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STANZA XXXV

In solitude she lived,

And in solitude built her nest;

And in solitude, alone

Has the Beloved guided her,

In solitude also wounded with love.

IN this stanza the Bridegroom is doing two things: one is, He is praising the solitude in which the soul once lived, for it was the means whereby it found the Beloved, and rejoiced in Him, away from all its former anxieties and troubles. For, as the soul abode in solitude, abandoning all created help and consolation, in order to obtain the fellowship and union of the Beloved, it deserved thereby possession of the peace of solitude in the Beloved, in Whom it reposes alone, undisturbed by any anxieties.

2. The second is this: the Bridegroom is saying that, inasmuch as the soul has desired to be alone, far away, for His sake, from all created things, He has been enamored of it because of its loneliness, has taken care of it, held it in His arms, fed it with all good things, and guided it to the deep things of God. He does not merely say that He is now the soul’s guide, but that He is its only guide, without any intermediate help, either of angels or of men, either of forms or of figures; for the soul in this solitude has attained to true liberty of spirit, and is wholly detached from all subordinate means.

“In solitude she lived.”

3. The turtle-dove, that is, the soul, lived in solitude before she found the Beloved in this state of union; for the soul that longs after God derives no consolation from any other companionship, — yes, until it finds Him everything does but increase its solitude.

“And in solitude built her nest.”

4. The previous solitude of the soul was its voluntary privation of all the comforts of this world, for the sake of the Bridegroom — as in the instance of the turtledove — its striving after perfection, and acquiring that perfect solitude wherein it attains to union with the Word, and in consequence to complete refreshment and repose. This is what is meant by “nest”; and the words of the stanza may be thus explained: “In that solitude, wherein the bride formerly lived, tried by afflictions and troubles, because she was not perfect, there, in that solitude, has she found refreshment and rest, because she has found perfect rest in God.” This, too, is the spiritual sense of these words of the Psalmist: “The sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself, where she may lay her young ones;277277Ps. 83:4 that is, a sure stay in God, in Whom all the desires and powers of the soul are satisfied.”

“And in solitude.”

5. In the solitude of perfect detachment from all things, wherein it lives alone with God — there He guides it, moves it, and elevates it to divine things. He guides the understanding in the perception of divine things, because it is now detached from all strange and contrary knowledge, and is alone. He moves the will freely to love Himself, because it is now alone, disencumbered from all other affections. He fills the memory with divine knowledge, because that also is now alone, emptied of all imaginations and fancies. For the instant the soul clears and empties its faculties of all earthly objects, and from attachments to higher things, keeping them in solitude, God immediately fills them with the invisible and divine; it being God Himself Who guides it in this solitude. St. Paul says of the perfect, that they “are led by the Spirit of God,”278278Rom. 8:14 and that is the same as saying “In solitude has He guided her.”

“Alone has the Beloved guided her.”

6. That is, the Beloved not only guides the soul in its solitude, but it is He alone Who works in it directly and immediately. It is of the nature of the soul’s union with God in the spiritual marriage that God works directly, and communicates Himself immediately, not by the ministry of angels or by the help of natural capacities. For the exterior and interior senses, all created things, and even the soul itself, contribute very little towards the reception of those great supernatural favors which God bestows in this state; indeed, inasmuch as they do not fall within the cognizance of natural efforts, ability and application, God effects them alone.

7. The reason is, that He finds the soul alone in its solitude, and therefore will not give it another companion, nor will He entrust His work to any other than Himself.

8. There is a certain fitness in this; for the soul having abandoned all things, and passed through all the ordinary means, rising above them to God, God Himself becomes the guide, and the way to Himself. The soul in solitude, detached from all things, having now ascended above all things, nothing now can profit or help it to ascend higher except the Bridegroom Word Himself, Who, because enamored of the bride, will Himself alone bestow these graces on the soul. And so He says:

“In solitude also wounded with love.”

9. That is, the love of the bride; for the Bridegroom not only loves greatly the solitude of the soul, but is also wounded with love of her, because the soul would abide in solitude and detachment, on account of its being itself wounded with love of Him. He will not, therefore, leave it alone; for being wounded with love because of the soul’s solitude on His account, and seeing that nothing else can satisfy it, He comes Himself to be alone its guide, drawing it to, and absorbing it in, Himself. But He would not have done so if He had not found it in this spiritual solitude.

NOTE

IT is a strange characteristic of persons in love that they take a much greater pleasure in their loneliness than in the company of others. For if they meet together in the presence of others with whom they need have no intercourse, and from whom they have nothing to conceal, and if those others neither address them nor interfere with them, yet the very fact of their presence is sufficient to rob the lovers of all pleasure in their meeting. The cause of this lies in the fact that love is the union of two persons, who will not communicate with each other if they are not alone. And now the soul, having reached the summit of perfection, and liberty of spirit in God, all the resistance and contradictions of the flesh being subdued, has no other occupation or employment than indulgence in the joys of its intimate love of the Bridegroom. It is written of holy Tobit, after the trials of his life were over, that God restored his sight, and that “the rest of his life was in joy.”279279Tob. 14:4 So is it with the perfect soul, it rejoices in the blessings that surround it.

2. The prophet Isaiah says of the soul which, having been tried in the works of perfection has arrived at the goal desired: “Your light shall arise up in darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. And the Lord will give you rest always, and will fill your soul with brightness, and deliver your bones, and you shall be as a watered garden and as a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail. And the deserts of the world shall be built in you: you shall raise up the foundations of generation and generation; and you shall be called the builder of the hedges, turning the paths into rest. If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your will in My holy day, and call the Sabbath delicate, and the Holy of our Lord glorious, and glorify Him while you do not your own ways, and your will be not found, to speak a word: then shall you be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift you up above the heights of the earth, and will feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father,”280280Isa. 58:10-14 Who is God Himself. The soul, therefore, has nothing else to do now but to rejoice in the delights of this pasture, and one thing only to desire — the perfect fruition of it in everlasting life. Thus, in the next and the following stanzas it implores the Beloved to admit it into this beatific pasture in the clear vision of God, and says:


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