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CHAPTER XXIII. How We Ought Lovingly To Receive God.
The Servant.—Eternal Wisdom, if my soul could only penetrate the heavenly shrine of Thy divine mysteries, I would question Thee further about love. And this would be my question: Lord, Thou hast so entirely poured out the abyss of Thy divine love in Thy Passion, that I wonder if Thou canst show any more signs of Thy love?
Eternal Wisdom.—Yes. Even as the stars of heaven are countless, so the love-tokens of My unfathomable love are uncounted.
The Servant.—Ah, sweet Love of mine! ah, tender Lord elect! how my soul languishes for Thy love! Turn Thy mild countenance towards me, outcast creature that I am; see how everything vanishes and passes away in me except only the one treasure of Thy ardent love, and therefore tell me something further of this rich and hidden treasure. Lord, Thou knowest well that it is love’s right never to be satisfied with what concerns the Beloved; that the more it has the more it desires, how unworthy soever it may acknowledge itself to be, for such is the effect of the omnipotent power of love. O, beautiful Wisdom, now tell me the greatest and dearest mark of Thy love that in Thy adopted human nature Thou didst ever manifest, without taking into account the unfathomable love-token of Thy bitter death.
Eternal Wisdom.—Answer Me now a question. What is that of all lovely things which is most agreeable to a loving heart?
The Servant.—Lord, to my understanding nothing is so agreeable to a loving heart as the beloved Himself and His sweet presence.
Eternal Wisdom.—Even so. See, and on this account, that nothing which belongs to true love might be wanting to those who love Me, did My unfathomable love, as soon as I had resolved to depart by death out of this world to My Father, compel Me to give Myself and My loving presence at the table of the last supper to My dear disciples, and in all future times to My elect, because I knew beforehand the misery which many a languishing heart would suffer for My sake.
The Servant.—Oh, dearest Lord, and art Thou Thyself, Thy very Self, really here?
Eternal Wisdom.—Thou hast Me in the sacrament, before thee and with thee, as truly and really God and Man, according to soul and body, with flesh and blood, as truly as My pure Mother carried Me in her arms, and as truly as I am in heaven in My perfect glory.
The Servant.—Ah, gentle Wisdom, there is yet something in My heart, may I be allowed to utter it to Thee? Lord, it does not proceed from unbelief, I believe that what Thou willest Thou canst do; but, tender Lord, it is a marvel to me (if I may venture to say so) how the beautiful, the delightful and glorified body of my Lord in all its greatness, in all its divinity, can thus essentially conceal itself under the little shape of the bread which, relatively considered, is so out of all relation. Gentle Lord, be not angry with me on this account, for, as Thou art my Wisdom elect, I should be glad by Thy favour to hear something on this head out of Thy sweet mouth.
Eternal Wisdom.—In what manner My glorified body and My soul, according to the whole truth, are in the Sacrament, this can no tongue express, nor any mind conceive, for it is a work of My omnipotence. Therefore oughtest thou to believe it in all simplicity, and not pry much into it. And yet I must say a little to thee about it. I will thrust this wonder aside for thee with another wonder. Tell Me how it can be in nature that a great house should shape itself in a small mirror, or in every fragment of a mirror, when the mirror is broken? Or, how can this be, that the vast heavens should compress themselves into so small a space as thy small eye, the two being so very unequal to each other in greatness?
The Servant.—Truly, Lord, I cannot tell, it is a strange thing, for my eye is to the heavens but as a small point.
Eternal Wisdom.—Behold, though neither thy eye nor anything else in nature is equal to the heavens, and yet nature can do this thing, why should not I, the Lord of nature, be able to do many more things above nature? But now, tell me further, is it not just as great a miracle to create heaven and earth, and all creatures out of nothing, as to change bread invisibly into My body?
The Servant.—Lord, it is just as possible for Thee, so far as I can understand, to change something into something, as to create something out of nothing.
Eternal Wisdom.—Dost thou wonder then at that, and not at this? Tell Me further, thou believest that I fed five thousand persons with five loaves, where was the hidden matter which obeyed My words?
The Servant.—Lord, I know not.
Eternal Wisdom.—Or dost thou believe thou hast a soul?
The Servant.—This I do not believe, because I know it, for otherwise I should not be alive.
Eternal Wisdom.—And yet thou canst not see thy soul with thy bodily eyes.
The Servant.—Lord, I know that there are many more beings invisible to human eyes than such as we can see.
Eternal Wisdom.—Now listen: many a person there is of senses so gross as hardly to believe that anything which he cannot perceive with his senses really exists, concerning which the learned know that it is false. In like manner does the human understanding stand related to divine knowledge. Had I asked thee how the portals of the abyss are constructed, or how the waters in the firmament are held together, thou wouldst perhaps have answered thus: It is a question too deep for me, I cannot go into it: I never descended into the abyss, nor ever mounted up to the firmament. Well, I have only asked thee about earthly things which thou seest and hearest, and understandest not. Why shouldst thou wish, then, to understand what surpasses all the earth, all the heavens, and all the senses? Or why wilt thou needs inquire into it? Behold, all such wondering and prying thoughts proceed alone from grossness of sense, which takes divine and supernatural things after the likeness of things earthly and natural, and such is not the case. If a woman were to give birth to a child in a dark tower, and it were to be brought up there, and its mother were to tell it of the sun and the stars, the child would marvel greatly, and would think it all against reason and incredible, which its mother, nevertheless, knows so well to be true.
The Servant.—Indeed, Lord, I have nothing more to say, for Thou hast so enlightened my faith that I ought never to think of marvelling in my heart again, or why should I seek to enquire into the highest, who cannot comprehend the lowest? Thou art the truth which cannot lie; Thou art the highest wisdom that can do all things; Thou art the omnipotent who can dispose of all things. Oh, noble and loving Lord, I have often desired in my heart that, like holy Simeon in the temple, I might have received Thee bodily in my arms, might have pressed Thee to my heart and soul, so that the spiritual kiss of Thy presence might have been as truly mine as it was his. But now, Lord, I see that I receive Thee as truly as he, and so much the more nobly as Thy tender body is now glorified, and impassible, which then was passible. Wherefore, dearest Lord, if my heart had the love of all hearts, my conscience the purity of all the angels, and my soul the beauty of all souls so that by Thy grace I should be worthy of Thee, I would fain receive Thee to-day so affectionately, and so bury and sink Thee in the bottom of my heart and soul, that neither joy nor sorrow, neither life nor death, could separate Thee from me. Ah, sweet Lord, hadst Thou, my chosen love, only sent me Thy messenger, I should not have known, for all this world, how I ought to offer him a sufficient welcome. How then ought I to behave myself towards Him whom my soul loveth? Truly art Thou the only one thing in which everything is included, that, in time and eternity, my heart can desire. Or is there any thing else that my soul can desire with Thee that Thou art not? I will say nothing of that which is contrary to Thee, or which is without Thee, for that would be repugnant to me. Truly art Thou the comeliest of all to the eyes, the sweetest of all to the mouth, the tenderest of all to the touch, the most beloved of all to the heart! Lord, my soul neither sees nor hears, nor feels aught of all that is here below, but she finds it severally a thousand times lovelier in Thee my chosen love. Ah, Eternal Lord, how am I to restrain myself in Thy regard from wonder and delight? Thy presence inflames me, but Thy greatness terrifies me. My reason will needs do honour to its Lord, but my heart desires to love its only good, and lovingly to embrace it. Thou art my Lord and my God, but Thou art also my Brother, and, if I may venture to say so, my beloved Spouse. Oh, what love, what rapture, and what great joy, what dignity do I not possess in Thee alone! Ah, sweet Lord, methinks that had I only been vouchsafed the grace to receive out of Thy open wounds, from Thy heart, one single drop of blood into my mouth, if I could have had my desire, it would have given me the fulness of joy. Ah, heartfelt, inconceivable wonder, now I have not only received from Thy heart or Thy hands, from Thy feet or Thy tender wounds, I have not only received one or two drops, but I have received all Thy hot, rose-coloured blood through my mouth into my heart and soul. Is not this a great thing? Ought I not to appreciate this which to the exalted angels is precious? Lord, would that all my limbs, and all that I am, were transformed into an unfathomable love for the sake of this sign of Thy love. Lord, what is there else in all this world that could rejoice my heart, or that it could desire, when Thou givest Thyself thus cordially to me to enjoy and love! Truly is it called a SACRAMENT OF LOVE. When was there anything lovelier seen or heard of than to embrace love itself; than to be changed by grace into love itself? Lord, I see no difference except that Simeon received Thee visibly, and I receive Thee invisibly. But as little as my bodily eyes can see Thy true humanity, just as little could his bodily eyes contemplate Thy divinity, except through faith, as I do now. Lord, what new power is lodged in this bodily sight? He whose spiritual eyes are opened, has not much to see with his bodily eyes, for the eyes of the spirit see far more really and truly. Lord, I know by faith, so far as one can know it, that I have Thee here; what do I wish for more? Lord, it is a thousand times better for me that I am unable to see Thee; how could I ever have the heart thus visibly to partake of Thee! As it is, that which is lovely and delightful remains, while that which is inhuman falls away. Lord, when I truly reflect how inscrutably well, how lovingly and wisely Thou hast regulated all things, my heart with a loud voice, exclaims: Oh, the great treasure of the abyss of Divine Wisdom, what must Thou not be in Thyself, if Thou art so much in Thy fair emanations! Now, O glorious Lord, look at the great and sincere desire of my heart. Lord, never was king or emperor so worthily received, never dear strange guest so cordially embraced, never bride so beautifully and tenderly taken home, nor so honourably maintained, as my soul desires to receive Thee, my most honoured emperor, my soul’s most lovely Bridegroom, this day, and to introduce Thee to the innermost and the very best that my heart and soul are able to afford, and to offer it Thee as worthily as ever it was offered Thee by any creature. Wherefore, Lord, teach me how I should behave myself towards Thee, how, with due honour and love, I should receive Thee.
Eternal Wisdom.—Thou shouldst receive Me worthily, thou shouldst partake of Me with humility, thou shouldst keep Me earnestly, thou shouldst embrace Me with conjugal love, and have Me in My godly dignity before thy eyes. Spiritual hunger and actual devotion must impel thee to Me more than custom. The soul that wishes to feel Me interiorly in the recesses of a secluded life, and sweetly to enjoy Me, must, first of all, be cleansed from sin, must be adorned with virtue, encircled with self-denial, decked out with the red roses of ardent love, strewn over with the fair violets of humble submission, and the white lilies of perfect purity. She should pray to Me with peace of heart, for in peace is My dwelling-place. She should clasp Me in her arms to the exclusion of all strange affections; for these I avoid, and flee as the free bird avoids and flees the cage. She should sing Me the song of Sion, which is a song of fervent, loving, and measureless praise; then will I embrace her, and she shall incline herself on My breast. There, if she finds a calm repose, a pure vision, unusual fruition, a foretaste of eternal bliss, let her preserve it, let her keep it for herself, and, with a sighing heart, let her speak as follows: Truly art thou the hidden God, the secret good which no one can know that has not felt it.
The Servant.—Alas, the great blindness in which I have hitherto lived! I have plucked the red roses and have not smelt them; I have wandered among the blooming flowers and have not seen them; I have been as a dry branch amid the fresh dews of May. Never, O never can I sufficiently repent Thy having been for many a day so near me, and my having been so far from Thee. O, Thou sweet guest of pure souls, what a sorry welcome have I hitherto given Thee, what an ill return have I so frequently made Thee! How little desirous have I not shown myself of the sweet bread of angels! I had the precious balsam in my mouth, and felt it not. Ah, Thou delight of all angelic eyes, never as yet did I feel true delight in Thee! If it were announced to me that a bodily friend would visit me in the morning should I not rejoice at it all the night before? And yet, never did I prepare myself for the reception of Thee, as in reason I ought, Thou worthy guest, whom heaven and earth equally honour. Alas! how have I been wont to turn quickly away from Thee, how to drive Thee out of Thy own! O Eternal God, Thou even Thou Thyself, art here so truly present, and the angelic host is here, and yet I have approached so shyly and sluggishly. Of Thee I will say nothing; but, truly, Lord, I know of no spot within many miles, whither, if I had known for certain of the presence of blessed angels, those high and noble guests who at all times behold Thee, I should not have repaired of my own accord, and even if I had not seen them, still my heart, on their account, would have leapt in my body for joy. O sweet Lord and God, that Thou Thyself, the Lord of all angels, shouldst have been present here, and shouldst have had with Thee so many angelic choirs, and that I should not have given more heed to the place; this, this must ever be a sore affliction for me! I ought, at all events, to have approached the place where I knew Thee to be thus present, even though nothing else might have come of it. O God, how often have I stood distracted and without devotion on the very spot where Thou wast before me, and with me in the Blessed Sacrament; my body indeed stood there, but my heart was elsewhere. How often have I thought so little of Thee in Thy presence, that my heart has not even offered Thee an affectionate salutation, with a devout inclination. Gentle Lord, my eyes ought to have looked at Thee with joyous delight, my heart ought to have loved Thee with the fulness of desire, my mouth ought to have praised Thee with heartfelt, fervent jubilee; all my strength ought to have melted in Thy glad service. What did not Thy servant David do who leapt so joyously with all his might before the ark, in which there was nothing but corporal bread of heaven, nothing but corporal things! Lord, now do I stand here before Thee, and before all Thy angels, and with bitter tears fall at Thy feet. Remember, O, remember, tender Lord, that here, before me, Thou art my flesh and my brother, and forego Thy displeasure. O, forgive me all the dishonour that ever I offered Thee, for I am sorry for it, and must ever be sorry for it; for the light of Thy wisdom begins only now to enlighten me; and the place where Thou art, not only according to Thy divinity, but according to Thy humanity, shall be honoured by me evermore. Ah, Thou sweetest good, Thou worthy Lord and lovely guest of my soul, another question would I gladly ask: Tell me, gentle Lord, what is it Thou givest Thy beloved with Thy real presence in the Sacrament, provided she receives Thee with love and desire?
Eternal Wisdom.—Is that a fitting question for a lover? What have I better than Myself? He who possesses the object of his love, what else has he to ask for? He who gives himself, what has he refused? I give Myself to thee, and take thee from thyself, and unite thee to Me. Thou loseth thyself, and art wholly transformed into Me. What does the sun in his brightest reflection bestow on the unclouded sky? Yes, what does the bright star of the morning dawn bestow on the dark night? Or what do the fair and ravishing adornments of summer bestow after the cold, wintry, melancholy season?
The Servant.—O Lord, they bestow precious gifts.
Eternal Wisdom.—They seem precious to thee because they are visible to thee. Behold, the smallest gift that flows from Me in the Blessed Sacrament reflects more splendour in eternity than any sunny brightness; it sheds more light than any morning star; it adorns thee more ravishingly in eternal beauty than ever did any adornment of summer the earth. Or is not My bright divinity more radiant than any sun, My noble soul more resplendent than any star, My glorified body more ravishing than any ravishment of summer? And yet all these things hast thou truly received here.
The Servant.—O Lord, why then are they not more sensibly felt? Lord, I often approach in such dryness that all light, all grace and sweetness are as strange to me, methinks, as to a man born blind, who never saw the sun. Lord, if I may venture to say so, I could indeed wish that, in Thy real presence, Thou hadst given testimony of Thyself.
Eternal Wisdom.—The less the testimony, the purer thy faith and the greater thy reward. The Lord of nature operates with such secrecy a blessed increase in many a fair tree, that no eye nor other sense can perceive it till it is accomplished. Now, I am not an exteriorly working good, but an interiorly shining light; an interiorly working good which is so much the nobler as it is the more spiritual.
The Servant.—Alas! how few men there are who perceive this, who weigh thoroughly what they receive. They draw near like the rest generally, in an ill and inconsiderate manner, and, therefore, as they go up empty, they come away without grace. They do not ruminate their food so as to ponder what they have received.
Eternal Wisdom.—To the well prepared I am the bread of eternal life, to the little prepared the bread of dryness, but to the unprepared I am a deadly blow, an eternal curse.
The Servant.—O Lord, what a terrible thing is this! Lord, whom dost Thou call the well prepared, the little prepared, and the unprepared?
Eternal Wisdom.—The well prepared are the purified, the little prepared such as cleave to temporal things, but the unprepared are the sinful who continue by will and by deed in mortal sin.
The Servant.—But, tender Lord, if at the time a person is heartily sorry for his sins, and strives, to the best of his ability, to rid himself wholly of them, conformably to Christian precept, how is it then with him?
Eternal Wisdom.—In such a case a man is, for the time, no longer in sin.
The Servant.—Lord, in my opinion, it were one of the greatest things this world could accomplish, if any person, while living in this temporal state, was able to prepare himself worthily enough for Thy reception.
Eternal Wisdom.—That person was never yet born; nay, if a man had the native purity of all the angels, the sanctity of all the saints, and the good works of all mankind, he would yet be unworthy.
The Servant.—Ah, beloved Lord, with what trembling hearts ought not persons so unworthy, so deprived of grace, as we are, to approach Thee.
Eternal Wisdom.—If a man only does his best, nothing more is required of him, for God completes what is left incomplete. A sick man should cast aside all reserve, and should approach the physician whose attendance is his cure.
The Servant.—Lord, beloved Lord, which is better, OFTEN, or SELDOM, to receive Thee in the Blessed Sacrament?
Eternal Wisdom.—For him whose grace and devotion perceptibly increase by it, to receive Me often is profitable.
The Servant.— But, Lord, if a man in his own opinion remains the same, and cannot prove that he either increases or decreases by it in holiness, or if he is often visited by spiritual dryness, how should he then behave himself?
Eternal Wisdom.—A man, provided only he does his part, should not withdraw himself because of spiritual dryness. For the salvation of that soul which by God’s will suffers from spiritual dryness is often accomplished as nobly in the light of pure faith alone, as in great sweetness. I am a boon which, turned to account, increases, but which, saved up, wastes away. It is better to approach once a week with a deep sense of real humility, than once a year with an overweening self-approbation.
The Servant.—Lord, at what time does the influence of grace from the Blessed Sacrament take place?
Eternal Wisdom.—In the very moment of actual reception.
The Servant.—Lord, but what if a man have a fervent desire for Thy bodily presence in the Sacrament, and he must yet be deprived of it?
Eternal Wisdom.—Many a man after being filled with Me, goes away hungry, and many a man obtains Me, though the table be empty; the former merely receives Me bodily, the latter enjoys Me spiritually.
The Servant.—Lord, has that man any advantage who receives Thee bodily and spiritually, over him who only receives Thee spiritually?
Eternal Wisdom.—Tell me whether that man has more who has Me and My grace, or he who has only My grace alone?
The Servant.—Lord, how long dost Thou remain in Thy real presence with a man who has received Thee?
Eternal Wisdom.—As long as the image and likeness of the Sacrament remain.
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