Presence of God – My God, You have infused love into my soul. Grant that it may increase until it brings me to union with You.
“God continues to do and to work in the soul by means of this night, illumining and enkindling it divinely with yearnings for God alone and for naught else whatever” (John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II, 13,11). In proportion as it detaches itself from earth, leaving aside all affection and desire for creatures, the soul climbs “the secret ladder” of love which raises it step by step even unto its Creator, “for it is love alone that unites and joins the soul to God” (ibid., 18,5).
This enkindling of love is not perceived in the beginning of the purification, because then “this divine fire is used in drying up and making ready the wood (which is the soul), rather than in giving it heat. But, as time goes on, the fire begins to give heat to the soul, and the soul then very commonly feels this enkindling and heat of love” (ibid., 12,5). The flames of love can produce great spiritual delight; there are moments of unspeakable joy in which the soul receives a foretaste of its approaching union with God, a joy which compensates fully for all the pain and anguish suffered in the obscurity of the night, and one which encourages it to accept wholeheartedly whatever it must still undergo to attain perfect union with God. Nevertheless, it is well to remember that the enkindling of love does not consist in the joy the soul may experience, but rather in the firm determination of the will to give itself entirely to God. Moreover, “this is wrought by the Lord, who infuses as He wills,” that is, who can infuse love, either “leaving the will in aridity” (ibid., 12,7) or inflaming it with sweet ardor.
Be that as it may, what matters is not the enjoyment of love, but our rapid advancement in it, for love is the only power that can unite us to God. St. John of the Cross, developing this topic, states precisely: “It is to be observed, then, that love is the inclination of the soul and the strength and power which it has to go to God … and thus, the more degrees of love the soul has, the more profoundly does it enter into God and the more is it centered in Him” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love, 1,13). As a stone in its fall is drawn toward the center of the earth by gravity, so the soul is drawn to God by the power of love. The stronger the love, the more powerfully will the soul be drawn to God and entirely united to Him: “the strongest love is the most unitive love” (ibid.). How, then, could a soul that sincerely desires union with God fail to exert all its efforts to grow in love?
“O most loved King of peace, desired by all generous hearts in heaven and upon earth, who ask me with infinite sweetness to love You with all my heart, my mind, and my strength; despise not my sighs and yearnings.
“Beloved King, You came into the world to reign in the hearts of men by Your sweet law of charity, grant that I may love You with all my heart, and all the strength of my mind. Grant, most amiable Lord, that I may live no longer in myself but in You, who are my life; transform me into Yourself by love’s activity. Communicate to me that sweet fire which burns in Your Heart and grant that in all things I may seek You alone, You who are the true peace and center of my soul. I await but one thing from You: kindle Your eternal fire within me and let it beget in my heart such great desire for You that I may seek You always, night and day; let this longing constrain me to use everything, to seize every occasion, to find ever new ways of pleasing You and of inducing all creatures to serve You, to love You, and to unite themselves to You by the bond of charity.
“Come within me, O sweet Spouse of my soul, O ardent Heart, desirous of my own. Enter Your dwelling as absolute Lord, and govern there irresistibly by the power of Your omnipotent love. This very day I wish to be drawn to You, O generous Son of God; let my soul be transformed in Yours, and, after that, You will be my soul, my life, the one comfort of my afflicted heart, and my only consolation” (Ven. John of Jesus Mary).
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Art: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.