Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 227.



§ I. It is particularly in Prayer that the Virtuous enjoy these divine Consolations. —If, on further inquiry into this matter, you should ask me, where it is particularly the virtuous enjoy these comforts, God himself will answer the question, by the prophet Isaias (ch. lvi. 6, 7) : " The children of the stranger," says he, " that adhere to the Lord, to worship him, and to love his name, to be his servant: every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and that holdeth fast my covenant: I will bring them into my holy mount, and make them joyful in my house of prayer." So that it is in this holy employment particularly, that the Lord comforts his elect in such a manner. It was on this occasion, St. Laurence Justinian said (Tract, de Ord. Lig. Vitae), "The hearts of the just are inflamed with this love of their Creator, whilst they are at prayer. It is then they are at times raised above themselves, and imagine they are amidst the choirs of angels, singing with them in the presence of their God; it is then they love and sigh; it is then they praise, weep and rejoice; it is then they eat, and are still hungry, they drink without being satisfied, and endeavor, with all the force that love can give them, to transform themselves into their Lord, whom they contemplate by faith, whom they adore with humility, whom they desire with passion, and enjoy with the utmost heat of love. It is then they, by their own experience, find these words of his to be true: "My joy shall be fulfilled in you " John iii. 29. This joy, like a gentle stream, spreads itself over all the faculties of the soul; it enlightens the understanding, it pleases the will, it refreshes the memory, and makes them think of nothing but God, and they lovingly embrace what they are unacquainted with, and which yet they have such a passion for, that they had rather die than lose it. Thus the heart wrestles with this divine sweetness, lest it should get away, being the only object of its wishes, as the patriarch Jacob did with the angel; Gen. xxxii. 26. And thus, like St. Peter on the mountain, it cries out, " O Lord, it is good for us to be here ;" Matt. xvii. 4. It is here the soul has all that amorous discourse, which is in the Canticles addressed to her, whilst she, on her part, sings these charming airs of love: " His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. Support me with flowers, and comfort me with apples, for I languish with love;" Cant. ii. 5, 6. Then it is, the soul, inflamed with these divine heats, desires ' nothing more than to break out of the prison of her body, whilst her tears are her food both day and night, because the time of her enlargement is not yet come. Life is the trial of her patience, but the object of her desire is death, and, therefore, she is continually using these words of the spouse: " Who will tell me where thou art, my brother, who suckest the breast of my mother ? When I shall find thee without I would kiss thee;" Cant. viii. 1. It is then she is astonished at herself, and wonders how such treasures could be hid from her so long; but finding it is a happiness which every man is capable of enjoying, she longs to run up and down in the streets and public places, and to cry out, Fools and madmen ! whither do you run ? what is it you are in search of? why do you not run to the possession of such a treasure as this is ? " Taste and see how sweet the Lord is; happy is the man that puts his trust in him;" Ps. xxxiii. 9. When the soul has once tasted these spiritual pleasures, none carnal will please her. Company is then a restraint on her, whilst she looks on solitude as a paradise; for all her desire and comfort is, to be alone with her God whom she loves. Honors and preferments are but a burden to her, and an estate and family a torment. She would not for all the world, no not for heaven itself, be deprived . of her comforts ; and, for this reason, all her endeavors are to disengage herself from the world. She has but one love, and one desire ; so that, whatsoever she loves, it is for the sake of one alone, and this one she loves of all things ; she knows how to cry out, with the royal prophet, " What have I, O Lord, in heaven, or what is there upon the earth that I desire besides thee ? My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, God is my portion forever;" Ps. xxii. 25, 26.

The knowledge of holy things seems no longer obscure to a soul in this state; she sees them now with other eyes, and feels such motions and changes within, as are strong proofs of every article of faith. She thinks the day long and tedious, and the management of her temporal concerns is troublesome to her, longing till the night comes, that she may spend it in the company of her God. She never looks on the night as too long; the longest, on the contrary, are those she desires most. If they happen to be clear, with their eyes cast up to heaven, she admires its beauty and the brightness of the moon and stars, considering them quite differently from what she used to do, and much more cheerfully ; she looks on them as so many marks of her Creator's beauty, and so many mirrors of his glory, as so many messengers that come to bring her news of him, as so many lively drafts of his grace and perfections, and as so many presents which the bridegroom sends his bride, to endear and make her constant to him, till he himself shall come and lead her by the hand to this happy marriage, for an eternity in heaven; she looks on the whole world as a book that treats of nothing else but of God; she regards it as a letter from her beloved, and a token of his love. These are the pleasures and delights they who love God pass the nights in ; these the quiet sleeps they enjoy. For the regular motions all creatures observe, are like a harmonious concert to the soul, that makes her slumber a little, and lulls her into the gentle and soft sleep, of which it is said, "I sleep, and my heart watcheth;" Cant. v. 2. And when her dearest spouse perceives her thus at rest within his arms, he takes care not to disturb her, and gives orders that no one presumes to wake her, saying, "I adjure you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,by the roes and harts of the field, that you stir not up, nor make the beloved awake, till she please;" Cant. ii. 7.

What do you think now of such nights as these ? which do you imagine to be the pleasanter, these, or those of worldlings, who spend their time, lying in wait to defile innocent virgins, to rob them of their chastity, and make them lose their honor and their souls ? Thus they miserably expose themselves to the hazard of their own lives, heaping up for themselves a treasure of vengeance against that day, wherein God will punish them according to the heinousness of their crimes ; Rom. ii. 5.