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OF THE THIRD DEGREE OF THE SPIRITUAL COMING OF CHRIST
When the sun has risen in the heavens as high as it can, it stands in the sign of Cancer (which means Crab, because it cannot go further, but begins to go back). Then come the fiercest heats of the whole year. And the sun draws up all the moisture, and the earth becomes dry, and the fruits ripen quickly.
So likewise, when Christ, the Divine Sun, has risen to the zenith of our hearts—that is, above all the gifts and consolations and sweetness which we may receive from Him—so that we do not rest in any savours, how great soever they be, which God may pour into our souls; if then, masters of ourselves, we ever turn inwards, by the way which has been shown heretofore, with humble praise and with fervent thanksgiving, towards the very source from which all gifts flow forth according to the needs and the merits of each creature: then Christ stands on high in the zenith of our hearts, and He will draw all things, that is, all our powers, to Himself. When thus neither savour nor consolation can overcome or hinder the loving heart, but it would rather forgo all consolations and all gifts, that it may find Him Whom it loves: then there arises from this the third kind of inward exercise, by which man is uplifted and adorned in his sensibility and the lower part of his being.
The first work of Christ, and the beginning of this degree consists in this: that God draws the heart, the desires, and all the powers of the soul up towards heaven, and calls them to be united with Him, and says in ghostly wise within the heart: Go ye out of yourselves by the way in which I draw and invite you. This drawing and this inviting I cannot well make plain to gross and insensitive men; but it is an inward constraining and drawing of the heart towards the most high unity of God. This inward summons is joyful to the loving heart above anything it ever experienced before. For hence arise a new way and a higher exercise.
Here the heart opens itself in joy and in desire, and all the veins gape, and all the powers of the soul are in readiness, and desire to fulfil that which is demanded of them by God and by His unity. This invitation is a shining forth of Christ, the Eternal Sun; and it brings forth such great pleasure and joy in the heart, and makes the heart open so widely, that it can never wholly close again. And thereby a man is wounded in the heart from within, and feels the wound of love. To be wounded by love is the sweetest feeling and the sharpest pain which any one may endure. To be wounded by love is to know for certain that one shall be healed; for the ghostly wound brings woes and weal at the same time. For Christ, the true Sun streams and shines into the wounded and open heart and calls it to oneness again. And this renews the wound and all its pangs.4545 The “wound of love” as a metaphor for the rapturous yet piercing entrance of Divine Love into the heart, meets us again and again in the literature of mysticism. “God,” says St Basil, “is the Perfect Beauty which inflicts on the soul an ineffable wound of love.” In many cases, as for instance in the celebrated “transverberation” of St Teresa, this image probably describes one of those psycho-physical parallelisms—not uncommon in the records of high religious experience—in which actual bodily pangs accompany the spiritual crisis. Thus Richard Rolle says, “O thou everlasting fairness, thou hast wounded my heart; scarcely I live for joy and almost I die, for I may not in my deadly flesh suffer such a sweetness of this great majesty.” (The Mending of Life, cap. 11.) Thus, too, St John of the Cross— “O burn that burns to heal! O more than pleasant wound! And O soft hand, O touch most delicate That dost new life reveal, That dost in grace abound, And, slaying, dost from death to life translate.” (Llama de Amor Viva. Trans. by Arthur Symons.)
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