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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER XIV.

OF SOME OTHER MEANS BY WHICH HOLY LOVE WOUNDS THE HEART.

Nothing so much wounds a loving heart as to perceive another wounded with the love of it. The pelican builds her nest upon the ground, wherefore serpents often sting her young ones. Now when this happens, the pelican, as an excellent physician, with the point of her beak wounds these poor chicks all over, to cause the poison which the serpents' sting had spread through all the parts of their bodies to flow out with the blood; and to get out all the poison she lets out all the blood, and thus consequently, permits this little pelican-brood to perish. But seeing them dead she wounds herself, and spreading her blood over them she vivifies them with a new and purer life. Her love wounded them, and forthwith by the same love she wounds herself. Never do we wound a heart with the wound of love but we ourselves are wounded with the same. When the soul sees her God wounded by love for her sake, she immediately receives from it a reciprocal wound. Thou hast wounded my heart,310310Cant. iv. 9. said the heavenly lover to the Sulamitess, and the Sulamitess cries out: Tell my beloved that I languish with love.311311Cant. v. 8. Bees never wound without being themselves wounded to death. And we, seeing the Saviour of our souls wounded to death by love of us, even to the death of the cross,—how can we but be wounded for him, but wounded with a wound as much more dolorously amorous as his was amorously dolorous, and a wound as great as is our inability to love him as much as his love and death require? It is, again, another wound of love, when the soul feels truly that she loves God, and yet he treats her as if he knew not that she loved him, or as if he were distrustful of her love: for then, my dear Theotimus, the soul is put into an extreme anguish, as it is insupportable to her to see and feel even the mere pretence God makes of distrusting her. The poor S. Peter had and felt his heart all filled with love for his master, and Our Lord, hiding his knowledge of it: Peter, said he, dost thou love me more than these? Ah! Lord, said the Apostle, thou knowest that I love thee. But, Peter, lovest thou me, replied Our Saviour. My dear Master, said the Apostle, truly I love thee, thou knowest it. But this sweet master to prove him, and as if showing a diffidence of his love: Peter, said he, dost thou love me? Ah! Lord, thou woundest this poor heart, which greatly afflicted cries out, amorously yet dolorously: Lord thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee.312312John xxi. 19. It happened once that a possessed person was being exorcised, and the wicked spirit being urged to tell his name: I am, said he, that miserable being deprived of love: and S. Catharine of Genoa who was there present suddenly perceived her whole frame disturbed and disordered, merely from having heard the words, privation of love, pronounced: for as the devils so hate divine love that they quake when they see its sign, or hear its name, that is, when they see the cross, or hear the name of Jesus pronounced, so those who dearly love Our Lord thrill with pain and horror when they see some sign or hear some word, that refers to the privation of this holy love.

S. Peter was quite sure that Our Lord, knowing all things, could not be ignorant how much he was loved by him, yet because the repetition of this demand: Peter, dost thou love me? had some appearance of distrust, S. Peter is greatly grieved by it. Alas! that poor soul who feels that she is resolved rather to die than offend her God, and yet feels not a spark of fervour, but on the contrary an extreme coldness, which so benumbs and weakens her that at every step she falls into very sensible imperfections,—this soul I say, Theotimus, is all wounded: for her love is exceedingly in pain to see that God lets himself look as if he did not see how much she loves him, leaving her as a creature not belonging to him; and she fancies that amid her failings, her distractions and coldness, Our Lord smites her with this reproach: How canst thou say that thou lovest me, seeing thy soul is not with me? And this is a dart of pain through her heart, but a dart of pain which proceeds from love; for if she loved not, she would not be afflicted with the fear that she loved not.

Sometimes this wound of love is made merely by the remembrance we have that there was a time in which we loved not our God. "Oh! too late have I loved thee, beauty ever ancient and ever new," said that saint who for thirty years was a heretic. The past life is an object of horror to the present life of him who has passed his previous life without loving the sovereign goodness.

Sometimes love wounds us with the mere consideration of the multitude of those who contemn the love of God; so that we faint away with grief for this, as did he who said: My zeal hath made me pine away: because my enemies forgot thy words.313313Ps. cxviii. 139. And the great S. Francis, thinking he was not heard, upon a day wept, sobbed and lamented so pitifully, that a good man hearing him ran as if to the succour of one who was going to be slain, and finding him all alone asked him: why dost thou cry so hard, poor man? Alas! said he, I weep to think that Our Lord endured so much for love of us and no one thinks of it: and having said thus he took to his tears again, and this good man sobbed and wept with him.

But, however it be, there is this admirable in the wounds received from the divine love that their pain is delightful, and all that feel it consent to it, and would not change this pain for all the pleasures of the world. There is no pain in love, or if there is pain it is well-beloved pain. Once a Seraph, holding a golden arrow, from the head of which issued a little flame, darted it into the heart of the Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa; and when he would draw it out, it seemed to this virgin that he was tearing out her very entrails, the pain being so excessive that she had only strength to utter low and feeble moans; but yet a pain so dear that she would have wished never to be delivered from it. Such was the arrow of love that God sent into the heart of the great S. Catharine of Genoa in the beginning of her conversion, after which she became another woman, dead to the world and things created, to live only to her Creator. The well-beloved is a bundle of bitter myrrh, and this bitter bundle again is well-beloved, which abides dearly placed between the breasts,314314Cant. i. 12. that is, the best-beloved of all the well-beloved.

 


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