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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER VIII.

OF THE REPOSE OF A SOUL RECOLLECTED IN HER WELL-BELOVED.

The soul, then, being thus inwardly recollected in God or before God, now and then becomes so sweetly attentive to the goodness of her well-beloved, that her attention seems not to her to be attention, so purely and delicately is it exercised: as it happens to certain rivers, which glide so calmly and smoothly that beholders, and such as float upon them, seem neither to see nor feel any motion, because the waters are not seen to ripple or flow at all. And it is this admirable repose of the soul which the Blessed Virgin (S.) Teresa of Jesus names prayer of quiet, not far different from that which she also calls the sleep of the powers, at least if I understand her right.

Even human lovers are content, sometimes, with being near or within sight of the person they love without speaking to her, and without even distinctly thinking of her or her perfections, satiated, as it were, and satisfied to relish this dear presence, not by any reflection they make upon it, but by a certain gratification and repose which their spirit takes in it. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breasts. My beloved to me, and I to him, who feedeth among the lilies, till the day break, and the shadows retire. Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the mid-day.289289Cant. i. Do you see, Theotimus, how the holy Sulamitess is contented with knowing that her well-beloved is with her, whether in her bosom, or in her gardens, or elsewhere, so she know where he is. And indeed she is the Sulamitess, wholly peaceable, calm, and at rest.

Now this repose sometimes goes so deep in its tranquillity, that the whole soul and all its powers fall as it were asleep, and make no movement nor action whatever, except the will alone, and even this does no more than receive the delight and satisfaction which the presence of the well-beloved affords. And what is yet more admirable is, that the will does not even perceive the delight and contentment which she receives, enjoying it insensibly, being not mindful of herself but of him whose presence gives her this pleasure, as happens frequently when, surprised by a light slumber, we only hear indistinctly what our friends are saying around us, or feel their caresses almost imperceptibly, not feeling that we feel.

However, the soul who in this sweet repose enjoys this delicate sense of the divine presence, though she is not conscious of the enjoyment, yet clearly shows how dear and precious this happiness is unto her, if one offer to deprive her of it or divert her from it; for then the poor soul complains, cries out, yea sometimes weeps, as a little child awakened before it has taken its full sleep, who, by the sorrow it feels in being awakened, clearly shows the content it had in sleeping. Hereupon the heavenly shepherd adjures the daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and harts of the fields, not to make the beloved awake until she please,290290Cant. ii. 7. that is, to let her awake of herself. No, Theotimus, a soul thus recollected in her God would not change her repose for the greatest goods in the world.

Such, or little different from it, was the quiet of most holy Magdalen, when sitting at her Master's feet she heard his holy word. Behold her, I beseech you, Theotimus; she is in a profound tranquillity, she says not a word, she weeps not, she sobs not, she sighs not, she stirs not, she prays not. Martha, full of business passes and repasses through the hall: Mary notices her not. And what then is she doing? She is doing nothing, but only hearkening. And what does this mean—she hearkens? It means that she is there as a vessel of honour, to receive drop by drop the myrrh of sweetness which the lips of her well-beloved distilled into her heart; and this divine lover, jealous of this love-sleep and repose of this well-beloved, chid Martha for wanting to awaken her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary, Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.291291Luke x. 41, 42. But what was Mary's portion or part? To remain in peace, repose, and quiet, near unto her sweet Jesus.

The well-beloved S. John is ordinarily painted, in the Last Supper, not only lying but even sleeping in his Master's bosom, because he was seated after the fashion of the Easterns (Levantins), so that his head was towards his dear lover's breast; and as he slept no corporal sleep there,—what likelihood of that?—so I make no question but that, finding himself so near the breasts of the eternal sweetness, he took a profound mystical sleep, like a child of love which locked to its mother's breast sucks while sleeping. Oh! what a delight it was to this Benjamin, child of his Saviour's joy, to sleep in the arms of that father, who the day after, recommended him, as the Benoni, child of pain, to his mother's sweet breasts. Nothing is more desirable to the little child, whether he wake or sleep, than his father's bosom and mother's breast.

Wherefore, when you shall find yourself in this simple and pure filial confidence with our Lord, stay there, my dear Theotimus, without moving yourself to make sensible acts, either of the understanding or of the will; for this simple love of confidence, and this love-sleep of your spirit in the arms of the Saviour, contains by excellence all that you go seeking hither and thither to satisfy your taste: it is better to sleep upon this sacred breast than to watch elsewhere, wherever it be.

 


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