VERBI - THE VIRGIN CONSECRATED TO CHRIST
SPIRITUAL CONFERENCES by The Right Rev. Dom. Columba Marmion, O.S.B.,
Abbot of Maredsous Abbey.
Translated from the French by Dom. Francis Izard, O.S.B.
obstat: Patricius Can. McGettigan. Censor Deputatus.
Imprimatur: + Henricus Epûs Tipasit. Edimburgi. die 5 Jan. 1925.
ALMAE DEIPARAE VIRGINI SEMPER INTACTAE
pages resemble a wreath laid on a tomb, for Dom Columba Marmion gave
up his soul to God on January 30th, 1923, in admirable sentiments of
devotion and with utter abandonment to the divine mercy.
biographical notice is in preparation which will reveal the main
characteristics of theologian, monk and apostle combined in his
spiritual doctrine will be found here, as was revealed in his
previous works; teaching impregnated with a living theology,
profound knowledge of scripture, penetrating piety, and a profound
knowledge of souls. For souls he had a great passion. He gave
himself entirely for them that they should be all for Christ.
his affection embraced all, like his Divine Master, he was specially
attracted by two classes: the sinners, and those consecrated by vows
of chastity. One day his zeal for his erring brethren will be known
and with what tender compassion his eyes rested on countenances
seared with the leprosy of sin.
following pages show to what heights of perfection he urged the
spouses of Christ, who form, as it were, the elite of the flock of
the Good Shepherd.
purposes of health Dom Columba was ordered by the doctors to take
some weeks of rest during the summer of 1918, at the time that the
chronic trouble which gradually undermined his constitution began to
manifest itself. He went into Luxembourg to recruit his strength,
and there he enjoyed to the full the beauties of nature by which he
was surrounded. As a companion for his long, solitary walks in the
forests of the Ardennes, he took the Commentary of St. Bernard upon
the Canticle of Canticles." In spite of its length and digressions
he was captivated by the subject: its sublimity, the abundant
citations from Scripture, the enthusiasm of the holy Doctor
narrating the examples of Divine Love: all these were well
calculated to move a soul as supernaturally disposed as that of Dom
Columba’s. But more than the beauties of nature, more than the
flowing style of the Doctor Mellifluous, Dom Marmion admired
the marvels worked by God in these souls.
lively and penetrating faith showed him during the contemplation in
which his reading plunged him, the marvellous condescension of the
Word toward his privileged creatures: the theme of the Canticle
Columba generously communicated the spiritual lights he received to
souls that were eager for them; consequently, on his return he gave
a series of conferences to the nuns at the Abbey of St. Scholastica
at Maredret, commenting on a text of St. Bernard that had specially
struck him; in this passage the great Doctor indicates the
conditions necessary for the soul aspiring to become the spouse of
these conferences were given to Benedictine Nuns, they are not
specifically monastic; there is hardly an allusion to the rule of
the great Patriarch of the West.
Marmion has outlined his subject in its widest and most exalted
aspect, prescinding from any special rule or constitutions; his
theme being: The soul consecrated by the vows, becomes by virtue of
that consecration the spouse of Christ.
its title, there is nothing here that is essentially mystic in
nature. However advanced the union which the Word wishes to
contract with the dedicated soul, that union is derived essentially
from the consecration and apostolate, the state of perfection which
springs from it; there is no necessity that phenomena of an
extraordinary nature shall be added to complete it.
conferences we publish here were carefully collected and noted down
by their hearers. We believe that these pages reproducing their
delicacy of expression and depth of thought will be well received.
their perusal by the virginal souls for whom they were intended
arouse in them an ardent thanksgiving for the great graces they have
received, for is it not a sublime privilege to have been chosen
quite gratuitously by Christ to be espoused to Him? May these
instructions, whilst they inspire gratitude, at the same time
enkindle more intensely in souls the knowledge of their pre-eminent
dignity, inspiring them in their daily efforts to attain the high
perfection to which they are called.
surely the lofty aim which Dom Marmion had in view when he gave
these conferences, and poured out into them his priestly and
his death these conferences received his approbation, and now that
they are published, we trust that they will prolong the beneficent
and supernatural effects of his apostolate.
attaining a larger circle of influence, may they reach not only the
large number of Religious already consecrated to Christ, but also
reveal to those still in the world the high ideal they inwardly
October 15th, 1924.
CALL TO THE DIGNITY OF A SPOUSE OF CHRIST
- The Consecrated Soul is invited by the Word to the dignity of
Spouse - This teaching is based on Holy Scripture and the Liturgy -
The amazingness of the divine condescension which is revealed has
its source in Love - How St. Bernard draws the portrait of the Soul
espoused to the Word.
greatest gift made by God to the human creature is that of his
supernatural adoption by grace into Jesus Christ the Word
incarnate. The sovereign Being, infinite in all perfections who
neither depends on or has need of anyone outside Himself, allows His
immeasurable love so to flow over and permeate His creatures that
they are elevated thereby to a participation of His Life and
Felicity. This gift exceeds the demands, surpasses the powers of
nature, makes man the child of his Heavenly Father, the brother of
Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost.
exists, however, between God and the soul a deeper and more intimate
relation than that derived from its quality of child; the soul is
invited by the Word to the rank of spouse.
have heard Christ more than once compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a
nuptial banquet. 1
God through and by the Word calls souls to the banquet of divine
union. At a great feast various categories of people are to be seen.
the first place, we have the servants. These respect the
master of the house, bear themselves fittingly in his presence,
execute his orders, and in return are paid a fitting wage. If they
acquit themselves well in their various duties they are esteemed;
but they are not received at table, not admitted to intimacy, do not
become sharers of their master’s secrets. These are an image of
those Christians who, guided habitually by servile fear, treat God
as a Master, as some great Seigneur, and, like the servant in the
Gospel, they find Him some times "hard"; 2
they accomplish what they ought to do from fear of punishment.
These souls who still live by "the spirit of bondage in fear": "Spiritus
servitutis in timore," 3
have no intimacy with God.
there are those invited, the friends. The King has called
them to his table, he speaks to them in a tone which betokens mutual
friendship; he partakes with them of the banquet. However, there
are degrees in this friendship. This is a picture of those
Christians who love God without giving Him all; when they are
present, He holds them in honour, but they are not always in the
company of the Prince; they have to depart to see about their own
affairs; their friendship is expressed in an intermittent fashion.
When the friends have departed, the children remain. They
belong to the house, are at home and remain there. Bearing the same
name as their Father, they are the heirs of His property; their life
is one of honour, obedience and love given to their Father; they
receive from Him in return, confidences which are not given to
friends. These represent the souls who live and act as children of
God, who realise perfectly those words of St. Paul: "Ye are no
longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens of the
Saints, and members of the household of God: Jam non estis
hospites et advenae, sed estis cives, sanctorum et domestici Dei."
4 They exercise the
virtues of faith, hope and charity, the realisation of which issues
in a spirit of complete abandonment to the good pleasure of their
heavenly Father. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
these are the sons of God": Quicumque Spiritu Dei aguntur, ii
sunt filii Dei. 5
To these souls who are His children, God gives himself as the
Supreme Good which satisfies all their desires.
Finally, there is the Spouse. From her
the husband has no secrets; she shares with him the greatest
intimacy of love; there can be no more perfect union. The union
contracted between them far surpasses in its nearness that between
parent and child. Those who are espoused, said our Lord, "shall
leave father and mother, and shall cleave to one another":
Dimittet homo patrem et matrem, et adhaerebit uxori suae,
6 no union surpasses this
in intimacy, tenderness and fecundity.
Now it is to contract a union of this sort that the Word invites the
soul who is consecrated to Him by the vows of religion.
You will reply at once: Is not every baptised soul in some measure
espoused to the Word? That is true. It was not only to those
consecrated by a vow of chastity that St. Paul wrote: "I have
betrothed you to one husband, to present you a chaste virgin to
Christ: Despondi enim vos uni viro virginem castam exhibere
Christo." 8 In
baptism the soul freely 9
renounces Satan, his pomps, his works, the world and its maxims, to
adhere to Jesus Christ and consecrate herself to His service. The
grace of the Spirit of Love gives her to God, renders her worthy of
the favours of the heavenly spouse, grants a right to those
immeasurable joys of Heaven that Our Lord Himself has compared to
those of a nuptial festival. How holy and sanctifying is the union
of the baptised soul with Christ! Yet the union is much closer, the
quality of spouse shines with a much greater brilliance in the case
of the souls consecrated to God by the vows of religion. It is to
these souls that in all verity can be applied the title of spouse of
the Word; in them this sublime condition is realised in its
plenitude. That union which by its profound intimacy imitates,
though in an absolutely spiritual manner, the marriage union, does
it not constitute the summit of the religious life? Ought not the
soul to tend towards this union, by use of the many divine favours,
by its generous and attentive efforts to remove all obstacles, and
by using all means which lead to God? Can it not be said that the
virgin consecrated to Christ will not have fully attained His ideal,
will not have completely realised the thought of God in her regard,
if she does not tend with all her strength towards this blessed
is true that when the soul thinks of the infinite greatness of God,
of His incomprehensible sanctity, and then considers her own misery
and nothingness, she is seized with a sort of stupor at being the
object of such a wonderful privilege. She cries out: "Is it not
presumption, is it not temerity and foolishness to dream of aspiring
to a condition which surpasses that of all human desires? How can
these things be? Quomodo fiet istud?
Certainly had it not been for Revelation, such an elevated thought
would not have been born in the human soul. But God Himself desires
this union; He makes the advances; He invites the soul both by words
the Old Testament, despite the severities depicted there, which have
given it the name of the law of fear, also picture in advance under
the most exquisite forms the undreamt-of outpourings of the divine
affections which mark the law of love?
The Divine Wisdom declared that "His delights are to be with the
children of men." 11
"That He delighted playing each day in the world the work of His
astonishing terms when it is remembered that they refer to the
intercourse of the eternal wisdom with man, and indicate something
much higher than simple friendship.
Has not the Psalmist also celebrated in poetical accents the royal
union of the bride and bridegroom? - " My heart hath uttered a good
word: I speak my words to the King ... Thou art beautiful above the
sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips. ... Hearken, O
daughter, and see, and incline thy ear; and forget thy people, and
thy father’s house. And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty."
13 The "Canticle of
Canticles," what is it but an epithalamium composed by the Holy
Ghost to extol under the symbols of human love the union of the Word
with the sacred Humanity, the union of Christ with the Church and
But it is in the Gospels that the idea is
expressed in all its plenitude; there is its real source; there it
stands most clearly revealed. The Incarnate Word, unchangeable
Truth, does He not give Himself to the spouse in person
14 in front of whom come
the virgins destined to form His court? 15
Is it not from His lips that the most prodigious invitation ever
fell that could touch the human heart? "All things are ready: come
ye to the marriage": Omnia parata, venite ad nuptias.
Does not St. Paul, the herald par
excellence of the mystery of Jesus, show us the Bride groom
"going to death in an excess of love"; "preparing for His spouse the
most beautiful jewels"; "washing her in His blood so that she may
appear before Him, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but
holy and without blemish?" 17
worthy in truth of the "marriage of the Lamb" of which St. John
sings in his Apocalypse.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church in her Liturgy has
appropriated this thought. In the office of Virgins the intimate
union between the Spouse and His bride are frequently mentioned. In
the office of St. Agnes she puts into the mouth of the young martyr
words full of a holy boldness. "My love is for Christ, for that
Christ who will lead me into His nuptial chamber "Amo Christum,
in cujus thalamum introibo."19
the consecration of virgins, when the Bishop puts the ring on the
finger he says, most explicitly, that he makes her "the spouse of
Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High:" Desponso te Jesu Christo
Filio summi Patris. Accipe ergo annulum fidei. ... Ut sponsa Dei
Without doubt we may say once again that we ought to dwell in a
profound admiration for the thrice-holy God, yet at the same time we
must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Sovereign
Master of all things. "You call me Master and Lord, and you say
well for so I am. 21
Vocatis me Magister et Domine et bene dicitis, sum etenim."
But this divine Master, this Lord before whom "the angelic powers,
tremble," tremunt postestates: 22
a few moments before had so humbled Himself before these same
disciples as to wash their feet. It is love again which has led Him
to descend to the consecrated souls, to raise them to the in effable
dignity of spouse. This love plunges reason in astonishment, but
faith lifts them to these heights. "We have known and have believed
the charity which God hath to us": Et nos cognovimus et
credidimus caritati quam habet Deus in nobis.
23 Every soul vowed to God
by the religious consecration is called to this position of spouse
to the Word; she carries the title; if she is faithful, she enjoys
the rights which are attached to it; she is loaded with marks of
tenderness by her divine Spouse, and her union with Him becomes the
source of a wonderful fecundity.
It was the habit of that great monk, St.
Bernard, to talk to his cloistered brethren of the astonishing union
which Jesus Christ deigned to contract with the souls dedicated to
him, in terms which inspired them with his own piety; he himself had
first entered into "the cellars of the King"
24 and to his monks who were eager for his
teaching he gave of the abundant light which Incarnate Wisdom shed
upon him. You know that his commentary upon the "Canticle of
Canticles," although unfinished, is a series of eighty-six
conferences which he gave at the Abbey of Clairvaux. In one of
these the great Abbot traces with a master hand the portrait of the
soul that is truly the spouse of Christ. Here are his words: "When
you shall see a soul leave all things to adhere to the Word with all
her strength, live by Him, allow herself to be guided by Him,
conceive what she should bring forth by Him; a soul, in short, who
can say: for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, then you can
indubitably recognise her for a spouse of the Word." Quam
videris animam, relictis omnibus, Verbo votis omnibus adhaerere,
Verbo vivere, Verbo se regere, de Verbo concipere quod pariat Verbo;
quae possit dicere: mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum: puta
conjugem, Verboque maritatam.
doubt, in his commentary St. Bernard speaks more than once of mystic
states properly so called, mystic espousals, spiritual marriage,
extraordinary works of grace and of divine love to which God calls
souls especially privileged. It is not, however, of these states,
to which no one has the right by his own actions, that we speak
here. Even though these lines borrowed from the great contemplative
apply in the first place to the souls led by the Word to the summits
of the mystic life, yet it is quite licit to use them to indicate
the principal qualities, the essential duties of that soul who by
religious profession becomes a consecrated spouse of Christ.
is this beautiful text of St. Bernard’s which will serve as the
theme for our conferences. 26
We shall comment on it with pleasure, being firmly persuaded that
nothing can correspond more closely with the desires of Christ
Himself. Is it not, moreover, by putting before your eyes the high
excellence of your religious state, that you will grasp the
importance of the duties it entails? Will not the contemplation of
your high dignity inflame your hearts with a generous love for Him,
who without your merit has predestined it for you? I shall essay,
in the first place, to show you how the sacred Humanity of Jesus is
espoused to the Word; for it is there that we shall find the best
model of the intimate union that the soul contracts with Christ. I
shall then tell you, taking the text of the holy Doctor, the
necessary qualities for this union, the many means we have to
maintain it, and the marvellous fruits of which it is the source.
Immaculate Virgin, from whose fruitful virginity was born the King
of Kings, aid us in our task.
Matt. XXII, 1 sq.; XXV, 1 sq.; Luke XIV, 16 sq.
2. Matt. XXV, 24.
3. Rom. VIII, 15
4. Eph. II, 19. - Every soul in a state of grace is, without
doubt, a child of God, but many Christians neither take notice of
this divine reality, or seek to make it more vivid. They live and
act only as if they were servants or friends. For a further
development of this thought, see Christ in His Mysteries,
Chapter XIX, § IV.
5. Rom. VIII, 14.
6. Matt. XIX, 5.
7. However strange these expressions of bride and bridegroom,
espousals and marriage may appear to those who are carnally minded,
devoid of any spiritual sense, and ignorant of divine love, yet they
are boldly and frequently employed by Holy Scripture, are so
inseparable from dogma and catholic theology that they could not be
passed over in silence or suppressed without profoundly mutilating
the Christian religion itself. Mgr. Farges, Les Phénomènes
Mystiques, p. 258.
8. II Cor. XI, 2.
9. Or the sponsors renounce for her until the soul is capable of
ratifying her act deliberately.
10. Luke I, 34.
11. Prov. VIII, 31.
12. Ibid., 30.
13. Ps. XLIV, 2 ,3,11,12.
14. Matt. IX, 15 and John III, 29.
15. Matt. XXV, 1-13.
16. Matt. XXII, 4.
17. Eph. V, 25-27. - The text of the apostle applies, in the
first instance, to the Church, but it can and should be extended
with the same force to each soul, to whom Christ unites Himself in
quality of spouse, by the religious consecration.
18. Apoc. XIX, 7,8; XXI, 2,9.
19. Brev. monast. III, ad matutin.
20. Roman Pontifical, In benedictione et consecratione virginum.
21. John XIII, 13.
22. Praefatio Missae.
23. I John, IV, 16.
24. Cf. Cantic. II, 4.
25. In Cantic. sermo LXXXV, 12.
26. Speaking directly to nuns, as St. Bernard formerly to his monks,
Dom Marmion naturally limited the teaching of the Abbot of Clairvaux
to consecrated nuns; this is why he more than once quotes texts from
the Pontifical for the consecration of virgins. As a matter of
fact, however, in its essential points this doctrine applies to
every soul vowed to Christ. - EDITOR’S NOTE.
HUMAN NATURE IN CHRIST, THE SPOUSE OF THE WORD.
- In Christ the human nature perfectly realises those
characteristics which St. Bernard demands for a Spouse of the Word -
The human nature in Christ is devoid of personality - It is given up
entirely to the Word - It lives only for Him - In entire dependence
on Him - The wonderful fruitfulness of this divine union - This
union is the model of the union of the Soul with the Word.
fathers of the Church saw primarily in the "Canticle of Canticles,"
the symbol of that marvellous union which exists in Christ between
the Word and the human nature.
Word, the eternal Wisdom, is the Bridegroom; He chooses for Himself
a spouse: a human nature. The immaculate and virginal womb of Mary
is the nuptial chamber where this marvellous union was fashioned, a
union so wonderful, so elevated, that it needed as artisan none
other than the Holy Ghost Himself, so intimate that it is ratified
by substantial Love. But if we carefully observe the sacred
Humanity in this union with the Word, we shall see that it
marvellously and most fully realises those characteristics that St.
Bernard wished to see in a spouse of the Word.
can be said that the human nature in Jesus is absolutely free from
self-seeking and any attachment to creatures:
That it is authentically human, you know; Jesus belonged entirely to
our race, He was "perfect man" as well as "perfect God":
Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo.
The human nature in Christ is complete: an immortal soul united to a
human body, with its faculties, senses, and powers of action" "In
all things except sin, Christ was like unto His brethren": Debuit
per omnia fratribus similari ... absque peccato."
However this humanity possessed nothing of its
own, it had no personality in itself, it remained stript of that
which in us is the inmost centre, the plenitude of autonomy
3 which constitutes the
"me," 4 the highest
part of a rational being. There are two natures in Jesus, but only
one person, the Divine Person of the Word, which replaces and
supplies superabundantly for the human personality. Where shall we
look for a human nature which was so radically, so absolutely
Having then nothing, belonging to nothing, the human nature in Jesus
"adhered to the Word with all its powers": Verba votis omnibus
adhaerere. The bond which united them cannot be expressed.
Outside the ineffable union which unites the three Divine Persons in
the essential unity of their nature, no union is closer, none more
intimate than this. The sacred Humanity is truly one with
the Word. If one, then all is common between them the
actions of the human nature participate in the unique and splendid
beauty which adorns the works of the eternal Wisdom; they acquire
that transcendent worth, that infinite value which only attaches to
the Works of God Himself. If one with the Word which has
caused it, the human nature must be adored as divine. An
indissoluble union: once realised, it ceases not; death itself did
not break it, and in the ages which will never finish, the elect
will contemplate, admire, hymn and adore the humanity united to the
What an absolute possession of the humanity by the Word, yet also
what an absolute surrender of itself by the human nature, and in its
free acts, what a transport of love towards the Word! Between the
human nature and the Word, there was a perfect and unceasing
community of thought, sentiments, will and action. All its life,
all its activity, its very essence was consecrated to the glory of
the Word, "lived for the Word": Verbo vivere. If the human
nature holds from the Word, life, existence, the most sublime gifts,
in return it gives itself up wholly to his operations. What Christ
said of His life as Word with regard to the Father, the sacred
humanity, keeping due proportion, can say of the Word. "My doctrine
is not Mine"; 5 but
His to whom I am united"; "I do not judge of myself, but according
to the views of him who possesses me in Himself ... I act as I see
Him do 6 ..."
The human nature in the hands of the Word is an absolutely
submissive and perfect instrument; it is ruled by Him. Verbo se
regere. Having in the order of being no personality, it
possesses none in the domain of activity. "The Word presides in
every thing, holds all in his hands ... The man (the human nature)
is elevated, but the Word is not limited in any way: unchangeable,
unalterable, He rules always and everywhere the nature that is
united to Him. From hence it comes that in Jesus Christ the human
nature is in all things absolutely submissive to the direction of
the Word, who so elevates all to Himself, that thoughts and actions
are divine. All He thinks, all He wishes, all He says, all He hides
within Himself, or manifests externally, are animated by the Word,
guided by the Word, worthy of the Word. 7
..." The sacred humanity is for the Word, the channel of its
graces, through it He appeared to men to reveal the divine secrets,
to instil into hearts those words of wisdom, by which the eternal
Goodness and unchangeable Love are manifested.
The dowry of that nature which possesses nothing of itself, is to
give the Word life as man here below, so that He may conquer, draw
souls to Himself and thus gain His kingdom. The sacred Humanity
lives fully for the glory of the Word, in absolute dependence, but
full of love until death, for by it the Word possesses what He could
never find in the divine riches; a means by which to suffer, expiate
and die for men. The human nature could say to the Word from the
first moment of union with Him: "A bloody spouse thou art to me:
Sponsus sanguinum tu mihi es." 8
Delivered to Him, to execute with and in Him the will of the Father,
the human nature did not cease during the whole of its earthly
course to stretch forward to that "baptism of blood"
9 which consummated the
marvellous and inexhaustible fecundity of that inexpressible union.
It was actually by death that the Sacred Humanity "conceived of the
Word what it should bring forth," de Verbo concipere quod pariat
From death life issued, from the pierced heart of Jesus flowed that
stream of living water which rejoices the city of souls, after
having brought them forth by grace. The fruit of that union
consummated on Calvary between the Word and the human nature, is the
Church, that multitude of souls of which St. John speaks,
10 the elect "of every
tribe, tongue, people and nation, redeemed"
11 by that blood to form for ever the
resplendent and glorious Kingdom of the Bridegroom and Bride.
The marvellous artisan of all these works is love, the love of the
Word for the human nature, the love of the Sacred Humanity for the
Word. Their union is only realised by the Holy Spirit, substantial
Love; it was love that made them meet in the womb of the Virgin, who
"conceived by the Holy Ghost." Love commenced this union,
consecrated and sealed it; Love preserved it, Love also consummated
it. Christ, said St. Paul, "by the Holy Ghost offered Himself
unspotted unto God." 12
to tell, in stammering fashion, the ineffable mystery of the divine
nuptials of the Word with human nature. This mystery is at the same
time, the model and source of the union of the Word with consecrated
souls. The Incarnation, the hypostatic union, unique in its
specific character, becomes universal by a mystic extension. The
Christ, the God man, the Incarnate Word, contracts with souls in
differing degrees that union which makes Him the Bridegroom and the
soul the Bride.
The condition of the Bride is assuredly infinitely inferior to that
of the human nature in Jesus; 13
it is, however, so fruitful, that it ravishes and transports the
souls who are its objects.
Oh, Lord Jesus, if the Psalmist can proclaim "that Thy friends are
made exceedingly honourable," 14
what praises can fitly celebrate the infinite condescensions of your
love towards those souls called to imitate your sacred humanity in
the dignity of spouse?
attributed to St. Athanasius.
2. Hebr. II, 17; IV, 15.
3. This autonomy is evidently relative: for by essence every
creature is finite, we depend upon God both for existence and for
the conservation of our existence.
4. Ontologically and juridically.
5. John VII, 16.
6. Cf. John V, 19,30.
7. Bossuet, Discours sur l’histoire universelle, 2e partie,
Chap. XIX, Jesus Christ et sa doctrine.
8. Exod. IV, 25.
9. Cf. Luke, XII, 50.
10. Apoc.VII, 9.
11. Apoc. V, 9.
12. Heb. IX, 14.
13. The union of the Word with the human nature is substantial and
personal; the two natures being united in the unity of person. In
the soul the union with the Word is by its nature accidental and
moral, that is to say that the human being keeps its own personality
in the domain of being; the union with the Word is realised in its
activity (knowledge, love and actions).
14. Ps. CXXXVIII, 17.
- Detachment from all creatures, the necessary preliminary condition
for the soul which aspires to the dignity of Spouse of the Word. -
Virginity is one of the principal means of this detachment - It is
the object of one of the counsels, and constitutes a special grace -
How necessary it is to preserve intact virginity of soul and body -
This detachment can be perfectly reconciled with the precept of love
for one’s neighbour - it becomes a source of precious graces.
According to St. Paul, the union of the Word with the human nature
is the image of the union of Christ with His Church. Beautiful as
this subject is however, and useful for pious meditation, we shall
not stop here, for the union of Jesus, with His Church as spouse is
not realised in a definite and concrete fashion as is His union with
then, the union of the individual soul with the Word that we shall
Bernard demands as the primary disposition for that soul which
aspires to be a spouse of the Word "a detachment from all things,"
fully consented to and realised with a view to supernatural union:
Relictis omnibus. It is the separation from all that could
divide, all that could constitute an obstacle to perfect union.
the parable of the "royal nuptials ", our Lord Himself enumerates
the principal obstacles which hinder souls from responding to the
invitation of the King. "I have bought five yoke of oxen and I go
to try them." Juga boum emi quinque, et eo probare illa, habe me
excusatum. Here are the absorbing preoccupations of business
affairs. - "I have bought a farm and I must needs go out and see
it." Villam emi et necesse habeo exire et videre illam."
This is the vanity of ownership, joined with independence. "I have
married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." Uxorem duxi et
ideo non possum venire. 1
are the ties and bonds of the flesh: examples of the three main
obstacles which impede the soul from union with the King. Now these
obstacles are removed by the vows.
We have seen elsewhere the part played by the
vows in the work of the soul’s detachment. 2
Here we regard specially the obstacles which hinder the complete
union of the soul with the Word, considered as Spouse. According to
St. Paul, 3 this
obstacle consists in dividing human love with Him, and is removed by
the consecration of the virginity to God.
Fecundity is one of the Divine attributes; nay, it is the very life
of God. For God to live "is to be the Trinity," to be fruitful in
His own substance. Divinity and fecundity are, in a supreme sense,
synonymous. Moreover, both are essentially actual. For God to
live, is to be in Himself an act of fecundity, to be at the same
time source and term of a fecundity always actual. The Father
engenders the Son; the Father and the Son mutually communicate their
love which is the Holy Spirit. Such is the plenitude of this
infinite fruitfulness that it, as it were, exhausts the Divinity;
God has but one Son equal to Himself in perfection, so equal that He
is unique; so perfect that the Father, contemplating Him exclaims: "
Thou art my Son this day I have begotten Thee." Filius meus es
tu; ego hodie genui te. 4
There is but one Spirit, substantial love, which seals forever the
union of Father and Son, and completes the intimate cycle of the
Divine life. In giving being to man God grants him the power to
imitate this paternity; he gives fecundity to man. Moreover,
racially considered, man has received from God the order to
increase, for God having created the earth for man wishes that it
shall be peopled with the fruits of human fecundity. "Increase and
multiply and fill the earth." Crescite et multiplicamini et
replete terram. 5
This fruitfulness is a reflection of the Divine fruitfulness. In
the design of God, this was the last stage in the natural perfection
of man; even after the sin of Adam the human race preserves a
superhuman grandeur, a primitive nobility radiating from it because
there is a similitude to that fecundity "of whom all paternity in
heaven and earth is named." Ex quo omnis paternitas in coelis et
in terra nominatur.
Again we hear Eve exclaim as she takes her first-born son in her
arms: "I have gotten a man through God." Possedi hominem per
Deum. 7 A cry
of joy and triumph, a feeble but faithful echo of the cry of God "in
the brightness of the Saints": In splendiborus sanctorum
8 celebrating His
understand now why St. Paul says in speaking of human marriage:
"This is a great sacrament." Sacramentum hoc magnum est.
But he immediately adds "but I speak in Christ and the Church."
Ego autem dico in Christo et in Ecclesia.
What does the Apostle wish to convey here?
That the grandeur of this sacrament comes from the fact that it is a
symbol of the union between Christ and the Church, that is, with
souls. There exists, then, a union as intimate as that of marriage
upon earth, but a higher reality, a more elevated state. And what
is that? It is that in which, according to the expression borrowed
from the Pontifical for the consecration of Virgins, "one does not
imitate what is accomplished in earthly unions." Nec imitarentur
quod nuptiis agitur: but where "one loves" there is sought an
intimacy and fecundity, profound but differing, which is typified in
earthly marriage. Sed diligerent quod nuptiis praenotatur.
There is the symbol and the shadow; here the profound and luminous
reality. But religious virginity which prepares the way for this
spiritual marriage is not the appanage of all: it constitutes a very
special grace. Our Lord Himself said: "All men take not this
word." Non omnes capiunt verbum istud.
10 In the preface for
the consecration of virgins, which is of great antiquity, the Church
celebrates in wonderful language the grandeur of that virginity that
is consecrated to Christ. The obstacles opposed to this lofty state
in the case of the soul united to a body of flesh are enumerated:
"the law of nature, the free play of the senses, the force of
hereditary tendencies, the stimulus of youth." Thus, it continues,
only God can inspire a life of this sort. "It is you, O Lord, who
inspired the soul with the love of holy virginity, who in your
goodness nourishest this desire, rendering it capable of enduring."
... "The Virgin’s Son, the Word incarnate, draws to Himself in the
nuptial chamber in the quality of spouse those virgin souls, who
like Him are emulous of angelic purity."
According to St. Bernard this virginal state is necessary for that
soul which aspires to an intimate and perfect union with the Word.
What does St. Paul say in speaking to the virgins? "I would have
you to be without solicitude, for he that is with a wife is
solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife,"
and the consequence is, "he is divided." Et divisus est. On
the other hand," He that is without a wife is solicitous for the
things that belong to the Lord." He does not seek to please
himself, his love and all his heart is totally given to God." "The
virgin has time to attend upon the Lord without impediment."
12 The vow of virginity,
then, marks the absolute separation from any creature, which is a
necessary requisite for that soul which desires to be united with
the Word as spouse.
the day of your religious profession, you fulfilled this condition;
then it was that you not only said good-bye to that home in which
you were born and nurtured, but freely responding to the divine
call, you renounced of your own free will all earthly union, and the
legitimate right to found a family: you became detached from all
things: you then realised the most complete abandonment even of
yourselves, relictis omnibus, so that you might consecrate
yourself, soul and body, to the Word. This complete donation of
yourself, inspired and realised by the help of grace, is the great
subject of your interior joy. It should also be a constant source
of thanksgiving. For does it not confer upon you the magnificent
faculty "of consecrating yourself without impediment to a life of
intimate union with God"? Eo quod facultatem praebeat sine
impedimento Dominum obsecrandi.
Does it not place you always in "the garden enclosed":
14 there to enjoy the
gifts and presence of the Bridegroom?
Does it not make the soul the "fountain sealed"
15 where the living and
fructifying waters are?
most important however, never to take back what we have once given
so generously. Our souls and bodies being consecrated to God, we
must take the greatest care to keep from the avenues of approach to
our hearts, not only anything that might soil their purity, but all
that has the slightest tendency to lessen or weaken the intimacy of
the soul with Christ.
the Preface from which I have already quoted, the Church asks God
"to confirm by the seal of His blessing" that soul which is all for
Him, demanding that she who has become the spouse of Christ "shall
be enlightened and sustained by His support." And why this demand?
Because "the higher the aims the more carefully concealed are the
ambushes of the ancient enemy, who, through the negligence of the
soul insinuates himself to dim the lustre of perfect virginity."
is only by extreme vigilance in avoiding the slightest occasion of
imperfection, by cutting short immediately evil suggestions or
unhealthy reveries, that we are able to preserve pure and immaculate
so sublime a state. This vigilance must be always active; our
resolution must never falter. A virginal heart which does not
protect itself by the guard of the senses and mortification runs
great risks, especially if, through imprudence, it exposes itself to
dangers. "Do not neglect the little faults, for by these the great
commence, the conflagration which burns all before it springs often
from a tiny spark." 17
often encountered as the root of this negligence. For to expose
oneself to danger is equivalent to saying: "I can be chaste by
myself." But such a condition, to live virginally in corruptible
flesh, is not a triumph of ours, but that of grace.
Virginity is a gift of God’s.
18 Its delicate
splendour is only maintained in us by heavenly power; and, above
all, it is to humble hearts that God gives this grace. There is a
profound supernatural affinity uniting humility and virginity.
Let us then watch humbly over ourselves, never permitting any
creature to break into the integrity of our love. The sacred veil
with which the Church covers the head of the virgin on the day of
her consecration, is it not the sign of the exclusive love which the
Bridegroom demands of her? "He has placed His sign on my forehead,
so that I shall admit no other love than His." Posuit signum in
faciem meum, ut nullum praeter eum amatorem admittam.
Without doubt this love cannot and should not be so exclusive as not
to extend to all creatures seen in a divine light: we ought to love
our neighbour, not as an abstraction, but as he presents himself to
us in reality. We have noted elsewhere the extent of the precept of
fraternal charity. 21
Above all, it is in the Saints, that is to say, in souls completely
detached, that one finds an unequalled fraternal love.
Take, for instance, St. Bernard. We all know how free he was from
any attachment to creatures, and how united to God. If he placed
detachment as a primary necessity to attain divine union, it was
because he had realised in his own soul this total abandonment. But
did he not write to the monk Robert, whom he loved above all, and
who had left Clairvaux for Cluny: "How unhappy I am to have you no
longer, not to see you, to have to live without you! To die for you
is my life, to live without you is to die."
Do we not see him the day after the death of
his brother Gerard, after he had presided at his funeral without
shedding a tear, suddenly break down in the Chapter House during his
commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, to give vent before all to
his pent-up emotion? What pathetic accents we hear. "My grief
became more violent the more I restrained it. I acknowledge that I
am conquered. The sorrow I feel within must burst forth. ... O
Gerard, my brother by nature, and even more by religion, you were so
much to me. Why have you been thus torn away? We who loved so
tenderly, how can it be that death shall separate us? We were one
heart, one soul, the sword of death in transfixing his soul has
equally transfixed mine 23
..." The whole discourse is a cry of tenderness, exhaling itself
from the most intimate depths of his soul.
So loved St. Bernard: in like manner loved St. Anselm and St.
Teresa. In fact, the Saints always loved thus. The purity of their
love was the secret both of its depth and its tenderness.
Let us then seek to give the Bridegroom the love He claims, mindful
that He converted into a commandment the precept to love one another
as He has loved us Himself, and also made it the object of His last
prayer. 24 Yet
divine love is a jealous love: for the celestial Spouse demands the
complete love of the soul that is consecrated to Him.
claims - and what right is more sovereign than His? - that first and
foremost it shall be His entirely without reserve, division or
adherence to any other person or thing; we must live in complete
abandonment, absolute detachment. "Relictis omnibus."
26 These words
contain depths which can only be sounded in prayer; they suppose a
poverty so radical that they have dismayed more than one soul.
reality there is no subject where we may so readily be deceived; all
of us have some attachments. But we ought to be able to look Christ
in the face and say to Him: "My divine Master, You are my God and my
all. I seek only You, You alone." Happy the soul that can pronounce
such words with sincerity: Our Lord will reply to her with infinite
tenderness, the gage of more intimate blessings: "I am also entirely
of St. Gertrude gives us an example of this absolute detachment from
creatures. You are aware that her reputation for sanctity was so
great that people came from all parts to consult her. Through
charity the Saint responded to these frequent appeals. "For the
least demand she interrupted her own employments; prodigally
bestowing both time and patience, she willingly welcomed those who
came to her sometimes from great distances for help and
consolation. During these interviews, however, she could not help
longing for the time when she could return to her Best Beloved.
These exterior relations were for her a veritable cross; and if she
had not known that by these communications with the world she aided
in increasing the glory of God, nothing could have induced her to
engage in them.
"Occasionally, carried away by her desire, she would suddenly rise
and go to the choir. ‘See, my dear Lord,’ she exclaimed,’ how
wearied I am with this intercourse with creatures. Were I free to
choose, I would have no other society, no other conversation than
yours; with joy I would abandon all, and return to you my supreme
Good, the only joy of my heart and my soul.’ Then seizing her
crucifix, she kissed five times each of the wounds of Christ,
saying: ‘I greet you O my Spouse, full of grace and sweetness in the
joy of your divinity; I embrace you with the love of the whole
Universe, and lay an ardent kiss on the wounds of your love.’ This
practice of devotion took but a few seconds, yet Our Lord revealed
to her how these marks of devotion touched His Sacred Heart; and for
each one of them He would one day reward her a hundredfold. Thus,
these frequent visits of seculars which might have been a peril
resulted in plunging the Saint more deeply into her mystic union.
‘Nothing pleases me here below save You O my Lord,’ she said, and
Christ, as it were, borrowing the phrases of His faithful servant
replied in words full of tenderness: 'And I without you find
pleasure neither in heaven or earth - for in my love I associate you
with all the joys and happiness that I taste. Moreover, the greater
these joys the greater the fruit you draw from them.'"
Luke XIV, 18-20.
2. Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Conference II, Following
Christ; VI, The Religious Profession.
3. I Cor. VII, 33.
4. Ps. II, 7; Heb. I, 5; V, 5.
5. Gen. I, 28.
6. Eph. III,15.
7. Gen. IV,1.
8. Ps. CIX, 3.
9. Eph. V, 32.
10. Matt. XIX, 11.
11. "Agnovit auctorem suum beata virginitas et aemula
integritatis angelicae, illius thalamo, illius cubiculo se devovit,
qui sic perpetuae virginitatis est sponsus, quemadmodum perpetuae
virginitatis est filius." - Roman Pontifical.
12. I Cor. VII, 32-35.
13. Ibid. 35. - According to St. Augustine who is followed
here by St. Thomas, to merit the praises of virginity it is not
sufficient only to have kept corporal integrity, but this must have
been kept in order to consecrate it to God: "Nec nos hoc in
virginibus praedicamus quod virgines sunt, sed quod Deo dictatae,
pia continentia virgines sunt." - De virginit, c. 8. Cf.
Summa theolog., II-II, q. CLII, a 1 and 3.
14. Cantic. IV, 12.
15. Cantic. IV, 12.
16. Da protectionis tuae munimen et regimen, ne hostis antiquus,
qui excellentiora studia subtilioribus infestat insidiis, ad
obscurandam perfectae continentiae palmam per aliquam mentis serpat
incuriam. - Roman Pontifical.
17. Bossuet, Sermon pour une profession. Oeuvres oratoires.
Ed. Lebarq, III. p. 533.
18. "All men take not this word, but those to whom it is given."
Matt. XIX, 11-12. See also the "Preface for the Consecration of
Virgins": Inter caeteras virtutes quas filiis tuis indidisti
hoc donum (virginitatis) in quasdam mentes de largitatis tuae
19. St. Augustine emphasises the necessity of humility for virginal
souls. Citing the words of Scripture: "Abase thyself the more
profoundly thou art elevated, and thou wilt find grace in God’s
eyes," he then continues: "Since perpetual continence and, above
all, virginity consecrated to Christ, constitutes amongst the Saints
of God a gift beyond price, it is necessary to use the most
attentive vigilance lest pride should endanger this precious gift."
De Sancta Virginitate, Chap. XXIII, n. 33. Cf. Chap.
XXVIII, n. 39; Chap. XXXI et seq.
20. Roman Pontifical.
21. Christ the Life of the Soul. Conference, Love One
Another. See also, Le Christ Idéal du Moine, pp.
22. P.L. t.182, Epist. I, n.1.
23. In Cantic. XXVI.
24. John XIII,34; XV,12; XVII, 21-22.
25. This priority is encroached upon when affection for a creature
is too natural or too sensible; when it occupies the mind too
incessantly; above all, at the time of prayer, when it troubles the
soul, or is the source of infidelities to the Rule; or again, if it
unnecessarily excludes people from its affections.
26. Cf. St. Mechtilde, Le Livre de la Grâce Spéciale,
IV. partie, Chap. LIX.
27. D. G. Dolan. Sainte Gertrude, sa Vie Intérieure, pp.
VOTIS OMNIBUS VERBO ADHAERERE.
- Charity must be joined to Virginity, for Love is the Bond of Union
- The Virgin must attach herself to the Spouse with all her Powers -
This Attachment is realised by Fidelity - The importance of this
Fidelity - The "Little Foxes" which ravage the Bridegroom’s Vineyard
- The Blessings brought by Fidelity.
become the spouse of Our Lord it is not sufficient to have, only
virginity of soul and body. Has not Our Lord Himself said that
amongst the ten virgins, five were excluded from the nuptial
ceremony? Yet they were virginal souls. What was wanting then?
The oil necessary to keep their lamps burning.
According to the usual interpretation of the Fathers of the Church,
oil here symbolises charity. Charity was wanting to the foolish
virgins; it was the sole cause of their exclusion: an absolutely
compelling reason, however. For is not charity, as a matter of
fact, that which crowns all the other virtues and without which they
are nothing worth?
Listen to St. Paul: "If I speak with the
tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as
sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy
and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge and if I should
have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not
charity I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to
feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and
have not charity, it profiteth me nothing: nihil mihi prodest.
1 If these
extraordinary gifts, these eminent works are worth nothing devoid of
charity, the same applies to virginity which is separated from love:
excellent though it may be in itself, it is without value in the
eyes of the Bridegroom and the door remains shut to it: "Amen, I
know you not." Nescio vos.
Charity, love, is then absolutely essential for that soul who wishes
to be admitted to the rank of spouse; it is the very bond of union.
St. Bernard defines this love as "to adhere to the Word with all her
power, to live for Him, to be ruled by Him." Such are the necessary
duties incumbent upon such an eminent dignity; but they are even
more incumbent for those ascending degrees, which lead to more
perfect and more fruitful union.
have the rank of spouse the soul ought "with all its strength to
adhere to the Word." Votis omnibus Verbo adhaerere; it
should be able to say truthfully with the Psalmist: " It is good for
me to adhere to my God" Mihi autem adhaerere Deo bonum est.
4 If "man shall
leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife", so the bride
in the same manner attaches herself to her spouse. Et adhaerebit
uxori suae. 5
What is it to be united to the Spouse? It is to follow Him
everywhere and always, to have the same thoughts, the same
interests, to share the same labours, to be associated in the same
destiny. One word completely sums up all these duties: fidelity.
St. Paul asseverates this truth, and the Church in the Pontifical
for the consecration of virgins expresses several times the same
this refer to some promise to be kept; some contract maintained?
But what promise has the chaste soul of the religious made? That of
the vows. That is why fidelity to vows is of such supreme
importance in the life of a soul consecrated to God. Every
transgression of these solemn promises hinders the life of union
with the Spouse.
"with all our powers," votis omnibus, that we must by
fidelity safeguard our "adhesion to the Word," the Spouse of the
fidelity must be universal; with regard to the Spouse, it must
extend to all that relates to His person, His rights, His interests,
and His glory; on the part of the soul it should touch all the
faculties; ennoble every act for the whole of life. Nothing should
escape this fidelity, nothing diminish or injure it.
Free from every scruple, it must be constant
in its fidelity. The soul must be united to the Beloved, not only
during the hours of joy, but also during those hours of darkness
when it seems as if abandoned by the Spouse, when in desolation "it
seeks Him whom the soul loves and finds Him not." In lectulo meo
per noctes quaesivi quem diligit anima mea et non inveni.
7 "It ca1ls
and He answers not." Vocavi et non respondit mihi.
This continuous and constant fidelity, even in the smallest things
is of the greatest importance; the perfection and fruitfulness of
the union are dependent upon it. This fidelity to the Spouse in the
slightest details pleases the Word: he speaks of this in the
Canticle: "Thou hast wounded my heart, my spouse with one hair of
thy neck." In uno crine colli tui.
You know also that other text in the Canticle: "Catch us the little
foxes that destroy the vines: for our vineyard hath flourished."
Capite nobis vulpes parvulas quae demoliuntur vineas; nam vinea
nostra fluorit. 10
These are the words of the spouse, who, full of love, thinks of the
dangers which menace the vine planted by the Beloved, and committed
to her care. The spouse is troubled about "the little foxes"; they
are parvuli, that is scarcely to be seen; but the spouse knows that
they ravage the vineyard; but as the interests of the Bridegroom are
hers, she speaks of "our vineyard," and is it surprising that she
should be preoccupied about them?
What is this vine, and what are these noxious
little beasts? The vine is the soul itself, the consecrated soul;
Our Lord has planted it, or rather, "we are the branches" of that
divine vine which is "He Himself." Ego sum vitis, vos palmites.
branches, has He not loved you with a love of preference? Are you
not chosen "before many others": prae consortibus tuis,
12 to be called to
intimate union with Him? It is in speaking of you that God could
say: "Here is the vine of my love." Vinea electa:
13 "I have acquired it
with my blood, I have surrounded it with a wall to protect it, I
have placed it close to the well of living water, to fructify the
earth which bears it" - the Sacraments, those unfailing founts of
light and grace. "What is there that I ought to do more to my
vineyard, that I have not done to it?" Quid est quod debui ultra
facere vineae et non feci ei ... ?
Consequently from this vine, cultivated with so much care, Christ
justly demands a rich harvest: "In this is my Father glorified that
you bring forth much fruit." In hoc clarificatus est Pater meus
ut fructum plurimum afferatis.
unique preoccupation of Jesus is the glory of His Father; and He has
a right to expect of the souls whom He has chosen to be His spouses,
that they shall also be enkindled with zeal for the glory of the
Father; in consequence, rich in good works and fruits of sanctity.
is it that souls so privileged as these, the objects of such
delicate attention, vegetate, as it were, and do not arrive at that
high degree of intimate union with the Spouse, that should render
them fruitful? What is it that hinders the vine from bearing that
abundance of fruit which would delight the heart of the Spouse?
These ravages are caused by the vulpes parvulae. These foxes
are small, not in their cunning and the harm they do, but only in
appearance; in reality, their ravages are great, and the attentive
husbandman fears them. What do these animals signify, which ravage
the vine when it is in flower, and prevent it bearing fruits for the
these imperfections of body or soul? No, all the Saints have known
these faults and frailties; all have experienced the weight of the
body, the strife against the spirit, the tendencies of fallen
nature, the effects of sin, of heredity, of temperament, of
education. The Bridegroom desired to unite Himself to a soul that
was feeble, that stumbled, that failed by surprise, because He is
Infinite Mercy and Love, and because, far from these faults
separating us from Him, our helplessness and our misery attract
Him. It is that He has come to cure.
Still, nothing is more certain than that Our Lord will never give
Himself intimately to an unfaithful soul. It is these infidelities
which ravage the vineyard. These faults can be, and usually are,
"small" (parvulae) but they are to be feared when they are either
habitual or deliberate. To admit carelessness in exercises of
piety, break the silence without necessity, disobey willingly and
without concern the smallest point of the Rule, take no notice of
established usages, even small and trivial ones, under pretext of
largeness of view, waste time futilely, linger over imprudent
thoughts, be knowingly lacking in charity, criticise orders or
actions of superiors: all such acts impair fidelity, and enfeeble
the life of union. If these infidelities, often repeated and
renewed, become habitual what may happen? Then the graces given in
abundance profit but little, the intimacy of the soul with Christ
diminishes, the action of the Holy Spirit becomes less, progress is
practically at a standstill, and the interior life gravely
compromised. Moreover, how can the intimacy with Our Lord be
enjoyed, the effects of His love be experienced, if love for Him is
lacking the whole day through? The virgin who constantly and
regularly does not close the entrance of the vineyard to these
"little foxes" is not a true spouse, for these infidelities deeply
wound our Lord. Surely, to such a soul can be applied the words of
God lamenting over the children of Israel, which He compares to a
vine carefully cultivated by Him but which has not responded to the
divine efforts: "I looked to my vineyard that it should bring forth
grapes, and it hath brought forth wild grapes." Expectavi ut
faceret uvas, et fecit labruscas.
not also amongst those that are intimate that coldnesses are most
felt, and that they rapidly assume the aspect of deliberate
offence? The soul, then, that is dedicated to Christ must follow
the Spouse, and serve Him with all attention and the strictest
fidelity; this fidelity manifests itself especially in a constancy
to avoid those little failings which could displease the Word.
show, then, in safeguarding our fidelity, a great generosity.
Fidelity of this sort costs, and will continue to cost nature much.
the Bridegroom shrink when His Father indicated to Him the cross as
the means of redeeming our souls and paying for the jewels that
should adorn them for all eternity?
then be united to such a Spouse and not be desirous of taking our
share in abnegations and sufferings? All should be in common
between the Spouse and His bride, and a soul which desires the joys
of union without sharing the same life of denial and suffering is
not worthy of such a high vocation. She closes for herself, in
addition, the door to many graces, for fidelity is often the reason
that moves God to bestow His graces. If many consecrated souls do
not arrive at the degree of union to which the Spouse calls them, it
is because they have constantly hindered in themselves the action of
we perceive in our life some in fidelity which hinders us from
giving our selves entirely to the Word, let us take the resolution
to put an end to it. Placing our selves at the foot of the
Crucifix, let us say: "Jesus my Saviour, I love you; I desire to
prove this love, to glorify your Father with you; I promise to watch
that nothing may come to ravage your vine, to hinder the work of
your love. From all eternity you have regarded this vine with
special dilection; you planted it on the day of baptism; you chose
it before others in a special manner to belong to you by virginal
consecration; you have watered it with your precious blood; each day
you have nourished it with your adorable flesh; for love of you I
desire that you shall find in me abundant fruit, both to rejoice
your heart and glorify your Father." Let us not be discouraged by
the remembrance of past infidelities or the thought of possible
failures in the future; the latter spring from our nature, and can
be perfectly reconciled with goodwill; the former should be the
occasion for us to humble ourselves and incite us to greater
By degrees, little by little, as St. Benedict
tells us, in the measure that we advance in fidelity - processu
the soul will abound in light, every day the heart responding more
intensely to the action of the Spirit of love "will run in the way
of perfection with an incredible sweet ness of love." Thus Charity
strengthens union, the bonds are tightened, adhesion to the word
becomes more stable, stronger, more joyous, until it reaches the
stage of permanency. The soul will then experience the truth of
those magnificent words of the Apostle: "Who shall then separate me
from the love of Christ, my Spouse? Shall tribulation, or distress,
or famine, or nakedness, or persecution, or the sword?"
18 No, nothing is capable
of separating the faithful virgin from her Beloved, like the spouse
in the Canticle she repeats unceasingly: " Draw me, we will run
after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments":
19 Trahe me post le curremus in odorem
unguentorum tuorum"; and again: "Put me as a seal upon Thy
heart, for my love and my fidelity are strong as death, many waters
cannot drown them"; Aquae multae non potuerunt exstinguere
caritatem nec flumina obruent illam 20
" For I am sure that neither death with its horrors, nor life with
its seductions, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor any creature can separate her"
21 from her Lord and
Spouse. Of her it may be said here below: "That she follows the
Lamb whithersoever He goeth": 22
Quocumque ierit. It follows " that she who is joined to the
Lord is one spirit with Him": "Qui adhaeret Domino unus Spiritus.
Oh, what condition more blessed than that of the faithful soul!
What state more enviable than that of the virgin always attentive
for the least signs of the approach of her Spouse! Finding her with
her light burning, the Spouse "will lead her into the hall of the
marriage feast" and will bestow richly upon her those delights which
neither speech nor pen can describe: Intravit CUM EO ad nuptias.
Cor. XIII, 1-3.
2. Matt. XXV, 12.
3. "The immortal Bridegroom, for whom virginity prepares you, has
two wonderful qualities. He is infinitely separated from all by the
purity of His being; He is infinitely communicative by reason of His
goodness. Christian virginity, then, consists in a holy separation
and a chaste union. This separation constitutes its purity; the
chaste and holy union is the cause of the spiritual delights which
grace makes abound in the truly virginal soul." Bossuet,
Sermon sur la Virginité. Oeuvres oratoires. Edit. Lebarq, t.
IV, p. 473 and 475. All this wonderful sermon should be read.
Sermon for a Profession, Ibid. t. III, pp. 521 sq.
4. Ps. LXXII, 28.
5. Gen. II, 24; Matt. XIX, 5.
6. Si [Christo] fideliter servieris, in perpetuum coroneris;
propositum teneas; fidem integram, fidelitatemque sinceram teneat,
7. Cantic. III, 1.
8. Ibid. V, 6.
9. Ibid. IV, 9.
10. Ibid. II, 15.
11. John XV, 5.
12. Ps. XLIV, 8.
13. Cf. Isaiah V, 2.
14. Isaiah V, 4.
15. John XV, 8.
16. Isaiah V, 4.
17. Holy Rule Prologue.
18. Rom. VIII, 35
19. Cant. I, 3.
20. Cantic. VIII, 6, 7.
21. Cf. Rom. VIII, 38, 39.
22. Apoc. XIV, 4.
23. I Cor.VI, 17.
24. Cf. Matt. XXV, 10.
VERBO VIVERE, VERBO SE REGERE
- The third quality of the Spouse: "to live for the Word," this life
is summed up in the word "Fervour" - Love is the support of this
life - The "Reign of the Word" in the soul: its universal character
- The resulting fruits for the Spouse.
fidelity which is constant and all-embracing necessarily enables the
soul "to live for the Word": Verbo vivere. This is the third
virtue necessary for the spouse.
does "to live" mean as applied to the soul? The soul lives by the
movement and exercise of its faculties. She "lives for the Word"
when she does not concern herself, nor act save for the interests
and glory of her Spouse; when she applies her memory, imagination,
intelligence, heart, will, all her powers, all her activity in the
service of the Word, to know him better, love him more, and also to
make him better known and loved by others. The soul who lives only
for the Spouse does not seek her own satisfaction in anything, nor
her personal interest; she seeks solely the good pleasure and glory
of her Lord and Master.
a spiritual manner she is jealous for the honour of her Spouse; the
acts of betrayal, infidelity, the injuries inflicted by so many
souls wound her, and stimulate her ardour and generosity:
Defectio tenuit me, pro peccatoribus derelinquentibus legem tuam.
1 She gives
herself wholly, gives all she possesses that the Spouse may be
honoured, exalted, loved. She makes her own that prayer of Our
Lord, "Father, glorify Thy Son" 2
she employs herself with out ceasing to realise this glorification,
first in herself, then in others. Devotion, properly speaking, is
that prompt, cheerful, tranquil movement of the generous soul, which
causes her to forget herself in the interests of her Spouse and
those of His Church.
But in this aspect what is the mainspring
which, as it were, both animates and stimulates her? It is love.
3 Love, the master
of the will, possesses all the roads leading to the heart, all the
powers of the soul, all the springs of its activity. Given up to
love, the soul has nothing of its own, lives no longer for itself,
but entirely for its Well-Beloved. "What is love if it is not to
have always and every where the same will, eliminating absolutely
the slightest contrary desire, thus effecting a total subjugation of
the heart?" 4 Such a
love transforms, makes the soul like to its Spouse. Listen to St.
Bernard, from whom we have borrowed the theme of our conference,
whilst he tells of the astonishing grandeur of this union: "Such a
conformity with the divine will marries the soul with the Word, to
which it is similar in its spiritual nature, for loving Him as it is
loved by Him, it is now similar in Will. What can be sweeter than
this conformity of wills? What more desirable than this love, which
renders the soul discontented with the teachings of man, makes her
approach the Word with confidence, rest united to Him, remain
contentedly near Him, and consult Him in all things, being as eager
to know as her intelligence makes her capable of knowing. This
contract of marriage is truly holy, truly spiritual; but the term
contract is not sufficiently expressive; it is a commingling, a
veritable embrace, such an identification of wills that the two make
but one." 5
The entire conformity of view, of feelings, of wills that St.
Bernard depicts here, is only possible inasmuch as the soul allows
herself in all things "to be conducted by the Word":
Verbo se regere.
More even than "the eyes of the servant are on the hands of her
mistress," 6 to know
her orders and execute them, the true spouse of Christ feels herself
interiorly compelled to turn a glance of love upon her Spouse to
find out the indications of His will. In this manner she
continuously contemplates the sacred person of Jesus, in the various
stages of His life and in His mysteries.
Above all, in this contemplation she loves to dwell upon "the
mountain of myrrh" 7
that is, the foot of the Cross, because by His blood the Spouse
conquered her. Her joy is to traverse again in thought the life of
the Word. She regards Him in the bosom of the Father, in the
immaculate womb of the Virgin, where He became incarnate, in the
crib at Bethlehem, in the workshop at Nazareth, follows Him to the
desert, on the roads of Judea, enters with Him the Temple and the
synagogues. Accompanies Him to Bethany, to the last supper, the
Garden of Olives, the Pretorium and Golgotha; she dwells with Him on
Calvary, sharing the pains and humiliations of her bleeding Spouse.
With Magdalen on the morning of the Resurrection, she recognises in
Him the "Rabboni" and adores. Receives His divine benediction the
day of the Ascension, and at Pentecost the gifts of the Holy
Spirit. Everywhere it is the same Word, the Lord and Master, Friend
and Spouse that she seeks, in order to discover the secrets of His
works, the sentiments of His soul, to measure "with eyes illuminated
with love, the breadth and length and height and depth of the
mystery of His love. 8
Lovingly she scrutinises all His actions that they may become the
models for her own, re-reads His words that they may be springs of
wisdom and light; judges all things in the clearness of the Gospel.
What Christ loved she loves, what He hated - sin - she hates, says
"Amen" to all that He reveals, and "fiat" to all that He commands or
"The Spouse," says St. Bernard, "loves ardently, but being so
beloved, to herself she seems to love but little, even when she
surrenders herself entirely to love; and in this she is right. For
what great thing can she do to repay so precious a love - but a
little grain of dust - how with all her powers can she love in
return the supreme Majesty, who has been beforehand with love, and
shown Himself entirely devoted to the work of her salvation?"
Entirely consecrated to the Lord, her soul is
completely under the domination of the Spouse, He who "draws all
things to Himself," "draws her to Him." Omnia traham ad meipsum.
10 The Word
possesses her entirely, directs everything in her, Omnia
subjecisti sub pedibus ejus: He reigns in her as the adored
Master, as Sovereign whose power is uncontested, as Supreme Lover,
whose love conquers everything; reigns over all the desires of her
heart, reigns alone, because she only seeks always and in all things
His good pleasure: "I do always the things that please Him": Quae
placita sunt ei facio semper.
The soul can then really appropriate to herself the words of the
Apostle: "I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me": "Vivo autem
jam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus."
12 "Christ is her life, and to die is
gain, 13 because
then the hour will sound when the soul will be always united to Him
who is her all in all."
Far from being vanquished in love, the Spouse remains always first
and foremost. He shows Himself to the soul full of tenderness,
repeats those words which are the adequate expression of His love:
"All my things are thine, and thine are Mine"; Mea omnia tua sunt,
et tua mea sunt. 14
The bounty of the divine Spouse equals His tenderness; He brings to
His bride to sustain, adorn and beautify her, the price of His
sufferings, the riches of His merits, the nobility and wealth of His
this happy state that promise of the Psalmist is accomplished in the
virgin: " The Lord ruleth me, I shall want nothing." Dominus
regit me et nihil mihi deerit. 15
She proves the realisation of the prayer addressed to God in the
Pontifical for the consecration of virgins, at the moment when the
solemn promises are exchanged: "Be to her, O Lord, honour, joy and
delight. Grant her comfort in sadness, light in doubt, protection
in injustice; give her patience in tribulation, abundance in
poverty; in fasting be her food and beverage, in illness her remedy
and cure. May she find all things in Thee who desires to love Thee
above all": 16
In te habeat omnia quem diligere appetat super omnia.
2. John XVII, 1.
3. Cf. In Christ the Ideal of the Monk, Chap. VII, pp.
183-187; exterior observance ought to be animated by love.
4. Bossuet, Méditations sur l’Évangile. LI Jour. Ed. Marbeau,
5. In Cantica, sermo LXXXIII.
6. Ps. CXXII, 2.
7. Cantic. IV, 6.
8. Cf. Eph. I, 18; III, 18.
9. Traité de l’amour de Dieu. Chap. V (Traduction nouvelle
par H. M. Delsart, p. 39.)
10. John XII, 32.
11. Ibid. VIII, 29.
12. Gal. II, 20.
13. Phil I, 21.
14. John XVII, 10.
15. Ps. XXII, 1.
16. Pontifical for the consecration of virgins.