SIX VOLUMES IN ONE BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D. REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada REV. STEPHEN KEENAN REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J. REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
What cellar of rich wine is that, which the Spouse in the Canticles (ch. i. 3) boasts of her being carried into by her beloved, and of being filled there with charity and love ? What noble banquet is that, which the same Spouse invites us to ? " Eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved;" Cant. v. 1. We look on that man to be drunk, when, having had more wine than his natural heat can digest, the vapors fly up into his head, and rendering him incapable of governing himself, force him to follow the impressions they make on his imagination. If this be so, what condition must a soul be in, that has drank so much of this heavenly wine, and is so full of God and of his love, as to be overcharged with an excess of delight and pleasure, and to be made unable, with all its force, to bear up under such a weight of happiness ? So it is written of St. Ephrem, that he was so often overpowered with the strength of the wine of this divine sweetness, that his body not being able to support these delights, he was forced to cry out, "Retire from me a little, O Lord! because my body is too weak to endure the force of thy sweetness any longer St. John Clim. deg. 19.
O unspeakable goodness ! O immense sweetness of this sovereign Lord I who communicates himself with such profusion to his creatures, that their bodies are too weak, and their hearts to narrow, to endure and contain the strength and fulness of such charms I It is by this celestial wine the powers of the soul are lulled to rest; it is this, that gives them a gentle slumber of peace and life; it is this, that raises the soul above herself; it is by virtue of this she knows, and loves, and enjoys such pleasures, as are far above the strength of her natural faculties. Hence it follows, that as water over a fire, when it has arrived to a certain degree of heat, forgetful, as it were, of its own quality, which is to be heavy, and consequently to tend downward, mounts upwards, borrowing the natural lightness of fire, which gives it this extraordinary motion ; so the soul, warmed with this heavenly fire, lifts herself up above herself, and, endeavoring to fly from earth to heaven, from whence this flame was darted, is transported with the desire of enjoying God; runs after him, with all the speed she can, and stretches out her hands to embrace him, whom she so passionately loves. But if she can neither overtake him, nor cool the heat of her flames, she pines and languishes under the loss of her wish, and all the comfort she has is to send up her amorous sighs to heaven, crying out with the Spouse, in the Canticles (v. 8), " Tell my beloved that I languish with love." Holy writers inform us, that these languishings proceed from the opposition the soul meets with, in the effecting of her desires. Whereon, one of them says, " Be not discouraged, O amorous soul, for thy sickness is not to death; it is for God's glory, and that the Son of God may be glorified thereby;" St. John xi. 4. But what tongue can express the charms and pleasures these happy lovers enjoy, on Solomon's stately bride-bed, " which was made of the wood of Libanus, the pillars thereof were of silver, and the bottom of gold !" Cant. iii. 9, 10. Here it is the spiritual marriage-feast is kept. It is called a bed ) for its being a place of rest and love, and where they enjoy such pleasures that, as St. John says in his Revelation, no man can conceive how great they are, but he that has experienced them. Though the knowledge of these things be hid from us, we may nevertheless frame to ourselves some idea of them. For if a man does but consider what an excess of love the Son of God had for him, in suffering such unheard-of injuries and torments for his sake, he cannot wonder at what we now say, since it is but little when compared to this. What will he not do for the just, who has undergone so much for sinners ? How will he caress and make much of his friends, who has endured such pains, as well for his enemies as for them! We have a token of this in the book of Canticles, where the heavenly bridegroom shows such a passionate tenderness to his bride, which is the Church, and every particular person in the state of grace. Such amorous discourses pass there between them, that no other eloquence or love can express.