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CHAPTER IX. The Second Thing.—Why God, After Rejoicing The Heart, Often Withdraws Himself From His Friends, By Which His True Presence is Made Known.
The Servant.—Lord, all has been explained to my heart’s satisfaction, except one thing. In truth, Lord, when a soul is quite exhausted with yearning after Thee and the sweet caresses of Thy presence, then, Lord, art Thou silent and sayest not a word. O Lord! ought not this to grieve my heart, that Thou, my tender Lord, Thou who art my only one love, and the sole desire of my heart, shouldst yet behave Thyself so strangely, and in such a way hold Thy peace?
Eternal Wisdom.—And yet do all creatures cry aloud to Me that it is I.
The Servant.—O dear Lord! that is not enough for a languishing soul.
Eternal Wisdom.—If every little word I utter is a little word of love to their hearts, and every word of the Sacred Scriptures written by Me is a sweet love-letter, as though I Myself had written it, ought this not to be enough for them?
The Servant.—O Lord, Thou knowest well that to a loving heart everything that is not its only love and its only consolation, is insufficient. Lord, Thou art so very intimate, choice, and fathomless a love; lo! if even all the tongues of all the angels were to address me, love unfathomable would still pursue and strive after Him alone whom it longs for. A loving soul would still take Thee for the kingdom of heaven, for surely Thou art her heaven. Alas! Lord, may I venture to say that Thou shouldst be a little more favourable to such poor affectionate hearts as pine and languish for Thee, as breathe out so many an unfathomable sigh to Thee, as look up so yearningly to Thee, crying aloud from their very hearts, Return to us, O Lord! and speaking and reasoning with themselves thus: “Have we cause to think we have angered Him, and that He will forsake us? Have we cause to think He will not give us His loving presence back again, so that we may affectionately embrace Him with the arms of our hearts, and press Him to our bosoms till all our sorrow vanish? Lord, all this Thou knowest and hearest, and yet Thou art silent!”
Eternal Wisdom.—I know it and see it with heart-felt eager joy. But now, since thy wonder is so great, answer Me a question. What is that which, of all things, gives the most delight to the highest of created spirits?
The Servant.—Lord, I would fain learn this from Thee, for such a question is too great for my understanding.
Eternal Wisdom.—Then I will tell Thee. Nothing tastes better to the very highest angel than, in all things, to do My will; so that if he knew that it would tend to My praise to root up nettles and other weeds it would be for him, of all things, the most desirable to perform.
The Servant.—Ah, Lord, how dost Thou strike home to me with this question! For surely Thy meaning is, that I ought to keep myself disengaged and serene in joy, and seek Thy praise alone, both in sorrow and delight.
Eternal Wisdom.—A desertion above all desertion is to be deserted in desertion.
The Servant.—Alas! Lord, but it is a very heavy woe.
Eternal Wisdom.—Where is virtue preserved except in adversity? Yet know that I often come and ask for admission into my house, and am denied. Often am I received like a poor pilgrim, and meanly entertained, and speedily driven out. I come even to My beloved, and fondly take up My abode with her, but this takes place so secretly that it is totally hidden from all men, except those only who live in entire seclusion, and perceive My ways, who are ever careful to correspond to My graces. For in virtue of My divinity, I am a perfectly pure essential spirit, and am spiritually received into pure spirits.
The Servant.—Gentle Lord, methinks Thou art altogether a hidden lover, therefore I desire Thou wouldst give me some signs of Thy true presence.
Eternal Wisdom.—In nothing canst thou discern My presence so well as in this, namely, when I hide and withdraw Myself from the soul, as not till then art thou capable of perceiving who I am or what thou art. I am the Eternal Good, without which no one has any good. When I, the Eternal Good, pour Myself out so graciously and lovingly, everything into which I enter is made good. By this goodness My presence is to be known even as is the sun by his brightness, who, in his substance, is yet not to be seen. If ever thou art sensible of Me, enter into thyself and learn to separate the roses from the thorns, and to choose out the flowers from the grass.
The Servant.—Lord, truly I seek and find in myself a great inequality. When my soul is deserted, she is like a sick person who can relish nothing; who is disgusted with everything; the body is languid, the spirits are dull; dryness within, and sadness without; all that I see and hear is then repugnant to me, and I know not how good it is, for I have lost all discrimination. I am then inclined to sin, weak in resisting my enemies, cold and lukewarm in all that is good; he who visits me finds an empty house, for the master, who gives wise counsel and makes all the family glad at heart, is not within. But, Lord, when in the midst of my soul the bright morning star rises, all my sorrow passes away, all my darkness is scattered, and laughing cheerfulness appears. Lord, then leaps my heart, then are my spirits gay, then rejoices my soul, then is it my marriage feast, while all that is in me or about me is turned to Thy praise. What before was hard, troublesome, and impossible, becomes easy and pleasant; fasting, watching, praying, self-denial, and every sort of rigour, are made sweet by Thy presence. Then do I acquire great assurance in many things, which, in my dereliction I had lost; my soul is then overflowed with clearness, truth, and sweetness, so that she forgets all her toil; my heart can sweetly meditate, my tongue loftily discourse, and whoever seeks high counsel from me touching his heart’s desire finds it; for then I am as though I had overstepped the bounds of time and space, and stood in the ante-chamber of eternal salvation. Alas, Lord! who will grant that it might only be of longer duration, for behold, in a moment it is snatched away, and I am again stripped and forsaken. Sometimes I pursue it as if I had never gained it, till at last, after much sorrow and trouble of heart, it comes back. Lord! art Thou this thing, or am I it, or what is it?
Eternal Wisdom.—Thou art and hast of thyself nothing but imperfection; I am it, and this is the game of love.
The Servant.—But, Lord, what is the game of love?
Eternal Wisdom.—All the time that love is with love, love does not know how dear love is; but when love separates from love, then only does love feel how dear love was.
The Servant.—Lord! this is a dreary game. Alas, Lord! is inconstancy never cast aside in any one while time lasts?
Eternal Wisdom.—In very few persons, for constancy belongs to eternity.
The Servant.—Lord, who are these persons?
Eternal Wisdom.—The very purest of all, and in eternity the most like to God.
The Servant.—Lord, which are they?
Eternal Wisdom.—They are those persons who have denied themselves in the most perfect manner.
The Servant.—Gentle Lord, teach me how, in my imperfection, I ought to behave in this manner.
Eternal Wisdom.—In good days thou oughtest to look at evil days, and in evil days not to forget good days; thus can neither elation injure thee in My company nor despondency in dereliction. If, in thy faintheartedness, thou canst not endure My absence with pleasure, wait for Me at least with patience, and seek Me diligently.
The Servant.—O Lord, long waiting is painful.
Eternal Wisdom.—He who will needs have love in time, must know how to bear weal and woe. It is not enough to devote to Me only a portion of the day. He who would enjoy God’s intimacy, who would hear His mysterious words, and mark their secret meaning, ought always to keep within doors. Alas! how is it that thou always permittest thy eyes to wander so thoughtlessly around, when thou hast standing before thee the Blessed and Eternal Image of the Godhead which never for a moment turns away from thee? Why dost thou let thy ears escape from thee when I address thee so many a sweet word? How is it that thou so readily forgettest thyself when thou art so perfectly encompassed with the eternal good? What is it thy soul seeks in exterior things who carries within herself so secretly the kingdom of heaven?
The Servant.—What is the kingdom of heaven, O Lord, which is in the soul?
Eternal Wisdom.—It is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The Servant.—Lord, I understand from this discourse, that Thou hast much hidden intercourse with the soul, which is wholly hidden from her, and that Thou dost secretly attract the soul, and dost leisurely initiate her into the love and knowledge of Thy high divinity, her who at first was only concerned with Thy fair humanity.
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