Stanza vii

All they who serve are telling me
Of Thy unnumbered graces;
And all wound me more and more,
And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.

THE soul describes itself in the foregoing stanza as wounded, or
sick with love of the Bridegroom, because of the knowledge of Him
which the irrational creation supplies, and in the present, as
wounded with love because of the other and higher knowledge which
it derives from the rational creation, nobler than the former;
that is, angels and men. This is not all, for the soul says also
that it is dying of love, because of that marvellous immensity not
wholly but partially revealed to it through the rational creation.
This it calls ‘I know not what,’ because it cannot be described,
and because it is such that the soul dies of it.

2. It seems, from this, that there are three kinds of pain in the
soul’s love of the Beloved, corresponding to the three kinds of
knowledge that can be had of Him. The first is called a wound; not
deep, but slight, like a wound which heals quickly, because it
comes from its knowledge of the creatures, which are the lowest
works of God. This wounding of the soul, called also sickness, is
thus spoken of by the bride in the Canticle: ‘I adjure you, O
daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell Him
that I languish with love.’ [77] The daughters of Jerusalem are
the creatures.

3. The second is called a sore which enters deeper than a wound
into the soul, and is, therefore, of longer continuance, because
it is as a wound festering, on account of which the soul feels
that it is really dying of love. This sore is the effect of the
knowledge of the works of God, the incarnation of the Word, and
the mysteries of the faith. These being the greatest works of God,
and involving a greater love than those of creation, produce a
greater effect of love in the soul. If the first kind of pain be
as a wound, this must be like a festering, continuous sore. Of
this speaks the Bridegroom, addressing Himself to the bride,
saying: ‘Thou hast wounded My heart, My sister, My bride; thou
hast wounded My heart with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of
thy neck.’ [78] The eye signifies faith in the incarnation of the
Bridegroom, and the one hair is the love of the same.

4. The third kind of pain is like dying; it is as if the whole
soul were festering because of its wound. It is dying a living
death until love, having slain it, shall make it live the life of
love, transforming it in love. This dying of love is affected by a
single touch of the knowledge of the Divinity; it is the ‘I know
not what,’ of which the creatures, as in the stanza is said, are
speaking indistinctly. This touch is not continuous nor great,–
for then soul and body would part–but soon over, and thus the
soul is dying of love, and dying the more when it sees that it
cannot die of love. [79] This is called impatient love, which is
spoken of in the book of Genesis, where the Scripture saith that
Rachel’s love of children was so great that she said to Jacob her
husband, ‘Give me children, otherwise I shall die.’ [80] And the
prophet Job said, ‘Who will grant that . . . He that hath begun
the same would cut me off.’ [81]

5. These two-fold pains of love–that is, the wound and the dying–
are in the stanza said to be merely the rational creation. The
wound, when it speaks of the unnumbered graces of the Beloved in
the mysteries and wisdom of God taught by the faith. The dying,
when it is said that the rational creation speaks indistinctly.
This is a sense and knowledge of the Divinity sometimes revealed
when the soul hears God spoken of. Therefore it says:

‘All they who serve.’

6. That is, the rational creation, angels and men; for these alone
are they who serve God, understanding by that word intelligent
service; that is to say, all they who serve God. Some serve Him by
contemplation and fruition in heaven–these are the angels; others
by loving and longing for Him on earth–these are men. And because
the soul learns to know God more distinctly through the rational
creation, whether by considering its superiority over the rest of
creation, or by what it teaches us of God–the angels interiorly
by secret inspirations, and men exteriorly by the truths of
Scripture–it says:

‘Telling me of Thy unnumbered graces.’

7. That is, they speak of the wonders of Thy grace and mercy in
the Incarnation, and in the truths of the faith which they show
forth and are ever telling more distinctly; for the more they say,
the more do they reveal Thy graces.

‘And all wound me more and more.’

8. The more the angels inspire me, the more men teach me, the more
do I love Thee; and thus all wound me more and more with love.

‘And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.’

9. It is as if it said: ‘But beside the wound which the creatures
inflict when they tell me of Thy unnumbered graces, there is yet
something which remains to be told, one thing unknown to be
uttered, a most clear trace of the footsteps of God revealed to
the soul, which it should follow, a most profound knowledge of
God, which is ineffable, and therefore spoken of as ‘I know not
what.’ If that which I comprehend inflicts the wound and festering
sore of love, that which I cannot comprehend but yet feel
profoundly, kills me.

10. This happens occasionally to souls advanced, whom God favours
in what they hear, or see, or understand–and sometimes without
these or other means–with a certain profound knowledge, in which
they feel or apprehend the greatness and majesty of God. In this
state they think so highly of God as to see clearly that they know
Him not, and in their perception of His greatness they recognise
that not to comprehend Him is the highest comprehension. And thus,
one of the greatest favours of God, bestowed transiently on the
soul in this life, is to enable it to see so distinctly, and to
feel so profoundly, that it clearly understands it cannot
comprehend Him at all. These souls are herein, in some degree,
like the saints in heaven, where they who know Him most perfectly
perceive most clearly that He is infinitely incomprehensible,
for those who have the less clear vision, do not perceive so
distinctly as the others, how greatly He transends their vision.
This is clear to none who have not had experience of it. But the
experienced soul, comprehending that there is something further of
which it is profoundly sensible, calls it, ‘I know not what.’ As
that cannot be understood, so neither can it be described, though
it be felt, as I have said. Hence the soul says that the creatures
speak indistinctly, because they cannot distinctly utter that
which they would say: it is the speech of infants, who cannot
explain distinctly or speak intelligibly that which they would
convey to others.

11. The other creatures, also, are in some measure a revelation to
the soul in this way, but not of an order so high, whenever it is
the good pleasure of God to manifest to it their spiritual sense
and significance; they are seemingly on the point of making us
understand the perfections of God, and cannot compass it; it is as
if one were about to explain a matter and the explanation is not
given; and thus they stammer ‘I know not what.’ The soul continues
to complain, and addresses its own life, saying, in the stanza
that follows: