The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross: ‘Eat the Scroll and Be Consumed with Love’

Jesus, who is the way and the truth and life will teach you everything, especially when you have him in you sacramentally; but, as you have him as food, let him have you as food, too, and change you into himself by love.  (The Mysticism of the Passion in Saint Paul of the Cross, pp. 301)

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him’.”

John 14:23

“And He took bread gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’”

Luke 22:19-20

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

John 17:20-21

Jesus gives Himself to us as food. He is the Word and we can “eat the scroll” even as Ezekiel and John were commanded to eat it.[1] He also gives Himself to us “sacramentally” as in the bread that He proclaimed as His body.[2]He comes into us mystically. This mystery He instituted as something we would do often to remember His death until He returned.[3] He desired that we frequently remember His death on the cross. He also comes into us via the Holy Spirit.[4]In John 14:23, it seems as if the whole Trinity comes to live inside of us. These mysteries of Christ in us are many and varied. He desires to be closer to us than ourselves, to live deep in our innermost being.[5]

As if this weren’t enough, St. Paul of the Cross says in his letter of spiritual direction, “as you have him as food, let him have you as food, too, and change you into himself by love.”[6] What does the saint mean when he says to let Him have you as food also? Not only is He in us, but we also are in Him. But how can we give ourselves to Him as food? Food dissolves in the mouth, swallowed, and becomes something that nourishes the body. If we are food then we are completely dissolved into Him like a drop in the ocean. A drop loses itself in the ocean even though it still is a drop. In another quote, St. Paul of the Cross says, “The soul, once in paradise, will be transformed into God, and God will be all in the soul, in such a manner that the soul will be, as it were, deified. Cast a drop of sweet water into the sea: it will be so absorbed in that we can no longer distinguish it. So in having the beatified spirit, which is immersed in the immense ocean of Divinity, is in a certain sense deified by being united, through love, to God.”[7] Even on this side of paradise, we can give ourselves to Him by emptying ourselves of everything that hinders relationship with Him. By emptying ourselves, we are saying to Him that He is our only desire, our only Love. This nourishes His heart!

Technology, media, advertisements, worldly conversations all bombard our souls constantly. We have much “traffic in our souls” and the emptying process consists in a detachment of these various forms of media and limiting the in-take to only what is necessary. Similar to food in-take, we must not be gluttonous of worldly things, but take in only what is needful. Sometimes is it necessary to embrace significant inconvenience to maintain interior peace and recollection.

Silence and solitude are the backdrop to the empty space needed on the inside in which the Holy Spirit desires to fill. Spending time daily off of all forms of media, getting alone with Him, being silent before Him, is key in this process of surrender. Soon the sweetness of this time will increase such that the soul cannot live without this alone time with the God-man. This time becomes a special trysting place where lovers meet to give one another promises and frequent exclamations of love and passion from the deep.

Similar to being consumed as food, St. Paul of the Cross also speaks of becoming a burnt offering. He desired to become so fully consumed by God that he became like a burnt offering where the entire offering goes up in the flames leaving nothing behind.[8] Let us be ones drawn to the holy flame that desire to be completely burned up in His consuming fire of love.

Prayer:

Beautiful One, let us draw near with confidence and be consumed in Your Love and filled with Your Holy Spirit afresh. Let us be addicted to only You and put away every other attachment that separates us from You. Let us be fully abandoned to You, in Jesus Name. Amen.

For Meditation:

What steps can you take to be nourished by Christ, and how can you nourish Him? What can you do to rid your soul from “traffic”? Can you make space for silence and solitude in your life?

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[1] Ezekiel 3:1, Revelation 9:10

[2] Luke 22:19

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:26

[4] Mark 1:8, Acts 8:15-17, John 20:22

[5] John 7:38

[6] The Mysticism of the Passion in Saint Paul of the Cross, pp. 301

[7] Flowers of the Passion, pp.8

[8] For example: “Allow your soul to fly into God. Let yourself burn and melt away.” Letter #211

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Photo by Samara Doole on Unsplash

This post is part of a series on the Letters of St. Paul of the Cross.  You can see more here. 

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