Stanza xxvii

There He gave me His breasts,
There He taught me the science full of sweetness.
And there I gave to Him
Myself without reserve;
There I promised to be His bride.

HERE the soul speaks of the two contracting parties in this
spiritual betrothal, itself and God. In the inner cellar of love
they both met together, God giving to the soul the breasts of His
love freely, whereby He instructs it in His mysteries and wisdom,
and the soul also actually surrendering itself, making no
reservation whatever either in its own favour or in that of
others, promising to be His for ever.

‘There He gave me His breasts.’

2. To give the breast to another is to love and cherish him and
communicate one’s secrets to him as a friend. The soul says here
that God gave it His breasts–that is, He gave it His love and
communicated His secrets to it. It is thus that God deals with the
soul in this state, and more, too, as it appears from the words
that follow:

‘There He taught me the science full of sweetness.’

3. This science is mystical theology, which is the secret science
of God, and which spiritual men call contemplation. It is most
full of sweetness because it is knowledge by love, love is the
master of it, and it is love that renders it all so sweet.
Inasmuch as this science and knowledge are communicated to the
soul in that love with which God communicates Himself, it is sweet
to the understanding, because knowledge belongs to it, and sweet
to the will, because it comes by love which belongs to the will.

‘There I gave to Him myself without reserve’

4. The soul in this sweet draught of God, surrenders itself wholly
to Him most willingly and with great sweetness; it desires to be
wholly His, and never to retain anything which is unbecoming His
Majesty. God is the author of this union, and of the purity and
perfection requisite for it; and as the transformation of the soul
in Himself makes it His, He empties it of all that is alien to
Himself. Thus it comes to pass that, not in will only, but in act
as well, the whole soul is entirely given to God without any
reserve whatever, as God has given Himself freely unto it. The
will of God and of the soul are both satisfied, each given up to
the other, in mutual delight, so that neither fails the other in
the faith and constancy of the betrothal; therefore the soul says:

‘There I promised to be His bride.’

5. As a bride does not give her love to another, and as all her
thoughts and actions are directed to her bridegroom only, so the
soul now has no affections of the will, no acts of the
understanding, neither object nor occupation of any kind which it
does not wholly refer unto God, together with all its desires. The
soul is, as it were, absorbed in God, and even its first movements
have nothing in them–so far as it can comprehend them–which is
at variance with the will of God. The first movements of an
imperfect soul in general are, at least, inclined to evil, in the
understanding, the memory, the will, the desires and
imperfections; but those of the soul which has attained to the
spiritual state of which I am speaking are ordinarily directed to
God, because of the great help and courage it derives from Him,
and its perfect conversion to goodness. This is set forth with
great clearness by David, when he saith: ‘Shall not my soul be
subject to God? For from Him is my salvation. For He is my God and
my Saviour; He is my protector, I shall be moved no more.’ [228]
‘He is my protector’ means that the soul, being now received under
the protection of God and united to Him, is no longer subject to
any movements contrary to God.

6. It is quite clear from this that the soul which has attained
the spiritual betrothal knows nothing else but the love of the
Bridegroom and the delights thereof, because it has arrived at
perfection, the form and substance of which is love, according to
St. Paul. [229] The more a soul loves, the more perfect it is in
its love, and hence it follows that the soul which is already
perfect is, if we may say so, all love, all its actions are love,
all its energies and strength are occupied in love. It gives up
all it has, like the wise merchant, [230] for this treasure of
love which it finds hidden in God, and which is so precious in His
sight, and the Beloved cares for nothing else but love; the soul,
therefore, anxious to please Him perfectly, occupies itself wholly
in pure love for God, not only because love does so occupy it, but
also because the love wherein it is united influences it towards
love of God in and through all things. As the bee draws honey from
all plants, and makes use of them only for that end, so the soul
most easily draws the sweetness of love from all that happens to
it; makes all things subserve it towards loving God, whether they
be sweet or bitter; and being animated and protected by love, has
no sense, feeling, or knowledge, because, as I have said, it knows
nothing but love, and in all its occupations, its joy is its love
of God. This is explained by the following stanza.


I HAVE said that God is pleased with nothing but love; but before
I explain this, it will be as well to set forth the grounds on
which the assertion rests. All our works, and all our labours, how
grand soever they may be, are nothing in the sight of God, for we
can give Him nothing, neither can we by them fulfil His desire,
which is the growth of our soul. As to Himself He desires nothing
of this, for He has need of nothing, and so, if He is pleased with
anything it is with the growth of the soul; and as there is no way
in which the soul can grow but in becoming in a manner equal to
Him, for this reason only is He pleased with our love. It is the
property of love to place him who loves on an equality with the
object of his love. Hence the soul, because of its perfect love,
is called the bride of the Son of God, which signifies equality
with Him. In this equality and friendship all things are common,
as the Bridegroom Himself said to His disciples: ‘I have called
you friends, because all things, whatsoever I have heard of my
Father, I have made known to you.’