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CHAPTER XX

Wherein are treated the other five steps of love.

ON the sixth step the soul runs swiftly to God and touches Him again and again; and it runs without fainting by reason of its hope. For here the love that has made it strong makes it to fly swiftly. Of this step the prophet Isaias speaks thus: ’ The saints that hope in God shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as the eagle; they shall fly and shall not faint,’249249Isaias xl, 31. as they did at the fifth step. To this step likewise alludes that verse of the Psalm: ’ As the hart desires the waters, my soul desires Thee, O God.’250250Psalm xli, 2 [A.V., xlii, 1]. For the hart, in its thirst, runs to the waters with great swiftness. The cause of this swiftness in love which the soul has on this step is that its charity is greatly enlarged within it, since the soul is here almost wholly purified, as is said likewise in the Psalm, namely: Sine iniquitate cucurri.251251Psalm lviii, 5 [A.V., lix, 4]. And in another Psalm: ‘I ran the way of Thy commandments when Thou didst enlarge my heart’;252252Psalm cxviii, 32 [A.V., cxix, 32]. and thus from this sixth step the soul at once mounts to the seventh, which is that which follows.

2. The seventh step of this ladder makes the soul to become vehement in its boldness. Here love employs not its judgment in order to hope, nor does it take counsel so that it may draw back, neither can any shame restrain it; for the favour which God here grants to the soul causes it to become vehement in its boldness. Hence follows that which the Apostle says, namely: That charity believeth all things, hopeth all things and is capable of all things.2532531 Corinthians xiii, 7. Of this step spake Moses, when he entreated God to pardon the people, and if not, to blot out his name from the book of life wherein He had written it.254254Exodus xxxii, 31-2. Men like these obtain from God that which they beg of Him with desire. Wherefore David says: ‘Delight thou in God and He will give thee the petitions of thy heart.’255255Psalm xxxvi, 4 [A.V., xxxvii, 4]. On this step the Bride grew bold, and said: Osculetur me osculo oris sui.256256Canticles i, 1. To this step it is not lawful for the soul to aspire boldly, unless it feel the interior favour of the King’s sceptre extended to it, lest perchance it fall from the other steps which it has mounted up to this point, and wherein it must ever possess itself in humility. From this daring and power which God grants to the soul on this seventh step, so that it may be bold with God in the vehemence of love, follows the eighth, which is that wherein it takes the Beloved captive and is united with Him, as follows.

3. The eighth step of love causes the soul to seize Him and hold Him fast without letting Him go, even as the Bride says, after this manner: ‘I found Him Whom my heart and soul love; I held Him and I will not let Him go.’257257Canticles iii, 4. On this step of union the soul satisfies her desire, but not continuously. Certain souls climb some way,258258[Lit., ‘attain to setting their foot.’] and then lose their hold; for, if this state were to continue, it would be glory itself in this life; and thus the soul remains therein for very short periods of time. To the prophet Daniel, because he was a man of desires, was sent a command from God to remain on this step, when it was said to him: ‘Daniel, stay upon thy step, because thou art a man of desires.’259259Daniel x, 11. After this step follows the ninth, which is that of souls now perfect, as we shall afterwards say, which is that that follows.

4. The ninth step of love makes the soul to burn with sweetness. This step is that of the perfect, who now burn sweetly in God. For this sweet and delectable ardour is caused in them by the Holy Spirit by reason of the union which they have with God. For this cause Saint Gregory says, concerning the Apostles, that when the Holy Spirit came upon them visibly they burned inwardly and sweetly through love.260260‘Dum Deum in ignis visione suscipiunt, per amorem suaviter arserunt‘ (Hom. XXX in Evang.). Of the good things and riches of God which the soul enjoys on this step, we cannot speak; for if many books were to be written concerning it the greater part would still remain untold. For this cause, and because we shall say something of it hereafter, I say no more here than that after this follows the tenth and last step of this ladder of love, which belongs not to this life.

5. The tenth and last step of this secret ladder of love causes the soul to become wholly assimilated to God, by reason of the clear and immediate261261[i.e., direct, not mediate.] vision of God which it then possesses; when, having ascended in this life to the ninth step, it goes forth from the flesh. These souls, who are few, enter not into purgatory, since they have already been wholly purged by love. Of these Saint Matthew says: Beati mundo corde: quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.262262St. Matthew v, 8. And, as we say, this vision is the cause of the perfect likeness of the soul to God, for, as Saint John says, we know that we shall be like Him.263263St. John iii, 2. Not because the soul will come to have the capacity of God, for that is impossible; but because all that it is will become like to God, for which cause it will be called, and will be, God by participation.

6. This is the secret ladder whereof the soul here speaks, although upon these higher steps it is no longer very secret to the soul, since much is revealed to it by love, through the great effects which love produces in it. But, on this last step of clear vision, which is the last step of the ladder whereon God leans, as we have said already, there is naught that is hidden from the soul, by reason of its complete assimilation. Wherefore Our Saviour says: ‘In that day ye shall ask Me nothing,’ etc.264264St. John xvi, 23. But, until that day, however high a point the soul may reach, there remains something hidden from it—namely, all that it lacks for total assimilation in the Divine Essence. After this manner, by this mystical theology and secret love, the soul continues to rise above all things and above itself, and to mount upward to God. For love is like fire, which ever rises upward with the desire to be absorbed in the centre of its sphere.


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