Stanza xxviii

My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I any other employment:
My sole occupation is love.

THE soul, or rather the bride having given herself wholly to the
Bridegroom without any reserve whatever, now recounts to the
Beloved how she fulfils her task. ‘My soul and body,’ she says,
‘all my abilities and all my capacities, are occupied not with
other matters, but with those pertaining to the service of the
Bridegroom.’ She is therefore not seeking her own proper
satisfaction, nor the gratification of her own inclinations,
neither does she occupy herself in anything whatever which is
alien to God; yea, even her communion with God Himself is nothing
else but acts of love, inasmuch as she has changed her former mode
of conversing with Him into loving.

‘My soul is occupied.’

2. This refers to the soul’s surrender of itself to the Beloved in
this union of love, wherein it devotes itself, with all its
faculties, understanding, will, and memory, to His service. The
understanding is occupied in considering what most tends to His
service, in order that it might be accomplished; the will in
loving all that is pleasing to God, and in desiring Him in all
things; the memory in recalling what ministers to Him, and what
may be more pleasing unto Him.

‘And all my substance in His service.’

3. By substance here is meant all that relates to the sensual part
of the soul, which includes the body, with all its powers,
interior and exterior, together with all its natural capacities–
that is, the four passions, the natural desires, and the whole
substance of the soul, all of which is employed in the service of
the Beloved, as well as the rational and spiritual part, as I
explained in the previous section. As to the body, that is now
ordered according to God in all its interior and exterior senses,
all the acts of which are directed to God; the four passions of
the soul are also under control in Him; for the soul’s joy, hope,
fear, and grief are conversant with God only; all its appetites,
and all its anxieties also, are directed unto Him only.

4. The whole substance of the soul is now so occupied with God, so
intent upon Him, that its very first movements, even
inadvertently, have God for their object and their end. The
understanding, memory, and will tend directly to God; the
affections, senses, desires, and longings, hope and joy, the whole
substance of the soul, rise instantly towards God, though the soul
is making no conscious efforts in that direction. Such a soul is
very often doing the work of God, intent upon Him and the things
of God, without thinking or reflecting on what it is doing for
Him. The constant and habitual practice of this has deprived it of
all conscious reflection, and even of that fervour which it
usually had when it began to act. The whole substance of the soul
being thus occupied, what follows cannot be but true also.

‘Now I guard no flock.’

5. ‘I do not now go after my likings and desires; for having fixed
them upon God, I no longer feed or guard them.’ The soul not only
does not guard them now, but has no other occupation than to wait
upon God.

‘Nor have I any other employment.’

6. Before the soul succeeded in effecting this gift and surrender
of itself, and of all that belongs to it, to the Beloved, it was
entangled in many unprofitable occupations, by which it sought to
please itself and others, and it may be said that its occupations
of this kind were as many as its habits of imperfection.

7. To these habits belong that of speaking, thinking, and the
doing of things that are useless; and likewise, the not making use
of these things according to the requirements of the soul’s
perfection; other desires also the soul may have, wherewith it
ministers to the desires of others, to which may be referred
display, compliments, flattery, human respect, aiming at being
well thought of, and the giving pleasure to people, and other
useless actions, by which it laboured to content them, wasting its
efforts herein, and finally all its strength. All this is over,
says the soul here, for all its words, thoughts, and works are
directed to God, and, conversant with Him, freed from their
previous imperfections. It is as if it said: ‘I follow no longer
either my own or other men’s likings, neither do I occupy or
entertain myself with useless pastimes, or the things of this

‘My sole occupation is love.’

8. ‘All my occupation now is the practice of the love of God, all
the powers of soul and body, memory, understanding, and will,
interior and exterior senses, the desires of spirit and of sense,
all work in and by love. All I do is done in love; all I suffer, I
suffer in the sweetness of love.’ This is the meaning of David
when he said, ‘I will keep my strength to Thee.’ [232]

9. When the soul has arrived at this state all the acts of its
spiritual and sensual nature, whether active or passive, and of
whatever kind they may be, always occasion an increase of love and
delight in God: even the act of prayer and communion with God,
which was once carried on by reflections and divers other methods,
is now wholly an act of love. So much so is this the case that the
soul may always say, whether occupied with temporal or spiritual
things, ‘My sole occupation is love.’ Happy life! happy state!
and happy the soul which has attained to it! where all is the very
substance of love, the joyous delights of the betrothal, when it
may truly say to the Beloved with the bride in the Canticle, ‘The
new and the old, my Beloved, have I kept for Thee’ [233] ‘All that
is bitter and painful I keep for Thy sake, all that is sweet and
pleasant I keep for Thee.’ The meaning of the words, for my
purpose, is that the soul, in the state of spiritual betrothal, is
for the most part living in the union of love–that is, the will
is habitually waiting lovingly on God.


OF a truth the soul is now lost to all things, and gained only to
love, and the mind is no longer occupied with anything else. It
is, therefore, deficient in what concerns the active life, and
other exterior duties, that it may apply in earnest to the one
thing which the Bridegroom has pronounced necessary; [234] and
that is waiting upon God, and the continuous practice of His love.
So precious is this in the eyes of God that He rebuked Martha
because she would withdraw Mary from His feet to occupy her
actively in the service of our Lord. Martha thought that she was
doing everything herself, and that Mary at the feet of Christ was
doing nothing. But it was far otherwise: for there is nothing
better or more necessary than love. Thus, in the Canticle, the
Bridegroom protects the bride, adjuring the daughters of
Jerusalem–that is, all created things–not to disturb her
spiritual sleep of love, nor to waken her, nor to let her open her
eyes to anything till she pleased. ‘I adjure you, O daughters of
Jerusalem, that you stir not up, nor awake my beloved till she
please.’ [235]

2. Observe, however, that if the soul has not reached the state of
unitive love, it is necessary for it to make acts of love, as well
in the active as in the contemplative life. But when it has
reached it, it is not requisite it should occupy itself in other
and exterior duties–unless they be matters of obligation–which
might hinder, were it but for a moment, the life of love in God,
though they may minister greatly to His service; because an
instant of pure love is more precious in the eyes of God and the
soul, and more profitable to the Church, than all other good works
together, though it may seem as if nothing were done. Thus, Mary
Magdalene, though her preaching was most edifying, and might have
been still more so afterwards, out of the great desire she had to
please God and benefit the Church, hid herself, nevertheless, in
the desert thirty years, that she might surrender herself entirely
to love; for she considered that she would gain more in that way,
because an instant of pure love is so much more profitable and
important to the Church.

3. When the soul, then, in any degree possesses the spirit of
solitary love, we must not interfere with it. We should inflict a
grievous wrong upon it, and upon the Church also, if we were to
occupy it, were it only for a moment, in exterior or active
duties, however important they might be. When God Himself adjures
all not to waken it from its love, who shall venture to do so, and
be blameless? In a word, it is for this love that we are all
created. Let those men of zeal, who think by their preaching and
exterior works to convert the world, consider that they would be
much more edifying to the Church, and more pleasing unto God–
setting aside the good example they would give if they would spend
at least one half their time in prayer, even though they may have
not attained to the state of unitive love. Certainly they would do
more, and with less trouble, by one single good work than by a
thousand: because of the merit of their prayer, and the spiritual
strength it supplies. To act otherwise is to beat the air, to do
little more than nothing, sometimes nothing and occasionally even
mischief; for God may give up such persons to vanity, so that they
may seem to have done something, when in reality their outward
occupations bear no fruit; for it is quite certain that good works
cannot be done but in the power of God. O how much might be
written on this subject! this, however, is not the place for it.

4. I have said this to explain the stanza that follows, in which
the soul replies to those who call in question its holy
tranquillity, who will have it wholly occupied with outward
duties, that its light may shine before the world: these persons
have no conception of the fibres and the unseen root whence the
sap is drawn, and which nourish the fruit.