1. The soul at the beginning of this song has grown aware of her obligations and observed that life is short
[Jb. 14:5], the path leading to eternal life constricted [Mt. 7:14], the just one scarcely saved [1 Pt. 4:18], the
things of the world vain and deceitful [Eccl. 1:2], that all comes to an end and fails like falling water [2 Sam.
14:14], and that the time is uncertain, the accounting strict, perdition very easy, and salvation very difficult.
She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for himself,
and that for this she owes him the service of her whole life; and because he redeemed her solely for himself
she owes him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has
been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished, that
she must render an account of everything - of the beginning of her life as well as the later part - unto the
last penny [Mt. 5:26], when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles [Zeph. 1:12], and that it is
already late - and the day far spent [Lk. 24:29] - to remedy so much evil and harm. She feels on the other
hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget him so in the midst of creatures. Touched
with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside
all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded
now with love for God, she begins to call her Beloved and say:
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
2. In this first stanza the soul, enamored of the Word, her Bridegroom, the Son of God, longs for union with
him through clear and essential vision. She records her longings of love and complains to him of his
absence, especially since his love wounds her. Through this love she went out from all creatures and from
herself, and yet she must suffer her Beloved's absence, for she is not freed from mortal flesh as the
enjoyment of him in the glory of eternity requires.1 Accordingly she says:
Where have you hidden?
3. This is like saying: O Word, my Spouse, show me where you are hidden. In her petition she seeks the
manifestation of his divine essence, because the hiding place of the Word of God is, as St. John asserts
[Jn. 1:18], the bosom of the Father, that is, the divine essence, which is alien to every mortal eye and
hidden from every human intellect. Isaiah proclaimed in speaking to God: Indeed, you are a hidden God [Is.
It is noteworthy that, however elevated God's communications and the experiences of his presence are, and
however sublime a person's knowledge of him may be, these are not God essentially, nor are they
comparable to him because, indeed, he is still hidden to the soul. Hence, regardless of all these lofty
experiences, a person should think of him as hidden and seek him as one who is hidden, saying: "Where
have You hidden?"
Neither the sublime communication nor the sensible awareness of his nearness is a sure testimony of his
gracious presence, nor are dryness and the lack of these a reflection of his absence. As a result, the
prophet Job exclaims: If he comes to me I shall not see him, and if he goes away I shall not understand [Jb.
4. It must be understood that if a person experiences some elevated spiritual communication or feeling or
knowledge, it should not be thought that the experiences are similar to the clear and essential vision or
possession of God, or that the communication, no matter how remarkable it is, signifies a more notable
possession of God or union with him. It should be known too that if all these sensible and spiritual
communications are wanting and individuals live in dryness, darkness, and dereliction, they must not thereby
think that God is any more absent than in the former case. People, actually, cannot have certain knowledge
from the one state that they are in God's grace or from the other that they are not. As the Wise Man says,
We do not know if we are worthy of love or abhorrence before God [Eccl. 9:1].
The soul's chief aim in this verse is not to ask for sensible devotion, in which there is neither certain nor
clear possession of the Bridegroom in this life, but for the manifest presence and vision of his divine
essence, in which she desires to be secure and satisfied in the next life.
5. The bride of the divine Song of Songs had this very idea when, longing for union with the divinity of the
Word, her Bridegroom, she asked the Father: Show me where you pasture and where you rest at midday
[Sg. 1:7]. In requesting him to disclose his place of pasture, she wanted him to reveal the essence of the
divine Word, his Son. For the Father does not pasture anywhere else than in his only Son, for the Son is the
glory of the Father. And in begging that he show her his place of rest, she was asking to see that same
Son. The Son is the only delight of the Father, who rests nowhere else nor is present in any other than in
his beloved Son. He rests wholly in his Son, communicating to him his essence at midday, which is eternity,
where he ever begets him and has begotten him.
When the soul, the bride, cries: "Where have you hidden?" she seeks this pasture, the Word, her
Bridegroom, where the Father feeds in infinite glory, and she seeks the flowering bosom where he rests with
infinite delight of love, deeply hidden from every mortal eye and every creature.
6. So this thirsting soul might find her Bridegroom and be united with him in this life through union of love
insofar as possible, so she might slake her thirst with the drop of him that can be received in this life, it
would be well for us to answer for her Bridegroom since she asks him, and point out the place where he is
most surely hidden. She may then surely find him there with the perfection and delight possible in this life,
and thus not wander in vain after the footprints of her companions [Sg. 1:7].
It should be known that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden by
his essence and his presence in the innermost being of the soul. Individuals who want to find him should
leave all things through affection and will, enter within themselves in deepest recollection, and let all things
be as though not. St. Augustine, addressing God in the Soliloquies, said: I did not find you without, Lord,
because I wrongly sought you without, who were within.2 God, then, is hidden in the soul, and there the
good contemplative must seek him with love, exclaiming: "Where have you hidden?"
7. Oh, then, soul, most beautiful among all creatures, so anxious to know the dwelling place of your Beloved
so you may go in search of him and be united with him, now we are telling you that you yourself are his
dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place. There is reason for you to be elated and joyful in
seeing that all your good and hope is so close as to be within you, or better, that you cannot be without him.
Behold, exclaims the Bridegroom, the kingdom of God is within you [Lk. 17:21]. And his servant, the apostle
St. Paul, declares: You are the temple of God [2 Cor. 6:16].
8. It brings special happiness to a person to understand that God is never absent, not even from a soul in
mortal sin (and how much less from one in the state of grace).
What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess
your riches, delights, satisfaction, fullness, and kingdom - your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be
joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with him, for you have him so close to you. Desire him
there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and
wearied thereby, and you shall not find him, or enjoy him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than
by seeking him within you. There is but one difficulty: Even though he does abide within you, he is hidden.
Nevertheless, it is vital for you to know his hiding place so you may search for him there with assuredness.
And this, soul, is also what you ask, when with the affection of love you question: "Where have you
9. Yet you inquire: Since he whom my soul loves is within me, why don't I find him or experience him? The
reason is that he remains concealed and you do not also conceal yourself in order to find and experience
him. If you want to find a hidden treasure you must enter the hiding place secretly, and once you have
discovered it, you will also be hidden just as the treasure is hidden. Since, then, your beloved Bridegroom is
the treasure hidden in a field for which the wise merchant sold all his possessions [Mt. 13:44], and that field
is your soul, in order to find him you should forget all your possessions and all creatures and hide in the
secret inner room of your spirit and there, closing the door behind you (your will to all things), you should
pray to your Father in secret [Mt. 6:6]. Remaining hidden with him, you will experience him in hiding, that is,
in a way transcending all language and feeling.
10. Come, then, O beautiful soul! Since you know now that your desired Beloved lives hidden within your
heart, strive to be really hidden with him, and you will embrace him within you and experience him with
loving affection. Note that through Isaiah he calls you to this hiding place: Come, enter into your inner
rooms, shut the door behind you (your faculties to all creatures), hide yourself a little, even for a moment [Is.
26:20], for this moment of life on earth. If, O soul, in this short space of time you keep diligent watch over
your heart, as the Wise Man advises [Prv. 4:23], God will undoubtedly give you what he also promises
further on through Isaiah: I will give you hidden treasures and reveal to you the substance and mysteries of
the secrets [Is. 45:3]. The substance of the secrets is God himself, for God is the substance and concept of
faith, and faith is the secret and the mystery. And when that which faith covers and hides from us is
revealed - that which is perfect concerning God, spoken of by St. Paul [1 Cor. 13:10] - then the substance
and mysteries of the secrets will be uncovered to the soul.
However much the soul hides herself, she will never in this mortal life attain to so perfect a knowledge of
these mysteries as she will possess in the next. Nevertheless, if like Moses she hides herself in the cavern
of the rock (in real imitation of the perfect life of the Son of God, her Bridegroom), she will merit that, while
he protects her with his right hand, God will show her his shoulders [Ex. 33:22-23], that is, he will bring her
to the high perfection of union with the Son of God, her Bridegroom, and transformation in him through love.
In this union she experiences such closeness to him and is so instructed and wise in his mysteries that, as
for knowing him in this life, she has no need to say, "Where have you hidden?"
11. You have been told, O soul, of the conduct you should observe if you want to find the Bridegroom in
your hiding place. Still, if you want to hear this again, listen to a word abounding in substance and
inaccessible truth: Seek him in faith and love, without desiring to find satisfaction in anything, or delight, or
desiring to understand anything other than what you ought to know. Faith and love are like the blind
person's guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden. Faith,
the secret we mentioned,3 is comparable to the feet by which one journeys to God, and love is like one's
guide. In dealing with these mysteries and secrets of faith, the soul will merit through love the discovery of
the content of faith, that is, the Bridegroom whom she desires to possess in this life through the special
grace of divine union with God, as we said,4 and in the next life through the essential glory, by which she
will rejoice in him not in a hidden way, but face to face [1 Cor. 13:12].
In the meantime, even though the soul reaches union in this life (the highest state attainable here below),
she always exclaims; "Where have You hidden?" For even in the state of union he is still hidden from her, in
the bosom of the Father, as we said,5 which is how she wants to enjoy him in the next life.
12. You do very well, O soul, to seek him ever as one hidden, for you exalt God and approach very near
him when you consider him higher and deeper than anything you can reach. Hence pay no attention, neither
partially nor entirely, to anything your faculties can grasp. I mean that you should never seek satisfaction in
what you understand about God, but in what you do not understand about him. Never pause to love and
delight in your understanding and experience of God, but love and delight in what you cannot understand or
experience of him. Such is the way, as we said,6 of seeking him in faith. However surely it may seem that
you find, experience, and understand God, because he is inaccessible and concealed you must always
regard him as hidden, and serve him who is hidden in a secret way. Do not be like the many foolish ones
who, in their lowly understanding of God, think that when they do not understand, taste, or experience him,
he is far away and utterly concealed. The contrary belief would be truer. The less distinct is their
understanding of him, the closer they approach him, since in the words of the prophet David, he made
darkness his hiding place [Ps. 18:11]. Thus in drawing near him you will experience darkness because of
the weakness of your eye.
You do well, then, at all times, in both adversity and prosperity, whether spiritual or temporal, to consider
God as hidden, and call after him thus:
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
13. She calls him "Beloved" to move him more to answer her prayer. When God is loved he very readily
answers the requests of his lover. This he teaches through St. John: If you abide in me, ask whatever you
want and it shall be done unto you [Jn. 15:7]. You can truthfully call God Beloved when you are wholly with
him, do not allow your heart attachment to anything outside of him, and thereby ordinarily center your mind
on him. This is why Delilah asked Samson how he could say he loved her, since his spirit was not with her
[Jgs. 16:15], and this spirit includes the mind and the affection.
Some call the Bridegroom beloved when he is not really their beloved because their heart is not wholly set
on him. As a result their petition is not of much value in his sight. They do not obtain their request until they
keep their spirit more continually with God through perseverance in prayer, and their heart with its
affectionate love more entirely set on him. Nothing is obtained from God except by love.
14. It is noteworthy of her next remark, "and left me moaning," that the absence of the Beloved causes
continual moaning in the lover. Since she loves nothing outside of him, she finds no rest or relief in
anything. This is how we recognize persons who truly love God: if they are content with nothing less than
God. But what am I saying, if they are content? Even if they possess everything they will not be content; in
fact the more they have, the less satisfied they will be. Satisfaction of heart is not found in the possession of
things, but in being stripped of them all and in poverty of spirit. Since perfection consists in this poverty of
spirit, in which God is possessed by a very intimate and special grace, the soul, having attained it, lives in
this life with some satisfaction, although not complete. For David, in spite of all his perfection, hoped to have
this fullness in heaven, saying: When your glory appears, I shall be filled [Ps. 17:15].
As a result, the peace, tranquility, and satisfaction of heart attainable in this life is insufficient to prevent the
soul from moaning within itself - although this moan may be tranquil and painless - hoping for what it
lacks.7 Moaning is connected with hope, and the Apostle affirmed that he and others moaned even though
they were perfect: We ourselves who have the first fruits of the spirit moan within ourselves, hoping for the
adoption of the children of God [Rom. 8:23].
The soul, then, bears this moan within herself, in her enamored heart. For there where love wounds is the
moan rising from the wound, and it ever cries out in the feeling of his absence; especially when the soul,
after the taste of some sweet and delightful communication of the Bridegroom, suffers his absence and is
left alone and dry. She thus says:
You fled like the stag
15. It is noteworthy that in the Song of Songs the bride compares the Bridegroom to the stag and the
mountain goat: My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag [Sg. 2:9]. She makes this comparison not only
because he is withdrawn and solitary and flees from companions like the stag, but also because of the
swiftness with which he shows and then hides himself. He usually visits devout souls in order to gladden
and liven them, and then leaves in order to try, humble, and teach them. Because of his visits his
withdrawals are felt with keener sorrow, as is evident in the following verse: After wounding me;
16. This is like saying: The pain and sorrow I ordinarily suffer in your absence was not enough for me, but
having inflicted on me a deeper wound of love with your arrow, and increasing my desire to see you, you
flee as swiftly as the stag and do not let yourself be captured even for a moment.
17. In further explanation of this verse, it should be known that be-sides the many other different kinds of
visits God grants to the soul, in which he wounds and raises it up in love, he usually bestows some secret
touches of love that pierce and wound it like fiery arrows, leaving it wholly cauterized by the fire of love. And
these wounds, mentioned here, are properly called wounds of love.8 They so inflame the will in its affection
that it burns up in this flame and fire of love. So intense is this burning that the soul is seemingly consumed
in that flame, and the fire makes it go out of itself, wholly renews it, and changes its manner of being, as in
the case of the phoenix that burns itself in the fire and rises anew from the ashes. David said in this regard:
My heart was inflamed and my reins have been changed, and I was brought to nothing, and I knew not [Ps.
18. The appetites and affections, which the prophet refers to as reins, are all changed to divine ones in that
inflammation of the heart, and the soul, through love, is brought to nothing, knowing nothing save love. The
change of these reins at this time is accompanied by a kind of immense torment and yearning to see God.
So extreme is this torment that love seems to be unbearably rigorous with the soul, not because it has
wounded her - she rather considers these wounds to be favorable to her health - but because it left her
thus suffering with love, and did not slay her for the sake of her seeing and being united with him in the life
of perfect love. In stressing or declaring her sorrow, she says, "After wounding me," that is, leaving me thus
wounded, thus dying with wounds of love for you, you have hidden as swiftly as the stag.
19. This feeling is so strong because in the love-wound that God produces in the soul, the affection of the
will rises with sudden rapidity toward the possession of the Beloved, whose touch was felt. Just as quickly,
she feels his absence and the impossibility of possessing him here as she wants. And together with this
feeling, she then experiences "moaning" over his absence. These visits are not like others in which God
refreshes and satisfies the soul. He bestows these to wound more than heal and afflict more than satisfy,
since they serve to quicken the knowledge and increase the appetite (consequently the sorrow and longing)
to see God.
These are termed spiritual wounds of love and are very delightful and desirable. The soul would desire to be
ever dying a thousand deaths from these thrusts of the lance, for they make her go out of herself and enter
into God. She explains this in the following verse:
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
20. No medicine can be gotten for these wounds of love except from the One who causes them. Thus the
wounded soul, strengthened from the fire caused by the wound, went out after her Beloved who wounded
her, calling for him that he might heal her.
This spiritual departure, it should be pointed out, refers to the two ways of going after God: one consists of a
departure from all things, effected through an abhorrence and contempt for them; the other of going out from
oneself through self-forgetfulness, which is achieved by the love of God. When the love of God really
touches the soul, as we are saying, it so raises her up that it not only impels her to go out from self in this
forgetfulness, but even draws her away from her natural supports, manners, and inclinations, thus inducing
her to call after God.
Accordingly, this verse is like saying: My Spouse, in that touch and wound of your love you have not only
drawn my soul away from all things, but have also made it go out from self - indeed, it even seems that you
draw it out of the body - and you have raised it up to yourself while it was calling after you, now totally
detached so as to be attached to you.
"But you were gone."
21. This is like saying: At the time I desired to hold fast to your presence I could not find you, and the
detachment from one without attachment to the other left me suspended in air and suffering, without any
support from you or from myself.
What the soul refers to as going out in search of the Beloved, the bride of the Song of Songs calls "rising": I
will rise and seek him whom my soul loves, by going about the city, through the squares and the suburbs.
But, she adds, I did not find him, and they wounded me [Sg. 3:2; 5:6-7]. The rising of the soul, the bride, is
spiritually understood as rising from the lowly to the sublime. The same is understood of the soul's words
here, "I went out," that is, from her lowly manner and love to the sublime love of God.
Yet the bride states that she was wounded because she did not find him. And the soul also declares that
she was wounded with love and he left her thus. The loving soul lives in constant suffering at the absence
of her Beloved, for she is already surrendered to him and hopes for the reward of that surrender: the
surrender of the Beloved to her. Yet he does not do so. Now lost to herself and to all things for the sake of
her loved one, she has gained nothing from her loss, since she does not possess him.
22. The suffering and pain arising from God's absence is usually so intense in those who are nearing the
state of perfection at the time of these divine wounds that they would die if the Lord did not provide. Since
the palate of their will is healthy and their spirit is cleansed and well prepared for God, and they have been
given some of the sweetness of divine love, which they desire beyond all measure, they suffer beyond all
measure. An immense good is shown them, as through a crevice, but not granted them. Thus their pain and
torment is unspeakable.