Stanza xix

Hide thyself, O my Beloved!
Turn Thy face to the mountains,
Do not speak,
But regard the companions
Of her who is travelling amidst strange islands.

HERE the bride presents four petitions to the Bridegroom. She
prays that He would be pleased to converse with her most
interiorly in the secret chamber of the soul. The second, that He
would invest and inform her faculties with the glory and
excellence of His Divinity. The third, that He would converse with
her so profoundly as to surpass all knowledge and expression, and
in such a way that the exterior and sensual part may not perceive
it. The fourth, that He would love the many virtues and graces
which He has implanted in her, adorned with which she is ascending
upwards to God in the highest knowledge of the Divinity, and in
transports of love most strange and singular, surpassing those of
ordinary experience.

‘Hide Thyself, O my Beloved!’

2. ‘O my Bridegroom, most beloved, hide Thyself in the inmost
depths of my soul, communicating Thyself to it in secret, and
manifesting Thy hidden wonders which no mortal eyes may see.

‘Turn Thy face to the mountains.’

3. The face of God is His divinity. The mountains are the powers
of the soul, memory, understanding, and will. Thus the meaning of
these words is: Enlighten my understanding with Thy Divinity, and
give it the divine intelligence, fill my will with divine love,
and my memory with divine possession of glory. The bride here
prays for all that may be prayed for; for she is not content with
that knowledge of God once granted to Moses [173]–the knowledge
of Him by His works–for she prays to see the face of God, which
is the essential communication of His Divinity to the soul,
without any intervening medium, by a certain knowledge thereof in
the Divinity. This is something beyond sense, and divested of
accidents, inasmuch as it is the contact of pure substances–that
is, of the soul and the Divinity.

‘Do not speak.’

4. That is, do not speak as before, when Thy converse with me was
known to the outward senses, for it was once such as to be
comprehended by them; it was not so profound but they could fathom
it. Now let Thy converse with me be so deep and so substantial,
and so interior, as to be above the reach of the senses; for the
substance of the spirit is incommunicable to sense, and the
communication made through the senses, especially in this life,
cannot be purely spiritual, because the senses are not capable of
it. The soul, therefore, longing for that substantial and
essential communication of God, of which sense cannot be
cognizant, prays the Bridegroom not to speak: that is to say, let
the deep secret of the spiritual union be such as to escape the
notice of the senses, like the secret which St. Paul heard, and
which it is not lawful for a man to speak. [174]

‘But regard the companions.’

5. The regard of God is love and grace. The companions here are
the many virtues of the soul, its gifts, perfections, and other
spiritual graces with which God has endowed it; pledges, tokens,
and presents of its betrothal. Thus the meaning of the words seems
to be this: ‘Turn Thou Thy face to the interior of my soul, O my
Beloved; be enamoured of the treasures which Thou hast laid up
there, so that, enamoured of them, Thou mayest hide Thyself among
them and there dwell; for in truth, though they are Thine, they
are mine also, because Thou hast given them.’

‘Of her who travels amidst strange islands.’

6. That is, ‘Of my soul tending towards Thee through strange
knowledge of Thee, by strange ways’–strange to sense and to the
ordinary perceptions of nature. It is as if the bride said, by way
of constraining Him to yield: ‘Seeing that my soul is tending
towards Thee through knowledge which is spiritual, strange,
unknown to sense, do Thou also communicate Thyself to it so
interiorly and so profoundly that the senses may not observe it.’


IN order to the attainment of a state of perfection so high as
this of the spiritual marriage, the soul that aims at it must not
only be purified and cleansed from all the imperfections,
rebellions, and imperfect habits of the inferior part, which is
now–the old man being put away–subject and obedient to the
higher, but it must also have great courage and most exalted love
for so strong and close an embrace of God. For in this state the
soul not only attains to exceeding pureness and beauty, but also
acquires a terrible strength by reason of that strict and close
bond which in this union binds it to God. The soul, therefore, in
order to reach this state must have purity, strength, and adequate
love. The Holy Ghost, the author of this spiritual union, desirous
that the soul should attain thus far in order to merit it,
addresses Himself to the Father and the Son, saying: ‘Our sister
is little, and hath no breasts. What shall we do to our sister in
the day when she is to be spoken to? If she be a wall, let us
build upon it bulwarks of silver; if she be a door, let us join it
together with boards of cedar.’ [175]

2. The ‘bulwarks of silver’ are the strong heroic virtues
comprised in the faith, which is signified by silver, and these
heroic virtues are those of the spiritual marriage, which are
built upon the soul, signified by the wall, relying on the
strength of which, the peaceful Bridegroom reposes undisturbed by
any infirmities. The ‘boards of cedar’ are the affections and
accessories of this deep love which is signified by the cedar-
tree, and this is the love of the spiritual marriage. In order ‘to
join it together,’ that is, to adorn the bride, it is necessary
she should be the door for the Bridegroom to enter through,
keeping the door of the will open in a perfect and true consent of
love, which is the consent of the betrothal given previous to the
spiritual marriage. The breasts of the bride are also this perfect
love which she must have in order to appear in the presence of
Christ her Bridegroom for the perfection of such a state.

3. It is written in the Canticle that the bride in her longing for
this presence immediately replied, saying: ‘I am a wall: and my
breasts are as a tower’–that is, ‘My soul is strong, and my love
most deep’–that He may not fail her on that ground. The bride,
too, had expressed as much in the preceding stanzas, out of the
fulness of her longing for the perfect union and transformation,
and particularly in the last, wherein she set before the
Bridegroom all the virtues, graces, and good dispositions with
which she was adorned by Him, and that with the object of making
Him the prisoner of her love.

4. Now the Bridegroom, to bring this matter to a close, replies in
the two stanzas that follow, which describe Him as perfectly
purifying the soul, strengthening and disposing it, both as to its
sensual and spiritual part, for this state, and charging all
resistance and rebellion, both of the flesh and of the devil, to
cease, saying: