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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER X.

HOW THE DESIRE TO PRAISE GOD MAKES US ASPIRE TO HEAVEN.

The amorous soul, perceiving that she cannot satiate the desire she has to praise her well-beloved while she lives in this world, and knowing that the praises which are given in heaven to the divine goodness are sung to an incomparably more delightful air,—O God! says she, how much to be praised are the praises which are poured forth by those blessed spirits before the throne of my heavenly king; how blessed are their blessings! O what a happiness is it to hear this melody of the most holy eternity, in which by the sweetest concurrence of dissimilar and varied tones, are made those admirable accords—all the parts mingling together with a continued sequence and marvellous linking of progressive movements—by which perpetual Alleluias do resound on every side.

Voices which for their loudness are compared to thunders, to trumpets, to the noise of the waves of a troubled sea; yet voices which, for their incomparable softness and sweetness, are compared to the melody of harps, delicately and delightfully touched by hands of the most skilful players; and voices all of which unite to sing the joyous Paschal canticle: Alleluia, praise God, Amen, praise God. For know, Theotimus, that a voice goes out from the divine throne which ceases not to cry to the happy inhabitants of the glorious heavenly Jerusalem: Praise God, O you that are his servants, and you that fear him great and little:251251Apoc. xix. at which all the innumerable multitude of saints,—the choirs of angels and the choirs of assembled men,—answer, singing with all their force: Alleluia, praise God. But what is this admirable voice, which issuing out from the divine throne entones the Alleluias of the elect, except most holy complacency, which being received into the heart, makes them feel the sweetness of the divine perfections, whereupon a loving benevolence, the source of heavenly praises, is bred in them? So that complacency coming from the throne, declares to the blessed the grandeurs of God, and benevolence excites them to pour out in their turn the perfumes of praise before the throne. Wherefore by way of answer they eternally sing: Alleluia, that is, praise God. The complacency comes from the throne into the heart, and benevolence goes from the heart to the throne.

O how worthy of love is this temple, wholly resounding with praise! O what content have such as live in this sacred dwelling, where so many heavenly philomels and nightingales sing with this holy strife of love, the canticles of eternal delight!

The heart, then, that in this world can neither sing nor hear the divine praises to its liking, enters into unutterable desires of being delivered from the bonds of this life to pass to the other, where the heavenly well-beloved is so perfectly praised: and these desires having taken possession of the heart, often become so strong and urgent in the breast of sacred lovers, that banishing all other desires they cause disgust of all earthly things, and render the soul languishing and lovesick: yea, sometimes the holy passion goes so far, that, God permitting, one dies of it.

So that glorious and seraphical lover S. Francis, having been long torn with this strong affection for praising God, in the end, in his last years, after he had had assurance, by a special revelation, of his eternal salvation, could not contain his joy, but wasted daily, as if his life and soul had burnt away like incense, upon the fire of the ardent desires which he had to see his Master, incessantly to praise him: so that these ardours taking every day a fresh increase, his soul left his body by a passionate movement which he made towards heaven; for the divine Providence thought good that he should die pronouncing these sacred words: Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait for me, until thou reward me.252252Ps. cxli. 8. Behold, Theotimus, I beseech you, this soul, who, as a heavenly nightingale shut up in the cage of his body, in which he cannot at will sing the benedictions of his eternal love, knows that he could better trill and practise his delicious song if he could gain the air, to enjoy his liberty and the society of other philomels, amongst the gay and flowery hills of the land of the blessed; wherefore he cries: Alas! O Lord of my life, ah! by thy sweet goodness, deliver poor me from the cage of my body, free me from this little prison, to the end that released from this bondage I may fly to my dear companions, who expect me there above in heaven, to make me one of their choirs, and environ me with their joy. There, Lord, according my voice to theirs, I with them will make up a sweet harmony of delicious airs and words, singing, praising, and blessing thy mercy. This admirable Saint, as an orator who would end and conclude all he had said in some short sentence, put this happy ending to all his wishes and desires, whereof these last words were an abridgment; words to which he so firmly attached his soul, that in breathing them he breathed his last. My God, Theotimus, what a sweet and dear death was this! a happily loving death, a holily mortal love.

 


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