IT is a perfectly clear and well-authenticated truth, O Lord, that as Thou art the good of men, so all the power of love naturally inclines man to Thee, and carries him on to Thee as his beginning and centre; although he is often irregularly carried away to other things in opposition to his true worth and honour.

For just as our nature always directs us to one thing, so also does our whole will carry us towards one thing although owing to its uncontrolled choice it is capable of following after many, and at its pleasure it can turn whither it likes. For in the will there is no compulsion, as there is in nature, and would to God that there were, that we might even here be always united to Thee, as we shall, after this life, be united to Thee through Thy great mercy.

Alas! I see amongst men a great miracle, a very sad miracle, and one which is very greatly to be deplored. Wouldst thou not, peradventure, esteem it a great miracle if thou sawest a great rock suspended in the air, and that it had a wing? or if thou beheldest a river full of water, which, while running with great impetuosity, a mere piece of paper should be able to stop? "Who that beheld such a sight would not bless himself?[note 1] Who would not wonder and be astounded? "Why, then, am I not astonished at seeing men prevented by trivial things from attaining to Thee, my God? It is a very extraordinary thing that such trivialities as those of earth should keep back a man who naturally possesses within him a most momentous force which carries him towards Thee, my God.

We are pilgrims[Heb. xi. 13; 1 Peter ii. 11.] in this world, and so the Divine Epistles call us, and we are travelling onward towards Thee, O Lord, as to our own country, and the native land of our souls, in which we live, as the apostle says[Acts xvii. 28.], and move and be. And whenever we sin we are hindered in the way, and halt there; and what is a great wonder and excites astonishment is that such trivial things should detain us.

My love is my weight,[note 2] and by my love I am carried whithersoever I wish to go. Wherever my love is inclined to rest, thither my soul goes; and as Thou, Lord, hast given weight to the rock in order that it may descend to its centre, which is its natural place, so Thou hast given to our soul a weight which is the desire for the summum bonum, in order that by this weight it may be more easily drawn to Thee.

If this be so, then, O my good God, how can it be that every soul created for Thee doth not go with great haste unto Thee? But we see that, being lifted up and swept away by a little wind, it is deprived of all good, and is only laughed at, is spent and laid by as useless. How is it possible that any creature capable of enjoying Thee should not hasten with all its power towards Thee, its boundless, infinitely good, and consequently infinitely attractive centre? What thing can ever detain from such good a creature capable of enjoying it?

Oh how great is the weight of sin which, when laid upon the necks of human beings, presses them down and makes them sink to the ground, so that they do not mount up to their proper sphere, for which they were created. Truly this is a greater miracle that souls should not mount up to their God out of love for Him, than that rocks should be lifted up and swept off by a little wind, so that they should not descend to their centre: and still more wonderful than that a very thin sheet of paper should stop a rapid and full river from running onward to the sea.

"Who would ever accept[note 3] his life with patience if he knew clearly and distinctly how great a good he is deprived of, and what a benefit he is losing? O most graceless veil of my flesh, of how much joy dost thou deprive me? What hinders me from rending and tearing thee with my own hands that I may go and behold my God, and enjoy Him, and in Him find rest? Oh, of what pleasures and of what great happiness am I despoiled by thee, although, what is worse, knowing all this, and seeing it, and being well aware that it is so, I endure thee, and laugh at myself, and do not weep or groan (as would be more reasonable) day and night over such sad banishment and such blindness and miserable misfortune on my part! Whence has such evil and graceless endurance come to me unless it is because this veil has been set in the midst and that cloud of the flesh so obstructs me that the brightness of the sun does not shine into the eyes of my soul? Take away this veil which impedes my sight, and thou shalt see with what powerful impetus my soul will rush towards its centre. Observe the souls of the saints, how light is their veil, and with what alacrity and swiftness they go to their God. Who can hinder them? Who can keep them back? Who can detach them from their proper place? There is full and perfect rest; there complete gratification for all the emotions and desires of the soul.

Truly the Lord is great and highly to be praised, and not the less to be loved, but as lovable as He is highly to be praised. When my soul shall be in the city of the Lord and in His holy mountain, the power of love shall be kindled, for no interposition of the fleshly veil shall obstruct it; and even now, when the veil is thin and transparent, the soul moves itself all the more towards its God, and the impulse of love is the more strengthened in it; while, on the contrary, in the case of those whose veil of flesh is gross there is little or no inclination towards the true centre of the soul. Such persons as these love God very little, or not at all. But those who by vigils and fastings, and other acts of abstinence, attenuate this fleshly veil and weaken its power, find this blessed light shining through the eyes of their souls, according to what the apostle says: "We see now through a glass in a dark manner."[note 4]

Such persons run after the odour of Thy ointments,[note 5] and even sometimes it happens to them that through some chinks and holes these rays of the Divine Light shine at least for a short time into the eyes of their souls, and they immediately melt into love, and are lifted up with great impetus, not attracted by the odour, but by great beauty. But ah! how short a time this radiation of Light endures, and how very quickly such delectable rays pass away! They strike the soul and immediately pass away; and as Job says: "In His hands He hideth the light and commandeth it to come again. He showeth His friend concerning it, that it is His possession, and that he may come up to it."[Job xxxvi. 32, 33.] But so soon as He kindles it between His hands, that which lies between His fingers flashes into light for a short time.

For if He chose to shine forth with all His light in full even at the doors of heaven, we must be aware that He would rather be likely to blind than to enlighten the heavenly spirits with His splendour, for they would be overcome by such exceeding brightness. For who could endure the Divine Majesty if it were not tempered? In this way spiritual men are entertained in this life until they see Thee, my God, clearly in the other world, where they will be perfectly in the centre of happiness, in the enjoyment of Thy Divine Essence.

1. literally, "cross himself".[back]

2. i.e., a force gravitating to its proper centre.[back]

3. endure the charge of. [back]

4. "Per speculum in enigmate," 1 Cor. xiii. 12 (Vulg.). [back]

5. "post te curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum," Song of Songs, i. 3 (Vulg.).[back]