"We must not be behind time in doing good; for death will not be behind his time. "

St Phillip Neri

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."

Thomas á Kempis

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 St John of the Cross   (1542 - 1591)

 

THE SPIRITUAL CANTICLE (cont)

 

by St John of the Cross

 

Stanzas 14 & 15


Introduction

1. Since this little dove was flying in the breeze of love above the flood waters of her loving fatigues and yearnings, which she has shown until now, and could find nowhere to alight, the compassionate father Noah, stretching out his merciful hand, caught her on her last flight and placed her in the ark of his charity [Gn. 8:9]. This occurred when in the stanza we just explained the Bridegroom said, "Return, dove."

Finding in this recollection all she desired and more than is expressible, the soul begins to sing the praises of her Beloved in the following stanzas. They apply to his grandeurs, which she experiences and enjoys in this union.

Bride
My Beloved, the mountains,
and lonely wooded valleys,
strange islands,
and resounding rivers,
the whistling of love-stirring breezes,

the tranquil night
at the time of the rising dawn,
silent music,
sounding solitude,
the supper that refreshes, and deepens love.

2. Before commenting on these stanzas, we should call to mind for the sake of a clearer understanding of them and those following that this spiritual flight denotes a high state and union of love in which, after much spiritual exercise, the soul is placed by God. This state is called spiritual betrothal with the Word, the Son of God.

And at the beginning, when this flight is experienced the first time, God communicates to the soul great things about himself, beautifies her with grandeur and majesty, adorns her with gifts and virtues, and clothes her with the knowledge and honor of God, as the betrothed is clothed on the day of her betrothal. Not only do her vehement yearnings and complaints of love cease but, in being graced with the blessings mentioned, a state of peace and delight and gentleness of love begins in her. This state is indicated in these stanzas, in which she does no more than tell in song her Beloved's grandeurs, which she knows and enjoys in him through this union of betrothal. In the remaining stanzas she no longer speaks of sufferings and longings as she did before, but of the communion and exchange of sweet and peaceful love with her Beloved, because now in this state all those sufferings have ceased.[1]

It should be noted that these two stanzas describe the most God communicates to the soul at this time. Yet it must not be thought that he communicates to all those who reach this state everything declared in these two stanzas, or that he does so in the same manner and measure of knowledge and feeling. To some souls he gives more and to others less, to some in one way and to others in another, although all alike may be in this same state of spiritual betrothal. But the greatest possible communication is recorded here because it includes everything else. The commentary follows.[2]

Commentary on the Two Stanzas

3. In Noah's ark, as the divine Scripture says, there were many rooms for different kinds of animals, and all the food that could be eaten [Gn. 6:14,19-21]. It should be noted that, similarly, the soul in her flight to the divine ark, the bosom of God, not only sees there the many mansions that His Majesty through St. John declared were in his Father's house [Jn. 14:2], but sees and knows there all the foods (all the grandeurs the soul can enjoy), that is, all the things included in these two stanzas and signified by these common terms. In substance, these are:

4. The soul sees and tastes abundance and inestimable riches in this divine union. She finds all the rest and recreation she desires, and understands secrets and strange knowledge of God, which is another of the foods that taste best to her. She experiences in God an awesome power and a strength that sweep away every other power and strength. She tastes there a splendid spiritual sweetness and gratification, discovers true quiet and divine light, and tastes sublimely the wisdom of God reflected in the harmony of his creatures and works. She has the feeling of being filled with blessings and being empty of evils and far removed from them. And, above all, she understands and enjoys inestimable refreshment of love, which confirms her in love. These in substance are the affirmations of the two stanzas.

5. The bride says in these stanzas that the Beloved is all these things in himself, and he is so also for her, because in such superabundant communications from God the soul experiences and knows the truth of St. Francis' prayer: My God and all things.[3] Since God is all things to the soul and the good that is in all things, the communication of this superabundance is explained through the likeness that the goodness of the things mentioned in these stanzas has to it, which we shall explain in our commentary on each of the verses. It should be known that what is explained here is present in God eminently and infinitely, or better, each of these sublime attributes is God, and all of them together are God.[4]

Inasmuch as the soul in this case is united with God, she feels that all things are God, as St. John experienced when he said: Quod factum est, in ipso vita erat (That which was made, in him was life) [Jn. 1:4]. It should not be thought that what the soul is said to feel here is comparable to seeing things by means of the light, or creatures by means of God; rather in this possession the soul feels that God is all things for her. Neither must it be thought that, because the soul has so sublime an experience of God, we are asserting that she has essential and clear vision of him. This experience is nothing but a strong and overflowing communication and glimpse of what God is in himself, in which the soul feels the goodness of the things mentioned in these verses, which we will now comment upon.[5]

My Beloved, the mountains,

6. Mountains have heights and they are affluent, vast, beautiful, graceful, bright, and fragrant. These mountains are what my Beloved is to me.

and lonely wooded valleys,

7. Lonely valleys are quiet, pleasant, cool, shady, and flowing with fresh waters; in the variety of their groves and in the sweet song of the birds, they afford abundant recreation and delight to the senses, and in their solitude and silence they refresh and give rest. These valleys are what my Beloved is to me.

strange islands,

8. Strange islands are surrounded by water and situated across the sea, far withdrawn and cut off from communication with others. Many things very different from what we have here are born and nurtured in these islands; these things are of many strange kinds and powers never before seen by humans, and they cause surprise and wonder in anyone who sees them. Thus, because of the wonderful new things and the strange knowledge (far removed from common knowledge) that the soul sees in God, she calls him "strange islands."[6]

People are called strange for either of two reasons: They are withdrawn from others; or, compared with others, they are singular and superior in their deeds and works. The soul calls God "strange" for these two reasons. Not only is he all the strangeness of islands never seen before, but also his ways, counsels, and works are very strange and new and wonderful to humans.

It is no wonder that God is strange to humans who have not seen him, since he is also strange to the holy angels and to the blessed. For the angels and the blessed are incapable of seeing him fully, nor will they ever be capable of doing so. Until the day of the Last Judgment they will see so many new things in him concerning his deep judgments and his works of mercy and justice that they will forever be receiving new surprises and marveling the more. Hence not only humans but also the angels can call him "strange islands." Only to himself is he neither strange nor new.

and resounding rivers,

9. Rivers have three properties: first, they besiege and inundate everything they encounter; second, they fill up all the low and empty spots found along their path; third, they are so loud that they muffle and suppress every other sound. Since in this communication in God the soul has a delightful experience of these three properties, she says that her Beloved is the resounding rivers.

As for the first property, it should be known that the soul is conscious at this time that the torrent of God's spirit is besieging and taking possession of her so forcibly that all the rivers of the world seem to have flooded in upon her and to be assailing her. She feels that all the actions and passions in which she was formerly occupied are drowned therein. Although it is a thing of tremendous force, this is not a torment to her because these rivers are rivers of peace, as God declared of this onslaught through Isaiah: Ecce ego declinabo super eam quasi fluvium pacis, et quasi torrentem inundantem gloriam (See that I will descend and besiege her the soul like a river of peace and like a torrent overflowing with glory) [Is. 66:12]. Hence this divine onslaught caused by God in the soul, like resounding rivers, fills everything with peace and glory.

The second property the soul experiences at this time is the divine water filling the low places of her humility and the voids of her appetites, as St. Luke says: Exaltavit humiles; esurientes implevit bonis (he exalted the humble and filled the hungry with good things) [Lk. 1:52-53].

The third property she experiences in these resounding rivers of her Beloved is a spiritual clamor and outcry louder than any other sound or call. This cry prevails against all other cries and its sound exceeds all the sounds of the world. To explain how this comes about we will have to delay a short while.

10. This clamor, or resounding of these rivers, that the soul refers to here is such an abundant plenitude that she is filled with goods, and it is so powerful a force that she is possessed by it, for it seems to be not merely the sound of rivers but the sound of roaring thunder. Nevertheless this cry is a spiritual cry that does not contain these other material sounds, or their pain and disturbance, but rather grandeur, strength, power, delight, and glory. It is like an immense interior clamor and sound that clothes the soul in power and strength.

This spiritual cry and noise was made in the souls of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended like a mighty wind, as is related in the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 2:2]. To manifest the spiritual voice bestowed on them interiorly, that sound was heard exteriorly as a fierce wind by all who were in Jerusalem [Acts 2:5-6]. This sound denoted what the Apostles received interiorly, a fullness of power and fortitude.

St. John says that while the Lord Jesus was praying to his Father in the conflict and anguish occasioned by his enemies, an inner voice came to him from heaven and comforted him in his humanity. The sound of this voice, which the Jews heard as though coming from outside, was so deep and loud that some said it had thundered and others that an angel from heaven had spoken [Jn. 12:27-29]. The reason is that the voice, which was heard as though coming from without, denoted and manifested the fortitude and strength that was interiorly bestowed on Christ in his humanity.

It must not be thought on this account that the soul fails to receive in its spirit the sound of the spiritual voice. It should be noted that the spiritual voice is the effect produced in the spirit, just as the sound in the ear and knowledge in the spirit are effects of the material voice. David meant this when he said: Ecce dabit voci suae vocem virtutis (Behold that God will give to his voice the voice of power) [Ps. 68:33]. This power is the interior voice, because when David said he will give to his voice the voice of power, he meant that to the exterior voice, heard from without, he will give the voice of power that is heard from within.

Hence it should be known that God is an infinite voice, and by communicating himself to the soul in this way he produces the effect of an immense voice.

11. St. John heard this voice and says in the Apocalypse that the voice he heard from heaven erat tanquam vocem aquarum et tanquam vocem tonitrui magni (was like the voice of many waters and like the voice of a great thunder) [Rv. 14:2]. So it might not be thought that because this voice was so great it was harsh and painful, he immediately adds that it was so gentle it sounded sicut citharoedorum citharizantium in citharis suis (like many harpists playing on their harps) [Rv. 14:2]. And Ezekiel says that this sound as of many waters was quasi sonum sublimis Dei (like the sound of the most high God); that is, the infinite voice was communicated in a most lofty and gentle way. For, as we said,[7] it is God himself who communicates himself by producing this voice in the soul. But he limits himself in each soul, measuring out the voice of power according to the soul's capacity, and this voice produces great delight and grandeur. As a result he said to the bride in the Song of Songs: Sonet vox tua in auribus meis, vox enim tua dulcis (Let your voice sound in my ears, for your voice is sweet) [Sg. 2:14].

The whistling of love-stirring breezes,

12. The soul refers to two things in this verse: the breezes and the whistling. By "love-stirring breezes" are understood the attributes and graces of the Beloved that by means of this union assail the soul and lovingly touch her in her substance.

This most sublime and delightful knowledge of God and his attributes, which overflows into the intellect from the touch produced in the substance of the soul by these attributes of God, is called by the soul the whistling of these breezes. Of all the delight the soul here enjoys, this delight is the most exalted.

13. To understand this better it should be noted that just as two things are felt in the breeze (the touch and the whistling or sound), so in this communication of the Bridegroom two things are experienced: knowledge and a feeling of delight. As the feeling of the breeze delights the sense of touch, and its whistling the sense of hearing, so the feeling of the Beloved's attributes are felt and enjoyed by the soul's power of touch, which is in its substance, and the knowledge of these attributes is experienced in its hearing, which is the intellect.

It should also be known that the love-stirring breeze is said to come when it wounds in a pleasant way by satisfying the appetite of the one desiring such refreshment, for the sense of touch is then filled with enjoyment and refreshment; and the hearing, at the moment of this delectable touch, experiences great pleasure and gratification in the sound and whistling of the breeze. The delight of hearing is much greater than that of feeling because the sound in the sense of hearing is more spiritual; or, better, it more closely approaches the spiritual than does feeling. Consequently, the delight of hearing is more spiritual than that of feeling.

14. Since this touch of God gives intense satisfaction and enjoyment to the substance of the soul and gently fulfills her desire for this union, she calls this union or these touches "love-stirring breezes." As we have said, the Beloved's attributes are lovingly and sweetly communicated in this breeze, and from it the intellect receives the knowledge or whistling.

She calls the knowledge a "whistling" because just as the whistling of the breeze pierces deeply into the hearing organ, so this most subtle and delicate knowledge penetrates with wonderful savoriness into the innermost part of the substance of the soul, and the delight is greater than all others.[8]

The reason for the delight is that the substance, understood and stripped of accidents and phantasms, is bestowed. For this knowledge is given to the intellect that philosophers call the passive or possible intellect, and the intellect receives it passively without any effort of its own. This knowing is the soul's main delight because it is pertinent to the intellect, and, as theologians say, fruition, the vision of God, is proper to the intellect.[9] Since this whistling refers to the substantial knowledge mentioned, some theologians think our Father Elijah saw God in the whistling of the gentle breeze heard on the mount at the mouth of his cave [1 Kgs. 19:11-13].[10] Scripture calls it "the whistling of the gentle breeze" because knowledge was begotten in his intellect from the delicate spiritual communication. The soul calls this knowledge "the whistling of love- stirring breezes" because it flows over into the intellect from the loving communication of the Beloved's attributes. As a result she calls the knowledge "the whistling of the love-stirring breezes."

15. This divine whistling, which enters through the soul's hearing, is not only the substance understood, as I have said, but also an unveiling of truths about the divinity and a revelation of God's secrets.[11] When Scripture refers to a communication of God that enters by hearing, this communication ordinarily amounts to a manifestation of these naked truths to the intellect, or a revelation of the secrets of God. These are pure spiritual revelations or visions, which are given only to the spirit without the service and help of the senses. Thus what is called the communication of God through hearing is very certain and lofty.

Accordingly, St. Paul in order to declare the height of his revelation did not say, vidit arcana verba, and still less, gustavit arcana verba, but: audivit arcana verba quae non licet homini loqui (he heard secret words that people are not permitted to utter) [2 Cor. 12:4]. It is thought that he saw God there as our Father Elijah also did in the whistling.

Since faith, as St. Paul also says [Rom. 10:17], comes though hearing, so too what faith tells us, the substance understood, comes through spiritual hearing. The prophet Job indicates this clearly in speaking with God who revealed himself: Auditu auris audivi te, nunc autem oculus meus videt te (With the hearing of the ear I heard you and now my eye sees you) [Jb. 42:5]. This passage points out clearly that to hear him with the hearing of the soul is to see him with the eye of the passive intellect. Consequently, he does not say I heard you with the hearing of my ears, but of my ear; or, I saw you with my eyes, but with my eye, which is the intellect. This hearing of the soul, therefore, is the vision of the intellect.

16. It must not be thought that, because what the soul understands is the naked substance, there is perfect and clear fruition as in heaven. Although the knowledge is stripped of accidents, it is not clear because of this, but dark, for it is contemplation, which in this life is a ray of darkness, as St. Dionysius says.[12] We can say that it is a ray and image of fruition, since it is in the intellect that fruition takes place.

This substance understood, which the soul calls "whistling," is equivalent to "the eyes I have desired," of which the soul said when they were being revealed to her, "Withdraw them, Beloved," because her senses could not endure them.

17. Because it seems to me that a passage from Job, which confirms a great deal of what I said about this rapture and betrothal, is very appropriate, I will refer to it here, even though we may be detained some more, and explain its pertinent parts. First, I will cite the entire passage in Latin, and then render it in the vernacular; afterward I will offer a brief explanation of what interests us. After this I will continue with the commentary on the verses of the other stanza.

In the Book of Job, then, Eliphaz the Temanite speaks in the following way: Porro ad me dictum est verbum absconditum et quasi furtive suscepit auris mea venas susurri ejus. In horrore visionis nocturnae, quando solet sopor occupare homines, pavor tenuit me et tremor, et omnia ossa mea perterrita sunt; et cum spiritus, me praesente, transiret, inhorruerunt pili carnis meae. Stetit quidam, cujus non agnoscebam vultum, imago coram oculis meis, et vocem quasi aurae lenis audivi (Truly a hidden word was spoken to me, and my ear as though by stealth received the veins of his whisper. In the horror of the nocturnal vision, when sleep usually occupies people, fear and trembling took hold of me and all my bones were disturbed; and as the spirit passed before me the hair of my flesh shriveled. There stood one before me whose countenance I knew not, an image before my eyes, and I heard the voice of a gentle wind) [Jb 4:12-16]. The passage contains almost everything we have said about this rapture from stanza [13] (which says, "Withdraw them, Beloved") up to this point.

18. What Eliphaz the Temanite refers to (in saying that a hidden word was spoken to him) was given to the soul when, unable to endure it, she said, "Withdraw them, Beloved."

By saying that his ear, as though by stealth, received the veins of his whisper, he refers to the naked substance received by the intellect. The veins here denote the interior substance, and the whisper signifies that communication and touch of attributes by which the substance understood is imparted to the intellect. He calls the communication a "whisper" because it is very gentle, just as the soul calls it "love-stirring breezes" because it is lovingly bestowed. He says he received it as though by stealth because just as a stolen article is not one's own, so that secret, from a natural viewpoint, is foreign to humans, for Eliphaz received what did not belong to him naturally. Thus it was unlawful for him to receive it just as it was unlawful for St. Paul to disclose the secret words he heard [2 Cor. 12:4]. Hence the other prophet twice declared: My secret for myself [Is. 24:16].

In saying that fear and trembling took hold of him in the horror of the nocturnal vision when sleep usually occupies people, he refers to the fear and trembling naturally caused in the soul by that rapturous communication, unendurable to nature, in the imparting of God's spirit. The prophet here indicates that just as people are oppressed and frightened by the vision called a nightmare that occurs when they are about to sleep (at the moment between sleeping and waking, the point at which sleep begins), so at the time of this spiritual transport, between the sleep of natural ignorance and the wakefulness of supernatural knowledge, which is the beginning of the rapture or ecstasy, the communication of a spiritual vision gives rise to this fear and trembling.

19. And he adds that all his bones were terrified or disturbed, which amounts to saying that they were shaken and dislocated. He refers here to the great disjuncture of the bones that we said they suffer at this time.13 Daniel clearly indicates this when he says on seeing the angel: Domine in visione tua dissolutae sunt compages meae (Lord, on seeing you the joints of my bones are loosed) [Dn. 10:16].

And in what Eliphaz says next, that is, "and as the spirit passed before me" (by making my spirit pass beyond its natural limits and ways through the rapture we have mentioned), "the hair of my flesh shriveled," he attests to our teaching concerning the body: that in this transport, as in death, it remains frozen, and the flesh stiff.

20. And he continues, "there stood before me one whose countenance I knew not, an image before my eyes." He who stood before him was God, who communicated himself in the manner mentioned. And he says he did not know his countenance in order to signify that in such a communication and vision, even though most sublime, the countenance and essence of God is neither known nor seen. Yet he says it was an image before his eyes, because the knowledge of the hidden word was most high, like an image and trace of God, but he is not referring to the essential vision of God.

21. Then he concludes, saying, "and I heard the voice of a gentle wind." This voice of the gentle wind refers to the whistling of love-stirring breezes, which the soul says is her Beloved.

It must not be thought that these visits are always accompanied by natural tremblings and torments; for, as we said,[14] these are found only in those who are beginning to enter the state of illumination and perfection and this kind of communication; in others, they are very gentle. The commentary continues:

the tranquil night

22. In this spiritual sleep in the bosom of the Beloved, the soul possesses and relishes all the tranquility, rest, and quietude of the peaceful night; and she receives in God, together with this peace, a fathomless and obscure divine knowledge. As a result she says that her Beloved is a tranquil night to her.

at the time of the rising dawn,

23. Yet she does not say that the tranquil night is equivalent to a dark night, but rather that it is like the night that has reached the time of the rising dawn. This quietude and tranquility in God is not entirely obscure to the soul as is a dark night; but it is a tranquility and quietude in divine light, in the new knowledge of God, in which the spirit elevated to the divine light is in quiet.

She very appropriately calls this divine light "the rising dawn," which means the morning. Just as the rise of morning dispels the darkness of night and unveils the light of day, so this spirit, quieted and put to rest in God, is elevated from the darkness of natural knowledge to the morning light of the supernatural knowledge of God.[15] This morning light is not clear, as was said, but dark as night at the time of the rising dawn. Just as the night at the rise of dawn is not entirely night or entirely day, but is, as they say, at the break of day, so this divine solitude and tranquility, informed by the divine light, has some share in that light, but not its complete clarity.

24. In this tranquility the intellect is aware of being elevated to the divine light in a strangely new way above all natural understanding, just as after a long sleep one opens one's eyes to the unexpected light.

I think David was referring to this knowledge when he said: Vigilavi et factus sum sicut passer solitarius in tecto (I have kept watch and am become like a solitary sparrow on the housetop) [Ps. 102:7]. This was like saying: I opened the eyes of my intellect and found myself above all natural knowledge, without this knowledge, and alone on the housetop, which is above all low things.[16]

He says he became like the solitary sparrow because in this contemplation the spirit has the traits of a solitary sparrow. There are five of these traits:

First, the sparrow ordinarily perches on the highest things. And so the spirit at this stage is placed in the highest contemplation.

Second, it always turns its beak toward the wind. Thus the spirit ever turns the beak of its affection toward the Spirit of Love, who is God.

Third, it is usually alone and allows no other bird close to it; when another perches nearby, it flies away. Thus the spirit in this contemplation is alone in regard to all things, stripped of them all, nor does it allow within itself anything other than solitude in God.

The fourth trait is that it sings very sweetly. And so does the spirit sing sweetly to God at this time, for the praises it renders him are of the most delightful love, pleasant to the soul and precious in God's eyes.

The fifth is that it possesses no definite color. So neither does the perfect spirit, in this excess, have any color of sensible affection or self-love; it does not even have any particular consideration in either its lower or higher part, nor will it be able to describe the mode or manner of this excess, for what it possesses is an abyss of the knowledge of God.

silent music,

25. In that nocturnal tranquility and silence and in knowledge of the divine light the soul becomes aware of Wisdom's wonderful harmony and sequence in the variety of her creatures and works. Each of them is endowed with a certain likeness of God and in its own way gives voice to what God is in it. So creatures will be for the soul a harmonious symphony of sublime music surpassing all concerts and melodies of the world. She calls this music "silent" because it is tranquil and quiet knowledge, without the sound of voices. And thus there is in it the sweetness of music and the quietude of silence. Accordingly, she says that her Beloved is silent music because in him she knows and enjoys this symphony of spiritual music. Not only is he silent music, but he is also

Sounding solitude,

26. This is almost identical with silent music, for even though that music is silent to the natural senses and faculties, it is sounding solitude for the spiritual faculties. When these spiritual faculties are alone and empty of all natural forms and apprehensions, they can receive in a most sonorous way the spiritual sound of the excellence of God, in himself and in his creatures. We said above[17] that St. John speaks of this spiritual vision in the Apocalypse, that is: the voice of many harpists playing on their harps [Rv. 14:2]. This vision was spiritual and had nothing to do with material harps. It involved a knowledge of the praises that the blessed, each in an individual degree of glory, give continually to God. This praise is like music, for as each one possesses God's gifts differently, each one sings God's praises differently, and all of them together form a symphony of love, as of music.

27. In this same way the soul perceives in that tranquil wisdom that all creatures, higher and lower ones alike, according to what each in itself has received from God, raise their voice in testimony to what God is. She beholds that each in its own way, bearing God within itself according to its capacity, magnifies God. And thus all these voices form one voice of music praising the grandeur, wisdom, and wonderful knowledge of God.

This is the meaning of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Wisdom when he said: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis (The Spirit of the Lord filled the whole earth, and this world, which contains all things, has knowledge of the voice) [Wis. 1:7]. This voice is the sounding solitude the soul knows here; that is, the testimony to God that, in themselves, all things give.

Since the soul does not receive this sonorous music without solitude and estrangement from all exterior things, she calls it "silent music" and "sounding solitude," which she says is her Beloved. And what is more:

The supper that refreshes, and deepens love.

28. Supper affords lovers refreshment, satisfaction, and love. Since in this gentle communication the Beloved produces these three benefits in the soul, she calls it "the supper that refreshes, and deepens love."

It should be known that in divine Scripture this term "supper" refers to the divine vision [Rv. 3:20-21]. Just as supper comes at the end of a day's work and the beginning of evening rest, this tranquil knowledge causes the soul to experience a certain end of her evils and the possession of good things in which her love of God is deepened more than before. As a result, he is the supper that refreshes by being the end of evils for her, and deepens love by being to her the possession of all goods.

29. Yet for a better understanding of what this supper is to the soul it is, as we said, her Beloved we should note in this appropriate place what the beloved Bridegroom says in the Apocalypse: I stand at the door and knock; if anyone opens, I shall enter and we shall sup together [Rv. 3:20]. In this text he indicates that he carries his supper with him, and it is nothing but his very own delights and savors that he himself enjoys. In uniting himself with the soul he imparts them, and she likewise enjoys them. For such is the meaning of the words, "we shall sup together." Hence these words declare the effect of the divine union of the soul with God, in which God's very own goods are graciously and bounteously shared in common with his bride, the soul. He himself is for her the supper that refreshes and deepens love, for in being bounteous he refreshes her, and in being gracious he deepens love in her.

30. Before continuing with the commentary on the remaining stanzas, we ought to point out here that even though we have said that in this state of betrothal the soul enjoys complete tranquility and receives the most abundant communication possible in this life, it should be understood that this tranquility refers only to the superior part. Until the state of spiritual marriage the sensory part never completely loses the dross left from bad habits or brings all its energies into subjection, as will be said later. The communication being referred to is the most abundant possible in the state of betrothal. In spiritual marriage there are striking advantages over this state of betrothal, for although the bride, the soul, enjoys so much good in these visits of the state of betrothal, she still suffers from her Beloved's withdrawal and from disturbances and afflictions in her sensory part and from the devil; all of these cease in the state of marriage.[18]
 

 
   
 
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