted away with the heat of love, her strength quite failing her,
worn out and exhausted by the pains of Thy Passion, which wasted her
away; all this, truly, was a new affliction to Thee on the Cross; it
was itself a new Cross. For Thou alone, by the spear of, Thy pity,
didst explore the weight and grievousness of her woes, which to men
are beyond comprehension. All this, indeed, greatly increased the
pain of Thy Passion, because Thou wast crucified not only in Thy own
body, but in Thy mother's heart; for her Cross was Thy Cross, and
Thine was hers. O how bitter was Thy Passion, sweet Jesus! Great
indeed was Thy outward suffering, but far more grievous was Thy
inward suffering, which Thy heart experienced at Thy mother's
anguish. It was now, beyond doubt, that the sword of sorrow pierced
her through, for the queen of martyrs was terribly and mortally
wounded in that part which is impassible--that is, the soul; she
bore the death of the Cross in that part which could not die,
suffering all the more her grievous inward death, as outward death
departed further from her. Who, O most loving mother, can recount or
conceive in his mind the immeasurable sorrows of thy soul, or thine
inward woes? Him whom thou didst bring forth without pain, as a
blessed mother free from the curse of our first mother Eve, who
instead of the pains of labour wast filled with joy of spirit, and
who for thy refreshment didst listen to the sweet songs of the
angels as they praised thy Son, thou hast now seen slain before
thine eyes with the greatest cruelty and tyranny. How manifold was
that sorrow of thine, which thou wast permitted to escape at His
birth, when thou sawest thy blessed and only Son hanging in such
torment on the Cross, in the presence of a cruel and furious crowd,
who showered upon Him all the insults and contumely and shame that
they could think of; when thou sawest Him whom thou didst bear in
thy pure womb without feeling the burden, so barbarously stretched
on the Cross, and pierced with nails; when thou sawest His sacred
arms, with which He had so many times lovingly embraced thee,
stretched out so that He could not move them, and covered with red
blood, His adorable head pierced with sharp thorns, and His whole
body one streaming wound, while thou wast not able to staunch or
anoint any of those wounds. What must thy grief have been when thou
sawest Him whom thou hadst so often laid on thy virgin bosom that He
might rest, without anything on which to lean His sacred head; and
Him whom thou hadst nourished with the milk of thy holy breasts, now
vexed with vinegar and gall. O how thy maternal heart was oppressed
when thou beheldest with thy pure eyes that fair face so piteously
marred, so that there was no beauty in it, and nothing by which He
could be distinguished. How did the wave of affliction beat against
and overflow and overwhelm thy soul! Truly, if even a devout man
cannot without unspeakable sorrow and pity revolve in his mind the
Passion of thy Son, what must have been thy Cross, thy affliction,
who wast His mother and sawest it all with thine eyes? If to many
friends of God and to many who love Him, thy Son's Passion is as
grievous as if they suffered it themselves, if by inward pity they
are crucified with thy Son, how terribly, even unto death, must thou
have been crucified inwardly, when thou didst not only ponder and
search into the outward and inward pains of thy Son in thy devout
heart, but sawest them with thy bodily eyes? For never did any
mother love her child as thou lovedst thy Son. And if St Paul, who
loved so much, could say, out of his ardent love and deep pity for
thy Son, "I am crucified with Christ; and I bear in my body the
marks of the Lord Jesus," how much more wert thou crucified with
Him, and didst inwardly receive all His wounds, being made, in a
manner, an image and likeness of thy crucified Son?


ABOUT the ninth hour our Lord Jesus cried with a loud voice, "My
God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He cried with a loud voice,
that He might be easily heard by all, and also that by this wondrous
word He might shake off from our souls the sleep of sloth, and cause
them to wonder and marvel at the immeasurable goodness of God to us.
Therefore He saith, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" For
the sake of vile sinners, for evil and thankless servants, for
sinful and disobedient deceivers, Thou hast forsaken Thy beloved Son
and most obedient Child. That Thy enemies, who are vessels of wrath,
might be changed into children of adoption, Thou hast slain Thine
own Son, and given Him over to death like one guilty. "O my God,
why, I pray Thee, hast Thou forsaken me?" For the very cause why men
ought to praise and give thanks to Thee, and love Thee with an
everlasting love; because Thou hast delivered Thy dear Son to death
for their redemption, and sacrificed Him willingly, for this reason
they will find ground for blasphemy and reproach against Thee,
saying, "He saith He is the Son of God. Let God deliver Him now if
He will have Him." Why, O my God, hast Thou willed to spend so
precious a treasure for such vile and counterfeit goods? Besides,
this word may be understood to have been spoken by Christ against
those who seek to diminish the glory of His Passion, by saying that
it was not really so bitter and terrible, owing to the great support
and comfort which He drew from His Godhead. Let those who speak and
think thus know that they renew His Passion and crucify Him afresh.
It was to prove the error of such men that our Lord cried with a
loud voice, and said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
It is as if He had said these words to His own Divine nature, with
which He formed one Person--for the Godhead of the Father and of the
Son is all one--wondering, Himself, at His own love, which had so
cast Him down and worn Him out and humbled Him, and that He who
brings help to all mankind should have forsaken Himself, and offered
Himself to suffer every kind of pain, impelled thereto by conquering
love alone. Again, we should not be wrong, if we were to interpret
this word which Christ spoke out of the exceeding bitterness of His
sorrow in the following way--namely, that His spirit and inward man,
taking upon itself the severe judgment of God upon all sinners, and
at the same time discerning clearly and feeling and measuring in
Himself the intolerable weight of His Passion, on this account cried
out in a sorrowful voice to His Father, and complained tenderly to
Him because He had been cast into these dreadful torments; as if the
goodness of His Father had become so embittered against the sins of
men, that in the ardour of His justice He had quite forgotten the
inseparable union between His passible humanity and His impassible
Godhead, and therefore in the zealousness of His justice had quite
given up His passible nature to the cruelty and malice of fierce
men, that they might waste it away and destroy it. For this reason,
therefore, He said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
This word has besides an inward meaning, according to which Christ,
in His sensitive parts, complained to His Father that He had been
forsaken by Him. For as many as contend for His honour, and endure
patiently the troubles of this world, our merciful God so moderates
and tempers their crosses and afflictions by the inpouring of His
divine consolation, that by His sensible grace He makes their
crosses hardly felt; but He left His own beloved Son quite without
any comfort, and so deprived Him of all consolation and light, that
He endured as much in His human nature as had been ordained by the
Eternal Wisdom, according to the strictness of justice, as much as
was needed to atone for so many sins. And indeed our salvation was
the more nobly and perfectly achieved, in that it was done and
finished without any light at all, in absolute resignation and
abandonment. For a chief cause of the Passion was to show clearly
how great was the injury and insult brought upon His most high
Godhead by the sins of the human race. Now as the knowledge of
Christ was greater and more acute than that of all other beings, in
heaven or in earth, so much the greater and heavier was His sorrow
and agony. Nay more--what is more wonderful than anything--whatever
afflictions have been endured by all the saints, as members of
Christ, existed much more abundantly in Christ their Head; and this
I wish to be understood according to the spirit and reasonably. For
all the saints have suffered no more than flowed in upon them
through Christ, joined to them as His members, who communicated to
them His own afflictions. For He took upon Himself the afflictions
of all the saints, out of His great love for His members, and
wondrous pity, and He suffered far greater internal anguish than any
of the saints, nay, more even than the blessed Virgin, His mother,
felt her own sharp sorrow and sickness of heart. For if an earthly
father loves his child so much, that in fatherly pity he takes upon
himself the sorrows of his child, and grieves for them as if he
suffered them himself, what must have been Christ's Cross and
compassion for the affliction of His members, and above all, of
those who suffered for His name's sake? Truly He bore witness to His
members, how much He suffered from their afflictions, and how great
was His inward pity for their sufferings, when He took all their
debt upon Himself, and abolished all the penalties which they had
merited, so that they might depart free. The same is most amply
proved by the words which He spoke to St Paul, when He said, "Saul,
Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" For the persecution which Saul had
stirred up against the disciples, the members of the Lord, was not
less grievous to Him than if He had suffered it Himself. Therefore
He says to His friends and members, "He who touches you, touches the
apple of Mine eye." For is there anything suffered by the members,
which the Head does not suffer with them, He whose nature is
goodness, and whose property is always to have mercy and to forgive?


OUR most tender Lord was so worn out and parched by the extreme
bitterness of His pain and suffering, and by the great loss of
blood, that He cried, "I thirst." A little word, but full of

In the first place it may be understood literally. For it is natural
for those who are at the point of death to feel thirst, and to
desire to drink. But how great was the drouth felt by Him who is the
fountain of living water, but who was now worn out and parched by
the heat of His ardent love, when he could truly say, "I am poured
out like water," and "My strength is dried up like a potsherd." For
not only did He shed all His own blood, and pour out moisture by
tears, but the very marrow of His bones, and all His heart's blood,
were consumed for our sakes by the heat and flame of love. Therefore
He said rightly, "I thirst."

But, secondly, the word may be understood spiritually, as if Christ
said to all men, "I thirst for your salvation." Hence St Bernard
says: "Jesus cried, I thirst, not, I grieve. O Lord, what dost Thou
thirst for? For your faith, your joy. I thirst because of the
torments of your souls, far more than for My own bodily sufferings.
Have pity on yourselves, if not on Me." And again, "O good Jesus,
Thou wearest the crown of thorns; Thou art silent about Thy Cross
and wounds, yet Thou criest out, I thirst. For what, then, dost Thou
thirst? Truly, for the redemption of mankind only, and for the
felicity of the human race." This thirst of Christ was a hundred
times more keen and intense than His natural thirst. And, besides,
He had another sort of thirst--that is to say, a thirst to suffer
more, and to prove to us still more clearly His immeasurable love,
as if He said to man, "See how I am worn out and exhausted for thy
salvation. See how terrible are the pains and anguish which I
endure. The fierce cruelty of man has almost brought Me to nothing;
the sinners of earth have drunk out all My blood, and yet I thirst.
Not yet is My heart satisfied, nor My desire accomplished, nor the
fire of My love quenched. For if it were possible for Me, and
according to My Father's will, that I should be crucified again a
thousand times for your salvation and conversion, or that I should
hang here, in all this pain and anguish, till the day of judgment, I
would gladly do it, to prove to you the immeasurable love which I
bear you in My heart, and to soften your stony hearts and rouse you
to love Me in return. This is why I hang here so thirsty by the
fountain of your hearts, that I may watch the pious souls who come
hither to draw from the deep well of My Passion. Therefore, the
maiden to whom I shall say, 'Give Me to drink a little water out of
the pitcher of thy conscience'--the water of devotion, pity, tears,
and mutual love--and who shall let down to Me her pitcher, and shall
say, 'Drink, my Lord; and for Thy camels also--that is, Thy
servants, who carry Thee about daily on their bodies, and who by
night and day are held bound fast by Thy yoke, I will draw the water
of brotherly love'--that is the maiden whom the Lord hath prepared
for the Son of My Lord, even the bride of the Word of God, united to
My humanity. And she shall be counted worthy to enter, like a bride
with her bridegroom, into the chamber of eternal rest, when the
Bridegroom invites her, saying, 'Come, My blessed bride, inherit the
Kingdom of My Father. For I was thirsty, and thou gavest Me drink.'"

Thirdly, we may apply this word to the Father, as if Christ said to
His Father: "Father, I have declared Thy name to mankind; I have
finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do; and in Thy service I
have spent My whole body as Thine instrument. Behold, I am all worn
out and exhausted; and yet I still thirst to do and suffer more for
Thine honour. This is why I hang here, extended to the furthest
breadth of love, for I long to be an everlasting sacrifice, a sweet
savour to Thee, and at the same time an eternal atonement and
salvation to mankind." Thus, too, might this strong Samson have
said: "O Lord, Thou hast put into the hand of Thy servant this very
great salvation and victory, and yet behold, I die of thirst." As if
He would say: "Father, I have accomplished Thy gracious will; I have
finished the work of man's salvation, as Thou didst demand; and yet
I still thirst; for the sins by which Thou art offended are
infinite. And so I desire that the love and merits of My Passion, by
which Thou wilt be appeased, may be infinite too. And as I now offer
myself as a peace-offering and a living sacrifice for the salvation
of all men, so through Me may all men appease Thee, by offering Me
to Thee as a peace-offering to Thine eternal glory, in memory of My
Passion, and to make good all their shortcomings." O how acceptable
to the Father must this desire of love have been! For what was this
thirst but a sweet and pleasant refreshment to the Father, and at
the same time the blessed renovation of mankind? Or what other
language does this burning throat speak to us, save that of Christ's
burning love, without measure and without limit, out of which He did
all His works? This truly is the most noble sacrifice of our
redemption, this is that peace-offering which will be offered even
to the last day, by all good men, to the Holy Ghost, to the highest
Father, in memory of the Son, to the eternal glory of the adorable
Trinity, and to the fruit of salvation for mankind. Here, certainly,
is the inexhaustible storehouse of our reconciliation, which never
fails, for it is greater than all the debts of the world. This is
that immeasurable love, which is higher than the heavens, for it has
repaired the ruin of the angels; deeper than hell, for it has freed
souls from hell; wider and broader than the earth, for it is without
end and incomprehensible by any created understanding. O how keen
and intense was this thirst of our Lord! For not only did He then
say once, "I thirst," but even now He says in our hearts
continually, "I thirst; woman, give me to drink." So great, so
mighty, is that thirst, that He asks drink not only from the
children of Israel, but from the Samaritans. To each one He
complaineth of His thirst. But for what dost Thou thirst, O good
Jesus? "My meat and drink," saith He, "is that men should do My
Father's will. Now this is the will of My Father, even your
sanctification and salvation, that you may sanctify your souls by
walking in My precepts, by doing works of repentance, by adorning
yourselves with all virtues, in order that, like a bride adorned for
her husband, you may be worthy to be present at My supper in My
Father's kingdom, and to sleep with Me as My elect bride, in the
chamber of My Father's heart." O how Christ longs to bring all men
thither! This is the meaning of His words: "Where I am there shall
also My servant be"; and again: "Father, I will that they may be one
even as We are one." O, how incomprehensible is this thirst of
Christ! What toil and labour He endured for thirty and three years,
for the sake of it! For this His very heart's blood was poured out.
See what our tender Lord says to His Father: "The zeal of Thine
house hath even eaten Me." Truly, He would have submitted to be
crucified a thousand times, rather than allow one soul to perish
through any fault of His. O how this inward thirst tormented Him,
when He thought that He had done all that He could, and even a
hundredfold more than He need have done, and yet that so few had
turned to Him, and been won by Him. His whole body was now worn out;
all His blood was shed; nothing remained for Him to do; and
therefore He was constrained to confess, "It is finished"; and yet
by all His labours, afflictions, and sufferings, He had brought no
richer harvest to the Father than this. Truly, this was the most
bitter of all His sorrows, that after so hard a battle His victory
had not been more glorious, and that He returned a conqueror to His
Father with so few spoils. Therefore, all those who do not refresh
Him by performing His will, and doing all that is pleasing and
honourable to Him, and withstanding all that reason tells them to be
displeasing to Him, will one day hear Him say, "I was thirsty, and
ye gave Me no drink. Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."

Fourthly, there is yet another inward meaning of this word--namely,
that Christ spoke it out of the love which inwardly draws Him
towards all men, thus making known to us His ardent love, and
opening His own heart, as a delightful couch, on which we may feed
pleasantly, and inviting us to it, saying, "I thirst for you." For
as the liquid which we drink is sent down pleasantly through the
throat into the body, and so passes into the substance and nature of
our body, so Christ out of the ardent thirst of His love, takes
spiritual pleasure in drinking in all men into Himself, swallowing
them, as it were, and incorporating them into Himself, and bringing
them into the secret chamber of His loving heart. Therefore He says:
"I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto
Me"--all men, that is, who allow themselves to be drawn by Me, and
submit to Me as obedient instruments, suffering Me to do with them
according to My gracious will. But those who resist Him quench not
His thirst, but give Him a bitter draught instead, even the deeds of
their own self-will. These, when our Lord tasteth them, He
straightway rejects.


WHEN Christ had tasted the draught of vinegar and gall, He spoke the
sixth word: "It is finished." Thereby He signified that by His
Passion had been fulfilled all the prophecies, types, mysteries,
scriptures, sacrifices, and promises, which had been predicted and
written about Him. This is that true Son of God, for whom the Father
of heaven made ready a supper in the kingdom of His eternal
blessedness; and He sent His servant--that is the human nature of
Christ, coming in the form of a servant, to call them that were
bidden to the wedding. For Christ, when He took human nature upon
Him, was not only a servant but a servant of servants, and served
all of us for thirty and three years with great toil and suffering.
Indeed, He spent His whole life in bidding all men to His supper. It
was for this that He preached, and wrought miracles, and travelled
from place to place, and proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was
at hand, and that all should be prepared for it. But they would not
come. And when the Father of the household heard this, He said to
His Servant: "Compel them to come in, that My house may be filled."
Then that Servant thought within Himself: "How shall I be able
without violence to compel these men to come, that rebellion may be
avoided and yet that their privilege and power of free will may
remain unimpaired? For if I compel them to come by iron chains, and
blows, and whips, I shall have asses and not men." Then He said to
Himself: "I perceive that man is so constituted as to be prone to
love. Therefore I will show him such love as shall pass all his
understanding, love than which no other love can be greater. If man
will observe this, he will be so caught in its toils, that he will
not be able to escape its heat and flame, and will be constrained to
turn to God, and love Him in return. For, turn where he will, he
will always be met by the immeasurable benefits, the infinite
goodness, and the wonderful love of God; and at the same time he
will feel more and more compelled to return love for love, till he
will be no more able to resist it, and will be gently constrained to
follow." When this was done, Jesus Christ, this faithful and wise
Servant, said to His Lord and Father, "It is finished. I have
finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. What more could I have
done, and have not done it? I have no member left that is not weary
and worn with toil and pain. My veins are dry, My blood is shed; My
marrow is spent, My throat is hoarse with crying. Such love have I
shown to man, that his heart cannot be human, cannot even be stony,
or the heart of a brute beast, but must be quite devilish and
desperate, if it be not moved by the thought of these things."

Moreover, this word of our Lord Jesus is a word of sorrow, not of
joy. He spoke it not as if He had now escaped from all His
suffering. No; when He said, "It is finished," He meant all that had
been ordained and decreed by the eternal Truth for Him to suffer.
Besides, all the sufferings which had been inflicted upon Him by
degrees and singly, He now endures together with immeasurable
anguish. Who can have such a heart of adamant as not to be moved by
such torment as this? How short were the words which our Lord Jesus
spoke on the Cross, yet how full of sacramental mysteries! Now were
fulfilled the words of Exodus: "And all things were finished which
belonged to the sacrifice of the Lord."

Moreover by this word our Lord declared the glorious victory of the
Passion, and how the old enemy, the jealous serpent, was overcome
and thrown down; for this was the cause for which He suffered. For
this He had taken upon Himself the garment of human nature, that He
might vanquish and confound the enemy, by the same weapons wherewith
the enemy boasted that he had conquered man. This was the chief
purpose of His Passion, and now He confesses that it is finished. O
how wonderful are the mysteries, and the victories, included in this
little but deep word: "It is finished!" All that the eternal Wisdom
had decreed, all that strict justice had demanded for each man, all
that love had asked for, all the promises made to the fathers, all
the mysteries, types, ceremonies in Scripture, all that was meet and
necessary for our redemption, all that was needed to wipe out our
debts, all that must repair our negligences, all that was glorious
and loving for the exhibition of this splendid love, all that we
could desire, for our spiritual instruction--in a word, all that was
good and fitting for the celebration of the glorious triumph of our
redemption, all is included in that one word, "It is finished."
What, then, remains for Him, but to finish and perfect His life in
this glorious conflict; and, because nothing remains for Him to do,
to commend His precious soul into His Father's hands, seeing that He
has fought the good fight, and finished His course in all holiness?
It is meet, then, that He should obtain the crown of glory which His
heavenly Father will give Him on the day of His exaltation.

Lastly, by this word Christ offered up all His toil, sorrow, and
affliction for all the elect, as the Apostle saith: "Who in the days
of His flesh offered up prayer and supplications with strong crying
and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death, and was
heard in that He feared. For if the blood of bulls and of goats and
the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the
purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who
through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,
purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"


OUR Lord Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and said, "Father,
into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." O all ye who love our Lord
Jesus Christ, come, I beseech you, and let us watch, with all
devotion and pity, His passing away. Let us see what must have been
His sorrow and agony and torment, when His glorious soul was now at
last forced to pass out of His worthy and most sacred body, in which
for thirty and three years it had rested so sweetly, peacefully,
joyfully, and holily, even as two lovers on one bed. How hard was it
for them to be rent asunder, between whom no disagreement had ever
arisen, no strife, or quarrel, or treachery. How unspeakably
grievous was that Cross, when His sacred body was compelled to part
with so faithful a friend, so gentle an occupant, so loving a
teacher and master; and how great was the sorrow with which His
glorious and pure soul was torn away from so faithful a servant,
which had ever served obediently, never sparing any trouble, never
shrinking from cold or heat or hunger or thirst; always enduring
labour and sorrow in gentleness and patience. O how great was this
affliction! For, as the philosopher says: "Of all terrible things
death is the most terrible, on account of the natural and mutual
affection, which is very great, between soul and body." How much
greater must have been the anguish and sorrow, when the most holy
soul and body of Christ were sundered, between which there had
always been such wonderful harmony and love. Therefore, with inward
pity and anxious sorrow, let us meditate on this sad parting; for
the death of Christ is our life.

Let us meditate devoutly how His sacred body, the instrument of our
salvation, was steeped in anguish, when all His members, as if to
bid a last farewell, were bowing themselves down to die! Who can
look without remorse and sorrow and pity upon the most gracious face
of Christ, and behold how it is changed into the pallor and likeness
of death; how tears still flow from His dimmed eyes; how His sacred
head is bent; how all His members prove to us, by signs and motions,
the love which they can no longer show by deeds. Let us pity Him, I
pray you, for He is our own flesh and blood, and it is for our sins,
not His own, that He is shamefully slain. O ye who up till now have
passed by the Cross of Jesus with tepid or cold hearts, and whom all
these torments and tears, and His blood shed like water, have not
been able to soften; now at last let this loud voice, this terrible
cry, rend and pierce your hearts through and through. Let that voice
which shook the heaven and the earth and hell with fear, which rent
the rocks and laid open ancient graves, now soften your stony
hearts, and lay bare the old sepulchres of your conscience, full of
dead men's bones--that is to say, of wicked deeds, and call again
into life your departed spirits. For this is the voice which once
cried: "Adam, where art thou; and what hast thou done?" This is the
voice which brought Lazarus from Hades, saying, "Lazarus, come
forth: arise from the grave of sin, and let them free thee from thy
grave-clothes." Truly it was not so much the grievousness of His
sufferings, as the greatness of our sins, which made our Lord utter
this cry. He cried also, to show that He had the dominion over life
and death, over the living and the dead. For though he was quite
worn out, and destitute of strength, and though He had borne the
bitter pangs of death so long, beyond the power of man, yet He would
not allow Death to put forth its power against Him, until it pleased

With a loud voice He cried, that earthly men, who care only for the
things of earth, might quake with fear and trembling, and to cause
them to meditate and see how naked and helpless the Lord of lords
departed from this life. With a terrible voice He cried, to stir up
all those who live in wantonness, and who have grown old in their
defilement, and send forth a foul savour, like dead dogs, so that at
last these miserable men may rise from their lusts and pleasures and
sensual delights, and see how the Son of God, who was never strained
with any spot of defilement, went forth to His Father; and with what
toil and pain and anguish He departed from the light of day, and
what He had to suffer before He reached his Father's Kingdom. He
also cried with a loud voice, that He might inflame the lukewarm and
slothful to devotion and love.

Moreover He cried with a loud voice as a sign of the glorious
victory which He had gained, when after a single combat with His
strong and cruel enemy, and having descended into the arena--the
battlefield of this world--He had routed him on Mount Calvary and
stripped him bare of his spoils. This victory, this glorious
triumph, Christ proclaimed with a loud voice, and thus departing
from the battlefield triumphant and victorious, He departed to the
place of all delights, to the heart and breast of God, His Father,
commending to it, as to a safe refuge, both Himself and all His own,
with the words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."

We may learn from these words that the eternal Word, our Lord Jesus
Christ, had been let down like a fishing-hook or great net, by the
Father of heaven, into the great sea of this world, that He might
catch not fish but men. Hear how He says: "My word, that goeth forth
out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but shall execute
that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I send
it." And this net is drawn by the Father out of the salt sea, to the
peaceful shore of His fatherly heart, full of the elect, of works of
charity, of repentance, patience, humility, obedience, spiritual
exercises, merits and virtues. For Christ drew unto Himself all the
afflictions and good deeds of the good; just as St Paul says, "I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Even so, Christ lives in
all the good, and all who have been willing and obedient instruments
in the hands of Christ. In all such Christ lives and suffers and
works. For whatever good there is in all men, is all God's work.
Therefore Christ, feeling His Father drawing Him, gathered together
in Himself in a wonderful manner all the elect with all their works,
and commended them to His Father, saying, "My Father, these are
Thine; these are the spoils which I have won by My conquest, by the
sword of the Cross; these are the vessels which I have purchased
with My precious blood; these are the fruits of My labours. Keep in
Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me. I pray not that Thou
shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep
them from the evil." Thus did Christ commend Himself and all His own
into His Father's hands. Come therefore, O faithful and devout soul,
and contemplate with great earnestness the coming in and the going
out of thy Lord Jesus; follow Him with love and longing, even to the
chamber and bed of joy, which He has prepared for thee in thy
Father's heart. Happy would he be, who could now be dissolved with
Christ, and die with the thief, and hear from the lips of the Lord
that comfortable word, "This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
And though this is not granted to us, yet whatever we can here gain
by labours and watchings and fastings and prayers, let us commend it
all with Christ to the Father; let us pour it back again into the
fountain, whence it flowed forth for us; and let nothing be left in
us of empty self-satisfaction, no seeking after human praise or
honour or reward. But whatever our God hath been willing to do in
us, let us return it back into His own hands and say, "We are
nothing of ourselves. It is He who made us, and not we ourselves.
All good was made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.
When therefore He taketh with Him what He made Himself, we are
absolutely nothing."

Lastly, Christ commended His soul into His Father's hands, to show
us how the souls of good and holy men mount up after Him to the
bosom of the eternal Father, who must otherwise have gone down to
hell; for it is He who has opened to us the way of life, and His
sacred soul, by making the journey safe and free from danger, has
been our guide into the kingdom of heaven.



AFTER this, certain very high thoughts arose in the mind of the
servitor's spiritual daughter, concerning which she asked him
whether she might put questions to him. He replied, Yea verily:
since thou hast been led through the proper exercises, it is
permitted to thy spiritual intelligence to enquire about high
things. Ask then whatever thou wilt. She said: Tell me, father, what
is God, and how He is both One and Three? The servitor replied,
These be indeed high questions. As to the first, What is God, you
must know that all the Doctors who ever lived cannot explain it, for
He is above all sense and reason. Yet if a man is diligent, and does
not relax his efforts, he gains some knowledge of God, though very
far off. Yet in this knowledge of God consists our eternal life and
man's supreme happiness. In this way, in former times, certain
worthy philosophers searched for God, and especially that great
thinker Aristotle, who tried to discover the Author of Nature from
the order of nature and its course. He sought earnestly, and he was
convinced from the well-ordered course of nature that there must of
necessity be one Prince and Lord of the whole universe--He whom we
call God. About this God and Lord we know this much, that He is an
immortal Substance, eternal, without before or after, simple, bare,
unchangeable, an incorporeal and essential Spirit, whose substance
is life and energy, whose most penetrating intelligence knows all
things in and by itself, whose essence in itself is an abyss of
pleasures and joys, and who is to Himself, and to all who shall
enjoy Him in a future life, a supernatural, ineffable, and most
sweet happiness. The maiden, when she heard this, looked up, and
said: These things are sweet to tell and sweet to hear, for they
rouse the heart, and lift the spirit up far beyond itself.
Therefore, father, tell me more about these things. The servitor
said: The Divine Essence, about which we speak, is an intelligible
or intellectual Substance of such a kind, that it cannot be seen in
itself by mortal eyes; but it can be discerned in its effects, even
as we recognise a fine artist by his works. As the Apostle teaches
us, "The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are
clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." For the
creatures are a kind of mirror, in which God shines. This knowledge
is called speculation, by which we contemplate the great Architect
of the world in His works. Come now, look upward and about thee,
through all the quarters of the universe, and see how wide and high
the beautiful heaven is, how swift its motion, and how marvellously
its Creator has adorned it with the seven planets, and with the
countless multitude of the twinkling stars. Consider what
fruitfulness, what riches, the sun bestows upon the earth, when in
summer it sheds abroad its rays unclouded! See how the leaves and
grass shoot up, and the flowers smile, and the woods and plains
resound with the sweet song of nightingales and other birds; how all
the little animals, after being imprisoned by grim winter, come
forth rejoicing, and pair; and how men and women, both old and
young, rejoice and are merry. O Almighty God, if Thou art so lovable
and so pleasant in Thy creatures, how happy and blessed, how full of
all joy and beauty, must Thou be in Thyself? But further, my
daughter, contemplate the elements themselves--Earth, Water, Air,
and Fire, with all the wonderful things which they contain in
infinite variety--men, beasts, birds, fishes, and sea-monsters. And
all of these give praise and honour to the unfathomable immensity
that is in Thee. Who is it, Lord, who preserves all these things,
who nourishes them? It is Thou who providest for all, each in his
own way, for great and small, rich and poor. Thou, O God, doest
this; Thou alone art God indeed! Behold, my daughter, thou hast now
found the God whom thou hast sought so long. Look up, then, with
shining eyes, with radiant face and exulting heart, behold Him and
embrace Him with the outstretched arms of thy soul and mind, and
give thanks to Him as the one and supreme Lord of all creatures. By
gazing on this mirror, there springs up speedily, in one of loving
and pious disposition, an inward jubilation of the heart; for by
this is meant a joy which no tongue can tell, though it pours with
might through heart and soul. Alas, I now feel within me, that I
must open for thee the closed mouth of my soul; and I am compelled,
for the glory of God, to tell thee certain secrets, which I never
yet told to any one. A certain Dominican, well known to me, at the
beginning of his course used to receive from God twice every day,
morning and evening, for ten years, an outpouring of grace like
this, which lasted about as long as it would take to say the "Vigils
of the Dead" twice over.[40] At these times he was so entirely
absorbed in God, the eternal Wisdom, that he would not speak of it.
Sometimes he would converse with God as with a friend, not with the
mouth, but mentally; at other times he would utter piteous sighs to
Him; at other times he would weep copiously, or smile silently. He
often seemed to himself to be flying in the air, and swimming
between time and eternity in the depth of the Divine wonders, which
no man can fathom. And his heart became so full from this, that he
would sometimes lay his hand upon it as it beat heavily, saying,
"Alas, my heart, what labours will befall thee to-day?" One day it
seemed to him that the heart of his heavenly Father was, in a
spiritual and indescribable manner, pressed tenderly, and with
nothing between, against his heart; and that the Father's
heart--that is, the eternal Wisdom, spoke inwardly to his heart
without forms.[41] Then he began to exclaim joyously in spiritual
jubilation: Behold, now, Thou whom I most fervently love, thus do I
lay bare my heart to Thee, and in simplicity and nakedness of all
created things I embrace Thy formless Godhead! O God, most excellent
of all friends! Earthly friends must needs endure to be distinct and
separate from those whom they love; but Thou, O fathomless sweetness
of all true love, meltest into the heart of Thy beloved, and pourest
Thyself fully into the essence of his soul, that nothing of Thee
remains outside, but Thou art joined and united most lovingly with
Thy beloved.

To this the maiden replied: Truly it is a great grace, when anyone
is thus caught up into God. But I should like to be informed,
whether this is the most perfect kind of union or not? The servitor
answered: No, it is not the most perfect, but a preliminary, gently
drawing a man on, that he may arrive at an essential way of being
carried up into God. The maiden asked him what he meant by essential
and non-essential. He answered: I call that man essential or
habitual (so to speak), who by the good and persevering practice of
all the virtues, has arrived at the point of finding the practice of
them in their highest perfection pleasant to him, even as the
brightness of the sun remains constant in the sun. But I call him
non-essential, in whom the brightness of the virtues shines in an
unstable and imperfect way like the brightness of the moon. That
full delight of grace which I described is so sweet to the spirit of
the non-essential man, that he would be glad always to have it. When
he has it, he rejoices; when he is deprived of it, he grieves
inordinately; and when it smiles upon him, he is reluctant to pass
to doing other things, even things that are pleasing to God; as I
will show you by an example. The servitor of the Divine Wisdom was
once walking in the chapter-house, and his heart was full of
heavenly jubilation, when the porter called him out to see a woman
who wished to confess to him. He was unwilling to interrupt his
inward delight, and received the porter harshly, bidding him tell
the woman that she must find some one else to confess to, for he did
not wish to hear her confession just then. She, however, being
oppressed with the burden of her sins, said that she felt specially
drawn to seek comfort from him, and that she would confess to no one
else. And when he still refused to go out, she began to weep most
sadly, and going into a corner, lamented greatly. Meanwhile, God
quickly withdrew from the servitor the delights of grace, and his
heart became as hard as flint. And when he desired to know the cause
of this, God answered him inwardly: Even as thou hast driven away
uncomforted that poor woman, so have I withdrawn from thee my Divine
comfort. The servitor groaned deeply and beat his breast, and
hurried to the door, and as he did not find the woman there, was
much distressed. The porter, however, looked about for her
everywhere, and when he found her, still weeping, bade her return to
the door. When she came, the servitor received her gently, and
comforted her sorrowing heart. Then he went back from her to the
chapter-house, and immediately God was with him, with His Divine
consolations, as before.

Then said the maiden: It must be easy for him to bear sufferings, to
whom God gives such jubilation and internal joys. And yet, said the
servitor, all had to be paid for afterward with great suffering.
However, at last, when all this had passed away, and God's appointed
time had come, the same grace of jubilation was restored to him, and
remained with him almost continuously both at home and abroad, in
company and alone. Often in the bath or at table the same grace was
with him; but it was now internal, and did show itself outside.

Then the maiden said: My father, I have now learned what God is; but
I am also eager to know where He is. Thou shalt hear, said the
servitor. The opinion of the theologians is that God is in no
particular place, but that He is everywhere, and all in all. The
same doctors say that we come to know a thing through its name. Now
one doctor says that Being is the first name of God. Turn your eyes,
therefore, to Being in its pure and naked simplicity, and take no
notice of this or that substance which can be torn asunder into
parts and separated; but consider Being in itself, unmixed with any
Not-Being. Whatever is nothing, is the negation of what is; and what
is, is the negation of what is not. A thing which has yet to be, or
which once was, is not now in actual being. Moreover, we cannot know
mixed being or not-being unless we take into account that which is
all-being. This Being is not the being of this or that creature; for
all particular being is mixed with something extraneous, whereby it
can receive something new into itself. Therefore the nameless Divine
Being must be in itself a Being that is all-being, and that sustains
all particular things by its presence.

It shows the strange blindness of man's reason, that it cannot
examine into that which it contemplates before everything, and
without which it cannot perceive anything. Just as, when the eye is
bent on noticing various colours, it does not observe the light
which enables it to see all these objects, and even if it looks at
the light it does not observe it; so it is with the eye of the soul.
When it looks at this or that particular substance, it takes no heed
of the being, which is everywhere one, absolute and simple, and by
the virtue and goodness of which it can apprehend all other things.
Hence the wise Aristotle says, that the eye of our intelligence,
owing to its weakness, is affected towards that being which is
itself the most manifest of all things, as the eye of a bat or owl
is towards the bright rays of the sun. For particular substances
distract and dazzle the mind, so that it cannot behold the Divine
darkness, which is the clearest light.

Come now, open the eyes of thy mind, and gaze if thou canst, on
Being in its naked and simple purity. You will perceive that it
comes from no one, and has no before nor after, and that it cannot
change, because it is simple Being. You will also observe that it is
the most actual, the most present, and the most perfect of beings,
with no defect or mutation, because it is absolutely one in its bare
simplicity. This is so evident to an instructed intellect, that it
cannot think otherwise. Since it is simple Being, it must be the
first of beings, and without beginning or end, and because it is the
first and everlasting and simple, it must be the most present. If
you can understand this, you will have been guided far into the
incomprehensible light of God's hidden truth. This pure and simple
Being is altogether in all things, and altogether outside all
things. Hence a certain doctor says: God is a circle, whose centre
is everywhere, and His circumference nowhere.

When this had been said, the maiden answered: Blessed be God, I have
been shown, as far as may be, both what God is, and where He is. But
I should like also to be told how, if God is so absolutely simple,
He can also be threefold.

The servitor answered: The more simple any being is in itself, the
more manifold is it in its energy and operation. That which has
nothing gives nothing, and that which has much can give much. I have
already spoken of the inflowing and overflowing fount of good which
God is in Himself. This infinite and superessential goodness
constrains Him not to keep it all within Himself, but to communicate
it freely both within and without Himself. But the highest and most
perfect outpouring of the good must be within itself, and this can
be nought else but a present, interior, personal and natural
outpouring, necessary, yet without compulsion, infinite and perfect.
Other communications, in temporal matters, draw their origin from
this eternal communication of the Divine Goodness. Some theologians
say that in the outflow of the creatures from their first origin
there is a return in a circle of the end to the beginning; for as
the emanation of the Persons from the Godhead is an image of the
origin of the creatures, so also it is a type of the flowing back of
the creatures into God. There is, however, a difference between the
outpouring of the creatures and that of God. The creature is only a
particular and partial substance, and its giving and communication
is also partial and limited. When a human father begets a son, he
gives him part, but not the whole, of his own substance, for he
himself is only a partial good. But the outpouring of God is of a
more interior and higher kind than the creature's outpouring,
inasmuch as He Himself is a higher good. If the outpouring of God is
to be worthy of His pre-eminent being, it must be according to
personal relations.

Now, then, if you can look upon the pure goodness of the highest
Good (which goodness is, by its nature, the active principle of the
spontaneous love with which the highest Good loves itself) you will
behold the most excellent and superessential outpouring of the Word
from the Father, by which generation all things exist and are
produced; and you will see also in the highest good, and the highest
outpouring, the most holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
existing in the Godhead. And if the highest outpouring proceeds from
the highest essential good, it follows that there must be in this
Trinity the highest and most intimate consubstantiality or community
of being, and complete equality and identity of essence, which the
Persons enjoy in sweetest communion, and also that the Substance and
power of the three almighty Persons is undivided and unpartitioned.

Here the maiden exclaimed: Marvellous! I swim in the Godhead like an
eagle in the air. The servitor, resuming his exposition, continued:
It is impossible to express in words how the Trinity can subsist in
the unity of one essence. Nevertheless, to say what may be said on
the subject, Augustine says that in the Godhead the Father is the
Fountain-head of the Son and the Holy Ghost. Dionysius says, that in
the Father there is an outflowing of the Godhead, which naturally
communicates itself to the Word or Son. He also freely and lovingly
pours Himself out into the Son; and the Son in turn pours Himself
out freely and lovingly into the Father; and this love of the Father
for the Son, and of the Son for the Father, is the Holy Ghost. This
is truly said, but it is made clearer by that glorious Doctor of the
Church, St Thomas, who says as follows: In the outpouring of the
Word from the Father's heart, God the Father must contemplate
Himself with His own mind, bending back, as it were, upon His Divine
essence; for if the reason of the Father had not the Divine essence
for its object, the Word so conceived would be a creature instead of
God; which is false. But in the way described He is "God of God."
Again, this looking back upon the Divine essence, which takes place
in the mind of God, must, in a manner, produce a natural likeness;
else the Word would not be the Son of God. So here we have the unity
of essence in the diversity of Persons; and a clear proof of this
distinction may be found in the word of that soaring eagle St John:
"The Word was in the beginning with God."

Thus the Father is the Fountain-head of the Son, and the Son is the
outflowing of the Father; and the Father and Son pour forth the
Spirit; and the Unity, which is the essence of the Fountain-head, is
also the substance of the three Persons. But as to how the Three are
One, this cannot be expressed in words, on account of the simplicity
of that Abyss. Into this intellectual Where, the spirits of men made
perfect soar and plunge themselves, now flying over infinite
heights, now swimming in unfathomed depths, marvelling at the high
and wonderful mysteries of the Godhead. Nevertheless, the spirit
remains a spirit, and retains its nature, while it enjoys the vision
of the Divine Persons, and abstracted from all occupation with
things below contemplates with fixed gaze those stupendous
mysteries. For what can be more marvellous than that simple Unity,
into which the Trinity of the Persons merges itself, and in which
all multiplicity ceases? For the outflowing of the Persons is always
tending back into the Unity of the same essence, and all creatures,
according to their ideal existence in God, are from eternity in this
Unity, and have their life, knowledge, and essence in the eternal
God; as it is said in the Gospel: "That which was made, was Life in
Him."[42] This bare Unity is a dark silence and tranquil inactivity,
which none can understand unless he is illuminated by the Unity
itself, unmixed with any evil. Out of this shines forth hidden
truth, free from all falsehood; and this truth is born from the
unveiling of the veiled Divine purity; for after the revelation of
these things, the spirit is at last unclothed of the dusky light
which up till now has followed it, and in which it has hitherto seen
things in an earthly way. Indeed, the spirit finds itself now
changed and something very different from what it supposed itself to
be according to its earlier light: even as St Paul says, "I, yet not
I." Thus it is unclothed and simplified in the simplicity of the
Divine essence, which shines upon all things in simple stillness. In
this modeless mode of contemplation, the permanent distinction of
the Persons, viewed as separate, is lost. For, as some teach, it is
not the Person of the Father, taken by Himself, which produces
bliss, nor the Person of the Son, taken by Himself, nor the Person
of the Holy Ghost, taken by Himself; but the three Persons, dwelling
together in the unity of the essence, confer bliss. And this is the
natural essence of the Persons, which by grace gives the substance
or essence to all their creatures, and it contains in itself the
ideas of all things in their simple essence. Now since this ideal
light subsists as Being, so all things subsist in it according to
their essential being, not according to their accidental forms; and
since it shines upon all things, its property is to subsist as
light. Hence all things shine forth in this essence in interior
stillness, without altering its simplicity.

Then the maiden said: I could wish greatly, sir, that you could give
me this mysterious teaching, as you understand it, under a figure,
that I might understand it better. I should also be glad if you
could sum up what you have been saying at length, so that it may
stick more firmly in my weak mind. The servitor replied: Who can
express in forms what has no form? Who can explain that which has no
mode of being, and is above sense and reason? Any similitude must be
infinitely more unlike than like the reality. Nevertheless, that I
may drive out forms from your mind by forms, I will try to give you
a picture of these ideas which surpass all forms, and to sum up a
long discourse in a few words. A certain wise theologian says that
God, in regard to His Godhead, is like a vast circle, of which the
centre is everywhere, and the circumference nowhere. Now consider
the image which follows. If anyone throws a great stone into the
middle of a pool, a ring is formed in the water, and this ring makes
a second ring, and the second a third; and the number and size of
the rings depend on the force of the throw. They may even require a
larger space than the limit of the pool. Suppose now that the first
ring represents the omnipotent virtue of the Divine nature, which is
infinite in God the Father. This produces another ring like itself,
which is the Son. And the two produce the third, which is the Holy
Ghost. The spiritual superessential begetting of the Divine Word is
the cause of the creation of all spirits and all things. This
supreme Spirit has so ennobled man, as to shed upon him a ray from
His own eternal Godhead. This is the image of God in the mind, which
is itself eternal. But many men turn away from this dignity of their
nature, befouling the bright image of God in themselves, and turning
to the bodily pleasures of this world. They pursue them greedily and
devote themselves to them, till death unexpectedly stops them. But
he who is wise, turns himself and elevates himself, with the help of
the Divine spark in his soul, to that which is stable and eternal,
whence he had his own origin: he says farewell to all the fleeting
creatures, and clings to the eternal truth alone.

Attend also to what I say about the order in which the spirit ought
to return to God. First of all, we should disentangle ourselves
absolutely from the pleasures of the world, manfully turning our
backs upon all vices; we should turn to God by continual prayers, by
seclusion, and holy exercise, that the flesh may thus be subdued to
the spirit. Next, we must offer ourselves willingly to endure all
the troubles which may come upon us, from God, or from the
creatures. Thirdly, we must impress upon ourselves the Passion of
Christ crucified; we must fix upon our minds His sweet teaching, His
most gentle conversation, His most pure life, which He gave us for
our example, and so we must penetrate deeper and advance further in
our imitation of Him. Fourthly, we must divest ourselves of external
occupations, and establish ourselves in a tranquil stillness of soul
by an energetic resignation, as if we were dead to self, and thought
only of the honour of Christ and His heavenly Father. Lastly, we
should be humble towards all men, whether friends or foes. . . . But
all these images, with their interpretations, are as unlike the
formless truth as a black Ethiopian is to the bright sun.

Soon after this holy maiden died, and passed away happy from earth,
even as her whole life had been conspicuous only for her virtues.
After her death she appeared to her spiritual father in a vision.
She was clothed in raiment whiter than snow; she shone with dazzling
brightness, and was full of heavenly joy. She came near to him, and
showed him in what an excellent fashion she had passed away into the
simple Godhead. He saw and heard her with exceeding delight, and the
vision filled his soul with heavenly consolations. When he returned
to himself, he sighed most deeply, and thus pondered: O Almighty
God, how blessed is he, who strives after Thee alone! He may well be
content to bear affliction, whose sufferings Thou wilt thus reward!
May the Almighty God grant that we likewise may be brought to the
same joys as this blessed maiden!


THEN said the Eternal Wisdom to the servitor, Attend and listen
dutifully, while I tell thee what sufferings I lovingly endured for
thy sake.

After I had finished My last Supper with My disciples, when I had
offered Myself to My enemies on the mount, and had resigned Myself
to bear a terrible death, and knew that it was approaching very
near, so great was the oppression of My tender heart and all My
body, that I sweated blood; then I was wickedly arrested, bound, and
carried away. On the same night they treated Me with insult and
contumely, beating Me, spitting upon Me, and covering My head.
Before Caiaphas was I unjustly accused and condemned to death. What
misery it was to see My mother seized with unspeakable sorrow of
heart, from the time when she beheld Me threatened with such great
dangers, till the time when I was hung upon the cross. They brought
Me before Pilate with every kind of ignominy, they accused Me
falsely, they adjudged Me worthy of death. Before Herod I, the
Eternal Wisdom, was mocked in a bright robe. My fair body was
miserably torn and rent by cruel scourgings. They surrounded My
sacred head with a crown of thorns; My gracious face was covered
with blood and spittings. When they had thus condemned Me to death,
they led Me out with My cross to bear the last shameful punishment.
Their terrible and savage cries could be heard afar off: "Crucify,
crucify, the wicked man."

Servitor. Alas, Lord, if so bitter were the beginnings of Thy
passion, what will be the end thereof? In truth, if I saw a brute
beast so treated in my presence I could hardly bear it. What grief
then should I feel in heart and soul at Thy Passion? And yet there
is one thing at which I marvel greatly. For I long, O my most dear
God, to know only Thy Godhead; and Thou tellest me of Thy humanity.
I long to taste Thy sweetness, and Thou showest me Thy bitterness.
What meaneth this, O my Lord God?

Wisdom. No man can come to the height of My Godhead, nor attain to
that unknown sweetness, unless he be first led through the
bitterness of My humanity. My humanity is the road by which men must
travel. My Passion is the gate, through which they must enter. Away
then with thy cowardice of heart, and come to Me prepared for a hard
campaign. For it is not right for the servant to live softly and
delicately, while his Lord is fighting bravely. Come, I will now put
on thee My own armour. And so thou must thyself also experience the
whole of My Passion, so far as thy strength permits. Take,
therefore, the heart of a man; for be sure that thou wilt have to
endure many deaths, before thou canst put thy nature under the yoke.
I will sprinkle thy garden of spices with red flowers. Many are the
afflictions which will come upon thee; till thou hast finished thy
sad journey of bearing the cross, and hast renounced thine own will
and disengaged thyself so completely from all creatures, in all
things, which might hinder thine eternal salvation, as to be like
one about to die, and no longer mixed up with the affairs of this

Servitor. Hard and grievous to bear are the things which Thou
sayest, Lord. I tremble all over. How can I bear all these things?
Suffer me, O Lord, to ask Thee something. Couldst Thou not devise
any other way of saving my soul, and of testifying Thy love towards
me, so as to spare Thyself such hard sufferings, and so that I need
not suffer so bitterly with Thee?

Wisdom. The unfathomable Abyss of My secret counsels no man ought to
seek to penetrate, for no one can comprehend it. And yet that which
thou hast suggested, and many other things, might have been
possible, which nevertheless never happen. Be assured, however, that
as created things now are, no more fitting method could be found.
The Author of Nature doth not think so much what He is able to do in
the world, as what is most fitting for every creature; and this is
the principle of His operations. And by what other means could the
secrets of God have been made known to man, than by the assumption
of humanity by Christ? By what other means could he who had deprived
himself of joy by the inordinate pursuit of pleasure, be brought
back more fittingly to the joys of eternity? And who would be
willing to tread the path, avoided by all, of a hard and despised
life, if God had not trodden it Himself? If thou wert condemned to
death, how could any one show his love and fidelity to thee more
convincingly, or provoke thee to love him in return more powerfully,
than by taking thy sentence upon himself? If, then, there is any one
who is not roused and moved to love Me from his heart by My immense
love, My infinite pity, My exalted divinity, My pure humanity, My
brotherly fidelity, My sweet friendship, is there anything that
could soften that stony heart?

Servitor. The light begins to dawn upon me, and I seem to myself to
see clearly that it is as Thou sayest, and that whoever is not
altogether blind must admit that this is the best and most fitting
of all ways. And yet the imitation of Thee is grievous to a slothful
and corruptible body.

Wisdom. Shrink not because thou must follow the footsteps of My
Passion. For he who loves God, and is inwardly united to Him, finds
the cross itself light and easy to bear, and has nought to complain
of. No one receives from Me more marvellous sweetness, than he who
shares My bitterest labours. He only complains of the bitterness of
the rind, who has not tasted the sweetness of the kernel. He who
relies on Me as his protector and helper may be considered to have
accomplished a large part of his task.

Servitor. Lord, by these consoling words I am so much encouraged,
that I seem to myself to be able to do and suffer all things through
Thee. I pray Thee, then, that Thou wilt unfold the treasure of Thy
Passion to me more fully.

Wisdom. When I was hung aloft and fastened to the wood of the cross
(which I bore for My great love to thee and all mankind), all the
wonted appearance of My body was piteously changed. My bright eyes
lost their light; My sacred ears were filled with mocking and
blasphemy; My sweet mouth was hurt by the bitter drink. Nowhere was
there any rest or refreshment for Me. My sacred head hung down in
pain; My fair neck was cruelly bruised; My shining face was
disfigured by festering wounds; My fresh colour was turned to
pallor. In a word, the beauty of My whole body was so marred, that I
appeared like a leper--I, the Divine Wisdom, who am fairer than the

Servitor. O brightest mirror of grace, which the Angels desire to
look into, in which they delight to fix their gaze, would that I
might behold Thy beloved countenance in the throes of death just
long enough to water it with the tears of my heart, and to satisfy
my mind with lamentations over it.

Wisdom. No one more truly testifies his grief over My Passion, than
he who in very deed passes through it with Me. Far more pleasing to
Me is a heart disentangled from the love of all transitory things,
and earnestly intent on gaining the highest perfection according to
the example which I have set before him in My life, than one which
continually weeps over My Passion, shedding as many tears as all the
raindrops that ever fell. For this was what I most desired and
looked for in My endurance of that cruel death--namely, that mankind
might imitate Me; and yet pious tears are very dear to Me.

Servitor. Since then, O most gracious God, the imitation of Thy most
gentle life and most loving Passion is so pleasing to Thee, I will
henceforth labour more diligently to follow Thy Passion than to weep
over it. But since both are pleasing to Thee, teach me, I pray Thee,
how I ought to conform myself to Thy Passion.

Wisdom. Forbid thyself the pleasure of curious and lax seeing and
hearing; let love make sweet to thee those things which formerly
thou shrankest from; eschew bodily pleasures; rest in Me alone; bear
sweetly and moderately the ills that come from others; desire to
despise thyself; break thy appetites; crush out all thy pleasures
and desires. These are the first elements in the school of Wisdom,
which are read in the volume of the book of My crucified body. But
consider whether anyone, do what he may, can make himself for My
sake such as I made Myself for his.

Servitor. Come then, my soul, collect thyself from all external
things, into the tranquil silence of the inner man. Woe is me! My
heavenly Father had adopted my soul to be His bride; but I fled far
from Him. Alas, I have lost my Father, I have lost my Lover. Alas,
alas, and woe is me! What have I done, what have I lost? Shame on
me, I have lost myself, and all the society of my heavenly country.
All that could delight and cheer me has utterly forsaken me; I am
left naked. My false lovers were only deceivers. They have stripped
me of all the good things which my one true Lover gave me; they have
despoiled me of all honour, joy, and consolation. O ye red roses and
white lilies, behold me a vile weed, and see also how soon those
flowers wither and die, which this world plucks. And yet, O most
gracious God, none of my sufferings are of any account, compared
with this, that I have grieved the eyes of my heavenly Father. This
is indeed hell, and a cross more intolerable than all other pain. O
heart of mine, harder than flint or adamant, why dost thou not break
for grief? Once I was called the bride of the eternal King, now I
deserve not to be called the meanest of his handmaids. Never again
shall I dare to raise mine eyes, for shame. O that I could hide
myself in some vast forest, with none to see or hear me, till I had
wept to my heart's desire. O Sin, Sin, whither hast thou brought me?
O deceitful World, woe to those who serve thee! Now I have thy
reward, I receive thy wages--namely, that I am a burden to myself
and the whole world, and always shall be.

Wisdom. Thou must by no means despair; it was for thy sins and those
of others that I came into this world, that I might restore thee to
Thy heavenly Father, and bring thee back to greater glory and honour
than thou ever hadst before.

Servitor. Ah, what is this, which whispers such flattering things to
a soul that is dead, abhorred, rejected?

Wisdom. Dost thou not know Me? Why art thou so despondent? Art thou
beside thyself with excessive grief, My dearest son? Knowest thou
not that I am Wisdom, most gentle and tender, in whom is the Abyss
of infinite mercy, never yet explored perfectly even by all the
saints, but none the less open to thee and all other sorrowing
hearts. I am he who for thy sake willed to be poor and an exile,
that I might recall thee to thy former honour. I am He who bore a
bitter death, that I might restore thee to life. I am thy Brother; I
am thy Bridegroom. I have put away all the wrong that thou ever
didst against Me, even as if it had never been, only henceforth,
thou must turn wholly to Me, and never again forsake Me. Wash away
thy stains in My blood. Lift up thy head, open thine eyes, and take
heart. In token of reconciliation, take this ring and put it on thy
finger as My bride, put on this robe, and these shoes on thy feet,
and receive this sweet and loving name, that thou mayst both be and
be called for ever My bride. Thou has cost Me much labour and pain;
for that cause, the Abyss of My mercy toward thee is unfathomable.

Servitor. O kindest Father, O sweetest Brother, O only joy of my
heart, wilt Thou be so favourable to my unworthy soul? What is this
grace? What is the Abyss of Thy clemency and mercy? From the bottom
of my heart I thank Thee, O heavenly Father, and beseech Thee by Thy
beloved Son, whom Thou hast willed to suffer a cruel death for love,
to forget my impieties. . . .

Now, O Lord, I remember that most loving word, wherewith in the book
of Ecclesiasticus[43] Thou drawest us to Thyself. "Come to me, all
ye who desire me, and be filled with my fruits. I am the mother of
beautiful affection. My breath is sweeter than honey, and my
inheritance above honey and the honeycomb." "Wine and music rejoice
the heart, and above both is the love of Wisdom."[44] Of a surety, O
Lord, Thou showest Thyself so lovable and desirable, that it is no
wonder that the hearts of all long for Thee, and are tormented by
the desire of Thee. Thy words breathe love, and flow so sweetly,
that in many hearts the love of temporal things has wholly dried up.
Therefore, I greatly long to hear Thee speak of Thy lovableness.
Come, O Lord, my only comfort, speak to the heart of Thy servant.
For I sleep sweetly beneath Thy shadow, and my heart is awake.

Wisdom. Hear, My son, and see; incline thine ear, forgetting thyself
and all other things. Lo, I in Myself am that ineffable Good, which
is and ever was; which has never been expressed nor ever will be.
For although I give Myself to be felt by men in their inmost hearts,
yet no tongue can ever declare or explain in words what I am. For
verily all the beauty, grace, and adornment which can be conceived
by thee or by others, exists in me far more excellently, more
pleasantly, more copiously, than any one could say in words. I am
the most loving Word of the Father, begotten from the pure substance
of the Father, and wondrously pleasing am I to His loving eyes in
the sweet and burning love of the Holy Spirit. I am the throne of
happiness, the crown of souls: most bright are Mine eyes, most
delicate My mouth, My cheeks are red and white, and all My
appearance is full of grace and loveliness. All the heavenly host
gaze upon Me with wonder and admiration; their eyes are ever fixed
upon Me, their hearts rest in Me, their minds turn to Me and turn
again. O thrice and four times happy is he, to whom it shall be
given to celebrate this play of love amid heavenly joys at My side,
holding My tender hands in happiest security, for ever and ever to
all eternity. Only the word that proceeds out of My sweet mouth
surpasses the melodies of all the angels, the sweet harmony of all
harps, and musical instruments of every kind....

Servitor. There are three things, O Lord, at which I marvel greatly.
The first is, that although Thou art in Thyself so exceedingly
loving, yet towards sin Thou art a most severe judge and avenger.
Alas, Thy face in wrath is too terrible; the words which Thou
speakest in anger pierce the heart and soul like fire. O holy and
adorable God, save me from Thy wrathful countenance, and defer not
till the future life my punishment.

Wisdom. I am the unchangeable Good, remaining always the same. The
reason why I do not appear always the same, is on account of those
who do not behold Me in the same way. By nature I am friendly; yet
none the less I punish vice severely, so that I deserve to be
feared. From My friends I require a pure and filial fear, and a
friendly love, that fear may ever restrain them from sin, and that
love may join them to Me in unbroken loyalty.

Servitor. What Thou sayest pleases me, O Lord, and it is as I would
have it. But there is another thing at which I greatly marvel--how
it is that when the soul is faint from desire of the sweetness of
Thy presence, Thou art wholly mute, and dost not utter a single word
that can be heard. And who, O Lord, would not be grieved, when Thou
showest Thyself so strange, so silent, to the soul that loves Thee
above all things?

Wisdom. And yet all the creatures speak of Me.

Servitor. But that is by no means enough for the soul that loves.

Wisdom. Also every word that is uttered about Me is a message of My
love; all the voices of holy Scripture that are written about Me are
letters of love, sweet as honey. They are to be received as if I had
written them Myself. Ought not this to satisfy thee?

Servitor. Nay but, O most holy God, dearest Friend of all to me,
Thou knowest well that a heart which is on fire with love is not
satisfied with anything that is not the Beloved himself, in whom is
its only comfort. Even though all the tongues of all the angelic
spirits were to speak to me, none the less would my unquenchable
love continue to yearn and strive for the one thing which it
desires. The soul that loves Thee would choose Thee rather than the
kingdom of heaven. Pardon me, O Lord: it would become Thee to show
more kindness to those who love Thee so ardently, who sigh and look
up to Thee and say: Return, return! Who anxiously debate with
themselves: alas, thinkest thou that thou hast offended Him? That He
has deserted thee? Thinkest thou that He will ever restore thee His
most sweet presence, that thou wilt ever again embrace Him with the
arms of Thy heart, and press Him to thy breast, that all thy grief
and trouble may vanish? All this, O Lord, Thou hearest and knowest,
and yet Thou art silent.

Wisdom. Certainly I know all this, and I watch it with great
pleasure. But I would have thee also answer a few questions, since
thy wonder, though veiled, is so great. What is it which gives the
greatest joy to the highest of all created spirits?

 Servitor. Ah, Lord, this question is beyond my range. I prithee,
answer it Thyself.

Wisdom. I will do as thou desirest. The highest angelic spirit finds
nothing more desirable or more delightful than to satisfy My will in
all things; so much so, that if he knew that it would redound to My
praise for him to root out nettles and tares, he would diligently
fulfil this task in preference to all others.

Servitor. Of a truth, Lord, this answer of Thine touches me sharply.
I perceive that it is Thy will that I should be resigned in the
matter of receiving and feeling tokens of Thy love, and that I
should seek Thy glory alone, in dryness and hardness as well as in

Wisdom. No resignation is more perfect or more excellent, than to be
resigned in dereliction.

 Servitor. And yet, O Lord, the pain is very grievous.

Wisdom. Wherein is virtue proved, if not in adversity? But be
assured, that I often come, and try whether the door into My house
is open, but find Myself repulsed. Many times I am received like a
stranger, harshly treated, and then driven out of doors. Nay, I not
only come to the soul that loves me, but tarry with her like a
friend; but that is done so secretly, that none know it save those
who live quite detached and separated from men, and observe My ways,
and care only to please and satisfy My grace. For according to My
Divinity I am purest Spirit, and I am received spiritually in pure

Servitor. So far as I understand, Lord God, Thou art a very secret
Lover. How glad would I be if Thou wouldest give me some signs, by
which I might know Thee to be truly present.

Wisdom. By no other way canst thou know the certainty of My presence
better, than when I hide Myself from thee, and withdraw what is Mine
from thy soul. Then at last thou knowest by experience what I am,
and what thou art. Of a surety I am everlasting Good, without whom
no one can have anything good. When therefore I impart that immense
Good, which is Myself, generously and lovingly, and scatter it
abroad, all things to which I communicate Myself are clothed with a
certain goodness, by which My presence can be as easily inferred, as
that of the Sun, the actual ball of which cannot be seen, by its
rays. If therefore thou ever feelest My presence, enter into
thyself, and learn how to separate the roses from the thorns, the
flowers from the weeds.

Servitor. Lord, I do search, and I find within myself a great
diversity. When I am deserted by Thee, my soul is like a sick man,
whose taste is spoiled. Nothing pleases me, but all things disgust
me. My body is torpid, my mind oppressed; within is dryness, without
is sadness. All that I see or hear, however good in reality, is
distasteful and hateful to me. I am easily led into sins; I am weak
to resist my enemies; I am cold or lukewarm towards all good.
Whoever comes to me, finds my house empty. For the House-Father is
away, who knows how to counsel for the best, and to inspire the
whole household. On the other hand, when the day-star arises in my
inmost heart, all the pain quickly vanishes, all the darkness is
dispelled, and a great brightness arises and shines forth. My heart
laughs, my mind is exalted, my soul becomes cheerful, all things
around me are blithe and merry; whatever is around me and within me
is turned to Thy praise. That which before seemed hard, difficult,
irksome, impossible, becomes suddenly easy and pleasant. To give
myself to fasting, watching, and prayer, to suffer or abstain or
avoid, in a word all the hardnesses of life seem when compared with
Thy presence to have no irksomeness at all. My soul is bathed in
radiance, truth, and sweetness, so that all its labours are
forgotten. My heart delights itself in abundant sweet meditations,
my tongue learns to speak of high things, my body is brisk and ready
for any undertaking; whoever comes to ask my advice, takes back with
him high counsels such as he desired to hear. In short, I seem to
myself to have transcended the limits of time and space, and to be
standing on the threshold of eternal bliss. But who, O Lord, can
secure for me, that I may be long in this state? Alas, in a moment
it is withdrawn from me; and for a long space again I am left as
naked and destitute as if I had never experienced anything of the
kind; till at last, after many and deep sighings of heart, it is
restored to me. Is this Thou, O Lord, or rather I myself? Or what is

Wisdom. Of thyself thou hast nothing except faults and defects.
Therefore that about which thou askest is I Myself, and this is the
play of love.

Servitor. What is the play of love?

Wisdom. So long as the loved one is present with the lover, the
lover knoweth not how dear the loved one is to him; it is only
separation which can teach him that.

Servitor. It is a very grievous game. But tell me, Lord, are there
any who in this life no longer experience these vicissitudes of Thy

Wisdom. You will find very few indeed. For never to be deprived of
My presence belongs not to temporal but to eternal life.


ACT according to the truth in simplicity; and, whatever happens, do
not help thyself; for he who helps himself too much will not be
helped by the Truth.

God wishes not to deprive us of pleasure; but He wishes to give us
pleasure in its totality--that is, all pleasure.

Wilt thou be of use to all creatures? Then turn thyself away from
all creatures.

If a man cannot comprehend a thing, let him remain quiet, and it
will comprehend him.

Say to the creatures, I will not be to thee what thou art to me.

The power of abstaining from things gives us more power than the
possession of them would.

Some men one meets who have been inwardly drawn by God, but have not
followed Him. The inner man and the outer man in these cases are
widely at variance, and in this way many fail.

He who has attained to the purgation of his senses in God performs
all the operations of the senses all the better.

He who finds the inward in the outward goes deeper than he who only
finds the inward in the inward.

He is on the right road who contemplates under the forms of things
their eternal essence.

It is well with a man who has died to self and begun to live in





"SEE the Bridegroom cometh: go forth to meet Him." St Matthew the
evangelist wrote these words, and Christ said them to His disciples
and to all men, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. The Bridegroom is
our Lord Jesus Christ, and human nature is the bride, whom God has
made in His own image and likeness. He placed her at first in the
most exalted, the most beautiful, the richest and most fertile place
on earth--in paradise. He subjected to her all the creatures; He
adorned her with graces; and He laid a prohibition upon her, in
order that by obedience she might deserve to be established in an
eternal union with her Bridegroom, and never more fall into any
affliction, trouble, or guilt. Then came a deceiver--the infernal,
envious foe, under the guise of a cunning serpent. He deceived the
woman, and the two together deceived the man, who possessed the
essence of human nature. So the enemy despoiled human nature, the
bride of God, by his deceitful counsels, and she was driven into a
strange country; poor and miserable, a prisoner and oppressed,
persecuted by her enemies, as if she could never more return to her
country and the grace of reconciliation. But when God saw that the
time was come, and took pity on the sufferings of His beloved, He
sent His only Son to earth, in a rich abode and a glorious
temple--that is to say, in the body of the Virgin Mary. There he
married His bride, our nature, and united it to His Person, by means
of the pure blood of the noble Virgin. The priest who joined the
Bride and Bridegroom was the Holy Spirit; the angel Gabriel
announced the marriage, and the blessed Virgin gave her consent. So
Christ, our faithful Bridegroom, united our nature to His, and
visited us in a strange land, and taught us the manners of heaven
and perfect fidelity. And He laboured and fought like a champion
against our enemy, and He broke the prison and gained the victory,
and His death slew our death, and His blood delivered us, and He set
us free in baptism under the life-giving waters, and enriched us by
His sacraments and gifts, that we might go forth, as He said,
adorned with all virtues, and might meet Him in the abode of His
glory, to enjoy Him throughout all eternity.

Now the Master of truth, Christ, saith: "See, the Bridegroom
cometh, go forth to meet Him." In these words Jesus, our Lover,
teaches us four things. In the first word He gives a command, for He
says, "See." Those who remain blind, and those who resist this
command are condemned without exception. In the next word He shows
us what we shall see--that is to say, the coming of the Bridegroom,
when He says, "The Bridegroom cometh." In the third place, He
teaches us and commands us what we ought to do, when He says, "Go
forth." In the fourth place, when He says, "to meet Him," He shows
us the reward of all our works and of all our life, for that must be
a loving "going forth," by which we meet our Bridegroom.

We shall explain and analyse these words in three ways, first,
according to the ordinary mode of the beginner's life--that is to
say, the active life, which is necessary to all who would be saved.
In the second place, we shall analyse these words by applying them
to the inner life, exalted and loving, to which many men arrive by
the virtues and by the grace of God. Thirdly, we shall explain them
by applying them to the superessential and contemplative life, to
which few attain and which few can taste, because of the supreme
sublimity of this life.


CHRIST, the Wisdom of the Father, hath said from the time of Adam
and still saith (inwardly, according to His Divinity), to all men,
"See"; and this vision is necessary. Now let us observe attentively
that for him who wishes to see materially or spiritually, three
things are necessary. First, in order that a man may be able to see
materially, he must have the external light of heaven, or another
natural light, in order that the medium--that is to say, the air
across which one sees, may be illuminated. In the second place, he
must have the will, that the things which he will see may be
reflected in his eyes. Thirdly, he must have the instruments, his
eyes, healthy and without flaw, that the material objects may be
exactly reflected in them. If a man lacks any one of these three
things, his material vision disappears. We shall speak no more of
this vision, but of another, spiritual and supernatural, wherein all
our blessedness resides.

Three things are necessary for spiritual and supernatural vision.
First, the light of the divine grace, then the free conversion of
the will towards God, and lastly, a conscience pure from all mortal
sin. Now observe: God being a God common to all, and His boundless
love being common to all, He grants a double grace; both antecedent
grace, and the grace by which one merits eternal life. All men,
heathens and Jews, good and bad, have in common antecedent grace. In
consequence of the common love of God towards all men, He has caused
to be preached and published His name and the deliverance of human
nature, even to the ends of the earth. He who wishes to be converted
can be converted. For God wishes to save all men and to lose none.
At the day of judgment none will be able to complain that enough was
not done for him, if he had wished to be converted. So God is a
common Light and Splendour which illumine heaven and earth, and men
according to their merits and their needs. But though God is common,
and though the sun shines on all trees, some trees remain without
fruit, and others bear wild fruit useless to mankind. This is why we
prune these trees and graft fertile branches upon them, that they
may bear good fruit, sweet to taste and useful for men. The fertile
branch which comes from the living paradise of the eternal kingdom,
is the light of divine grace. No work can have savour, or be useful
to man, unless it comes from this branch. This branch of divine
grace, which makes man acceptable and by which we merit eternal
life, is offered to all. But it is not grafted on all, for they will
not purge away the wild branches of their trees--that is to say,
unbelief or a perverse will, or disobedience to the commandments of
God. But in order that this branch of divine grace may be planted in
our soul, three things are necessary; the antecedent grace of God,
the conversion of our free will, and the purification of the
conscience. Antecedent grace touches all men; but all men do not
attain to free conversion and purification of the conscience, and
this is why the grace of God, by which they might merit eternal
life, fails to touch them. The antecedent grace of God touches man
from within or from without. From without, by sickness or loss of
outward goods, of relations and friends, or by public shame; or
perhaps a man is moved by preaching, or by the examples of saints
and just men, by their words or works, till he comes to the
knowledge of himself. This is how God touches us from without.
Sometimes also a man is touched from within, by recalling the pains
and sufferings of our Lord, and the good which God has done to him
and to all men, or by the consideration of his sins, of the
shortness of life, of the eternal pains of hell and the eternal joys
of heaven, or because God has spared him in his sins and has waited
for his conversion; or he observes the marvellous works of God in
heaven, on earth, and in all creation. These are the works of
antecedent divine grace, which touch man from within or from
without, and in divers manners. And man has still a natural
inclination towards God, proceeding from the spark of his soul or
synteresis, [Footnote: See Introduction] and from the highest
reason, which always desires the good and hates the evil. Now, in
these three manners God touches every man according to his needs, so
that the man is struck, warned, frightened, and stops to consider
himself. All this is still antecedent grace and not merited; it thus
prepares us to receive the other grace, by which we merit eternal
life; when the mind is thus empty of bad wishes and bad deeds,
warned, struck, in fear of what it ought to do, and considers God,
and considers itself with its evil deeds. Thence come a natural
sorrow for sin and a natural good will. This is the highest work of
antecedent grace.

When man does what he can, and can go no further because of his
weakness, it is the infinite goodness of God which must finish this
work. Then comes a higher splendour of the grace of God, like a ray
of the sun, and it is poured upon the soul, though it is as yet
neither merited nor desired. In this light God gives Himself, by
free will and by bounty, and no one can merit it before he has it.
And it is in the soul an internal and mysterious operation of God,
above time, and it moves the soul and all its faculties. Here then
ends antecedent grace; and here begins the other--that is to say,
supernatural light.

This light is the first necessary condition, and from it is born a
second spiritual condition--that is to say, a free conversion of the
will in a moment of time, and then love is born in the union of God
and the soul. These two conditions are connected, so that one cannot
be accomplished without the other. There, where God and the soul are
united in the unity of love, God grants His light above time, and
the sou! freely turns to God by the force of grace, in a moment of
time, and charity is born in the soul, from God and the soul, for
charity is a bond of love between God and the loving soul. From
these two things, the grace of God, and the free conversion of the
will illuminated by grace, is born charity--that is to say, divine
love. And from divine love proceeds the third point, the
purification of the conscience. And this is accomplished in the
consideration of sin and of the flaws in the soul, and because man
loves God, there enters into him a contempt for self and for all his
works. This is the order of conversion. From it are born a true
repentance and a perfect sorrow for the evil that we have done, and
an ardent desire to sin no more and to serve God henceforward in
humble obedience; from it are born a sincere confession, without
reserves, without duplicity and without pretences, the desire to
satisfy God and to undertake the practice of all the virtues and all
good works. These three things, as you have just heard, are
necessary for divine vision. If you possess them, Christ says to
you, "See," and you become really seeing. This is the first of the
four chief ways in which Christ, our Lord, says "See."


NEXT, He shows us what we shall see when He says, "The Bridegroom
cometh." Christ, our Bridegroom, says this word in Latin: Venit.
The word expresses two tenses, the past and the present, and yet
here it indicates the future. And this is why we must consider three
comings of our Bridegroom Jesus Christ. At His first coming He was
made man for love of man. The second coming is daily and frequent in
every loving soul, with new graces and new gifts, as man is able to
receive them. In the third coming, He will come manifestly on the
dreadful day of judgment or at the hour of each man's death. In all
these comings we must observe three things, the cause, the interior
mode, and the external work.

The cause of the creation of angels and men is the infinite goodness
and nobleness of God; He wished that the wealth and blessedness,
which are Himself, should be revealed to reasonable creatures, for
them to enjoy in time, and in eternity above time. The reason why
God became man, is His inconceivable love, and the distress of all
men, lost since the fall in original sin, and unable to raise
themselves again. But the reason why Christ, according to His
divinity and His humanity, accomplished His works on earth, is
fourfold--namely, His divine love, which is without measure; the
created love, which is called charity, and which He had in His soul
by the union of the Eternal Word and the perfect gift of His Father;
the great distress of human nature; and the glory of His Father.
These are the reasons for the coming of Christ, our Bridegroom, and
for all His works, exterior and interior.

Now we must observe in Jesus Christ, if we wish to follow Him in His
virtues according to our powers, the mode or condition which He had
within, and the works which He wrought without, for they are virtues
and the acts of virtues.

The mode which He had according to His divinity is inaccessible and
incomprehensible to us, for it is after this mode that He is
continually born of the Father, and that the Father in Him and by
Him knows and creates and orders, and rules everything in heaven and
on earth; for He is the Wisdom of the Father, and from them flows
spiritually a Spirit--that is to say, a love, which is the bond
between them and the bond of all the saints and just persons on
earth and in heaven. We will speak no more of this mode but of the
created mode which He had by these divine gifts and according to His
humanity. These modes are singularly multiform; for Christ had as
many modes as He had interior virtues, for each virtue has its
special mode. These virtues and these modes were, in the mind of
Christ, above the intelligence and above the comprehension of all
creatures. But let us take three--namely, humility, charity, and
interior or exterior suffering in patience. These are the three
principal roots and origins of all virtues and all perfection.


NOW understand: there are two kinds of humility in Jesus Christ,
according to His divinity. First, He willed to become man; and this
nature, which was accursed even to the depth of hell, He accepted
according to His personality and was willing to unite Himself to it.
So that every man, good or bad, may say, Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, is my brother. Secondly, He chose for mother a poor virgin, and
not a king's daughter, so that this poor virgin became the mother of
God, who is the only Lord of heaven and earth and all creatures. In
consequence, of all the works of humility which Christ ever
accomplished, one may say that God accomplished them. Now let us
take the humility which was in Jesus Christ according to His
humanity and by grace and divine gifts; according to His humility
His soul inclined with all its power in respect and veneration
before the power of the Father. For an inclined heart is a humble
heart. This is why He did all His works to the praise and glory of
the Father, and sought in nothing His own glory according to His
humanity. He was humble, and submitted to the old law, and to the
commandments, and often to the customs. He was circumcised, and
carried to the Temple, and redeemed according to usages, and He paid
taxes to Caesar like other Jews. And He submitted Himself humbly to
His mother and to Joseph, and served them with a sincere deference
according to their needs. He chose for friends--for apostles--the poor
and the despised, in order to convert the world. In his intercourse
with them and all others He was humble and modest. This is why He
was at the disposal of all men, in whatever distress they were,
within or without; He was, as it were, the servant of the whole
world. This is what we find first in Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom.


NEXT comes charity, the beginning and source of all virtues. This
charity maintained the supreme forces of His soul in tranquillity,
and in the enjoyment of the same blessedness which He enjoys at
present. And this same charity kept Him continually exalted towards
His Father, with veneration, love, praise, respect, with internal
prayers for the need of all men, and with the offering of all His
works to the glory of God the Father. And this same charity made
Christ still overflow with love and kindness towards all the
material or spiritual needs of mankind. This is why He has given, by
His life, the model after which all men should fashion their lives.
He has given spiritual nourishment to all well-disposed men by real
internal teachings, as well as by outward miracles. We cannot
comprehend His charity to its full extent, for it flowed from the
unfathomable fountains of the Holy Spirit, above all the creatures
who have ever received charity, for He was God and man in one
Person. This is the second point of charity.


THE third point is to suffer in patience. We will examine this
seriously, for it is this which adorned Christ, our Bridegroom,
during all His life. He suffered when He was newly born, from
poverty and cold. He was circumcised and shed his blood. He was
obliged to fly into a foreign country. He served Joseph and His
mother, He suffered from hunger and thirst, from shame and contempt
and from the wicked words and deeds of the Jews. He fasted, He
watched, and was tempted by the enemy. He was subject to all men, He
went from district to district, from town to town, to preach the
gospel painfully and zealously. Finally, He was taken by the Jews,
who were His enemies and whom He loved. He was betrayed, mocked,
insulted, scourged, struck, and condemned on false testimony. He
carried His cross with great pain to the mount of Calvary. He was
stripped naked as at His birth, and never was seen a body so
beautiful, nor a mother so unhappy. He endured shame, pain, and cold
before all the world, for He was naked, and it was cold, and He was
exhausted by His wounds. He was nailed with large nails to the wood
of the cross, and was so strained that His veins were burst. He was
lifted up and shaken upon the cross, so as to make His wounds bleed,
His head was crowned with thorns, and His ears heard the fierce Jews
crying out, "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" and many other shameful
words. His eyes saw the obstinacy and wickedness of the Jews, and
the distress of His mother, and His eyes were extinguished under the
bitterness of pain and death. His mouth and palate were hurt by the
vinegar and gall, and all the sensitive parts of His body wounded by
the scourge.

Behold then Christ, our Bridegroom, wounded to death, abandoned by
God and the creatures, dying on the cross, hanging from a post, with
no one to care much for Him except Mary, His unhappy mother, who
nevertheless could not aid Him. And Christ suffered moreover
spiritually, in His soul, from the hardness of the Jews' hearts and
those who made Him die, for in spite of the prodigies and miracles
which they saw, they remained in their wickedness; and He suffered
by reason of their corruption and the vengeance which God was about
to inflict upon them, in body and soul, for His death. He suffered
moreover for the grief and misery of His mother and disciples, who
were in great sadness. And He suffered because His death would be
wasted for many men, and for the ingratitude of many, and for the
blasphemies of those who would curse Him who died for love of us.
And His nature and interior reason suffered because God withdrew
from them the inflow of His gifts and consolations, and abandoned
them to themselves in such distress. Therefore Christ complained and
said, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Behold then the interior virtues of Christ; humility, charity, and
suffering in patience. These three virtues Jesus, our Bridegroom,
practised throughout His life, and He died in them, and He paid our
debt by satisfying justice, and opened His side in His bounty. And
thence flow rivers of delight, and sacraments of blessedness. And He
was exalted to His power, and sat at the right hand of the Father,
and reigns eternally. This is the first coming of our Bridegroom,
and it is completely past.


THE second coming of Christ, our Bridegroom, takes place every day
in just men. We do not wish to speak here of the first conversion of
man, nor of the first grace which was given him when he was
converted from sin to virtue. But we wish to speak of a daily
increase of new gifts and new virtues, and of a more actual coming
of Christ, our Bridegroom, into our soul. Now we must observe the
cause, the mode, and the work, of this coming. The cause is fourfold;
the mercy of God, our misery, the divine generosity, and our
desire. These four causes make the virtues grow and increase.

Now understand. When the sun sends forth its bright rays into a deep
valley between two high mountains, and while it is at the zenith, so
that it can illuminate the depths of the valley, a triple phenomenon
occurs; for the valley is lighted from the mountains, and it becomes
warmer and more fertile than the plain. In the same way, when a just
man sinks in his misery, and recognises that he has nothing, and is
nothing, that he can neither halt nor go forward by his own
strength; and when he perceives also that he fails often in virtues
and good works, he thus confesses his poverty and distress, and
forms the valley of humility. And because he is humble and in need,
and because he confesses his need, he makes his plaint to the
kindness and mercy of God. He is conscious of the sublimity of God,
and of his own abasement.

Thus he becomes a deep valley. And Christ is the sun of justice and
mercy, which burns at the meridian of the firmament--that is to say,
at the right hand of the Father, and shines even to the bottom of
humble hearts; for Christ is always moved by distress, when man
humbly offers to Him complaints and prayers. Then the two mountains
rise--that is to say, a double desire, in the first place a desire to
serve and love God by his merits, in the second place to obtain
excellent virtues. These two desires are higher than heaven, for
they touch God without any intermediary, and desire His immense
generosity. Then that generosity cannot be kept back, it must flow,
for the soul is at this moment susceptible of receiving countless

These are the causes of the second coming of Christ, with new
virtues. Then the valley--that is to say, the humble heart, receives
three things. It is enlightened the more, and illuminated by grace,
and warmed by charity, and becomes more fertile in virtues and good
works. Thus you have the cause, the mode, and the work, of this


THERE is yet another coming of Christ, our Bridegroom, which takes
place every day, in the growth of grace and in new gifts--that is to
say, when a man receives some sacrament with a humble and
well-prepared heart. He receives then new gifts and more ample
graces, by reason of his humility, and by the internal and secret
work of Christ in the sacrament. That which is contrary to the
sacrament is in baptism the want of faith, in confession the want of
contrition; it is to go to the sacrament of the altar in a state of
mortal sin, or of bad will; and it is the same with the other


THE third coming, which is still future, will take place at the last
judgment or at the hour of death. Christ, our Bridegroom and our
Judge at this judgment, will recompense and avenge according to
justice, for He will award to each according to his deserts. He
gives to every just man, for every good work done in the spirit of
the Lord, a reward without measure, which no creature can merit--
namely, Himself. But as He co-operates in the creature, the creature
deserves, through His merit, to have a reward. And by a necessary
justice He gives eternal pains to those who have rejected an eternal
good for a perishable.


NOW understand and observe. Christ says at the beginning of our
text, "See"--that is to say, see by charity and pureness of
conscience, as you have been told. Now, He has shown us what we
shall see--namely, His three comings.

He orders us what we must do next, and says, "Go forth" if you have
fulfilled the first necessary condition--that is to say, if you see
in grace and in charity, and if you have well observed your model,
Christ, in His "going forth"; there leaps up in you, from your love
and loving observation of your Bridegroom, an ardour of justice--
that is to say, a desire to follow Him in virtue. Then Christ says
in you, "Go forth." This going forth must have three modes. We must
go forth towards God, towards ourselves, and towards our neighbour
by charity and justice; for charity always pushes upward, towards
the kingdom of God, which is God Himself; for He is the source from
which it flowed without any intermediary, and He remains always
immanent in it. The justice which is born of charity wishes to
perfect the manners and the virtues which are suitable to the
kingdom of God--that is to say, to the soul. These two things,
charity and justice, establish a solid foundation in the kingdom of
the soul where God may dwell, and this foundation is humility. These
three virtues support all the weight and all the edifice of all the
virtues and all sublimity; for charity maintains man in presence of
the unfathomable good things of God from whence it flows, so that it
perseveres in God, and increases in all the virtues and in true
humility; and justice maintains man in presence of the eternal truth
of God, so that truth may be discovered by him, and that he may be
illuminated, and may accomplish all the virtues without error. But
humility maintains man always before the supreme power of God, so
that he remains always abased and little, and abandons himself to
God, and holds no longer by himself. This is the way in which a man
must bear himself before God, that he may grow alway in new virtues.


NOW understand; for having made humility the base of everything, we
must speak first of it. Humility is the desire of abasement or of
depth--that is to say, an inclination or internal desire for
abasement of heart and conscience before the sublimity of God. The
justice of God exacts this submission, and, thanks to charity, the
loving heart cannot abandon it. When the loving and humble man
considers that God has served him so humbly, so lovingly, and so
faithfully, and then that God is so high, so powerful, and so noble,
and that man is so poor, little, and base, there is born from all
this, in the humble heart, an immense respect and reverence towards
God; for to reverence God in all works, within and without, is the
first and most delightful work of humility, the sweetest work of
charity, and the most suitable work of justice. For the humble and
loving heart cannot pay honours to God and His noble humanity, nor
abase himself so deeply as to satisfy his desire. That is why it
seems to the humble man that he always does too little in honour of
God and in his humble service. And he is humble, and venerates Holy
Church and the sacraments, and he is temperate in meat and drink, in
his words, and in all relations of life. He is content with poor
raiment, with menial employment, and his face is naturally humble,
without pretence. And he is hunible in his practices, within and
without, before God and before men, that none may be offended by
reason of him. Thus he tames and removes far from him all pride,
which is the cause and origin of all sins. Humility breaks the
snares of sin, the world, and the Devil. And man is ordered within
himself, and established in the very place of virtue. Heaven is open
to him, and God is inclined to hear his prayer, and he is loaded
with graces. And Christ, the solid stone, is his support, and he who
builds his virtues upon humility cannot go wrong.


FROM this humility is born obedience, for only the humble man can be
inwardly obedient. Obedience is a submission and pliant disposition,
and a good will ready for all that is good. Obedience subjects a man
to orders, to prohibitions, and to the will of God, and it subjects
the soul and sensual force to the highest reason, in such a way that
the man lives suitably and reasonably. And it makes men submissive
and obedient to Holy Church and to the sacraments, and to all the
good practices of holy Christianity. It prepares man, and makes him
ready for the service of all, in works, in bodily and spiritual
care, according to the needs of each, and prudence. Also, it drives
far away disobedience, which is the daughter of pride, and which we
ought to flee from more than from poison. Obedience in will and work
adorns, extends, and manifests the humility of man. It gives peace
to cloisters, and if it exists in the prelate, as it ought to exist,
it attracts those who are under his orders. It maintains peace and
equality among equals. And he who observes it is beloved by those
who are above him, and the gifts of God, which are eternal, elevate
and enrich him.


FROM this obedience is born the abdication of our own will. By this
abdication the substance and occasion of pride are repulsed, and the
greatest humility is accomplished. And God rules the man as He
wills; and the will of the man is so well united to that of God that
he can neither wish nor desire anything otherwise. He has put off
the old man, and has put on the new man, renewed and perfect
according to the divine will. It is of such an one that Christ said,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit," that is, those who have renounced
their will--"for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


FROM the abandonment of the will is born patience; for no one can
be perfectly patient in everything, except he who has submitted his
will to the will of God, and to all men in things useful and
convenient. Patience is a tranquil endurance of all that can happen
to a man, whether sent by God or by men. Nothing can trouble the
patient man, neither the loss of earthly goods, nor the loss of
friends or relations, nor sickness, nor disgrace, nor life, nor
death, nor purgatory, nor the devil, nor hell. For he has abandoned
himself to the will of God in true love. And, provided that mortal
sin does not touch him, all that God orders for him in time or
eternity seems light. This patience adorns a man, and arms him
against anger and sudden rage, and against impatience of suffering,
which often deceives a man within and without, and exposes him to
manifold temptations.


FROM this patience are born gentleness and kindness, for no one can
be gentle under adversity if not the patient man. Gentleness creates
in man peace and repose from everything; for the gentle man endures
insulting words and gestures, and bad faces and bad deeds, and all
manner of injustice towards his friends and himself, and he is
content with all, for gentleness is suffering in repose. Thanks to

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