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HOW WE PRACTISE THE LOVE OF BENEVOLENCE IN THE PRAISES WHICH OUR SAVIOUR AND HIS MOTHER GIVE TO GOD.
We mount then in this holy exercise from step to step, by the creatures which we invite to praise God, passing from the insensible to the reasonable and intellectual, and from the Church militant to the triumphant, in which we rise through the angels and the saints, till above them all we have found the most sacred virgin, who in a matchless air praises and magnifies the divinity more highly, holily and delightfully than all other creatures together can ever do.
Being two years ago at Milan, whither the veneration of the recent memory of the great Archbishop S. Charles had drawn me, with some of our clergy, we heard in different churches many sorts of music: but in a monastery of women we heard a religious whose voice was so admirably delightful that she alone created an impression more agreeable, beyond comparison, than all the rest together, which though otherwise excellent, yet seemed to serve only to bring out and raise the perfection and grace of this unique voice. So, Theotimus, amongst all the choirs of men and all the choirs of angels, the most sacred virgin's clear voice is heard above all the rest, giving more praise to God, than do all the other creatures. And indeed the heavenly King in a particular manner invites her to sing: Show me thy face, says he, my well-beloved, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.253253Cant. ii. 14.
But these praises which this mother of honour and fair love, together with all creatures, gives to the divinity, though excellent and admirable, come so infinitely short of the infinite merit of God's goodness, that they bear no proportion to it: and therefore, although they greatly please the sacred benevolence which the loving heart has for its well-beloved, yet do they not satiate it. Wherefore it goes forward and invites our Saviour to praise and glorify his eternal Father with all the benedictions which a Son's love can furnish him with. And then, Theotimus, the spirit comes unto a place of silence, for we can no longer do aught but wonder and admire. O what a canticle is this of the Son to his Father! O how fair this dear well-beloved is amongst all the children of men! O how sweet is his voice, as issuing from the lips upon which the fulness of grace was poured! All the others are perfumed, but he is perfume itself; the others are embalmed, but he is balm poured out; the Eternal receives others' praises, as scents of particular flowers, but perceiving the odour of the praises which our Saviour gives him, doubtless he cries out: Behold the smell of the praises of my Son is as the smell of a plentiful field, which I have blessed!254254Gen. xxvii. 27. Yes, my dear Theotimus, all the benedictions which the Church militant and triumphant offers to God are angelic and human benedictions; for, although they are addressed to the Creator, yet they proceed from the creature; but those of the Son are divine, for they not only tend to God, as the others, but they flow from God: the Redeemer being true God, they are not only divine in respect of their end but also of their origin; divine, because they tend to God; divine, because they issue from God. To others God gives his inspiration and sufficient grace, for the utterance of praise; but that of the Redeemer, he, who is God, himself produces, and therefore it is infinite.
He who, on a morning, having heard for some good space of time in the neighbouring woods the sweet chanting of finches, linnets, goldfinches, and such like little birds, should in the end hear a master-nightingale, which in perfect melody filled the air and ear with its admirable voice, doubtless would prefer this one woodland singer before the whole flock of the others. So, having heard all the praises which so many different sorts of creatures, in emulation of one another, render unanimously to their Creator, when at length we listen to the praise our Saviour gives, we find in it a certain infinity of merit, of worth, of sweetness, which surpasses all the hope and expectation of the heart: and the soul, as if awakened out of a deep sleep, is then instantly ravished with the extreme sweetness of such melody. Ah! I hear it: Oh! the voice, the voice of my well-beloved! the king-voice of all voices, a voice, in comparison with which all other voices are but a dumb and gloomy silence! See how this dear love springs forward, see how he comes leaping upon the highest mountains, transcending the hills: his voice is heard above the Seraphim, and all other creatures; he has the eyes of a roe to penetrate deeper than any other into the beauty of the sacred object which he desires to praise. He loves the melody of the glory and praise of his Father more than all others do, and therefore he takes his Father's praises and benedictions in a strain above them all. Ah! behold him, this divine love of the beloved, how he stands behind the wall of his humanity, making himself to be seen through the wounds of his body and the opening of his side, as by windows, and as by a lattice through which he looks out on us.255255Cant. ii.
Yea, truly, Theotimus, divine love being seated upon our Saviour's Heart as upon his royal throne, beholds by the cleft of his pierced side all the hearts of the sons of men: for this Heart being the King of hearts keeps his eyes ever fixed upon hearts. But as those that look through a lattice see others clearly, and are but half-seen themselves, so the divine love of this Heart, or rather this Heart of divine love, continually sees our hearts clearly and regards them with the eyes of his love, but we do not see him, we only half-see him. For, O God! if we could see him as he is, we should die of love for him, so long as we are mortal; as he himself died for us while he was mortal, and as he would yet die, if he were not immortal. O when we hear this divine Heart, as it sings with a voice of infinite sweetness the canticle of praise to the divinity, what joy, Theotimus, what efforts of our hearts to spring up to heaven that we may ever hear it! And verily this dear friend of our hearts invites us to this. Arise, make haste, leave thyself and take thy flight towards me, my dove, my beautiful, unto this heavenly abode, where all is joy and nought is heard but praises and benedictions. All is flowers, all is sweetness and perfume; the turtles, the most silent of all birds, yet there take up their songs. Come, my well-beloved and all-dear; and to see me more clearly, come to the same windows by which I see thee: come and behold my heart in the clefts of the opening in my side, which was made when my body, like a house in ruins, was so pitifully broken down on the tree of the cross: come, show me thy face. Ah! I see it now without thy showing it, but then I shall see it, and thou shalt show it me, for thou shalt see that I see thee: let thy voice sound in my ears, for I would join it with mine: thus shall thy voice be sweet and thy face comely. O what a delight will it be to our hearts, when, our voices being tuned and accorded to our Saviour's, we shall take part in the infinite sweetness of the praises which the well-beloved Son gives to his eternal Father!
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