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Archive for the ‘The Living Flame of Love’ Category

Bernini's St. Teresa of Jesus

Bernini’s St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa is best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

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marriage kiss

Marriage, is a communion of love between a man and a woman. It is also the image of the love and communion that exists between the three divine persons. Marriage is, therefore, not only a human institution but, more importantly, a sacred institution because it is made in the image of God Himself.

Think about the community of persons that is formed by this sacrament. It is meant to a reflection of the community of persons that is the Most Holy Trinity!

From the beginning man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God. The book of Genesis states: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).  This should lead us to see every individual person as possessing an infinite dignity. Additionally, male and female are in the image and likeness of God not only in their individual existence, but also as they exist together.

Much of the poetry of Saint John of the Cross is centered on the theme of the bridal relationship. He uses nuptial language in his poems referring to the bride and bridegroom. His poetry could guide us back to a much needed correct understanding of human love and marriage.

While the The Spiritual Canticle, The Dark Night and The Living Flame, speak this bridal language, there is another one of St. John’s poems that develops this view of human love as also being an image of God’s love. The poem is titled Romance on the Gospel Text In Principio Erat Verbum regarding the Blessed Trinity In it St. John of the Cross is speaking of the love that exists between the persons of the Trinity.

Thus it is a boundless

Love that unites them,

for the three have one love

and the more love is one

the more it is love.

His poem, The Dark Night, is the expression of the soul that rejoices in having reached the high state of perfection – that is, union with God. If we unknowingly ran into this poem, we would hardly think of it as a religious poem. The title is most certainly misleading. At first glance it is a love poem, like the many other love poems that have been written. Yet, St. John of the Cross, states that it is a description of the union of the soul with God. This union that he is describing is a mystical experience.  Why does he use sexual images to describe such a spiritual matter? How then can poetry, especially poetry about the mystical union of the soul with God, be related to the love of a man and a woman?

O night more lovely than the dawn!

O night that has united 

the Lover with his beloved.

transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Perhaps Saint John of the Cross uses these images to describe divine love because human love is meant to be an image of divine love. Human love is analogous to divine love. Therefore, Divine love is, the model which human love must imitate.

The image of human love and marriage has been so distorted. St. John of the Cross could help to restore that image. In addition, his poetry could provide us with a better knowledge of God.

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“The soul is like the air within the flame,

enkindled and transformed in the flame for the flame is nothing but enkindled air.”

“The movements and splendors of the flame are not from the air alone or from the fires of which the flame is composed, but from both the air and fire. And the fire causes the air, which it has enkindled to produce these same movements and splendors.”

(The Living Flame of Love, Stanza 3, 9 ~ St. John of the Cross)

We are being offered this transformation. As we follow Christ through this Lenten season and throughout our lives, we are becoming transformed by the Glory of God.

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Tomorrow, August 26th, is the memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus’s Tranverberation. St. Teresa was best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

Read Full Post »