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How he spiritually espoused the Eternal Wisdom.

THE course of life, which he pursued for a long time after this, in regard to interior exercises, was a ceaseless striving after actual recollection in interior union with the Eternal Wisdom. How he first began this, may be learned from his Little Book of the Eternal Wisdom, in German and Latin, which God moved him to compose.

He had from youth up a loving heart. Now the Eternal Wisdom is represented in Holy Scripture under a lovely guise, as a gracious loving mistress, who displays her charms with the intent to please every one; discoursing the while tenderly, in female form, of the desire she has to win all hearts to herself, and saying 14how deceitful all other mistresses are, and how truly loving and constant she is. This drew his young soul to her; and it fared with him as with the wild beasts of the forest whom the panther attracts to itself with the sweet smell that it sends forth. In this winning way she full often wooed him to her spiritual love, especially in the books called the books of Wisdom. When these were read at table, and he listened to the endearing words as they were read out, his heart was right glad within him, and he began to feel a yearning in his loving soul, and thoughts would come to him like these:—Truly thou shouldst make trial of thy fortune, whether perchance this high mistress, of whom thou hast heard tell such marvels, will become thy love; for in truth thy wild young heart cannot long remain without a love.

In these things he observed her closely, and she pleased him well in heart and soul.

It happened, as he sat at table another morning, that she cried aloud in the person of Solomon, saying:—"Audi, fili mi!” &c. Hearken, my child, to the high counsel of thy father. Wilt thou pursue exalted love, then take thee for thy most sweet love the Eternal Wisdom; for she gives to all her lovers youth and virtue, 15nobility and riches, honour and profit, mighty power and an everlasting name. She makes him who loves her gracious to all; she teaches him courteous bearing, and secures him praise before the world, and fame among the multitudes. She makes him dear and of high esteem to God and men. By her the earth was created, the heavens were made fast, and the foundations of the abyss were laid. He who possesses her walks securely, sleeps quietly, and lives in safety (Prov. i.-iv.).

When he heard this beautiful discourse read out, straightway the thought came to his longing heart:—Ah me! what a love is this! Could she but become mine, I were indeed well off. These thoughts were met by contrary suggestions such as these:—Shall I love what I have never seen, nor even know what it is? A handful in possession is better than a houseful in prospect. They who raise lofty buildings and love venturesomely, have but a hungry time of it. Truly this loving dame w^ere a good mistress, did she let her servant treat his body well and tenderly. But far from this, she says:—He who seeks good food, strong wine, and long sleep, can never win Wisdom’s love (Prov. xxi. 17). Was there ever a suitor subjected 16to such hard terms as these? A thought from God answered:—By ancient right, love and suffering go together. There is no wooer but he is a sufferer; no lover but he is a martyr. Therefore it is not unjust that he who aims so high in love should meet with some things repugnant to him. Remember all the mishaps and the vexations which earthly lovers suffer, whether with their will or against it. He was greatly strengthened to persevere by good inspirations of this sort. And the like of this often happened to him. Sometimes he had a good will, while at other times he would let his heart go after perishable love. Nevertheless, to whatever side he turned, he always found a something in every object which would not let him give his heart to it without reserve, and which drove him back from it.

One day, the reading at table was about Wisdom, and his heart was stirred and set on fire by it. Wisdom spoke thus:—As the lovely rose-tree is full of bloom, and the lofty uncut Libanus yields its fragrance, and the pure balsam sends forth its odours (Ecclus. xxiv.), even so I am a blooming, fragrant, and pure love, without anger and bitterness, a very abyss of loving sweetness. All other mistresses have 17sweet words, but a bitter recompense. Their hearts are deadly nets, their hands are manacles, their discourse honied poison, and their pastime infamy (Eccles. vii. 27). He thought:—How true is this! And then he said to himself joy fully:—Yes, it must be so. She must indeed be my love, and I will be her servant. And the thought came to him:—Ah God, if I might but once see my love! if I might but once converse with her! Ah! what is the form of my be loved, in whom so many delightful things lie hid? Is she God or of human kind? woman or man? art or cunning? or what can she be? While he thus strove to see her, so far as she could be seen with the soul’s eyes in what Holy Scripture has made known concerning her, she showed herself to him in this wise. She floated high above him in a choir of clouds; she shone like the morning star, and her radiance was dazzling as the rising sun; her crown was eternity; her vesture bliss; her words sweetness; her embrace the fulness of every delight; she was far, yet near; high, yet lowly; she was present, yet hidden; she forbade not to converse with her, yet no one can comprehend her. She reaches above the summit of the heavens, and touched the depths of the abyss; 18she spreads herself from end to end mightily, and disposes all things sweetly. When at one moment he thought he saw in her a beautiful maiden, forthwith she appeared to him as a noble youth. Sometimes she showed herself as one rich in wisdom; at other times as overflowing with love. She drew nigh to him lovingly, and greeted him full smilingly, and sweetly said to him:—"Praebe, fili mi, cor tuum mihi! Give me thy heart, my child!” (Prov. xxiii. 26.) Thereupon he bowed himself to her feet, and thanked her from his inmost heart out of the depths of his lowliness. This was what was then granted to him, and no more than this could he obtain.

Afterwards, when he dwelt in thought upon the all-lovely one, he used commonly to put this question to himself, and ask his love-sick heart:—Ah, my heart! from what source do all love and graciousness flow? Whence come all tenderness, beauty, joyousness, and loveableness! Comes it not all from the outbursting fountainhead of the pure Godhead? Up then, my heart, my senses, my mind; up, then, and cast yourselves into the fathomless abyss of all lovely things. Who shall keep me from Thee now? Ah! I embrace Thee still to-day with the longings 19of my burning heart. And then there pressed itself as it were, into his soul, the primal outflow of all good, and in it he found in spiritual fashion all that is beautiful, lovely, and desirable, for all was there in a way in effable.

Thus it grew into a habit with him, whenever he heard songs of praise, or the sweet music of stringed instruments, or lays, or discourse about earthly love, immediately to turn his heart and mind inwards, and gaze abstractedly upon his loveliest love, whence all love flows. It were impossible to tell how often with weeping eyes, from out the unfathomable depths of his outspread heart, he embraced this lovely form, and pressed it tenderly to his heart. And thus it fared with him as with a sucking child, which lies encircled by its mother’s arms upon her breast. As the child with its head and the movement of its body lifts itself up against its tender mother, and by these loving gestures testifies its heart’s delight, even so his heart many a time leapt up within his body towards the delightful presence of the Eternal Wisdom, and melted away in sensible affections. At such moments the thought would come to him:—Ah, Lord! were only a queen my spouse, it would 20make my heart rejoice. All me! and Thou art now my heart’s empress, Thou, the giver of every grace! In Thee I have wealth enough, and all the power I want. As for what earth contains, I wish for it no longer. Amid these contemplations his countenance became all joyous, his eyes godlike, and his heart full of jubilee, while all his interior senses sang “Super salutem,” &c. (Wisd. vii. 10). Above all good fortune, and above all beauty art Thou, O my heart’s good fortune and beauty; for good for tune has followed me with Thee, and I possess with Thee and in Thee every good.

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