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CHAPTER XI.

OF THE PERPLEXITY OF A HEART WHICH LOVES WITHOUT KNOWING WHETHER IT PLEASES THE BELOVED.

The musician of whom I have spoken having become deaf, had no delight in his singing, save only that now and then he perceived his prince attentive to it and enjoying it. O how happy is the heart that loves God without pretence of any other pleasure than what it takes in pleasing God! For what more pure and perfect pleasure can a soul ever take than that which is taken in pleasing the Divinity? Yet this pleasure of pleasing God is not properly Divine love, but the fruit thereof; which may be separated from it as the lemon from the lemon-tree. For, as I have said, our musician always sang without reaping any contentment from his song, because his deafness made him incapable of it: and often also did he sing without having the pleasure of pleasing his prince, who, after he had given him order to begin, would 393withdraw, or go hunting, neither taking leisure nor pleasure to hear him.

While, O God, I see thy sweet face, which testifies unto me that thou art pleased in the song of my love, ah! how am I comforted. For is there any pleasure comparable to the pleasure of truly pleasing our God? But when thou turnest thine eyes from me, and I no longer perceive the sweet savour of the complacency which thou takest in my song—good God! what pangs my soul endures! But it ceases not, for all that, to love thee faithfully, or continually to sing the hymn of its dilection, not for any delight it finds therein, for it finds none at all, but for the pure love of thy will.

One may have seen a sick child bravely eat what his mother presents him (though with an incredible loathing) from the pure desire of giving her content. In this case he eats without taking any pleasure in his food, yet not without a pleasure of a higher order and value, which is the pleasure of pleasing his mother and of perceiving her content. But another who, without seeing his mother, from the mere knowledge he has of her desire, takes all that is sent him by her, eats without any pleasure at all. For he has neither the pleasure of eating, nor yet the contentment of seeing his mother pleased, but he eats purely and simply to do her will. The contentment of our prince present with us, or of any one whom we love tenderly, makes watchings, pains and labours delicious, and begets in us a love of peril: but nothing is so grievous as to serve a master who knows it not, or, if he know it, yet gives no sign that he is satisfied: love must be strong in such case, because it stands of itself, unsupported by any pleasure or any expectation.

So it comes to pass sometimes that we have no consolation in the exercises of holy love, because, like deaf singers, we hear not our own voices, nor enjoy the sweetness of our song; but on the contrary, besides this privation, are oppressed with a thousand fears, and frightened with a thousand false alarms which the enemy raises round about our heart; suggesting that perhaps we are not in grace with our master, and that our love is fruitless, yea, that it is false and vain, since it brings forth no comfort. And then, Theotimus, we labour not only without pleasure but 394with an exceeding distress, being neither able to discover the profit of our labours, nor the contentment of him for whom we labour.

But what in this case augments our trouble is that even the spirit and highest point of the reason cannot give any assuagement at all; for this poor superior portion of reason being beset round about with the suggestions of the enemy, is herself all troubled, and is fully engaged in keeping the guard, lest sin by surprise might get consent, so that she can make no sally to disengage the inferior part of her spirit, and although she has not lost heart, yet is she so desperately set at, that though she be free from fault yet is she not free from pain. Because, that her distress may be complete, she is deprived of the general consolation which ordinarily accompanies us through all the other calamities of this life, namely, the hope that they will not be of long continuance, but will have an end:—so that the heart in these spiritual distresses falls into a certain inability of thinking of their end, and consequently of being eased by hope. Faith indeed which resides in the supreme point of the spirit assures us that this trouble will have an end, and that one day we shall enjoy a true repose: but the loudness of the shouts and outcries which the enemy makes in the rest of the soul in the inferior reason, will scarcely permit the advice and remonstrances of faith to be heard; and there remains in the imagination only this sorrowful presage: Alas! joy I shall never have.

O God! my dear Theotimus, now it is that we are to show an invincible courage towards our Saviour, serving him purely for the love of his will, not only without pleasure, but amid this deluge of sorrows, horrors, distresses and assaults, as did his glorious Mother and St. John upon the day of his Passion. Amongst so many blasphemies, sorrows and deadly distresses, they remained constant in love, yea, even in that instant in which our Saviour, having withdrawn all his holy joy into the very summit of his spirit, left no joy or consolation at all in his Divine countenance, and when his eyes, languishing and covered with the dark veil of death, did only cast looks of sorrow, as the sun also shot forth rays of horror and frightful darkness.

 

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