Stanza xxxiv


The little white dove
Has returned to the ark with the bough;
And now the turtle-dove
Its desired mate
On the green banks has found.

IT is the Bridegroom Himself who now speaks. He celebrates the
purity of the soul in its present state, the rich rewards it has
gained, in having prepared itself, and laboured to come to Him. He
also speaks of its blessedness in having found the Bridegroom in
this union, and of the fulfilment of all its desires, the delight
and joy it has in Him now that all the trials of life and time are

‘The little white dove.’

2. He calls the soul, on account of its whiteness and purity–
effects of the grace it has received at the hands of God–a dove,
‘the little white dove,’ for this is the term He applies to it in
the Canticle, to mark its simplicity, its natural gentleness, and
its loving contemplation. The dove is not only simple, and gentle
without gall, but its eyes are also clear, full of love. The
Bridegroom, therefore, to point out in it this character or loving
contemplation, wherein it looks upon God, says of it that its eyes
are those of a dove: ‘Thy eyes are dove’s eyes.’ [274]

‘Has returned to the ark with the bough.’

3. Here the Bridegroom compares the soul to the dove of Noe’s ark,
the going and returning of which is a figure of what befalls the
soul. For as the dove went forth from the ark, and returned
because it found no rest for its feet on account of the waters of
the deluge, until the time when it returned with the olive branch
in its mouth–a sign of the mercy of God in drying the waters
which had covered the earth–so the soul went forth at its
creation out of the ark of God’s omnipotence, and having traversed
the deluge of its sins and imperfections, and finding no rest for
its desires, flew and returned on the air of the longings of its
love to the ark of its Creator’s bosom; but it only effected an
entrance when God had dried the waters of its imperfections. Then
it returned with the olive branch, that is, the victory over all
things by His merciful compassion, to this blessed and perfect
recollection in the bosom of the Beloved, not only triumphant over
all its enemies, but also rewarded for its merits; for both the
one and the other are symbolised by the olive bough. Thus the
dove-soul returns to the ark of God not only white and pure as it
went forth when He created it, but with the olive branch of reward
and peace obtained by the conquest of itself.

‘And now the turtle dove its desired mate
on the green banks has found.’

4. The Bridegroom calls the soul the turtle-dove, because when it
is seeking after the Beloved it is like the turtle-dove when it
cannot find its desired mate. It is said of the turtle-dove, when
it cannot find its mate, that it sitteth not on the green boughs,
nor drinketh of the cool refreshing waters, nor retireth to the
shade, nor mingleth with companions; but when it finds its mate
then it doeth all this.

5. Such, too, is the condition of the soul, and necessarily, if it
is to attain to union with the Bridegroom. The soul’s love and
anxiety must be such that it cannot rest on the green boughs of
any joy, nor drink of the waters of this world’s honour and glory,
nor recreate itself with any temporal consolation, nor shelter
itself in the shade of created help and protection: it must repose
nowhere, it must avoid the society of all its inclinations, mourn
in its loneliness, until it shall find the Bridegroom to its
perfect contentment.

6. And because the soul, before it attained to this estate, sought
the Beloved in great love, and was satisfied with nothing short of
Him, the Bridegroom here speaks of the end of its labours, and the
fulfilment of its desires, saying: ‘Now the turtle-dove its
desired mate on the green banks has found.’ That is: Now the
bride-soul sits on the green bough, rejoicing in her Beloved,
drinks of the clear waters of the highest contemplation and of the
wisdom of God; is refreshed by the consolations it finds in Him,
and is also sheltered under the shadow of His favour and
protection, which she had so earnestly desired. There is she
deliciously and divinely comforted, refreshed and nourished, as
she saith in the, Canticle: ‘I sat down under His shadow Whom I
desired, and His fruit was sweet to my palate.’ [275]


THE Bridegroom proceeds to speak of the satisfaction which He
derives from the happiness which the bride has found in that
solitude wherein she desired to live–a stable peace and
unchangeable good. For when the bride is confirmed in the
tranquillity of her soul and solitary love of the Bridegroom, she
reposes so sweetly in the love of God, and God also in her, that
she requires no other means or masters to guide her in the way of
God; for God Himself is now her light and guide, fulfilling in her
what He promised by the mouth of Oseas, saying: ‘I will lead her
into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart.’ [276] That
is, it is in solitude that He communicates Himself, and unites
Himself, to the soul, for to speak to the heart is to satisfy the
heart, and no heart can be satisfied with less than God. And so
the Bridegroom Says: