Stanza xxiii

Beneath the apple-tree
There wert thou betrothed;
There I gave thee My hand,
And thou wert redeemed
Where thy mother was corrupted.

THE Bridegroom tells the soul of the wondrous way of its
redemption and betrothal to Himself, by referring to the way in
which the human race was lost. As it was by the forbidden tree of
paradise that our nature was corrupted in Adam and lost, so it was
by the tree of the Cross that it was redeemed and restored. The
Bridegroom there stretched forth the hand of His grace and mercy,
in His death and passion, ‘making void the law of commandments’
[194] which original sin had placed between us and God.

‘Beneath the apple-tree,’

2. That is the wood of the Cross, where the Son of God was
conqueror, and where He betrothed our human nature to Himself,
and, by consequence, every soul of man. There, on the Cross, He
gave us grace and pledges of His love.

‘There wert thou betrothed,
there I gave thee My hand.’

3. ‘Help and grace, lifting thee up out of thy base and miserable
condition to be My companion and My bride.’

‘And thou wert redeemed
where thy mother was corrupted.’

4. ‘Thy mother, human nature, was corrupted in her first parents
beneath the forbidden tree, and thou wert redeemed beneath the
tree of the Cross. If thy mother at that tree sentenced thee to
die, I from the Cross have given thee life.’ It is thus that God
reveals the order and dispositions of His wisdom: eliciting good
from evil, and turning that which has its origin in evil to be an
instrument of greater good. This stanza is nearly word for word
what the Bridegroom in the Canticle saith to the bride: ‘Under the
apple-tree I raised thee up: there thy mother was corrupted; there
she was defloured that bare thee.’ [195]

5. It is not the betrothal of the Cross that I am speaking of now–
that takes place, once for all, when God gives the first grace to
the soul in baptism. I am speaking of the betrothal in the way of
perfection, which is a progressive work. And though both are but
one, yet there is a difference between them. The latter is
effected in the way of the soul, and therefore slowly: the former
in the way of God, and therefore at once.

6. The betrothal of which I am speaking is that of which God
speaks Himself by the mouth of the prophet Ezechiel, saying: ‘Thou
wert cast out upon the face of the earth in the abjection of thy
soul, in the day that thou wert born. And passing by thee, I saw
that thou wert trodden under foot in thy blood; and I said to thee
when thou wert in thy blood: Live: I said to thee, I say; in thy
blood live. Multiplied as the spring of the field have I made
thee; and thou wert multiplied and made great, and thou wentest
in, and camest to the ornaments of woman; thy breasts swelled and
thy hair budded: and thou wert naked and full of confusion. And I
passed by thee and saw thee, and behold, thy time, the time of
lovers; and I spread My garment over thee and covered thy
ignominy. And I swore to thee; and I entered a covenant with thee,
saith the Lord God; and thou wert made Mine. And I washed thee
with water, and made clean thy blood from off thee: and I anointed
thee with oil. And I clothed thee with divers colours, and shod
thee with hyacinth, and I girded thee with silk and clothed thee
with fine garments. And I adorned thee with ornaments, and put
bracelets on thy hands, and a chain about thy neck. And I put a
jewel upon thy forehead and rings in thy ears, and a crown of
beauty on thy head. And thou wert adorned with gold and silver,
and wert clothed with silk, and embroidered work, and many
colours: thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil, and wert
made beautiful exceedingly, and advanced to be a queen. And thy
name went forth among the nations because of thy beauty.’ [196]
These are the words of Ezechiel, and this is the state of that
soul of which I am now speaking.


AFTER the mutual surrender to each other of the bride and the
Beloved, comes their bed. Thereon the bride enters into the joy of
Christ. Thus the present stanza refers to the bed, which is pure
and chaste, and divine, and in which the bride is pure, divine,
and chaste. The bed is nothing else but the Bridegroom Himself,
the Word, the Son of God, in Whom, through the union of love, the
bride reposes. This bed is said to be of flowers, for the
Bridegroom is not only that, but, as He says Himself of Himself,
‘I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys.’ [197]
The soul reposes not only on the bed of flowers, but on that very
flower which is the Son of God, and which contains in itself the
divine odour, fragrance, grace, and beauty, as He saith by the
mouth of David, ‘With me is the beauty of the field.’ [198] The
soul, therefore, in the stanza that follows, celebrates the
properties and beauties of its bed, saying: