The Triumph of Love
Presence of God – Grant that there may be only love in me, my God; that all may proceed from love, and all revert to love.
The life of the soul which has reached total union may be defined as one simple, continual, most intense exercise of love, by means of which it gives itself to God unceasingly. All its faculties, not only purified, but perfectly harmonized, are wholly employed in the divine service: “Its understanding [the soul] employs in the understanding of those things that pertain most nearly to His service in order to do them; its will, in loving all that pleases God and in having affection of the will for God in all things; and its memory and care in that which pertains to His service and will be most pleasing to Him” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 28,3). Furthermore, even the sensual part, the body with all its senses, takes part in this magnificent concert of love, so that the soul can truly say that all its “possessions,” that is, all its spiritual and sensitive powers, are completely employed in the service of holy love. “For the body now works according to God; the inward and outward senses are directed toward Him in all their operations and all the four passions of the soul [that is, joy, hope, fear, and sorrow], it likewise keeps bound to God, because it neither has enjoyment save from God, nor has hope save in God, nor fears any save only God, neither does it grieve save according to God; and likewise all its desires and cares are wholly directed to God alone” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 4).
The loving flame of divine Wisdom has taken possession of this soul to such an extent, has so purified it and made it love God alone, that its whole being and all its faculties vibrate solely for Him, being engaged in nothing except in His service and in giving Him pleasure. It has no craving but for Him, no other desire than to give itself and unite itself to Him in perfect love; hence even the very first movements of this soul are movements of love: “The understanding, the will, and the memory go straightway to God; and the affections, the senses, the desires and appetites, hope, joy, and all the rest of the soul’s possessions are inclined to God from the first moment” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 5). Love has become the atmosphere in which the soul moves; it has become its breath, its life. The difficult sacrifices, the bitter struggles and renunciations of the past, when its exercise of love consisted “in stripping itself for God’s sake of all that was not God” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, II, 5,7), seem to it as nothing now, compared with the great good it has obtained; thus it repeats enraptured: “Everything is little when it is a question of acquiring pure and true love of God” (Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus. Spirituality of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus).
“Even as a maiden that is betrothed sets not her love upon another than her spouse, nor directs her thoughts or her actions to any other, grant, O Lord, that my soul may no longer have any affections of the will or acts of knowledge of the understanding, nor any thought or action which is not wholly turned to Thee. Grant that I may know naught save how to love Thee, O my divine Spouse, and seeing that Thou prizest nothing and art pleased with nothing besides love, help me to employ everything purely for love of Thee and to serve Thee perfectly.
“Permit not that I should seek my own gain nor pursue my own tastes nor busy myself in other things and in intercourse that has naught to do with Thee. May I have no other style or manner of intercourse save the exercise of love. May all in me be moved by and in love. In laboring, I wish to do all with love; in suffering, I wish to endure all for love.
“Grant that I may repeat to Thee with the Spouse of the Canticle: ‘All the fruits, the new and the old, my Beloved, I have kept for Thee,’ which is as if she said: My Beloved, I desire for Thy sake to have all that is hard and wearisome, and all that is sweet and delectable I desire for Thee” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 27,7.8 – 28,2-10).
“O Jesus, I do not ask for riches or glory, not even for the glory of heaven…. I ask only for love. One thought is mine, henceforth, dear Jesus, it is to love Thee!… I love Thee, I love my Mother the Church, and I bear in mind that ‘the least act of pure love is of more value to her than all other works together.’ But does this pure love really exist in my heart?…
“O Jesus, grant that love may surround and penetrate me; that at each moment Thy merciful love may renew and purify me, cleansing my soul from all trace of sin” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13-8).
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Art for this post on “The Triumph of Love”: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.