1. We can therefore understand that just as this dark night of loving fire
purges in darkness, it also in darkness does its work of enkindling. We can also
note that as the spirits in the other life are purged with a dark material fire,
so in this life souls are purged and cleansed with a dark, loving spiritual
fire. For such is the difference: Souls are cleansed in the other life by fire,
but here on earth they are cleansed and illumined only by love. David asked for
this love when he said: Cor mundum crea in me Deus, etc. (A clean heart create
for me, O God) [Ps. 51:12]. Cleanness of heart is nothing less than the love and
grace of God. The pure of heart are called blessed by our Savior [Mt. 5:8], and
to call them blessed is equivalent to saying they are taken with love, for
blessedness is derived from nothing else but love.
2. Jeremiah shows clearly that the soul is purged by the illumination of this
fire of loving wisdom (for God never bestows mystical wisdom without love, since
love itself infuses it) where he says: He sent fire into my bones and instructed
me [Lam. 1:13]. And David says that God's wisdom is silver tried in the fire
[Ps. 11:6], that is, in the purgative fire of love. This contemplation infuses
both love and wisdom in each soul according to its capacity and necessity. It
illumines the soul and purges it of its ignorance, as the Wise Man declares it
did to him [Ecclus. 51:25-27].
3. Another deduction is that this very wisdom of God, which purges and illumines
these souls, purges the angels of their ignorances and gives them understanding
by illumining them on matters they are ignorant of. This wisdom descends from
God through the first hierarchies unto the last, and from these last to humans.
It is rightly and truly said in Scripture that all the works of the angels and
the inspirations they impart are also accomplished or granted by God. For
ordinarily these works and inspirations are derived from God by means of the
angels, and the angels also in turn give them one to another without delay. This
communication is like that of a ray of sunlight shining through many windows
placed one after the other. Although it is true that of itself the ray of light
passes through them all, nevertheless each window communicates this light to the
other with a certain modification according to its own quality. The
communication is more or less intense insofar as the window is closer to or
farther from the sun.
4. Consequently, the nearer the higher spirits (and those that follow) are to
God, the more purged and clarified they are by a more general purification; the
last spirits receive a fainter and more remote illumination. Humans, the last to
whom this loving contemplation of God is communicated, when God so desires, must
receive it according to their own mode, in a very limited and painful way.
light, which illumines the angels by clarifying and giving them the sweetness of
love - for they are pure spirits prepared for this inflow - illumines humans, as
we said, by darkening them and giving them pain and anguish, since naturally
they are impure and feeble. The communication affects them as sunlight affects a
sick and bleared eye. This very fire of love enamors these individuals both
impassionedly and afflictively until it spiritualizes and refines them through
purification, and thus they become capable of the tranquil reception of this
loving inflow, as are the angels and those already purified. With the Lord's
help we will explain this state later.1 In the meantime, however, the soul
receives this contemplation and loving knowledge in distress and longing of
5. The soul does not always feel this inflaming and anxious longing of love. In
the beginning of the spiritual purgation, the divine fire spends itself in
drying out and preparing the wood - that is, the soul - rather than in heating
it. Yet as time passes and the fire begins to give off heat, the soul usually
experiences the burning and warmth of love.
As the intellect becomes more purged
by means of this darkness, it happens sometimes that this mystical and loving
theology, besides inflaming the will, also wounds the intellect by illumining it
with some knowledge and light so delightfully and delicately that the will is
thereby marvelously enkindled in fervor. This divine fire burns in the will -
while the will remains passive - like a living flame and in such a way that this
love now seems to be a live fire because of the living knowledge communicated.
David says in the psalm: My heart grew hot within me and a certain fire was
enkindled while I was knowing [Ps. 39:3].
6. This enkindling of love and the union of these two faculties, the intellect
and the will, is something immensely rich and delightful for the soul, because
it is a certain touch of the divinity and already the beginning of the
perfection of the union of love for which the soul hopes.2 Thus one does not
receive this touch of so sublime an experience and love of God without having
suffered many trials and a great part of the purgation. But so extensive a
purgation is not required for other inferior and more common touches.
7. You may deduce from our explanation that when God infuses these spiritual
goods the will can very easily love without the intellect understanding, just as
the intellect can know without the will loving. Since this dark night of
contemplation consists of divine light and love - just as fire gives off both
light and heat - it is not incongruous that this loving light, when
communicated, sometimes acts more upon the will through the fire of love. Then
the intellect is left in darkness, not being wounded by the light. At other
times, this loving light illumines the intellect with understanding and leaves
the will in dryness. All of this is similar to feeling the warmth of fire
without seeing its light or seeing the light without feeling the fire's heat.
The Lord works in this way because he infuses contemplation as he wills.