THE WOUND OF LOVE WHEREWITH GOD PIERCED THE HEART OF ST. TERESA
Ever since the time Jesus lovingly declared Teresa to be His Spouse, she remained so wrapt up in her Beloved that she could think of nothing but of pleasing Him. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love (Cant. v. 8).
Ever since the time Jesus lovingly declared Teresa to be His Spouse, she remained so wrapt up in her Beloved, that she could think of nothing but of pleasing Him. Perceiving herself to be so highly favoured by her Divine Lover, and at the same time so destitute of the means of corresponding to so many graces, she cried out in the tenderness of her soul, with the spouse in the Canticles: Stay me up with flowers; compass me about with fruits, for I languish with love (Cant. ii. 5). She animated herself then, sometimes by the desire of suffering that she might please God the more, and at other times by ardently longing for death that she might love Him more perfectly: such were her flowers. But besides this, she made it her study to fortify her languishing heart with the fruits of love, such as good works, penances, humiliations, and, more particularly, the labours she undertook in the great work of the reform of her Order. She founded thirty-two convents, although she was poor, destitute of all human aid, and opposed even by the great ones of this world, as the Church commemorates in the Lessons for her Office.
All this, however, was too small to satisfy her fervent desires of pleasing her heavenly Spouse, and she protested to her Beloved that she could not endure to see herself so much enriched by the gifts she received, and so niggardly in the return she made. Consequently, enveloped as she was in the holy flames of Divine love, and altogether detached from herself, she was frequently all on fire and languishing in the tenderness of her soul. Oh! what a beautiful sight for the blessed spirits that assisted her was this generous spouse of the Crucified, who in her languishings cried out: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love (Cant. v. 8). The effect of this holy languishing, as explained by the Doctors of the Church, is that the soul forgets itself and all its concerns, so as to have no love for anything but for its Beloved, and to have no thoughts but how to please Him. Such is the love of a spouse, as is observed by St. Bernard in the following words, in which he represents a soul raised to this happiness, as thus speaking: “The servant fears; the son honours; the mercenary hopes; and I, because I am a spouse, I love to love, I love to be beloved, and I love love itself.” Precisely such was our seraphic Saint: languishing in her happiness; forgetting everything that had not a reference to Divine love; loving and being beloved, she made God’s pleasure her only study; the only recompense that she desired was to add to her love for Him.
As the hunter, to obtain possession of his prey, endeavours to make sure of it by inflicting upon it numerous wounds, so does the Divine Archer seem to have acted in like manner towards Teresa, sending to her on several occasions a Seraph to wound that heart of hers which He willed to be wholly His. Let us listen to the Saint herself in the description that she gives us of this grace: “Our Lord was pleased I should have at times a vision of this kind — I saw an Angel close by me on my left side in bodily form. He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful — his face burning, as if he were one of the highest Angels, who seem to be all of fire … I saw in his hand a long golden spear, the point of which seemed to be tipped with fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very vitals, a part of which he drew forth, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it caused me to utter plaintive cries, and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is then satisfied with nothing less than God … It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His Goodness to make him experience it who may think I do not speak the truth.”
O lovely wound! must we, then, exclaim, O sweet pain! O desirable fire! Wound that makes Him loved by Whom it is inflicted; Sweet art thou, because thy sweetness excels all the pleasures of the world! O fire, more to be desired than all the kingdoms of the earth! Thou art the most precious gift the Divine Lover can bestow upon His faithful and beloved spouses, a gift directly proceeding from the loving Heart of God; a gift whose effect, as the Saint said, is to make the soul dissatisfied with everything short of God.
He whose heart is greatly wounded cannot be prevented from thinking of Him by Whom the wound was made; and if he wished to forget Him, the pain he experienced would recall Him to his remembrance. The soul that is wounded with the love of Jesus cannot exist without loving Jesus, and without thinking of Him. Should it happen that the world or creatures have attracted her attention, the wound in her heart sweetly constrains her to return and to languish in love for Him Who has wounded her.
But, O my God, who is there that would not accept this pain, if that can be called pain which is occasioned by this delicious fire of love, the very fire of love which constitutes the happiness of the Saints in Heaven, and which will fill them with joy for all eternity! To prepare the heart, however, for the reception of this fire and of these wounds, it is necessary to resolve, once for all, to banish far away everything that is not God, and generously to say farewell to all creatures, addressing them thus:
World, honours, riches, creatures, what would you have of me? I utterly renounce you! I take my leave of you! Farewell! My God has set me on fire with love; He has wounded me; by His love He has, at last, gained my whole heart; He has made me know He will not be content unless He has entire possession of it. Depart, then, far from me, ye creatures. You cannot satisfy me, and I no longer desire such gratification as you bestow. Go and content him that seeks you, for I no longer wish for you. I wish for God alone! With God I rest content. God alone! Yes, God alone is enough for me. Too long, alas, have I loved Creatures. The time I have still to spend upon earth, whatever its duration may be, I wish to employ wholly and solely in loving that God, Who was first to love me, and Who deserves and demands of me all my love.
O my seraphic virgin, St. Teresa of Jesus, thou in whom thy Spouse so affectionately enkindled His fire, and wounded with His love, pray, pray for me, that, wounded by my God, and henceforth burning for Him, Who alone deserves to be loved, I may so forget all creatures as to love my Creator alone.