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OF THE SOVEREIGN DEGREE OF UNION BY SUSPENSION AND RAVISHMENT.
Whether, therefore, the union of our soul with God be made perceptibly or imperceptibly, God is always the author thereof; for none can be united to him, but by going unto him, nor can any one go unto him, unless he be drawn by him, as the heavenly 290lover testifies, saying: No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.327327John vi. 44. Which his holy spouse also protests, saying: Draw me; we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments.328328Cant. i. 3.
Now the perfection of this union consists in two points; in being pure, and in being strong. May I not approach a person to speak to him, to see him better, to obtain something of him, to smell the perfumes which are about him, to lean on him? And then I certainly go towards him and join myself unto him: yet the approach and union is not my principal intention, and I only make this a means and way to the obtaining of another thing. But if I approach and join myself to him for no other end than to be near him, and to enjoy this proximity and union, it is then an approach of pure and simple union.
Thus many approach our Saviour: some to hear him as Magdalen; some to be cured by him, as she that had the issue of blood; others to adore him, as the three kings; others to serve him, as Martha; others to overcome their unbelief, as S. Thomas; others to embalm him, as Magdalen, Joseph, Nicodemus; but his divine Sulamitess seeks him to find him, and having found him, desires no other thing than to hold him fast, and holding him, never to quit him. I held him, says she, and will not let him go.329329Cant. iii. 4. Jacob, says S. Bernard, having fast hold of God, will let him go, provided he receive his benediction; but the Sulamitess will not let him depart for all the benedictions he can give her; for she wills not the benedictions of God, but the God of benedictions, saying with David: What have I in heaven, and besides thee what do I desire upon earth? Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.330330Ps. lxxii. 25, 26.
Thus was the glorious Mother at the foot of her Son's cross. Ah! what dost thou seek, O Mother of life, on this mount of Calvary, in this place of death? I am seeking, would she have said, my child, who is the life of my life. And why dost thou seek him? To be close by him. But now he is amidst the sorrows of death. Ah! it is not joy I seek, it is himself, and my 291heart, full of love, makes me seek alway to be united to that amiable child, my tenderly beloved one. In a word, the intention of the soul in this union is nothing, save to be with her lover.
But when the union of the soul with God is most specially strict and close, it is called by theologians inhesion or adhesion, because by it the soul is caught up, fastened, glued and affixed to the divine majesty, so that she cannot easily loose or draw herself back again. Regard, I pray you, that man caught and pressed by attention to the delight of an harmonious music, or mayhap (which is extravagant) to the folly of a game at cards: you would draw him from it, but cannot; what business soever is waiting for him at home, there is no forcing him thence; even meat and drink are forgotten for it. O God! Theotimus, how much more ought the soul which is in love with its God to be held and fast locked, being united to the divinity of the infinite sweetness, and taken and wholly possessed by this object of incomparable perfections? Such was the soul of the great vessel of election who cried out: That I may live to God, with Christ I am nailed to the Cross:331331Gal. ii. 19. and he protests that nothing, no not death itself can separate him from his master. This effect of love was also produced between David and Jonathan, for it is said that: The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David.3323321 Kings xviii. 1 And it is an axiom celebrated amongst the ancient Fathers, that friendship which can end was never true friendship, as I have said elsewhere.
See, I beseech you, Theotimus, this little child cleaving to the breast and neck of his mother; if one offer to take him thence to lay him in his cradle, it being high time, he struggles and disputes as far as he is able, in order not to leave that beloved bosom, and if he is made to let go with one hand, with the other he grapples, and if he is carried quite off, he falls a weeping; and keeping his heart and his eyes where he cannot keep his body, he continues crying out for his dear mother, till by rocking he is brought to sleep. So the soul who by the exercise of union has come as far as to be taken and fastened to the divine goodness, 292can hardly be drawn from it save by force and with much pain. It is not possible to make her loose hold; if one divert her imagination she ceases not to keep hold by her understanding, and if one loose her understanding she cleaves by the will; or if by some violent distraction one make her abandon it with her will, she turns back every instant towards her dear object, from which she cannot be entirely untied, but, striving all she can to link together again the sweet bonds of her union with him by the frequent returns which she makes, as by stealth, she experiences S. Paul's distress:333333Phil. i. 23. for she is pressed with two desires; to be freed from all exterior employment in order to remain with Jesus Christ in her interior, and yet to proceed to the work of obedience which the very union with Jesus Christ teaches her to be necessary.
Now the Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa says excellently, that when union arrives at this perfection of keeping us held by and fastened to our Saviour, it is not distinguished from a rapture, trance, or suspension of the spirit; but that it is called only union, trance or suspension, when it is short; and when it is long, ecstasy or rapture, because the soul which is so firmly and closely united to her God that she cannot easily be drawn from him, is actually no longer in herself but in God; as a crucified body belongs not to itself but to the cross, and as ivy which grasps a wall, is no longer its own, but of the wall.
But to avoid all ambiguity, know, Theotimus, that charity is a bond, and a bond of perfection;334334Col. iii. 14. and he that has more charity is more closely united and fastened unto God. But we have not been speaking of that union which is permanent in us by manner of habit, whether we be sleeping or waking, but of the union made by action, and which is one of the exercises of love and charity. Imagine then that S. Paul, S. Denis, S. Augustine, S. Bernard, S. Francis, SS. Catharine of Genoa and Siena, are again in this world, and have fallen asleep, wearied with their many labours, undertaken for the love of God. Represent to yourself on the other side some good soul, yet not so holy as they are, who is in the prayer of union at the same time: I ask you, Theotimus, 293who is more united, clasped and fastened to God,—is it these great saints who sleep, or that soul who prays? Without doubt, these admirable lovers; for they have more charity, and their affections, though in some sort asleep, are so engaged and tied to their master that they cannot be separated from him. But, you will say to me, how can it be, that a soul in the prayer of union, even unto ecstasy, should be less united unto God than such as sleep, be they never so saintly? Mark what I tell you, Theotimus; that soul is more advanced in the exercise of union, those in the union itself: these are united, they are not being united, as they are asleep: and that one is being united, that is, she is in the actual practice and exercise of union.
For the rest, this exercise of union with God may even be practised by short and passing, yet frequent, movements of our heart to God, by way of ejaculatory prayer made for this intention. Ah Jesus! Who will give me the grace to be one spirit with thee! At last, Lord, rejecting the multiplicity of creatures, I desire thine only unity! O God, thou art the only one and only unity necessary for my soul! Alas! dear love of my heart, unite my poor one soul, to thy one singular goodness! Ah! thou art wholly mine, when shall I be wholly thine? The adamant draws and unites iron unto it; O Lord, my lover, be my draw-heart, clasp, press and unite my heart for ever unto thy fatherly breast! Ah! since I am made for thee, why am I not in thee? Swallow up, as a single drop, this spirit which thou hast bestowed upon me, into the sea of thy goodness from whence it proceeds. Ah Lord! seeing that thy heart loves me, why does it not force me to itself, since I truly will it? Draw me, and I will run after thy drawings, to cast myself into thy fatherly arms, to leave them no more for ever and ever. Amen.
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