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TREATS OF THE SAME SUBJECT AS THE LAST CHAPTER AND DESCRIBES THE FLIGHT OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS ANOTHER WAY BY WHICH GOD ELEVATES THE SOUL: THIS REQUIRES GREAT COURAGE IN ONE EXPERIENCING IT. THIS FAVOUR, BY WHICH GOD GREATLY DELIGHTS THE SOUL IS EXPLAINED. THIS CHAPTER IS VERY PROFITABLE.
1. The flight of the spirit. 2. Self-control completely lost. 3. Symbol of the two cisterns. 4. Obligations following these favours. 5. Humility produced by them. 6. How our crucified Lord comforted such a soul. 7. A humble soul fears these favours. 8. Mysteries learnt during the flight of the spirit. 9. Imaginary visions sometimes accompany intellectual ones. 10. How the flight of the spirit takes place. 11. The soul fortified by it. 12. Three great graces left in the soul. 13. The third grace. 14. Fear caused by this favour.
1. THERE is another form of rapture, which, though essentially the same as the last, yet produces very different feelings in the soul. I call it the ‘flight of the spirit,’288288Rel. viii. 10, 11. Life, ch. xviii, 8; xx. 3. for the soul suddenly feels so rapid a sense of motion that the spirit appears to hurry it away with a speed which is very alarming, especially at first. Therefore I said that the soul on whom God bestows this favour requires strong courage, besides great faith, trust, and resignation, so that God may do what He chooses with it.
2. Do you suppose a person in perfect possession of her senses feels but little dismay at her soul’s being drawn above her, while sometimes, as we 199read, even the body rises with it?289289Life, ch. xx. 9. St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, stanzas xiv.-xv. 23 sqq. Philippus a SS. Trinit. l.c. p. iii. tr. i. disc. iii. art. 3. ’This prayer of rapture is superior to the preceding grades of prayer, as also to the ordinary prayer of union, and leaves much more excellent effects and operations in many other ways.’ St. Catherine of Siena (Dialogue, ch. lxxix. 1) says: ‘Wherefore, oftentimes, through the perfect union which the soul has made with Me, she is raised from the earth almost as if the heavy body became light. But this does not mean that the heaviness of the body is taken away, but that the union of the soul with Me is more perfect than the union of the body with the soul; wherefore the strength of the spirit, united with Me, raises the body from the earth.’ (Transl. by Algar Thorold.) She does not know where the spirit is going, who is raising her, nor how it happens; for at the first instant of this sudden movement one does not feel sure it is caused by God. Can it possibly be resisted? No; resistance only accelerates the motion, as some one told me. God now appears to be teaching the soul, which has so often placed itself absolutely in His hands and offered itself entirely to Him, that it no longer belongs to itself; thus it is snatched away more vehemently in consequence of its opposition. Therefore this person resolved to resist no more than does a straw when attracted by amber (a thing you may have seen); she yielded herself into the hands of Him who is Almighty, seeing it is best to make a virtue of necessity. Speaking of straw, doubtless it is as easy for a stalwart, strapping fellow to lift a straw as for our mighty and powerful Giant to elevate our spirit.290290Life, ch. xxii. 20.
3. It seems that the cistern of water of which I spoke (but I cannot quite remember where) in the fourth mansion,291291Castle, M. iv. ch. ii. 3. was formerly filled gently and 200quietly, without any movement; but now this great God Who restrains the springs and the waters and will not permit the ocean to transgress its bounds,292292Prov. viii. 29. lets loose the streams, which with a powerful rush flow into the cistern and a mighty wave rises, strong enough to uplift on high the little vessel of our soul. Neither the ship herself nor her pilot and sailors can at their choice control the fury of the sea and stop its carrying the boat where it will: far less can the interior of the soul now stay where it chooses or force its senses or faculties to act more than He Who holds them in His dominion decrees; as for the exterior powers, they are here quite useless.
4. Indeed I am amazed, sisters, while merely writing of this manifestation of the immense power of this great King and Monarch. Then what must be felt by those who actually experience it? I am convinced that if His Majesty were to reveal Himself thus to the greatest sinners on earth, they would never dare to offend Him again—if not through love at least through fear of Him. What obligations bind those taught in so sublime a manner to strive with all their might not to displease such a Master! In His Name I beg of you, sisters, who have received these or the like favours, not to rest content with merely receiving them but to remember that she who owes much has much to pay.293293St. Luke xii. 48: ‘Cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo, et cui commendaverunt multum, plus petent ab eo.’
5. This thought terrifies the soul exceedingly: 201unless the great courage needed was given it by our Lord, it would suffer great and constant grief; for looking first at what His Majesty has done for it and then upon itself, it sees how little good it has performed compared with what it was bound to do, and that the paltry service it has rendered was full of faults, failures and tepidity. To efface the remembrance of the many imperfections of all its good deeds (if indeed it has ever performed any) it thinks best to forget them altogether and to be ever mindful of its sins, casting itself on the mercy of God since it cannot repay its debt to Him and begging for the pity and compassion He ever shows to sinners.
6. Perhaps He will answer as He did to some one who was kneeling before a crucifix in great affliction on this account, for she felt she had never had anything to offer God nor to sacrifice for His sake. The Crucified One consoled her by saying that He gave her for herself all the pains and labours He had borne in His passion, that she might offer them as her own to His Father.294294Rel. ix. 8. This happened at Seville in 1575 or 1576. I learnt from her that she at once felt comforted and enriched by these words which she never forgets but recalls whenever she realizes her own wretchedness and feels encouraged and consoled. I could relate several other incidents of the same kind learnt in conversation with many holy people much given to prayer, but I will not recount them lest you might imagine they relate to myself.
7. I think this example is very instructive; it 202shows that we please our Lord by self-knowledge, by the constant recollection of our poverty and miseries, and by realizing that we possess nothing but what we have received from Him.2952951 Cor. iv. 7: ‘Quid autem habes quod non accepisti?’ Therefore courage is needed, sisters, in order to receive this and many other favours which come to a soul elevated to this state by our Lord; I think that if the soul is humble it requires more valour than ever for this last mercy. May God grant us humility for His Name’s sake.
8. To return to this sudden rapture of the spirit. The soul really appears to have quitted the body, which however is not lifeless, and though, on the other hand, the person is certainly not dead, yet she herself cannot, for a few seconds, tell whether her spirit remains within her body or not.2962962 Cor. xii. 2: ‘Sive in corpore nescio, sive extra corpus nescio, Deus scit.’ She feels that she has been wholly transported into another and a very different region from that in which we live, where a light so unearthly is shown297297This is called ‘lumen prophetiæ’ and is a transient form of the ‘lumen gloriæ.’ See St. Thomas Aquinas, Sum. theol. 2a 2æ, q. 175, art. 3 ad 2. that, if during her whole lifetime she had been trying to picture it and the wonders seen, she could not possibly have succeeded. In an instant her mind learns so many things at once that if the imagination and intellect spent years in striving to enumerate them, it could not recall a thousandth part of them.
9. This vision is not intellectual but imaginary and is seen by the eyes of the soul more clearly 203than earthly things are seen by our bodily eyes. Although no words are pronounced, the spirit is taught many truths; for instance, if it beholds any of the saints, it knows them at once as well as if intimately acquainted with them for years.298298The same thing is related of some Saints while on earth, e.g. St Paul the first hermit and St. Anthony, who greeted each other by name though neither knew nor had heard of the other. Occasionally, besides what the eyes of the soul perceive in intellectual vision, other things are shown it. In an imaginary vision it usually sees our Lord accompanied by a host of angels; yet neither the bodily eyes nor the eyes of the soul299299These words, though necessary for the context, were only begun, but not completed by St. Teresa. see anything, for these visions and many other things impossible to describe, are revealed by some wonderful intuition that I cannot explain. Perhaps those who have experienced this favour and possess more ability than myself may be able to describe it, although it seems to me a most difficult task.
I cannot tell whether the soul dwells in the body meanwhile or not: I would
neither affirm that it does nor that the body is deprived of it. I have often
thought that as, though the sun does not leave his place in the heavens yet his
rays have power to reach the earth instantaneously, so the soul and the spirit,
which make one and the same thing (like the sun and its rays) may, while
remaining in its own place, through the strength of the ardour coming to it
from the true Sun of Justice, send up some higher part of it above itself. In
fact I do not understand what I am talking about, but the truth is that, with
the swiftness of a bullet fired 204from
a gun, an upward flight takes place in the interior of the soul. (I know no
other name for it but ‘flight.’) Although noiseless, it is too manifest a
movement to be any illusion300300Life, ch. xx. 32. Castle, M. iv. ch. i. 10. and
the soul is quite outside itself; at least that is the impression made upon it.
Great mysteries are revealed to it meanwhile, and when the person returns to
consciousness she is so greatly benefited that she holds all this world’s goods
as filth compared with what she has seen. Henceforth earthly life is grievous
to her and what used to please her now remains uncared for and
unnoticed.301301 Compare §§
8-10 with Philippus a SS. Trinitate, l.c.
p. iii. tr. i. disc. iii. art. 3.
’Muchas veces he pensado, si como el sol estándose en el cielo, que sus rayos tienen tanta fuerza, que no mudándose él de allí, de presto llegan acá; si el alma y el espíritu (que son una misma cosa, como le es el soly sus rayos) puede, quedándose ella en su puesto, con la fuerza de calor que le viene del verdadero Sol de justicia, alguna parte superior salir sobre sì misma. En fin, yo no sé lo que digo, lo que es verdad es, que con la presteza que sale la pelota de un arcabuz, cuando le ponen el fuego, se levanta en lo interior un vuelo (que yo no sé otro nombre que le poner) que aunque no hace ruido, hace movimento tan claro, que no puede ser antojo en ninguna manera; y muy fuera de si misma, á todo lo que puede entender, se le muestran grandes cosas.’
11. Those children of Israel who were sent on first to the Land of Promise brought back tokens from it;302302Num. xiii. 24. so here our Lord seems to seek to show the soul something of the land to which it is travelling, to give it courage to pass through the trials of its painful journey, now that it knows where it must go to find rest. You may fancy that such profit could not thus quickly be obtained, yet only those who have experienced what signal benefits 205this favour leaves in the soul can realize its value.
12. This clearly shows it to be no work of the devil; neither the imagination nor the evil one could represent what leaves such peace, calm, and good fruits in the soul, and particularly the following three graces of a very high order.303303Life, ch. xx. 31. The same distinctions with respect to divine and diabolical locutions may be found in Life, ch. xxv. 5. The first of these is a perception of the greatness of God which becomes clearer to us as we witness more of it. Secondly, we gain self-knowledge and humility from seeing how creatures so base as ourselves in comparison with the Creator of such wonders have dared to offend Him in the past or venture to gaze on Him now.
13. The third grace is a contempt for all earthly things unless they are consecrated to the service of so great a God. With such jewels the Bridegroom begins to deck His Bride; they are too valuable for her to keep them carelessly.304304’Dexteram meam et collum meum cinxit lapidibus pretiosis; tradidit auribus meis inestimabiles margaritas.’ From the Office of St. Agnes. These visions are so deeply engraved in her memory that I believe she can never forget them until she enjoys them for evermore, for to do so would be the greatest misfortune.305305This is undoubtedly the correct rendering of this difficult and obscure passage. But the Spouse Who gave her these gifts has power to give her grace not to lose them.
14. I told you that courage was required by the soul, for do you think it is a trifling matter for the spirit to feel literally separated from the body, as it does when perceiving that it is losing its senses without understanding the reason? There is need that 206 He Who gives all the rest should include fortitude. You will say this fright is well rewarded, and so say I. May He Who can bestow such graces be for ever praised and may His Majesty vouchsafe that we may be worthy to serve Him. Amen.
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