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STANZA XXXVI

THE BRIDE

Let us rejoice, O my Beloved,

Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty,

To the mountain and the hill,

Where the pure water flows:

Let us enter into the heart of the thicket.

THE perfect union of love between itself and God being now effected, the soul longs to occupy itself with those things that belong to love. It is the soul which is now speaking, making three petitions to the Beloved. In the first place, it asks for the joy and sweetness of love, saying, “Let us rejoice.” In the second place, it prays to be made like Him, saying, “Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty.” In the third place, it begs to be admitted to the knowledge of His secrets, saying, “Let us enter into the heart of the thicket.”

“Let us rejoice, O my Beloved.”

2. That is, in the sweetness of our love; not only in that sweetness of ordinary union, but also in that which flows from active and affective love, whether in the will by an act of affection, or outwardly in good works which tend to the service of the Beloved. For love, as I have said, where it is firmly rooted, ever runs after those joys and delights which are the acts of exterior and interior love. All this the soul does that it may be made like to the Beloved.

“Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty.”

3. “Let us so act, that, by the practice of this love, we may come to see ourselves in Your beauty in everlasting life.” That is: “Let me be so transformed in Your beauty, that, being alike in beauty, we may see ourselves both in Your beauty; having Your beauty, so that, one beholding the other, each may see his own beauty in the other, the beauty of both being Yours only, and mine absorbed in it. And thus I shall see You in Your beauty, and myself in Your beauty, and You shall see me in Your beauty; and I shall see myself in You in Your beauty, and You Yourself in me in Your beauty; so shall I seem to be Yourself in Your beauty, and You myself in Your beauty; my beauty shall be Yours, Yours shall be mine, and I shall be You in it, and You myself in Your own beauty; for Your beauty will be my beauty, and so we shall see, each the other, in Your beauty.”

4. This is the adoption of the sons of God, who may truly say what the Son Himself says to the Eternal Father: “All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine,”281281John 17:10 He by essence, being the Son of God by nature, we by participation, being sons by adoption. This He says not for Himself only, Who is the Head, but for the whole mystical body, which is the Church. For the Church will share in the very beauty of the Bridegroom in the day of her triumph, when she shall see God face to face. And this is the vision which the soul prays that the Bridegroom and itself may go in His beauty to see.

“To the mountain and the hill.”

5. That is, to the morning and essential knowledge of God,282282St. Augustine, ‘De Genesi ad Litt.’ iv., xxiv. (and elsewhere) and the scholastics (St. Thomas, ‘S. Th.’ I. lviii. 7) distinguish between the ‘morning knowledge’ whereby angels and saints know created things by seeing the Divine Word, and ‘evening knowledge’ where they derive their knowledge from the created things themselves. which is knowledge in the Divine Word, Who, because He is so high, is here signified by “the mountain.” Thus Isaiah says, calling upon men to know the Son of God: “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of our Lord”;283283Isa. 2:3 and before: “In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared.”284284Isa. 2:2

“And to the hill.”

6. That is, to the evening knowledge of God, to the knowledge of Him in His creatures, in His works, and in His marvelous laws. This is signified by the expression “hill,” because it is a kind of knowledge lower than the other. The soul prays for both when it says “to the mountain and the hill.”

7. When the soul says, “Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty to the mountain,” its meaning is, “Transform me, and make me like the beauty of the Divine Wisdom, the Word, the Son of God.” When it says “to the hill,” the meaning is, “Instruct me in the beauty of this lower knowledge, which is manifest in Your creatures and mysterious works.” This also is the beauty of the Son of God, with which the soul desires to shine.

8. But the soul cannot see itself in the beauty of God if it is not transformed in His wisdom, wherein all things are seen and possessed, whether in heaven or in earth. It was to this mountain and to this hill the bride longed to come when she said, “I will go to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.”285285Cant. 4:6 The mountain of myrrh is the clear vision of God, and the hill of frankincense the knowledge of Him in His works, for the myrrh on the mountain is of a higher order than the incense on the hill.

“Where the pure water flows.”

9. This is the wisdom and knowledge of God, which cleanse the understanding, and detach it from all accidents and fancies, and which clear it of the mist of ignorance. The soul is ever influenced by this desire of perfectly and clearly understanding the divine verities, and the more it loves the more it desires to penetrate them, and hence the third petition which it makes:

“Let us enter into the heart of the thicket;”

10. Into the depths of God’s marvelous works and profound judgments. Such is their multitude and variety, that they may be called a thicket. They are so full of wisdom and mystery, that we may not only call them a thicket, but we may even apply to them the words of David: “The mountain of God is a rich mountain, a mountain curdled as cheese, a rich mountain.”286286Ps. 67:16 The thicket of the wisdom and knowledge of God is so deep, and so immense, that the soul, however much it knows of it, can always penetrate further within it, because it is so immense and so incomprehensible. “O the depth,” cries out the Apostle, “of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!”287287Rom. 11:33

11. But the soul longs to enter this thicket and incomprehensibility of His judgments, for it is moved by that longing for a deeper knowledge of them. That knowledge is an inestimable delight, transcending all understanding. David, speaking of the sweetness of them, says: “The judgments of our Lord are true, justified in themselves, to be desired above gold and many precious stones, and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. For Your servant keeps them.”288288Ps. 18:10-12 The soul therefore earnestly longs to be engulfed in His judgments, and to have a deeper knowledge of them, and for that end would esteem it a joy and great consolation to endure all sufferings and afflictions in the world, and whatever else might help it to that end, however hard and painful it might be; it would gladly pass through the agonies of death to enter deeper into God.

12. Hence, also, the thicket, which the soul desires to enter, may be fittingly understood as signifying the great and many trials and tribulations which the soul longs for, because suffering is most sweet and most profitable to it, inasmuch as it is the way by which it enters more and more into the thicket of the delicious wisdom of God. The most pure suffering leads to the most pure and the deepest knowledge, and consequently to the purest and highest joy, for that is the issue of the deepest knowledge. Thus, the soul, not satisfied with ordinary suffering, says, “Let us enter into the heart of the thicket,” even the anguish of death, that I may see God.

13. Job, desiring to suffer that he might see God, thus speaks “Who will grant that my request may come, and that God may give me what I look for? And that He that has begun may destroy me, that He may let loose His hand and cut me off? And that this may be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, He spare not.”289289Job 6:8-10 O that men would understand how impossible it is to enter the thicket, the manifold riches of the wisdom of God, without entering into the thicket of manifold suffering making it the desire and consolation of the soul; and how that the soul which really longs for the divine wisdom longs first of all for the sufferings of the Cross, that it may enter in.

14. For this cause it was that St. Paul admonished the Ephesians not to faint in their tribulations, but to take courage: “That being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth; to know also the charity of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.”290290Eph. 3:17-19 The gate by which we enter into the riches of the knowledge of God is the Cross; and that gate is narrow. They who desire to enter in that way are few, while those who desire the joys that come by it are many.

NOTE

ONE of the principal reasons why the soul desires to be released and to be with Christ is that it may see Him face to face, and penetrate to the depths of His ways and the eternal mysteries of His incarnation, which is not the least part of its blessedness; for in the Gospel of St. John He, addressing the Father, said: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.”291291John 17:3 As the first act of a person who has taken a long journey is to see and converse with him whom he was in search of, so the first thing which the soul desires, when it has attained to the beatific vision, is to know and enjoy the deep secrets and mysteries of the incarnation and the ancient ways of God depending on them. Thus the soul, having said that it longed to see itself in the beauty of God, sings as in the following stanza:


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