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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER IX.

HOW THE PURITY OF INDIFFERENCE IS TO BE PRACTISED IN THE ACTIONS OF SACRED LOVE.

One of the most excellent musicians in the world, who played perfectly upon the lute, became in time so extremely deaf that he entirely lost the use of his hearing, yet ceased he not for all that to sing and to handle his lute marvellous delicately, by reason of the great skill he had acquired, of which his deafness did not deprive him. But because he had no pleasure in his song, nor yet in the sound of his lute, inasmuch as, being deprived of his hearing he could not perceive its sweetness and beauty,—he no longer sang or played save only to content a prince whose native subject he was, and whom he had an extreme inclination, as well as an infinite obligation, to please, because brought up in his palace from childhood. Hence he took an incomparable delight in pleasing him, and when his prince showed that he was pleased with his music he was ravished with delight. But it happened sometimes that the prince, to make trial of this loving musician's love, gave him an order to sing, and then immediately leaving him there in his chamber, went to the chase. The desire which this singer had to accomplish his master's will, made him continue his music as attentively as though his prince had been present, though in very deed he had no content in singing. For he neither had the pleasure of the melody, whereof his deafness deprived him, nor the content of pleasing his prince, who being absent could not enjoy the sweetness of the beautiful airs he sang.

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing and rehearse a psalm. Arise, O my glory! Arise psaltery and harp: I will arise early.421421Ps. lvi. 8, 9. Man's heart is the true chaunter of the canticle of sacred love, himself the harp and the psaltery. Now ordinarily this chaunter hears his own voice, and takes a great pleasure in the melody of his song. I mean that our heart, loving God, relishes the delights of this love, and takes an incomparable contentment in loving so lovely an object. Notice, I pray you, Theotimus, what I mean. The young nightingales do first essay a beginning of song to imitate the old ones; but having got skill and become masters, they sing for the pleasure which they take in warbling, and they so passionately addict themselves to this delight, as I have said in another place, that by force of straining their voice, their throat bursts and they die. So our hearts in the beginning of their devotion love God that they may be united and become agreeable unto him, and imitate him in that he hath loved us for all eternity; but by little and little being formed and exercised in holy love, they are imperceptibly changed. In lieu of loving God in order to please God, they begin to love him for the pleasure they take in the exercises of holy love; and instead of falling in love with God they fall in love with the love they bear him, and stand affected to their own affections. They no longer take pleasure in God, but in the pleasure they find in his love. They content themselves with this love as being their own, in their spirit and proceeding from it; for though this sacred love be called the love of God because God is loved by it, yet it is also ours, because we are the lovers that love. And it is thus we make the change; for instead of loving this holy love because it tends to God who is the beloved, we love it because it proceeds from us who are the lovers. Now who does not see that in so doing we do not seek God, but turn home to ourselves, loving the love instead of loving the beloved? Loving, I say, the love, not by reason of God's good-pleasure and liking, but for the pleasure and content we draw from it. This chaunter who in the beginning sang to God and for God, now rather sings to himself and for himself than for God; and the pleasure he takes in singing is not so much to please God's ear as his own. And forasmuch as the canticle of Divine love is of all the most excellent, he also loves it better, not by reason of the Divine excellence which is exalted therein, but because its music is more delicious and agreeable.

 


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