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OF THE MOST EXCELLENT EXERCISE WE CAN MAKE IN THE INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR TROUBLES OF THIS LIFE, AFTER ATTAINING THE INDIFFERENCE AND DEATH OF THE WILL.
To bless and thank God in all the events that his providence ordains, is in very deed a most holy exercise, yet if, while we leave the care to God of willing and doing in us, on us, and with us, what pleases him, without attending to what passes—though fully feeling it—we could divert our heart, and apply our attention to the divine goodness and sweetness—blessing it not in the effects or events it ordains, but in itself and in its own excellence—we should certainly practise a far more eminent exercise. In the time that Demetrius was laying siege to Rhodes, Protogenes, who was in a little house in the suburbs, ceased not to work, and that with such assurance and repose of mind that though the enemies' sword was in a manner always at his throat, yet he executed the grand masterpiece and admirable representation of a Satyr amusing himself with playing upon a pipe. O God! how great are those souls who in all kinds of accidents keep their affections and attention ever upon the eternal goodness, honouring and loving it at all times.
The daughter of an excellent physician and surgeon, being in a continual fever, and knowing that her father loved her entirely, said to one of her friends: I feel very great pain, but I do not think of remedies, for I do not know what might serve for my cure; I might desire one thing, and another be necessary for me. Do I not then gain more by leaving this care to my father, who knows, who can do, and who wills for me, all that is required for my health? I should do wrong by willing anything, for he wills all that could be profitable to me. I will only wait to let him will to do what is expedient, and when he comes to me I will only look at him, testify my filial love for him, and show my perfect confidence. And on these words she fell asleep. Meanwhile her father, judging that it was fit to bleed her, disposed all that was necessary, and waking her up asked her if she were willing to suffer the operation. My father, she said, I am yours; I know not what to will for my cure; it is yours to will and do for me what seems good to you; it is enough for me to love and honour you with all my heart, as I do. So her arm is tied, and her father himself opens the vein. And while the blood flows, this loving daughter looks not at her arm nor at the spurting blood, but keeping her eyes fixed on her father's face, she says only, from time to time: My father loves me, and I, I am entirely his. And when all was done she did not thank him, but only repeated her words of filial confidence and love.
Now tell me, my friend Theotimus, did not this daughter show a more attentive and solid love for her father, than if she had taken great care to ask remedies for her malady, to watch the vein being opened, and the blood coming, and to say many words of thanks? There is no doubt whatever about it. What could she have gained save useless solicitude by thinking for herself, since her father had care enough of her; what but fear by looking at her arm; and what virtue but gratitude would she have shown in thanking her father? Did she not do best then in occupying herself entirely in the demonstration of her filial love, infinitely more agreeable to her father than every other virtue?
My eyes are ever towards the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare and the nets.428428Ps. xxiv. 15. Have you fallen into the net of adversity? Ah! look not upon your mishap, nor upon the snare in which you are taken: look upon God and leave all to him, he will have care of you: Cast thy care upon the Lord and he shall sustain thee.429429Ps. liv. 23. Why do you trouble yourself with willing or not willing the events and accidents of this world, since you are ignorant what were best for you to will, and since God will always will for you, without your putting yourself in trouble, all you could will for yourself? Await therefore in peace of mind the effects of the divine pleasure, and let his willing suffice you, since it is always most good: for so he gave order to his well-beloved S. Catharine of Siena: Think in me, said he to her, and I will think for you.
It is very difficult to express exactly this extreme indifference of the human will, thus absorbed and dead in the will of God. For, meseems, we must not say it acquiesces in that of God, because acquiescence is an act of the soul which declares its consent. We must not say it accepts or receives, because accepting and receiving are a sort of actions, which we might call in a certain sense passive actions, by which we embrace and take what happens: we must not say that it permits, as even permission is an act of the will, and hence is a certain inactive willing, which does not do and yet lets be done. It seems to me the soul which is in this indifference, and which wills nothing, but lets God will what pleases him, should be said to have its will in a simple and general state of waiting (attente): since waiting is not a doing or acting, but only the remaining prepared for some event. And, if you take notice, this waiting of the soul is indeed voluntary, and yet it is not an action, but a simple disposition to receive whatsoever shall happen; and as soon as the events come and are received, the waiting changes into consent or acquiescence, but, before they happen, the soul is truly in a state of simple waiting, indifferent to all that it shall please the divine will to ordain.
Our Saviour thus expresses the extreme submission of his human will to the will of his Eternal Father. The Lord God, he says, hath opened my ear, that is, he hath declared unto me his pleasure touching the multitude of the pains which I am to endure, and I, says he afterwards, do not resist: I have not gone back.430430Is. l. 5, 6. What does this mean: I do not resist: I have not gone back, except this? My will is in a simply waiting state, and is ready for all that God shall send; wherefore I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me and spit upon me; being prepared to let them exercise their pleasure upon me. But mark, I pray you, Theotimus, that even as our Saviour, after he had made his prayer of resignation in the garden of Olives, and after he was taken, left himself to be handled and dragged about at the will of them that crucified him, by an admirable surrender made of his body and life into their hands, so did he resign up his soul and will by a most perfect indifference into his Eternal Father's hands. For though he cries out: My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?—yet this was to let us understand the reality of the anguish and bitternesses of his soul, and not to detract from the most holy indifference in which it was; as he showed very soon afterwards, concluding all his life and his passion with those incomparable words: Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
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