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Conclusion of the Subject. Pain of the Awakening. Light Against Delusions.
1. To bring this matter to an end, I say that it is not necessary for the soul to give its consent here; it is already given: the soul knows that it has given up its will into His hands,296296 Ch. xx. § 30. and that it cannot deceive Him, because He knoweth all things. It is not here as it is in the world, where all life is full of deceit and double-dealing. When you think you have gained one man's good will, because of the outward show he makes, you afterwards learn that all was a lie. No one can live in the midst of so much scheming, particularly if there be any interests at stake.
2. Blessed, then, is that soul which our Lord draws on to the understanding of the truth! Oh, what a state for kings! How much better it would be for them if they strove for this, rather than for great dominions! How justice would prevail under their rule! What evils would be prevented, and might have been prevented already! Here no man fears to lose life or honour for the love of God. What a grand thing this would be to him who is more bound than those beneath him to regard the honour of our Lord!—for it is kings whom the crowd must follow. To make one step in the propagation of the faith, and to give one ray of light to heretics, I would forfeit a thousand kingdoms. And with good reason: for it is another thing altogether to gain a kingdom that shall never end, because one drop of the water of that kingdom, if the soul but tastes it, renders the things of this world utterly loathsome.
3. If, then, the soul should be wholly engulfed, what then? O Lord, if Thou wert to give me the right to publish this abroad, people would not believe me— as they do not believe many who are able to speak of it in a way very different from mine; but I should satisfy myself, at least. I believe I should count my life as nothing, if I might make others understand but one of these truths. I know not what I shall do afterwards, for I cannot trust myself; though I am what I am, I have a violent desire, which is wasting me, to say this to those who are in authority. And now that I can do no more, I betake myself to Thee, O my Lord, to implore a remedy for all. Thou knowest well that I would gladly divest myself of all the graces which Thou hast given me,—provided I remained in a condition never to offend Thee,—and give them up to those who are kings; for I know it would then be impossible for them to allow what they allow now, or fail to receive the very greatest blessings.
4. O my God, make kings to understand how far their obligations reach! Thou hast been pleased to distinguish them on earth in such a way that—so I have heard—Thou showest signs in the heavens when Thou takest any of them away. Certainly, when I think of this, my devotion is stirred, because Thou wilt have them learn, O my King, even from this, that they must imitate Thee in their lives, seeing that, when they die, signs are visible in the heavens, as it was when Thou wert dying Thyself.
5. I am very bold; if it be wrong, you, my father, will tear this out: only believe that I should speak much more to the purpose in the presence of kings,—if I might, or thought they would listen to me,—for I recommend them greatly to God, and I wish I might be of service to them. All this makes one risk life; for I long frequently to lose mine,—and that would be to lose a little for the chance of gaining much; for surely it is not possible to live, when we see with our eyes the great delusion wherein we are walking, and the blindness in which we are living.
6. A soul that has attained to this is not limited to the desires it has to serve God; for His Majesty gives it strength to bring those desires to good effect. Nothing can be put before it into which it will not throw itself, if only it thinks that God may be served thereby: and yet it is doing nothing, because, as I said before,297297 Ch. xx. § 34. it sees clearly that all is nothing, except pleasing God. The trial is, that those who are so worthless as I am, have no trial of the kind. May it be Thy good pleasure, O my God, that the time may come in which I may be able to pay one farthing at least, of the heavy debt I owe Thee! Do Thou, O Lord, so dispose matters according to Thy will, that this Thy servant may do Thee some service. Other women there have been who did heroic deeds for Thee; I am good only to talk; and so it has not been Thy pleasure, O my God, that I should do any thing: all ends in talk and desires—that is all my service. And yet even in this I am not free, because it is possible I might fail altogether.
7. Strengthen Thou my soul, and prepare it, O Good of all good; and, my Jesus, then ordain Thou the means whereby I may do something for Thee, so that there may be not even one who can bear to receive so much, and make no payment in return. Cost what it may, O Lord, let me not come before Thee with hands so empty,298298 Exod. xxiii. 15: "Non apparebis in conspectu meo vacuus." seeing that the reward of every one will be according to his works.299299 Apoc. ii. 23: "Dabo unicuique vestrum secundum opera sua." Behold my life, behold my good name and my will; I have given them all to Thee; I am Thine: dispose of me according to Thy will. I see well enough, O Lord, how little I can do; but now, having drawn near to Thee,—having ascended to this watchtower, from which the truth may be seen,—and while Thou departest not from me, I can do all things; but if Thou departest from me, were it but for a moment, I shall go thither where I was once—that is, to hell.300300 See ch. xxxii. § 1.
8. Oh, what it is for a soul in this state to have to return to the commerce of the world, to see and look on the farce of this life,301301 "Farsa de esta vida tan mal concertada." so ill-ordered; to waste its time in attending to the body by sleeping and eating!302302 Inner Fortress, iv. ch. i. § 11. All is wearisome; it cannot run away,—it sees itself chained and imprisoned; it feels then most keenly the captivity into which the body has brought us, and the wretchedness of this life. It understands the reason why St. Paul prayed to God to deliver him from it.303303 Rom. vii. 24: "Quis me liberabit de corpore mortis hujus?" The soul cries with the Apostle, and calls upon God to deliver it, as I said on another occasion.304304 Ch. xvi. § 7. But here it often cries with so much violence, that it seems as if it would go out of the body in search of its freedom, now that they do not take it away. It is as a slave sold into a strange land; and what distresses it most is, that it cannot find many who make the same complaint and the same prayer: the desire of life is more common.
9. Oh, if we were utterly detached,—if we never placed our happiness in anything of this world,—how the pain, caused by living always away from God, would temper the fear of death with the desire of enjoying the true life! Sometimes I consider, if a person like myself—because our Lord has given this light to me, whose love is so cold, and whose true rest is so uncertain, for I have not deserved it by my works—frequently feels her banishment so much, what the feelings of the Saints must have been. What must St. Paul and the Magdalene, and others like them, have suffered, in whom the fire of the love of God has grown so strong? Their life must have been a continual martyrdom. It seems to me that they who bring me any comfort, and whose conversation is any relief, are those persons in whom I find these desires—I mean, desires with acts. I say with acts, for there are people who think themselves detached, and who say so of themselves,—and it must be so, for their vocation demands it, as well as the many years that are passed since some of them began to walk in the way of perfection,—but my soul distinguishes clearly, and afar off, between those who are detached in words, and those who make good those words by deeds. The little progress of the former, and the great progress of the latter, make it plain. This is a matter which a person of any experience can see into most clearly.
10. So far, then, of the effects of those raptures which come from the Spirit of God. The truth is, that these are greater or less. I say less, because in the beginning, though the effects are wrought, they are not tested by works, and so it cannot be clear that a person has them; and perfection, too, is a thing of growth, and of labouring after freedom from the cobwebs of memory; and this requires some time. Meanwhile, the greater the growth of love and humility in the soul, the stronger the perfume of the flowers of virtues is for itself and for others. The truth is, that our Lord can so work in the soul in an instant during these raptures, that but little remains for the soul to do in order to attain to perfection. No one, who has not had experience of it, will ever be able to believe what our Lord now bestows on the soul. No effort of ours—so I think—can ever reach so far.
11. However, I do not mean to say that those persons who during many years make use of the method prescribed by writers on prayer,—who discuss the principles thereof, and the means whereby it may be acquired,—will not, by the help of our Lord, attain to perfection and great detachment with much labour; but they will not attain to it so rapidly as by the way of raptures, in which our Lord works independently of us, draws the soul utterly away from earth, and gives it dominion over all things here below, though the merits of that soul may not be greater than mine were:
I cannot use stronger language, for my merits are as nothing. Why His Majesty doeth this is, because it is His pleasure, and He doeth it according to His pleasure; even if the soul be without the fitting disposition, He disposes it for the reception of that blessing which He is giving to it. Although it be most certain that He never fails to comfort those who do well, and strive to be detached, still He does not always give these effects because they have deserved them at His hands by cultivating the garden, but because it is His will to show His greatness at times in a soil which is most worthless, as I have just said, and to prepare it for all good: and all this in such a way that it seems as if the soul was now, in a manner, unable to go back and live in sin against God, as it did before.
12. The mind is now so inured to the comprehension of that which is truth indeed, that everything else seems to it to be but child's play. It laughs to itself, at times, when it sees grave men—men given to prayer, men of religion—make much of points of honour, which itself is trampling beneath its feet. They say that discretion, and the dignity of their callings, require it of them as a means to do more good; but that soul knows perfectly well that they would do more good in one day by preferring the love of God to this their dignity, than they will do in ten years by considering it.
13. The life of this soul is a life of trouble: the cross is always there, but the progress it makes is great. When those who have to do with it think it has arrived at the summit of perfection, within a little while they see it much more advanced; for God is ever giving it grace upon grace. God is the soul of that soul now; it is He who has the charge of it; and so He enlightens it; for He seems to be watching over it, always attentive to it, that it may not offend Him,—giving it grace, and stirring it up in His service. When my soul reached this state, in which God showed me mercy so great, my wretchedness came to an end, and our Lord gave me strength to rise above it. The former occasions of sin, as well as the persons with whom I was accustomed to distract myself, did me no more harm than if they had never existed; on the contrary, that which ordinarily did me harm, helped me on. Everything contributed to make me know God more, and to love Him; to make me see how much I owed Him, as well as to be sorry for being what I had been.
14. I saw clearly that this did not come from myself, that I had not brought it about by any efforts of my own, and that there was not time enough for it. His Majesty, of His mere goodness, had given me strength for it. From the time our Lord began to give me the grace of raptures, until now, this strength has gone on increasing. He, of His goodness, hath held me by the hand, that I might not go back. I do not think that I am doing anything myself—certainly I do not; for I see distinctly that all this is the work of our Lord. For this reason, it seems to me that the soul in which our Lord worketh these graces,—if it walks in humility and fear, always acknowledging the work of our Lord, and that we ourselves can do, as it were, nothing,—may be thrown among any companions, and, however distracted and wicked these may be, will neither be hurt nor disturbed in any way; on the contrary, as I have just said, that will help it on, and be a means unto it whereby it may derive much greater profit.
15. Those souls are strong which are chosen by our Lord to do good to others; still, this their strength is not their own. When our Lord brings a soul on to this state, He communicates to it of His greatest secrets by degrees. True revelations—the great gifts and visions—come by ecstasies, all tending to make the soul humble and strong, to make it despise the things of this world, and have a clearer knowledge of the greatness of the reward which our Lord has prepared for those who serve Him.305305 1 Cor. ii. 9: "Quæ præparavit Deus his qui diligunt Illum."
16. May it please His Majesty that the great munificence with which He hath dealt with me, miserable sinner that I am, may have some weight with those who shall read this, so that they may be strong and courageous enough to give up everything utterly for God. If His Majesty repays us so abundantly, that even in this life the reward and gain of those who serve Him become visible, what will it be in the next?
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