O stealer of hearts, steal, O Lord, this heart of mine, for in the Scripture Thou hast the name of a robber, hasty and violent.[see Isa. viii. 3.] What sword shall be so strong? what bow so stout and well provided with arrows which could penetrate a fine diamond? The strength of Thy love has pierced an infinite number of diamonds. Thou hast broken through the hardness of our hearts; Thou hast inflamed the whole world with Thy love, as Thou hast said by a prophet: "With the fire of My jealousy shall all the earth be devoured";[note 1] in Thy Gospel Thou hast said: "I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?"[Luke xii. 49.] Well did the holy prophet understand the efficacy of this coming and the value of this fire, when he cried saying: "O that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and wouldst come down, and that the waters would boil with the heat of the fire!"[Isa. lxiv. 1-2.] O sweet fire! sweet flame which so kindlest the hearts that are more frozen than the snow, and convertest them by love! This is the cause of Thy coming, to draw this fire down from heaven, and to fill the world with love, as the prophet says: "Thou hast visited the earth and hast inebriated it with love"[note 2]. ["Thou hast visited the earth, and hast plentifully watered it: Thou hast many ways enriched it" (Douay).[note 3]] O most loving, gentle, beautiful, and merciful Lord, inebriate our hearts with this wine, kindle us with this flame, and wound us with this arrow of Thy love! What is wanting to this cross of Thine to make it a spiritual cross-bow since it so wounds our hearts? The crossbow is made of wood and of a string stretched over, with a notch in the middle of it, where the string is fixed to despatch the arrow with great velocity, and to make a greater wound. Thus when Thy most sacred Body was extended on the wood of the cross, like a cord, and Thy arms also stretched out, I see that in the opening of thy side there was fixed as in a notch the arrow of Thy love that it might issue thence to wound the heart [of man]. Let the whole world know now that I have a wounded heart. O my heart! how shalt thou be healed? There is no remedy which will cure thee except death. When, my good Jesus, I see issuing from Thy side this blood-stained spear-head,[John xix. 34.] and this spear is an arrow of Thy love which transfixes me, I feel that it wounds my heart in such a manner that there is no part left in it which it has not penetrated. What dost Thou desire to do, O sweetest love? What dost Thou wish to effect in my heart? I came there to be healed, and Thou hast wounded me; I came there that Thou mightest teach me to live, and Thou hast made me as though beside myself. O most sweet wound; O most wise frenzy! may I never find myself without Thee! Not only Thy cross, but the very form which Thou didst assume upon it, calls upon us sweetly. O loving Lord, and pure fire of love! Thou didst hold Thy Head inclined to one side in order to see us and to give us the kiss of peace, with which Thou didst invite the guilty, while it was Thyself Who wast the injured party! Thou didst hold out Thy arms to embrace us. Thy pierced Hands to bestow upon us Thy blessing; Thy opened side to receive us within itself; Thy nailed feet to wait for us, and that Thou mightest never be separated from us. So that beholding Thee, O Lord, upon the cross, all that my eyes discern invite me to Thy love. The wood, the form, the mystery, the wounds in Thy Body, and above all the love within Thee cry out to me to love Thee and never to forget Thee. How could I forget Thee? If I forget Thee, O good Jesus, let my right hand be consigned to forgetfulness. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember Thee, and if I do not set Thee at the head of my joys.[Ps. cxxxvi. 5-6.] Mark here, then, my soul, how the cause of the love which Christ bears to thee, is declared; for this love does not spring from a regard to anything that exists in man, but from Divine Love, and from the desire that possesses Him to fulfil the Will of God. By this means, then, thou canst understand from whence come such benefits and promises, as God has conferred on man, because thy hope is hereby strengthened by seeing upon what firm foundations it is based, and how the cause for which Christ loved man is not man himself but God; just as the medium through which God has promised such benefits to man is not man but Christ. The cause for which the Son loved us is because His Father commanded Him; and the cause for which the Father favoured us is because the Son besought Him, and merited the favour.[John xix. 30.] These are the super-celestial planets by whose marvellous appearance the glory of heaven is regulated, and they transmit all their influences and graces to the world. Dost thou perceive how firm are the pillars of love? Not less so are those of our hope. Thou lovest us, our Redeemer, because Thy Father commandeth it; and Thy Father forgiveth us because Thou entreatest Him to do so. From Thy seeing His Heart and Will it results that Thou lovest me, for so Thy obedience requires; and from His beholding Thy sufferings and wounds proceed my pardon and salvation, for so Thy merits demand. Ever thus behold them, O Father and Son, ever thus look upon them without ceasing, for thus will my salvation be brought about. O vision of sovereign goodness, O aspect of super-celestial planets, from whence proceed the rays of Divine grace with such certainty! When would such a Son disobey? When would such a Father not have respect to Him? If, then, the Son obey, I shall be loved; and if the Father regard the Son's merits, I shall be pardoned. Upon one aspiration which the maiden named Axa expressed to her father Caleb, her kind father granted her all that she asked of him.[Jos. xv. 18-19.] What, then, could such a Father deny to the wishes and tears of such a Son? When, O my Redeemer, will the mire of my sins have such an ill savour that the sacrifice of Thy Passion would not swell more sweetly? So great is the beauty of Thy Sacred Passion that all the sins of the world joined together have no more part in defacing it than a very small mole in a countenance of great beauty and elegance. Then, O my weak and faithless soul, who in thy afflictions knowest not to trust in God, why is it that thy offences terrify thee? Observe that this affair does not depend upon thee but on Christ; because, if the demerit of the first earthly man was the beginning of thy fall, the merit of the Second Heavenly Man was both the beginning and the completion of thy healing. Strive to be united to Him by faith and love, as thou art connected with the other by the bond of kindred; for, if thou shouldst be so united, then just as by the link of heredity thou partakest of the sin of the transgressor, so by the spiritual parentage thou partakest of the grace of Christ. If thou shouldst be united to Him in this manner, believe it as certain that that which belongs to Him shall be thine, and that which belongs to the Father shall belong to the sons, and that which is the property of the Head shall belong to the members, and, as the Gospel says," Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together".[Matt. xxiv. 28.] This is what David said figuratively of this mystery to a man timorous and perplexed: "Abide then with me, fear not; for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life also, and with me thou shalt be saved".[1 Kings xxii. 23 (altered).] Do not look to thine own strength, which will only cause thee dismay; but I look to Him Who is thy Helper, and thou shalt acquire courage. Thus, if when crossing the river of life thy head becomes dizzy on beholding waters that are running past, lift up thine eyes on high and behold the merits of the Crucified One, and thou shalt pass over in security. If thou believest truly that the Father gave thee His Son, believe also that He will give thee the rest;[Rom. viii. 32.] for all else is but little. Think not, my soul, that because He has ascended into the heavens thou art forgotten; for love and forgetfulness cannot agree together. He gave thee the greatest pledge of this when He ascended thither, viz., the mantle[2 Kings 4, 8, 13, 14.] of His precious Flesh in remembrance of His Passion and Love. Observe that He did not only suffer for thee while living, but even after His death He received a portion of His wounds, viz., the piercing of His side, in order that thou mightest know that both in life and in death He is thy true Friend; and that thou mightest understand also thereby that when He said, at the time of breathing His last, "It is consummated,"[John xix. 30.] although His pains were over, His love was not ended. "Jesus Christ," says S. Paul, "is yesterday and to-day and the same for ever;"[Heb. xiii. 8.] because such as He was in this world, while He lived amongst those who sought Him, such is He now and ever will be to those who seek Him.

1. Sophon. iii. 8,"igne zeli mei" (Vulgate).[back]

2. Ps. lxiv. 10,"inebriasti eam" (Vulgate). The LXX. version conveys the same idea. [back]

3. The author makes use of the strong expression "embriagastella de amor"; an imagery employed by several of the ancient Fathers. [back]