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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER V.

OF THE CONDOLENCE AND COMPLACENCY OF LOVE IN THE PASSION OF OUR LORD.

When I see my Saviour on the Mount of Olives with his soul sorrowful even unto death:—Ah! Lord Jesus, say I, what can have brought the sorrows of death into the soul of life except love, which, exciting commiseration, drew thereby our miseries into thy sovereign heart? Now a devout soul, seeing this abyss of heaviness and distress in this divine lover, how can she be without a holily loving sorrow? But considering, on the other hand, that all the afflictions of her well-beloved proceed from no imperfection or want of strength, but from the greatness of his dearest love, she cannot but melt away with a holy sorrowful love. So that she cries: I am black with sorrow by compassion, but beautiful with love by complacency; the anguish of my well-beloved has changed my colour: for how could a faithful lover behold such torments in him whom she loves more than her life, without swooning away and becoming all wan and wasted with grief. The tents of nomads, perpetually exposed to the injuries of weather and war, are almost always ragged and covered with dust; and I, ever exposed to the griefs which by condolence I receive from the immeasurable travails of my divine Saviour, I am all covered with distress, and rent with sorrow. But because the pains of him I love come from his love, in what measure they afflict me by compassion, they delight me by complacency; for how could a faithful lover not take an extreme content to see herself so loved by her heavenly spouse? Wherefore the beauty of love is in the ill-favour of sorrow. And if I wear mourning for the passion and death of my King, all swarthy and black with grief, I cease not to have an incomparable sweetness in seeing the excess of his love amid his travails and his sorrows; and the tents of Solomon, all embroidered and worked in an admirable variety of decorations, were never so lovely as I am content, and, consequently, sweet, amiable and agreeable, in the variety of the sentiments of love which I have amid those griefs. Love equalizes lovers; Ah! I see him, this dear lover—he is a fire of love burning in a thorny bush of sorrow, and I am the same: I am all inflamed with love amid the thorny bushes of my griefs, I am a lily among thorns. Ah! do not even look at the horrors of my poignant sorrows, but see the beauty of my agreeable love. Alas! he suffers insupportable pains, this well-beloved divine lover: it is this which grieves me and makes me faint with anguish; but he takes pleasure in suffering, he loves his torments, and dies with joy at dying with pain for me: wherefore as I am sorrowing over his pains, so I am all ravished with joy at his love; not only do I grieve with him, but I glorify myself in him.

It was this love, Theotimus, which brought upon the seraphic S. Francis the stigmata, and upon the loving angelic S. Catharine of Siena the burning wounds of the Saviour, amorous complacency having sharpened the points of dolorous compassion; as honey makes more penetrating and sensible the bitterness of wormwood, whilst on the contrary the sweet smell of roses is intensified by the neighbourhood of garlic planted near the trees. For, in the same way, the loving complacency we have taken in the love of our Saviour makes the compassion we feel for his pains infinitely stronger: as reciprocally, passing back from the compassion for his pains to complacency in love, the pleasure of this is far more ardent and exalted. Then are practised pain in love and love in pain; then amorous condolence and dolorous complacency, as another Esau and another Jacob, struggling as to which shall make the greater effort, put the soul in incredible convulsions and agonies, and there takes place an ecstasy lovingly sorrowful and sorrowfully loving. So those great souls of S. Francis and S. Catharine felt matchless love in their pains, and incomparable pains in their love, when they were stigmatized, relishing that joyous love of suffering for a beloved one, which their Saviour exercised in the supreme degree on the tree of the cross. Thus is born the precious union of our heart with its God, which, like a mystical Benjamin, is the child of pain and joy both together.

It cannot be declared, Theotimus, how strongly the Saviour desires to enter into our souls by this love of sorrowing complacency. Ah! says he, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night.241241Cant. v. 2. What is this dew, and what are the drops of the night but the afflictions and pains of his passion? Pearls, in sooth (as we have said often enough), are nothing but drops of dew, which the freshness of night rains over the face of the sea, received into the shells of oysters or pearl-mothers. Ah! this divine lover of the soul would say, I am laden with the pains and sweats of my passion, almost all of which passed either in the darkness of the night, or in the night of the darkness which the obscured sun made in the very brightness of its noon. Open then thy heart towards me as the pearl-mothers open their shells towards the sky, and I will shed upon thee the dew of my passion, which will be changed into pearls of consolation.

 


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