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§ 1. Mystical union with God.

IT is a great thing, an exceeding great thing, in the time of this exile, to be joined to God in the divine light by a mystical and denuded union. This takes place when a pure, humble, and resigned soul, burning with ardent charity, is carried above itself by the grace of God, and through the brilliancy of the divine light .shining on the mind, it loses all consideration and distinction of things and lays aside all, even the most excellent images; and all liquefied by love, and, as it were, reduced to nothing, it melts away into God. It is then united to God without any medium, and be comes one spirit with Him, and is transformed and changed into Him, as iron placed in the fire is changed into fire, without ceasing to be iron. It becomes one with God, yet not so as to be of the same substance and nature as God. Here the soul reposes, and ceases from its own action; and sweetly experiencing the operation of God, it abounds with ineffable peace and joy. Here it tastes such delight, that heaven and earth and all that is in them seem by the greatness of the consolation to melt away, and to be reduced to 186nothing. For, being raised above the operation of its natural powers, it reaches its silent and tranquil essence; where is simplicity and unity, and where God inhabits; and having found the Eternal Truth, it possesses inexhaustible riches. That soul is verily happy, which being lifted above all created things, and above its own action, is stripped in the faculty of memory of all images and feels its own simplicity: in the faculty of intellect it perceives the surpassing illumination of the Sun of justice, and learns divine truth; and in the faculty of love it feels a certain glow of quiet love, or contact of the Holy Spirit, like a living fountain, flowing with streams of eternal sweetness; and thus it is introduced into sublime union with God.

The soul, therefore, having entered the vast solitude of the Godhead, happily loses itself; and enlightened by the brightness of most lucid darkness, becomes through knowledge as if without knowledge, and dwells in a sort of wise ignorance. And although it knows not what God is, to whom it is united by pure charity, although it sees not God as He is in His glory; it yet learns by experience that He infinitely transcends all sensible things, and all that can be written, spoken, or apprehended by the human intellect concerning Him. It feels that to pass out into God without images, is far different from beholding God in noble or divine images and similitudes. It knows God by this intimate embrace and contact better than the eyes of the body know the visible sun. This soul well knows what true contemplation is: for 187its sight being directed to the region of ineffable light, and there fixed, it happily discerns how small and in significant, and almost nothing, is every creature, compared with the most High and boundless God.

But all servants of God are not in this world rapt above themselves, all do not thus reach the hidden, simple, naked, God-like depths of the soul; all are not admitted to that mystical and surpassing union with God, to which no one can attain by his own labour and endeavours, unless he be assisted by the special grace of God. But those who are admitted to it, ought to resume their own action, and holy images, and good works and exercises, as soon as that glorious operation of God in them ceases; they must remain humble, and persevere in their desire of progress, and so conduct themselves as if they were now first beginning to lead a good life. For during this life no one penetrates so far and deep into God, as that he may not at any moment penetrate farther and deeper; and something will always remain in him which is not yet sufficiently mortified. Supposing that he is no longer moved by the sight of mortal creatures; still it is necessary to be vigilant and to watch over himself diligently until death. King David was assuredly a man after God’s heart, who in his youth feeding the flocks of sheep had received the grace of sublime contemplation, yet after wonderful and prophetic illuminations (for God had made manifest- to him the uncertain and hidden things of His wisdom) (Psal. l. 8), after frequently tasting the divine sweetness, after mystical transformations, and loving and 188ardent and ecstatic unions with God, he fell in his old age into most grievous sins, namely, adultery and murder.

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