Stanza xii

O crystal well!
O that on Thy silvered surface
Thou wouldest mirror forth at once
Those desired eyes
Which are outlined in my heart.

THE soul vehemently desiring to be united to the Bridegroom, and
seeing that there is no help or succour in created things, turns
towards the faith, as to that which gives it the most vivid vision
of the Beloved, and adopts it as the means to that end. And,
indeed, there is no other way of attaining to true union, to the
spiritual betrothal of God, according to the words of Osee: ‘I
will betrothe thee to Me in faith.’ [108] In this fervent desire
it cries out in the words of this stanza, which are in effect
this: ‘O faith of Christ, my Bridegroom! Oh that thou wouldest
manifest clearly those truths concerning the Beloved, secretly and
obscurely infused–for faith is, as theologians say, an obscure
habit–so that thy informal and obscure communications may be in a
moment clear; Oh that thou wouldest withdraw thyself formally and
completely from these truths–for faith is a veil over the truths
of God–and reveal them perfectly in glory.’ Accordingly it says:

‘O crystal well!’

2. Faith is called crystal for two reasons: because it is of
Christ the Bridegroom; because it has the property of crystal,
pure in its truths, a limpid well clear of error, and of natural
forms. It is a well because the waters of all spiritual goodness
flow from it into the soul. Christ our Lord, speaking to the woman
of Samaria, calls faith a well, saying, ‘The water that I will
give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into
life everlasting.’ [109] This water is the Spirit which they who
believe shall receive by faith in Him. ÔNow this He said of the
Spirit which they who believed in Him should receive.’ [110]

‘Oh that on thy silvered surface.’

3. The articles and definitions of the faith are called silvered
surfaces. In order to understand these words and those that
follow, we must know that faith is compared to silver because of
the propositions it teaches us, the truth and substance it
involves being compared to gold. This very substance which we now
believe, hidden behind the silver veil of faith, we shall clearly
behold and enjoy hereafter; the gold of faith shall be made
manifest. Hence the Psalmist, speaking of this, saith: ÔIf ye sleep
amidst the lots, the wings of the dove are laid over with silver,
and the hinder parts of the back in the paleness of gold.’ [111]
That means if we shall keep the eyes of the understanding from
regarding the things of heaven and of earth–this the Psalmist
calls sleeping in the midst–we shall be firm in the faith, here
called dove, the wings of which are the truths laid over with
silver, because in this life the faith puts these truths before us
obscurely beneath a veil. This is the reason why the soul calls
them silvered surface. But when faith shall have been consummated
in the clear vision of God, then the substance of faith, the
silver veil removed, will shine as gold.

4. As the faith gives and communicates to us God Himself, but
hidden beneath the silver of faith, yet it reveals Him none the
less. So if a man gives us a vessel made of gold, but covered with
silver, he gives us in reality a vessel of gold, though the gold
be covered over. Thus, when the bride in the Canticle was longing
for the fruition of God, He promised it to her so far as the state
of this life admitted of it, saying: ‘We will make thee chains of
gold inlaid with silver.’ [112] He thus promised to give Himself
to her under the veil of faith. Hence the soul addresses the
faith, saying: ‘Oh that on thy silvered surface’–the definitions
of faith–‘in which thou hidest’ the gold of the divine rays–
which are the desired eyes,–instantly adding:

‘Thou wouldest mirror forth at once those desired eyes!’

5. By the eyes are understood, as I have said, the rays and truths
of God, which are set before us hidden and informal in the
definitions of the faith. Thus the words say in substance: ‘Oh
that thou wouldest formally and explicitly reveal to me those
hidden truths which Thou teachest implicitly and obscurely in the
definitions of the faith; according to my earnest desire.’ Those
truths are called eyes, because of the special presence of the
Beloved, of which the soul is conscious, believing Him to be
perpetually regarding it; and so it says:

‘Which are outlined in my heart.’

6. The soul here says that these truths are outlined in the heart–
that is, in the understanding and the will. It is through the
understanding that these truths are infused into the soul by
faith. They are said to be outlined because the knowledge of them
is not perfect. As a sketch is not a perfect picture, so the
knowledge that comes by faith is not a perfect understanding. The
truths, therefore, infused into the soul by faith are as it were
in outline, and when the clear vision shall be granted, then they
will be as a perfect and finished picture, according to the words
of the Apostle: ‘When that shall come which is perfect, that shall
be made void which is in part.’ [113] ‘That which is perfect’ is
the clear vision, and ‘that which is in part’ is the knowledge
that comes by faith.

7. Besides this outline which comes by faith, there is another by
love in the soul that loves–that is, in the will–in which the
face of the Beloved is so deeply and vividly pictured, when the
union of love occurs, that it may be truly said the Beloved lives
in the loving soul, and the loving soul in the Beloved. Love
produces such a resemblance by the transformation of those who
love that one may be said to be the other, and both but one. The
reason is, that in the union and transformation of love one gives
himself up to the other as his possession, and each resigns,
abandons, and exchanges himself for the other, and both become but
one in the transformation wrought by love.

8. This is the meaning of St. Paul when he said, ‘I live, now, not
I, but Christ liveth in me.’ [114] In that He saith, ‘I live, now,
not I,’ his meaning is, that though he lived, yet the life he
lived was not his own, because he was transformed in Christ: that
his life was divine rather than human; and for that reason, he
said it was not he that lived, but Christ Who lived in him. We may
therefore say, according to this likeness of transformation, that
his life and the life of Christ were one by the union of love.
This will be perfect in heaven in the divine life of all those who
shall merit the beatific vision; for, transformed in God, they
will live the life of God and not their own, since the life of God
will be theirs. Then they will say in truth. ‘We live, but not
we ourselves, for God liveth in us.’

9. Now, this may take place in this life, as in the case of St.
Paul, but not perfectly and completely, though the soul should
attain to such a transformation of love as shall be spiritual
marriage, which is the highest state it can reach in this life;
because all this is but an outline of love compared with the
perfect image of transformation in glory. Yet, when this outline
of transformation is attained in this life, it is a grand
blessing, because the Beloved is so greatly pleased therewith. He
desires, therefore, that the bride should have Him thus delineated
in her soul, and saith unto her, ‘Put Me as a seal upon thy heart,
as a seal upon thy arm.’ [115] The heart here signifies the soul,
wherein God in this life dwells as an impression of the seal of
faith, and the arm is the resolute will, where He is as the
impressed token of love.

10. Such is the state of the soul at that time. I speak but
little of it, not willing to leave it altogether untouched, though
no language can describe it.

11. The very substance of soul and body seems to be dried up by
thirst after this living well of God, for the thirst resembles
that of David when he cried out, ‘As the hart longeth for the
fountains of waters, so my soul longeth for Thee, O God. My soul
hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and
appear before the face of God?’ [116] So oppressive is this thirst
to the soul, that it counts it as nothing to break through the
camp of the Philistines, like the valiant men of David, to fill
its pitcher with ‘water out of the cisterns of Bethlehem,’ [117]
which is Christ. The trials of this world, the rage of the devil,
and the pains of hell are nothing to pass through, in order to
plunge into this fathomless fountain of love.

12. To this we may apply those words in the Canticle: ‘Love is
strong as death, jealousy is hard as hell.’ [118] It is incredible
how vehement are the longings and sufferings of the soul when it
sees itself on the point of testing this good, and at the same
time sees it withheld; for the nearer the object desired, the
greater the pangs of its denial: ‘Before I eat,’ saith Job, ‘I
sigh, and as it were overflowing waters so my roaring’ [119] and
hunger for food. God is meant here by food; for in proportion to
the soul’s longing for food, and its knowledge of God, is the pain
it suffers now.


THE source of the grievous sufferings of the soul at this time is
the consciousness of its own emptiness of God–while it is drawing
nearer and nearer to Him–and also, the thick darkness with the
spiritual fire, which dry and purify it, that, its purification
ended, it may be united with God. For when God sends not forth a
ray of supernatural light into the soul, He is to it intolerable
darkness when He is even near to it in spirit, for the
supernatural light by its very brightness obscures the mere
natural light. David referred to this when he said: ‘Cloud and
mist round about Him . . . a fire shall go before Him.’ [120] And
again: ‘He put darkness His covert; His tabernacle is round about
Him, darksome waters in the clouds of the air. Because of the
brightness in His sight the clouds passed, hail and coals of
fire.’ [121] The soul that approaches God feels Him to be all this
more and more the further it advances, until He shall cause it to
enter within His divine brightness through the transformation of
love. But the comfort and consolations of God are, by His infinite
goodness, proportional to the darkness and emptiness of the soul,
as it is written, ‘As the darkness thereof, so also the light
thereof.’ [122] And because He humbles souls and wearies them,
while He is exalting them and making them glorious, He sends into
the soul, in the midst of its weariness, certain divine rays from
Himself, in such gloriousness and strength of love as to stir it
up from its very depths, and to change its whole natural
condition. Thus, the soul, in great fear and natural awe,
addresses the Beloved in the first words of the following stanza,
the remainder of which is His answer: