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CHAPTER XVI

That she understood her own nothingness, and therefore would not speak about herself.—Of her great faith in God.—How willful and malicious we are in ourselves, and how necessary it is to abandon all to God.

So great was the humility of this holy soul that she saw her own nothingness most clearly, and would never speak of herself, neither well nor ill. She said:

“As to the evil, I know well that is all my own, the good I could not possibly do of myself, for nothing cannot produce something.” Nor would she speak, as is customary, of being wicked, lest her lower nature might grow confident and presume upon the knowledge of its incapacity for good: and having such an opinion of herself, instead of desiring the esteem of others, she cut away even the root of presumption, saying:

“I will never say anything about myself, either good or bad, lest I should come to esteem myself of some importance: and when I have sometimes heard myself spoken of by others, especially if I were praised, I have said inwardly: ‘If you knew what I am within, you would not speak thus.’ And then, turning to myself, I say: ‘When thou hearest thyself named, or listenest to words which perhaps may seem to praise thee, know that they are not spoken of what is thine; for the only virtue and glory thou hast belong to God, and thou hast at least in thine earthly and carnal nature no more conformity with good than has the demon; but when evil is spoken of thee, remember that all could not be said which is in reality true; thou art unworthy even to be called worthless, because to speak of thee at all lends thee a fictitious value.’”

Hence, knowing herself, all the confidence of this great soul was in God, in whom she was so grounded and established that it was hardly to be called faith, for she saw herself more secure in the hands of God, her Love, than if she were actually in possession of all the goods and felicities which it is possible to desire or to think of having in this world; and having placed all her trust in God, and given him full control of her, she covered herself under the mantle of his providential care.

She became such an enemy to herself that nothing but necessity ever caused her to speak of herself at all, and she would never do so in particular but would generally say us; and she said: “The evil nature of man is pleased with being mentioned, and the greatest blow that can be given it is never to speak of it at all, and never make it of any account; therefore do not willingly name it in any manner.” And to her own nature she said: “I know thee and rate thee as thou deservest: thou canst not advocate thy cause with me.” And if an angel had come to say a word in favor of herself, she would not have believed him, so certain was she of her own malignity.

And, having this clear knowledge of herself, she was constrained by it to accept with resignation whatever might befall either her body or her soul, so that whenever she found in herself any defect or any pain, she would say quickly: “These things are caused solely by my own evil nature, and of this I am so certain that I know not how I could produce other fruits than these which are so hateful. I never could do so if God did not assist me. But I know well, having been shown by God the imperfections and malignity of our own inclination, that we can never, except by the help of divine grace, do anything but evil. Good is as hopeless to us as to the demons, and even more so, for, unlike them, we have a body and a free-will which ally themselves to our depravity and do all the evil they can, which is more or less accordingly as God abandons us to our own control.

“But, for one who desires to approach God, it is necessary to become the enemy of his enemies; and, as I find nothing that is worse than myself, nor that is more inimical to him, I am compelled to hold myself in more aversion than anything else whatever, and will even despise myself and count it to be worthless. And, on the other hand, I will detach my spirit from all the goods of both this world and the other, which I will henceforth regard as if they had no existence. I have implored God neither to suffer me to rejoice interiorly nor to grieve over any created thing, so that I may never be seen to shed a single tear. And I have begged him to take away from me the freedom of my will, so that I may no longer do what pleases me, but only what is according to his pleasure: all these things I have obtained from his clemency.

“Now, seeing me thus determined, my self said to me: ‘Grant me, at least, the consolation of not hearing myself thus spoken of: for, whatever I am, it is necessary that I should exist in some manner. There is no creature which is not suitably provided for according to its needs, and I also am one of God’s creatures.’ Then the spirit rose up and answered: ‘Thou art indeed a creature of God, but thou art not according to God, and if thou wishest to be so thou must be first despoiled of all thou hast previously acquired, first by original sin and afterwards by the actual sins which thou hast freely multiplied, and which are more odious in the sight of God than thou couldst believe were it told thee. And when I see thee more covered with secret sins than a cat is with hairs, I know not where thou findest courage to say that thou art of God. If I were so mad as to feed thee according to thy inclinations, which are so corrupt and contrary to the purity which God requires, I should do two evil and perilous things: one is that I should never satisfy thee, and the other that thou wouldst every day grow stronger and wound me more and more acutely; and as I am myself full of evil, thou wouldst attack me secretly and in an apparently spiritual manner, and then no one but God could overcome thee. Speak to me no more of thy crafty designs, for I have determined to disregard thee.

“’Recommend thyself to God that he may aid thee, and I also will assist thee by his help. Moreover, I will pray him to consume all thy perverse inclinations and to restore thee again to that primitive innocence in which he created thee, for otherwise thou canst never be satisfied: no one can satiate thee but he who created thee and who alone knows all thy secret desires and can grant them without difficulty. Cease, then, to seek for other satisfactions, for however abundant may be thy possessions thou wilt still remain poor and in want; when once thou art justified, all will be given thee which heaven and earth can afford.

“Know then that I despise thee and would rather choose to be condemned to hell without thee, than to possess God through thy means. For a pure mind cannot suffer anything to come between itself and God, for it desires to possess him entirely and to be as pure and simple as he is himself. And this being so, how could it endure to be assisted by thee who art so hideous, and who would always glorify thyself unworthily over thy achievements? And although I know that such a thing could never be, it fills me with indignation to find that I have even imagined it or that any mind should ever conceive it possible!’

“Thus scorned, my self knew not what to answer, and never more had courage to assert itself: it no longer looked either at the body or the soul, toward heaven or toward earth; but I saw it remain always by itself with all its malicious inclinations, and had God permitted it, it would have done more evil against him than Lucifer himself. Yet, as I saw that God continually restrained it, this sight gave me no uneasiness, nor did it ever cause me any torment or suffering. Rather was the effect directly contrary, for he who loves justice is rejoiced when robbers are punished, and surely he who, being evil by nature, desires to become good by his own efforts, is a robber worthy to be punished in hell-fire.

“Hence, when I saw its malignant inclinations entirely subjected to God and by him executed and annihilated, I was greatly contented, and the more clearly I saw my own proper wickedness, so much the greater pleasure did I take in his justice. And truly, it appears to me that if I could fear anything it would be my own self—which is utterly evil; yet when I saw it in the hands of God I abandoned it to him with confidence, and never since then have I felt any fear concerning it; rather, I may say, that I never think about it and make no more account of it than if it in no way concerned me.

“I saw others weeping over their perversities and their evil desires, and forcing themselves to resist them; yet, the more they strove to remedy their defects the more often did they fall. And when any one spoke of this to me, I answered ‘You have woes and you weep over them, and I have them and I do not weep. You do evil and you lament, and I should do the same if the almighty God did not assist me. You cannot defend yourself, nor can I do so either; hence it is necessary that we should yield ourselves to him who only can deliver us from evil, and he will do for us what is wholly beyond our power. And in this way we shall find rest from this our evil self, which is always torturing itself to its own destruction: yet when it is imprisoned by God, it remains submissive and in silence.”

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