"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."

St Philip Neri

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God."

St Philip Neri

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 St John of the Cross   (1542 - 1591)

 

THE SPIRITUAL CANTICLE (cont)

 

by St John of the Cross

 

Stanza 40


No one looked at her,
nor did Aminadab appear;
the siege was still;
and the cavalry,
at the sight of the waters, descended.

Introduction and Commentary

1. The bride knows that now her will's desire is detached from all things and attached to her God in most intimate love; that the sensory part of her soul, with all its strengths, faculties, and appetites, is in harmony with the spirit, and its rebelliousness brought into subjection; that the devil is now conquered and far withdrawn as a result of her varied and prolonged spiritual activity and combat; that her soul is united and transformed with an abundance of heavenly riches and gifts; and that consequently she is now well prepared, disposed, and strong, leaning on her Beloved, so as to come up from the desert of death, flowing with delights, to the glorious thrones of her Bridegroom [Sg. 8:5]. Desiring the Bridegroom to conclude this matter now, she sets all these facts before him in this last stanza in order to urge him the more to do so. In this stanza she mentions five blessings:1

First, her soul is detached and withdrawn from all things.

Second, the devil is conquered and put to flight.

Third, the passions are subjected and the natural appetites mortified.

Fourth and fifth, the sensory and lower part is reformed, purified, and brought into conformity with the spiritual part. The sensory part not only offers no obstacle to the reception of these spiritual blessings but is even accommodated to them, since it participates according to its capacity in the goods the soul now possesses. She thus says:

No one looked at her,

2. This is like saying: My soul is now divested, detached, alone, and withdrawn from all created things, both from those above and from those below; and it has entered so deeply into interior recollection with you that none of them can discern the intimate delight I now possess in you; that is, these creatures cannot move my soul to relish their sweetness or become displeased and disturbed by their misery and lowness. Since my soul stays so far from them and abides in such profound delight with you, none of them can get a view of me. Not this alone, but:

nor did Aminadab appear;

3. In Sacred Scripture [Sg. 6:11], speaking spiritually, Aminadab signifies the devil, the soul's adversary. He continually disturbed and waged war against her with the countless ammunition of his artillery to prevent her entry into this fort and hiding place of interior recollection with the Bridegroom. But in this place where she now dwells, she is so favored, strong, and victorious with the virtues, and with God's embrace, that the devil dares not come, but with immense fear flees and does not dare appear. Also, because of the practice of virtue and the state of perfection, the soul has so conquered and routed him that he no longer appears before her. And thus Aminadab did not appear with any right to hinder this blessing I aim after.

the siege was still;

4. By "the siege" the soul means the passions and appetites. When these passions and appetites are not conquered and calmed, they surround and fight against her on all sides, and for this reason she calls them a siege. She says "the siege is now still," that is, the passions are put in order according to reason and the appetites mortified. She asks God not to fail to communicate his favors to her since the siege is no longer capable of impeding them. She says this because she is incapable of the vision of God until her four passions are directed to him and her appetites mortified and purged. And the stanza continues:

and the cavalry,
at the sight of the waters, descended.

5. "The waters" refers here to the spiritual goods and delights that the soul enjoys inwardly with God in this state. "The cavalry" signifies the bodily senses, interior as well as exterior, because they bear the phantasms and figures of their objects.

The bride declares that in this state the cavalry descended at the sight of the spiritual waters because in this state of spiritual marriage the sensory and lower part of the soul is so purified and spiritualized that it recollects the sensory faculties and natural strength, and they thereby share in and enjoy in their own fashion the spiritual grandeurs that God is communicating in the inwardness of the spirit. David described this when he said: My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God [Ps. 84:2].

6. It should be noted that the bride does not state that the cavalry descended to taste the waters, but that it descended at the sight of the waters. For this sensory part with its faculties has no capacity in this life, nor even in the next, for the essential and proper taste of spiritual goods. It can, though, through a certain spiritual overflow, receive sensible refreshment and delight from them. This delight attracts the corporeal senses and faculties to the inner recollection where the soul drinks the waters of spiritual goods, and so they descend at the sight of the waters rather than drink and taste them as they are.

The soul declares that they descended - she does not say "they went," or use some other word - in order to point out that in this share that the sensory part has in the spiritual communication, when the soul takes this drink of spiritual goods, the senses discontinue their natural operations and go down from them to spiritual recollection.

7. The bride sets all this perfection and preparedness before her Beloved, the Son of God, with the desire that he transfer her from the spiritual marriage, to which he desired to bring her in this Church Militant, to the glorious marriage of the Triumphant. May the most sweet Jesus, Bridegroom of faithful souls, be pleased to bring all who invoke his name to this marriage. To him be honor and glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
 

 

The End

   
 
   
   
   
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