Stanza xvi

Catch us the foxes,
For our vineyard hath flourished;
While of roses
We make a nosegay,
And let no one appear on the hill.

THE soul, anxious that this interior delight of love, which is the
flowers of the vineyard, should not be interrupted, either by
envious and malicious devils, or the raging desires of sensuality,
or the various comings and goings of the imagination, or any other
consciousness or presence of created things, calls upon the angels
to seize and hinder all these from interrupting its practice of
interior love, in the joy and sweetness of which the soul and the
Son of God communicate and delight in the virtues and graces.

‘Catch us the foxes, for our vineyard hath flourished.’

2. The vineyard is the plantation in this holy soul of all the
virtues which minister to it the wine of sweet taste. The vineyard
of the soul is then flourishing when it is united in will to the
Bridegroom, and delights itself in Him in all the virtues.
Sometimes, as I have just said, the memory and the fancy are
assailed by various forms and imaginings, and divers motions and
desires trouble the sensual part. The great variety and diversity
of these made David say, when he felt the inconvenience and the
trouble of them as he was drinking of the sweet wine of the
spirit, thirsting greatly after God: ‘For Thee my soul hath
thirsted, for Thee my flesh, O how many ways.’ [159]

3. Here the soul calls the whole troop of desires and stirrings
of sense, foxes, because of the great resemblance between them at
this time. As foxes pretend to be asleep that they may pounce upon
their prey when it comes in their way, so all the desires and
powers of sense in the soul are asleep until the flowers of virtue
grow, flourish, and bloom. Then the desires and powers of sense
awake to resist the Spirit and domineer. ‘The flesh lusteth
against the spirit,’ [160] and as the inclination of it is towards
the sensual desires, it is disgusted as soon as it tastes of the
Spirit, and herein the desires prove extremely troublesome to
spiritual sweetness.

‘Catch us the foxes.’

4. The evil spirits now molest the soul in two ways. They
vehemently excite the desires, and employ them with other
imaginations to assail the peaceful and flourishing kingdom of the
soul. Then–and this is much worse–when they do not succeed in
stirring up the desires, they assail the soul with bodily pains
and noises in order to distract it. And, what is still more
serious, they fight with spiritual horror and dread, and sometimes
with fearful torments, which, at this time, if God permits them,
they can most effectually bring about, for inasmuch as the soul is
now spiritually detached, so as to perform its spiritual
exercises, the devil being himself a spirit presents himself
before it with great ease.

5. At other times the evil spirit assails the soul with other
horrors, before it begins to have the fruition of the sweet
flowers, when God is beginning to draw it forth out of the house
of sense that it may enter on the interior exercises in the garden
of the Bridegroom, for he knows well that once entered into this
state of recollection it is there so protected that,
notwithstanding all he can do, he cannot hurt it. Very often, too,
when the devil goes forth to meet the soul, the soul becomes
quickly recollected in the secret depths of its interior, where it
finds great sweetness and protection; then those terrors of Satan
are so far off that they not only produce no fear, but are even
the occasion of peace and joy. The bride, in the Canticle, speaks
of these terrors, saying, ‘My soul troubled me for the chariots of
Aminadab.’ [161] Aminadab is the evil spirit, and his chariots are
his assaults upon the soul, which he makes with great violence,
noise, and confusion.

6. The bride also says what the soul says here, namely: ‘Catch us
the little foxes that destroy the vineyards; for our vineyard hath
flourished.’ [162] She does not say, ‘Catch me’ but ‘Catch us,’
because she is speaking of herself and the Beloved; for they are
one, and enjoy the flourishing of the vineyard together.

7. The reason why the vineyard is said to be flourishing and not
bearing fruit is this: the soul in this life has the fruition of
virtues, however perfect they may be, only in their flower,
because the fruit of them is reserved for the life to come.

‘While of roses we make a nosegay.’

8. Now, at this time, while the soul is rejoicing in the
flourishing of the vineyard, and delighting itself in the bosom of
the Beloved, all its virtues are perfect, exhibiting themselves to
the soul, and sending forth great sweetness and delight. The soul
feels them to be in itself and in God so as to seem to be one
vineyard most flourishing and pleasing belonging to both, wherein
they feed and delight. Then the soul binds all its virtues
together, makes acts of love in each of them separately, and in
all together, and then offers them all to the Beloved, with great
tenderness of love and sweetness, and in this the Beloved helps
it, for without His help and favour it cannot make this union and
oblation of virtue to the Beloved. Hence it says, ‘We make a
nosegay’–that is ‘the Beloved and myself.’

9. This union of the virtues is called a nosegay; for as a nosegay
is cone-like in form, and a cone is strong, containing and
embracing many pieces firmly joined together, so this cone-like
nosegay of the virtues which the soul makes for the Beloved is the
uniform perfection of the soul which firmly and solidly contains
and embraces many perfections, great virtues, and rich endowments;
for all the perfections and virtues of the soul unite together to
form but one. And while this perfection is being accomplished, and
when accomplished, offered to the Beloved on the part of the soul,
it becomes necessary to catch the foxes that they may not hinder
this mutual interior communication. The soul prays not only that
this nosegay may be carefully made, but also adds, ‘And let no one
appear on the hill.’

10. This divine interior exercise requires solitude and detachment
from all things, whether in the lower part of the soul, which is
that of sense, or in the higher, which is the rational. These two
divisions comprise all the faculties and senses of man, and are
here called the hill; because all our natural notions and desires
being in them, as quarry on a hill, the devil lies in wait among
these notions and desires, in order that he may injure the soul.

‘And let no one appear on the hill.’

11. That is, let no representation or image of any object
whatever, appertaining to any of these faculties or senses, appear
in the presence of the soul and the Bridegroom: in other words,
let the spiritual powers of the soul, memory, understanding, and
will, be divested of all notions, particular inclinations, or
considerations whatsoever; and let all the senses and faculties of
the body, interior as well as exterior, the imagination, the
fancy, the sight and hearing, and the rest, be divested of all
occasions of distractions, of all forms, images, and
representations, and of all other natural operations.

12. The soul speaks in this way because it is necessary for the
perfect fruition of this communication of God, that all the senses
and powers, both interior and exterior, should be disencumbered
and emptied of their proper objects and operations; for the more
active they are, the greater will be the hindrance which they will
occasion. The soul having attained to a certain interior union of
love, the spiritual faculties of it are no longer active, and
still less those of the body; for now that the union of love is
actually wrought in love, the faculties of the soul cease from
their exertions, because now that the goal is reached all
employment of means is at an end. What the soul at this time has
to do is to wait lovingly upon God, and this waiting is love in a
continuation of unitive love. Let no one, therefore, appear on the
hill, but the will only waiting on the Beloved in the offering up
of self and of all the virtues in the way described.


FOR the clearer understanding of the following stanza, we must
keep in mind that the absence of the Beloved, from which the soul
suffers in the state of spiritual betrothal, is an exceedingly
great affliction, and at times greater than all other trials
whatever. The reason is this: the love of the soul for God is now
so vehement and deep that the pain of His absence is vehement and
deep also. This pain is increased also by the annoyance which
comes from intercourse with creatures, which is very great; for
the soul, under the pressure of its quickened desire of union with
God, finds all other conversation most painful and difficult to
endure. It is like a stone in its flight to the place whither it
is rapidly tending; every obstacle it meets with occasions a
violent shock. And as the soul has tasted of the sweetness of the
Beloved’s visits, which are more desirable than gold and all that
is beautiful, it therefore dreads even a momentary absence, and
addresses itself as follows to aridities, and to the Spirit of the