Stanza xxii

The bride has entered
The pleasant and desirable garden,
And there reposes to her heart’s content;
Her neck reclining
On the sweet arms of the Beloved.

THE bride having done what she could in order that the foxes may
be caught, the north wind cease, the nymphs, hindrances to the
desired joy of the state of spiritual marriage, forgo their
troublesome importunities, and having also invoked and obtained
the favourable wind of the Holy Ghost, which is the right
disposition and means for the perfection of this state, it remains
for me now to speak of it in the stanza in which the Bridegroom
calls the soul His bride, and speaks of two things: (1) He says
that the soul, having gone forth victoriously, has entered the
delectable state of spiritual marriage, which they had both so
earnestly desired. (2) He enumerates the properties of that state,
into the fruition of which the soul has entered, namely, perfect
repose, and the resting of the neck on the arms of the Beloved.

‘The bride has entered.’

2. For the better understanding of the arrangement of these
stanzas, and of the way by which the soul advances till it reaches
the state of spiritual marriage, which is the very highest, and of
which, by the grace of God, I am now about to treat, we must keep
in mind that the soul, before it enters it, must be tried in
tribulations, in sharp mortifications, and in meditation on
spiritual things. This is the subject of this canticle till we
come to the fifth stanza, beginning with the words, ‘A thousand
graces diffusing.’ Then the soul enters on the contemplative life,
passing through those ways and straits of love which are described
in the course of the canticle, till we come to the thirteenth,
beginning with ‘Turn them away, O my Beloved!’ This is the moment
of the spiritual betrothal; and then the soul advances by the
unitive way, the recipient of many and very great communications,
jewels and gifts from the Bridegroom as to one betrothed, and
grows into perfect love, as appears from the stanzas which follow
that beginning with ‘Turn them away, O my Beloved!’ (the moment of
betrothal), to the present, beginning with the words:

‘The bride has entered.’

3. The spiritual marriage of the soul and the Son of God now
remains to be accomplished. This is, beyond all comparison, a far
higher state than that of betrothal, because it is a complete
transformation into the Beloved; whereby they surrender each to
the other the entire possession of themselves in the perfect union
of love, wherein the soul becomes divine, and, by participation,
God, so far as it is in this life. I believe that no soul ever
attains to this state without being confirmed in grace, for the
faithfulness of both is confirmed; that of God being confirmed in
the soul. Hence it follows, that this is the very highest state
possible in this life. As by natural marriage there are ‘two in
one flesh,’ [188] so also in the spiritual marriage between God
and the soul there are two natures in one spirit and love, as we
learn from St. Paul, who made use of the same metaphor, saying,
‘He that cleaveth to the Lord is one spirit.’ [189] So, when the
light of a star, or of a candle, is united to that of the sun, the
light is not that of the star, nor of the candle, but of the sun
itself, which absorbs all other light in its own.

4. It is of this state that the Bridegroom is now speaking,
saying, ‘The bride has entered’; that is, out of all temporal and
natural things, out of all spiritual affections, ways, and
methods, having left on one side, and forgotten, all temptations,
trials, sorrows, anxieties and cares, transformed in this embrace.

‘The pleasant and desirable garden.’

5. That is, the soul is transformed in God, Who is here called the
pleasant garden because of the delicious and sweet repose which
the soul finds in Him. But the soul does not enter the garden of
perfect transformation, the glory and the joy of the spiritual
marriage, without passing first through the spiritual betrothal,
the mutual faithful love of the betrothed. When the soul has lived
for some time as the bride of the Son, in perfect and sweet love,
God calls it and leads it into His flourishing garden for the
celebration of the spiritual marriage. Then the two natures are so
united, what is divine is so communicated to what is human, that,
without undergoing any essential change, each seems to be God–yet
not perfectly so in this life, though still in a manner which can
neither be described nor conceived.

6. We learn this truth very clearly from the Bridegroom Himself in
the Canticle, where He invites the soul, now His bride, to enter
this state, saying: ‘I am come into my garden, O My sister, My
bride: I have gathered My myrrh with My aromatical spices.’ [190]
He calls the soul His sister, His bride, for it is such in love by
that surrender which it has made of itself before He had called it
to the state of spiritual marriage, when, as He says, He gathered
His myrrh with His aromatical spices; that is, the fruits of
flowers now ripe and made ready for the soul, which are the
delights and grandeurs communicated to it by Himself in this
state, that is Himself, and for which He is the pleasant and
desirable garden.

7. The whole aim and desire of the soul and of God, in all this,
is the accomplishment and perfection of this state, and the soul
is therefore never weary till it reaches it; because it finds
there a much greater abundance and fulness in God, a more secure
and lasting peace, and a sweetness incomparably more perfect than
in the spiritual betrothal, seeing that it reposes between the
arms of such a Bridegroom, Whose spiritual embraces are so real
that it, through them, lives the life of God. Now is fulfilled
what St. Paul referred to when he said: ‘I live; now not I, but
Christ liveth in me.’ [191] And now that the soul lives a life so
happy and so glorious as this life of God, consider what a sweet
life it must be–a life where God sees nothing displeasing, and
where the soul finds nothing irksome, but rather the glory and
delight of God in the very substance of itself, now transformed in

‘And there reposes to her heart’s content;
her neck reclining on the sweet arms of the Beloved.’

8. The neck is the soul’s strength, by means of which its union
with the Beloved is wrought; for the soul could not endure so
close an embrace if it had not been very strong. And as the soul
has laboured in this strength, practised virtue, overcome vice, it
is fitting that it should rest there from its labours, ‘her neck
reclining on the sweet arms of the Beloved.’

9. This reclining of the neck on the arms of God is the union of
the soul’s strength, or, rather, of the soul’s weakness, with the
strength of God, in Whom our weakness, resting and transformed,
puts on the strength of God Himself. The state of spiritual
matrimony is therefore most fitly designated by the reclining of
the neck on the sweet arms of the Beloved; seeing that God is the
strength and sweetness of the soul, Who guards and defends it from
all evil and gives it to taste of all good.

10. Hence the bride in the Canticle, longing for this state, saith
to the Bridegroom: ‘Who shall give to me Thee my brother, sucking
the breast of my mother, that I may find Thee without, and kiss
Thee, and now no man may despise me.’ [192] By addressing Him as
her Brother she shows the equality between them in the betrothal
of love, before she entered the state of spiritual marriage.
‘Sucking the breast of my mother’ signifies the drying up of the
passions and desires, which are the breasts and milk of our mother
Eve in our flesh, which are a bar to this state. The ‘finding Him
without’ is to find Him in detachment from all things and from
self when the bride is in solitude, spiritually detached, which
takes place when all the desires are quenched. ‘And kiss Thee’–
that is, be united with the Bridegroom, alone with Him alone.

11. This is the union of the nature of the soul, in solitude,
cleansed from all impurity, natural, temporal, and spiritual, with
the Bridegroom alone, with His nature, by love only–that of love
which is the only love of the spiritual marriage, wherein the
soul, as it were, kisses God when none despises it nor makes it
afraid. For in this state the soul is no longer molested, either
by the devil, or the flesh, or the world, or the desires, seeing
that here is fulfilled what is written in the Canticle: ‘Winter is
now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in
our land.’ [193]


WHEN the soul has been raised to the high state of spiritual
marriage, the Bridegroom reveals to it, as His faithful consort,
His own marvellous secrets most readily and most frequently, for
he who truly and sincerely loves hides nothing from the object of
his affections. The chief matter of His communications are the
sweet mysteries of His incarnation, the ways and means of
redemption, which is one of the highest works of God, and so is to
the soul one of the sweetest. Though He communicates many other
mysteries, He speaks in the following stanza of His incarnation
only, as being the chief; and thus addresses the soul in the words
that follow: