John, Ascent of Carmel 2 20
Wherein is proved by passages from Scripture how the sayings and words ofGod, though always true, do not always rest upon stable causes.
1 WE have now to prove the second reason why visions and words which come fromGod, although in themselves they are always true, are not always stable intheir relation to ourselves. This is because of their causes, whereon theyare founded; for God often makes statements founded upon creatures and theireffects, which are changeable and liable to fail, for which reason the statementswhich are founded upon them are liable also to be changeable and to fail;for, when one thing depends on another, if one fails, the other fails likewise.It is as though God should say: In a year's time I shall send upon this kingdomsuch or such a plague; and the cause and foundation for this warning is acertain offence which has been committed against God in that kingdom. Ifthe offence should cease or change, the punishment might cease; yet the threatwas true because it was founded upon the fault committed at the time, and,if this had continued, it would have been carried out.
2. This, we see, happened in the city of Ninive, where God said: Adhuc quadraginta dies, et Ninivesubvertetur.(369) Which signifies: Yet forty days and Ninive shall be destroyed.This was not fulfilled, because the cause of the threat ceased -- namely,the sins of the city, for which it did penace -- but, if this had not beenso, the prophecy would have been carried into effect. We read likewise inthe Third Book of the Kings that, when King Achab had committed a very greatsin, God sent to phophesy(370) a great punishment -- our father Elias beingthe messenger -- which should come upon his person, upon his house and uponhis kingdom.(371) And, because Achab rent his garments with grief and clothedhimself in haircloth and fasted, and slept in sackcloth and went about ina humble and contrite manner, God sent again, by the same prophet, to declareto him these words: Quia igitur humiliatus est mei causa, non inducam malumin diebus ejus, sed in diebus filii sui.(372) Which signifies: Inasmuch asAchab has humbled himself for love of Me, I will not send the evil whereofI spake in his days, but in the days of his son. Here we see that, becauseAchab changed his spirit and his former affection, God likewise changed Hissentence.
3. From this we may deduce, as regards the matter under discussion,that, although God may have revealed or affirmed something to a soul, whethergood or evil, and whether relating to that soul itself or to others, thismay, to a greater or a lesser extent, be changed or altered or entirelywithdrawn, according to the change or variation in the affection of thissoul, or the cause whereon God based His judgment, and thus it would notbe fulfilled in the way expected, and oftentimes none would have known why,save only God. For God is wont to declare and teach and promise many things,not that they may be understood or possessed at the time, but that they maybe understood at a later time, when it is fitting that a soul may have lightconcerning them, or when their effect is attained. This, as we see, He didwith His disciples, to whom He spake many parables, and pronounced manyjudgments, the wisdom whereof they understood not until the time when theyhad to preach it, which was when the Holy Spirit came upon them, of WhomChrist had said to them that He would explain to them all the things thatHe had spoken to them in His life. And, when Saint John speaks of that entryof Christ into Jerusalem, he says: Haec non cognoverunt discipuli ejus primum:sed quando glorificatus est Jesus, tunc recordati sunt quia haec erant scriptade eo.(373) And thus there may pass through the soul many detailed messagesfrom God which neither the soul nor its director will understand until theproper time.
4. Likewise, in the First Book of the Kings, we read that, whenGod was wroth against Heli, a priest of Israel, for his sins in not chastisinghis sons, he sent to him by Samuel to say, among other words, these whichfollow: Loquens locutus sum, ut domus tua, et domus patris tui, ministraretin conspectu meo, usque in sempiternum. Verumtamen absit hoc a me. And thisis as though He had said:(374) In very truth I said aforetime that thy houseand the house of thy father should serve Me continually in the priesthoodin my presence for ever, but this purpose is far from Me; I will not do thisthing. For this office of the priesthood was founded for giving honour andglory to God, and to this end God has promised to give it to the father ofHeli for ever if he failed not. But, when Heli failed in zeal for the honourof God (for, as God Himself complained when He sent him the message, he honouredhis sons more than God, overlooking their sins so as not to offend them),the promise also failed which would have held good for ever if the good serviceand zeal of Heli had lasted for ever. And thus there is no reason to thinkthat, because sayings and revelations come from God, they must invariablycome to pass in their apparent sense, especially when they are bound up withhuman causes which may vary, change, or alter.
5. And when they are dependentupon these causes God Himself knows, though He does not always declare it,but pronounces the saying, or makes the revelation, and sometimes says nothingof the condition, as when He definitely told the Ninivites that they wouldbe destroyed after forty days.(375) At other times, he lays down the condition,as He did to Roboam, saying to him: 'If thou wilt keep My commandments, asmy servant David, I will be with thee even as I was with him, and will setthee up a house as I did to My servant David'.(376) But, whether He declaresit or no, the soul must not rely upon its own understanding; for it is impossibleto understand the hidden truths of God which are in His sayings, and themultitude of their meanings. He is above the heavens, and speaks accordingto the way of eternity;(377) we blind souls are upon the earth and understandonly the ways of flesh and time. It was for that reason, I believe, thatthe Wise Man said: 'God is in Heaven, and thou are upon earth; whereforebe not thou lengthy or hasty in speaking.'(378)
6. You will perhaps ask me:Why, if we are not to understand these things, or to play any part in them,does God communicate them to us? I have already said that everything willbe understood in its own time by the command of Him Who spake it, and hewhom God wills shall understand it, and it will be seen that it was fitting;for God does naught save with due cause and in truth. Let it be realized,therefore, that there is no complete understanding of the meaning of thesayings and things of God, and that this meaning cannot be decided by whatit seems to be, without great error, and, in the end, grievous confusion.This was very well known to the prophets, into whose hands was given theword of God, and who found it a sore trial to prophesy concerning the people;for, as we have said, many of the people saw that things came not to passliterally, as they were told them, for which cause they laughed at the prophetsand mocked them greatly; so much that Jeremias went as far as to say: 'Theymock me all the day long, they scorn and despise me every one, for I havelong been crying against evil and promising them destruction; and the wordof the Lord has been made a reproach and a derision to me continually. AndI said, I must not remember Him, neither speak any more in His name.'(379)Herein, although the holy prophet was speaking with resignation and in theform of a weak man who cannot endure the ways and workings of God, he clearlyindicates the difference between the way wherein the Divine sayings are fulfilledand the ordinary meaning which they appear to have; for the Divine prophetswere treated as mockers, and suffered so much from their prophecy that Jeremiashimself said elsewhere: Formido et laqueus facta est nobis vaticinatio etcontritio.(380) Which signifies: Prophecy has become to us fear and snaresand contradiction of spirit.
7. And the reason why Jonas fled when God senthim to preach the destruction of Ninive was this, namely, that he knew thedifferent meanings of the sayings of God with respect to the understandingof men and with respect to the causes of the sayings. And thus, lest theyshould mock him when they saw that his prophecy was not fulfilled, he wentaway and lied in order not to prophesy; and thus he remained waiting allthe forty days outside the city, to see if his prophecy was fulfilled; and,when it was not fulfilled, he was greatly afflicted, so much so that he saidto God: Obsecro, Domine, numquid non hoc est verbum meum, cum adhuc essemin terra mea? propter hoc praeoccupavi, ut fugerem in Tharsis.(381) Thatis: I pray Thee, O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my owncountry? Therefore was I vexed, and fled away to Tharsis. And the saint waswroth and besought God to take away his life.
8. Why, then, must we marvelthat God should speak and reveal certain things to souls which come not topass in the sense wherein they understand them? For, if God should affirmor represent such or such a thing to the soul, whether good or evil, withrespect to itself or to another, and if that thing be founded upon a certainaffection or service or offence of that soul, or of another, at that time,with respect to God, so that, if the soul persevere therein, it will befulfilled; yet even then its fulfillment is not certain, since it is notcertain that the soul will persevere. Wherefore we must rely, not uponunderstanding, but upon faith.
Wherein is explained how at times, although God answers the prayers thatare addressed to Him, He is not pleased that we should use such methods.It is also shown how, although He condescend to us and answer us, He isoftentimes wroth.
1 CERTAIN spiritual men, as we have said, assure themselves that it is a goodthing to display curiosity, as they sometimes do, in striving to know certainthings by supernatural methods, thinking that, because God occasionally answerstheir importunity, this is a good method and pleasing to Him. Yet the truthis that, although He may answer them, the method is not good, neither isit pleasing to God, but rather it is displeasing to Him; and not only so,but oftentimes He is greatly offended and wroth. The reason for this is thatit is lawful for no creature to pass beyond the limits that God has ordainedfor its governance after the order of nature. He has laid down rational andnatural limits for man's governance; wherefore to desire to pass beyond themis not lawful, and to desire to seek out and attain to anything by supernaturalmeans is to go beyond these natural limits. It is therefore an unlawful thing,and it is therefore not pleasing to God, for He is offended by all that isunlawful. King Achaz was well aware of this, since, although Isaias toldhim from God to ask for a sign, he would not do so, saying: Non petam, etnon tentabo Dominum.(382) That is: I will not ask such a thing, neither willI tempt God. For it is tempting God to seek to commune with Him by extraordinaryways, such as those that are supernatural. 2. But why, you will say, if itbe a fact that God is displeased, does He sometimes answer? I reply thatit is sometimes the devil who answers. And, if it is God Who answers, I replythat He does so because of the weakness of the soul that desires to travelalong that road, lest it should be disconsolate and go backward, or lestit should think that God is wroth with it and should be overmuch afflicted;or for other reasons known to God, founded upon the weakness of that soul,whereby God sees that it is well that He should answer it and deigns to doso in that way. In a like manner, too, does He treat many weak and tendersouls, granting them favours and sweetness in sensible converse with Himself,as has been said above; this is not because He desires or is pleased thatthey should commune with Him after that manner or by these methods; it isthat He gives to each one, as we have said, after the manner best suitedto him. For God is like a spring, whence everyone draws water according tothe vessel which he carries. Sometimes a soul is allowed to draw it by theseextraordinary channels; but it follows not from this that it is lawful todraw water by them, but only that God Himself can permit this, when, howand to whom He wills, and for what reason He wills, without the party concernedhaving any right in the matter. And thus, as we say, He sometimes deignsto satisfy the desire and the prayer of certain souls, whom, since they aregood and sincere, He wills not to fail to succour, lest He should make themsad, but it is not because He is pleased with their methods that He willsit. This will be the better understood by the following comparison. 3. The father of a family has on his table many and different kinds of food, someof which are better than others. A child is asking him for a certain dish,not the best, but the first that meets its eye, and it asks for this dishbecause it would rather eat of it than any other; and as the father seesthat, even if he gives it the better kind of food, it will not take it, butwill have that which it asks for, since that alone pleases it, he gives itthat, regretfully, lest it should take no food at all and be miserable. Injust this way, we observe, did God treat the children of Israel when theyasked Him for a king: He gave them one, but unwillingly, because it was notgood for them. And thus He said to Samuel: Audi vocem populi in omnibus quaeloquuntur tibi: non enim te objecerunt, sed me.(383) Which signifies: Hearkenunto the voice of this people and grant them the king whom they ask of thee,for they have not rejected thee but Me, that I should not reign over them.In this same way God condescends to certain souls, and grants them that whichis not best for them, because they will not or cannot walk by any other road.And thus certain souls attain to tenderness and sweetness of spirit or sense;and God grants them this because they are unable to partake of the strongerand more solid food of the trials of the Cross of His Son, which He wouldprefer them to take, rather than aught else.
4. I consider, however, thatthe desire to know things by supernatural means is much worse than the desirefor other spiritual favours pertaining to the senses; for I cannot see howthe soul that desires them can fail to commit, at the least, venial sin,however good may be its aims, and however far advanced it may be on the roadto perfection; and if anyone should bid the soul desire them, and consentto it, he sins likewise. For there is no necessity for any of these things,since the soul has its natural reason and the doctrine and law of the Gospel,which are quite sufficient for its guidance, and there is no difficulty ornecessity that cannot be solved and remedied by these means, which are verypleasing to God and of great profit to souls; and such great use must wemake of our reason and of Gospel doctrine that, if certain things be toldus supernaturally, whether at our desire or no, we must receive only thatwhich is in clear conformity with reason and Gospel law. And then we mustreceive it, not because it is revelation, but because it is reason, and notallow ourselves to be influenced by the fact that it has been revealed. Indeed,it is well in such a case to look at that reason and examine it very muchmore closely than if there had been no revelation concerning it; inasmuchas the devil utters many things that are true, and that will come to pass,and that are in conformity with reason, in order that he may deceive.
5. Wherefore, in all our needs, trials and difficulties, there remains to usno better and surer means than prayer and hope that God will provide forus, by such means as He wills. This is the advice given to us in the Scriptures,where we read that, when King Josaphat was greatly afflicted and surroundedby enemies, the saintly King gave himself to prayer, saying to God: Cum ignoremusquid facere debeamus, hoc solum habemus residue, ut oculos nostros dirigamusad re.(384) Which is as though he had said: When means fail and reason isunable to succour us in our necessities, it remains for us only to lift upour eyes to Thee, that Thou mayest succour us as is most pleasing to Thee.
6. And further, although this has also been made clear, it will be well toprove, from certain passages of Scripture, that, though God may answer suchrequests, He is none the less sometimes wroth. In the First Book of the Kingsit is said that, when King Saul begged that the prophet Samuel, who was nowdead, might speak to him, the said prophet appeared to him, and that Godwas wroth with all this, since Samuel at once reproved Saul for having donesuch a thing, saying: Quare inquietasti me, ut suscitarer?(385) That is:Why hast thou disquieted me, in causing me to arise? We also know that, inspite of having answered the children of Israel and given them the meat thatthey besought of Him, God was nevertheless greatly incensed against them;for He sent fire from Heaven upon them as a punishment, as we read in thePentateuch, and as David relates in these words: Adhuc escape eorum erantin ore ipsorum, et ira Dei descendit super cos.(386) Which signifies: Evenas they had the morsels in their months, the wrath of God came down uponthem. And likewise we read in Numbers that God was greatly wroth with Balaamthe p rophet, because he went to the Madianites when Balac their king sentfor him, although God had bidden him go, because he desired to go and hadbegged it of God; and while he was yet in the way there appeared to him anangel with a sword, who desired to slay him, and said to him: Perversa estvia tua, mihique contraria.(387) 'Thy way is perverse and contrary to Me.'For which cause he desired to slay him. 7. After this manner and many others God deigns to satisfy the desires of souls though He be wroth with them.Concerning this we have many testimonies in Scripture, and, in addition,many illustrations, though in a matter that is so clear these are unnecessary.I will merely say that to desire to commune with God by such means is a mostperilous thing, more so than I can express, and that one who is affectionedto such methods will not fail to err greatly and will often find himselfin confusion. Anyone who in the past has prized them will understand me fromhis own experience. For over and above the difficulty that there is in beingsure that one is not going astray in respect of locutions and visions whichare of God, there are ordinarily many of these locutions and visions whichare of the devil; for in his converse with the soul the devil habituallywears the same guise as God assumes in His dealings with it, setting beforeit things that are very like to those which God communicates to it, insinuatinghimself, like the wolf in sheep's clothing, among the flock, with a successso nearly complete that he can hardly be recognized. For, since he says manythings that are true, and in conformity with reason, and things that cometo pass as he describes them,(388) it is very easy for the soul to be deceived,and to think that, since these things come to pass as he says, and the futureis correctly foretold, this can be the work of none save God; for such soulsknow not that it is a very easy thing for one that has clear natural lightto be acquainted, as to their causes, with things, or with many of them,which have been or shall be. And since the devil has a very clear light ofthis kind, he can very easily deduce effect from cause, although it may notalways turn out as he says, because all causes depend upon the will of God.Let us take an example.
8. The devil knows that the constitution of the earthand the atmosphere, and the laws ruling the sun, are disposed in such mannerand in such degree that, when a certain moment has arrived, it will necessarilyfollow, according to the laws of nature laid down for these elements, thatthey will infect people with pestilence, and he knows in what places thiswill be more severe and in what places less so. Here you have a knowledgeof pestilence in respect of its causes. What a wonderful thing it seems whenthe devil reveals this to a soul, saying: 'In a year or in six months fromnow there will be pestilence,' and it happens as he says! And yet this isa prophecy of the devil. In the same way he may have a knowledge of earthquakes,and, seeing that the bowels of the earth are filling with air, will say:'At such a time there will be an earthquake.' Yet this is only natural knowledge,for the possession of which it suffices for the spirit to be free from thepassions of the soul, even as Boetius says in these words: Si vis claro luminecernere verum, gaudia pelle, timorem, spemque fugato, nec dolor adsit.(389)That is: If thou desire to know truths with the clearness of nature, castfrom thee rejoicing and fear and hope and sorrow.
9. And likewise supernatural events and happenings may be known, in their causes, in matters concerningDivine Providence, which deals most justly and surely as is required by theirgood or evil causes as regards the sons of men. For one may know by naturalmeans that such or such a person, or such or such a city, or some other place,is in such or such necessity, or has reached such or such a point, so thatGod, according to His providence and justice, must deal with such a personor thing in the way required by its cause, and in the way that is fittingfor it, whether by means of punishment or of reward, as the cause merits.And then one can say: 'At such a time God will give you this, or will dothis, or that will come to pass, of a surety.' It was this that holy Judithsaid to Holofernes,(390) when, in order to persuade him that the childrenof Israel would without fail be destroyed, she first related to him manyof their sins and the evil deeds that they did. And then she said: Et, quoniamhaec faciunt, certum est quod in perditionem dabuntur. Which signifies: Sincethey do these things, it is certain that they will be destroyed. This isto know the punishment in the cause, and it is as though she had said: Itis certain that such sins must be the cause of such punishments, at the handof God Who is most just. And as the Divine Wisdom says: Per quae quis peccat,per haec et torquetur.(391) With respect to that and for that wherein a mansins, therein is he punished.
10. The devil may have knowledge of this, notonly naturally, but also by the experience which he has of having seen Goddo similar things, and he can foretell it and do so correctly. Again, holyTobias was aware of the punishment of the city of Ninive because of its cause,and he thus admonished his son, saying: 'Behold, son, in the hour when Iand thy mother die, go thou forth from this land, for it will not remain.'Video enim quia iniquitas ejus finem dabit ei.(392) I see clearly that itsown iniquity will be the cause of its punishment, which will be that it shallbe ended and destroyed altogether. This might have been known by the devilas well as by Tobias, not only because of the iniquity of the city, but byexperience, since they had seen that for the sins of the world God destroyedit in the Flood, and that the Sodomites, too, perished for their sins byfire; but Tobias knew it also through the Divine Spirit.
11. And the devil may know that one Peter(393) cannot, in the course of nature, live more thanso many years, and he may foretell this; and so with regard to many otherthings and in many ways that it is impossible to recount fully -- nor canone even begin to recount many of them, since they are most intricate andsubtle -- he insinuates falsehoods; from which a soul cannot free itselfsave by fleeing from all revelations and visions and locutions that aresupernatural. Wherefore God is justly angered with those that receive them,for He sees that it is temerity on their part to expose themselves to suchgreat peril and presumption and curiosity, and things that spring from pride,and are the root and foundation of vainglory, and of disdain for the thingsof God, and the beginning of many evils to which many have come. Such personshave succeeded in angering God so greatly that He has of set purpose allowedthem to go astray and be deceived and to blind their own spirits and to leavethe ordered paths of life and give rein to their vanities and fancies, accordingto the word of Isaias, where he says: Dominus miscuit in medio ejus spiritumvertiginis.(394) Which is as much to say: The Lord hath mingled in the midstthereof the spirit of dissension and confusion. Which in our ordinary vernacularsignifies the spirit of misunderstanding. What Isaias is here very plainlysaying is to our purpose, for he is speaking of those who were endeavouringby supernatural means to know things that were to come to pass. And thereforehe says that God mingled in their midst the spirit of misunderstanding; notthat God willed them, in fact, to have the spirit of error, or gave it tothem, but that they desired to meddle with that to which by nature they couldnot attain. Angered by this, God allowed them to act foolishly, giving themno light as to that wherewith He desired not that they should concern themselves.And thus the Prophet says that God mingled that spirit in them, privatively.And in this sense God is the cause of such an evil -- that is to say, Heis the privative cause, which consists in His withdrawal of His light andfavour, to such a point that they must needs fall into error.
12. And in this way God gives leave to the devil to blind and deceive many, when theirsins and audacities merit it; and this the devil can do and does successfully,and they give him credence and believe him to be a good spirit; to such apoint that, although they may be quite persuaded that he is not so, theycannot undeceive themselves, since, by the permission of God, there has alreadybeen insinuated into them the spirit of misunderstanding, even as we readwas the case with the prophets of King Achab, whom God permitted to be deceivedby a lying spirit, giving the devil leave to deceive them, and saying: Decipies,et praevalebis; egredere, et fac ita.(395) Which signifies: Thou shalt prevailwith thy falsehood, and shalt deceive them; go forth and do so. And so wellwas he able to work upon the prophets and the King, in order to deceive them,that they would not believe the prophet Micheas, who prophesied the truthto them, saying the exact contrary of that which the others had prophesied,and this came to pass because God permitted them to be blinded, since theiraffections were attached to that which they desired to happen to them, andGod answered them according to their desires and wishes; and this was a mostcertain preparation and means for their being blinded and deceived, whichGod allowed of set purpose.
13. Thus, too, did Ezechiel prophesy in the nameof God. Speaking against those who began to desire to have knowledge directfrom God, from motives of curiosity, according to the vanity of their spirit,he says: When such a man comes to the prophet to enquire of Me through him,I, the Lord, will answer him by Myself, and I will set my face in anger againstthat man; and, as to the prophet, when he has gone astray in that which wasasked of him, Ego Dominus decepi prophetam illum.(396) That is: I, the Lord,have deceive d that prophet. This is to be taken to mean, by not succouringhim with His favour so that he might not be deceived; and this is His meaningwhen He says: I the Lord will answer him by Myself in anger(397) -- thatis, God will withdraw His grace and favour from that man. Hence necessarilyfollows deception by reason of his abandonment by God. And then comes thedevil and makes answer according to the pleasure and desire of that man,who, being pleased thereat, since the answers and communications are accordingto his will, allows himself to be deceived greatly.
14. It may appear thatwe have to some extent strayed from the purpose that we set down in the titleof this chapter, which was to prove that, although God answers, He sometimescomplains. But, if it be carefully considered, all that has been said goesto prove or intention; for it all shows that God desires not that we shouldwish for such visions, since He makes it possible for us to be deceived bythem in so many ways.
Wherein is solved a difficulty -- namely, why it is not lawful, under thelaw of grace, to ask anything of God by supernatural means, as it was underthe old law. This solution is proved by a passage from Saint Paul.
1 DIFFICULTIES keep coming to our mind, and thus we cannot progress with thespeed that we should desire. For as they occur to us, we are obliged of necessityto clear them up, so that the truth of this teaching may ever be plain andcarry its full force. But there is always this advantage in these difficulties,that, although they somewhat impede our progress, they serve neverthelessto make our intention the clearer and more explicit,(398) as will be thecase with the present one.
2. In the previous chapter, we said that it isnot the will of God that souls should desire to receive anything distinctly,by supernatural means, through visions, locutions, etc. Further, we saw inthe same chapter, and deduced from the testimonies which were there broughtforward from Scripture, that such communion with God was employed in theOld Law and was lawful; and that not only was it lawful, but God commandedit. And when they used not this opportunity, God reproved them, as is tobe seen in Isaias, where God reproves the children of Israel because theydesired to go down to Egypt without first enquiring of Him, saying: Et osmeum non interrogastis.(399) That is: Ye asked not first at My own mouthwhat was fitting. And likewise we read in Josue that, when the children ofIsrael themselves are deceived by the Gabaonites, the Holy Spirit reprovesthem for this fault, saying: Susceperunt ergo de cibariis eorum, et os Domininon interrogaverunt.(400) Which signifies: They took of their victuals andthey enquired not at the mouth of God. Furthermore, we see in the DivineScripture that Moses always enquired of God, as did King David and all thekings of Israel with regard to their wars and necessities, and the priestsand prophets of old, and God answered and spake with them and was not wroth,and it was well done; and if they did it not it would be ill done; and thisis the truth. Why, then, in the new law -- the law of grace -- may it notnow be as it was aforetime? 3. To this it must be replied that the principalreason why in the law of Scripture the enquiries that were made of God werelawful, and why it was fitting that prophets and priests should seek visionsand revelations of God, was because at that time faith had no firm foundation,neither was the law of the Gospel established; and thus it was needful thatmen should enquire of God and that He should speak, whether by words or byvisions and revelations or whether by figures and similitudes or by manyother ways of expressing His meaning. For all that He answered and spakeand revealed belonged to the mysteries of our faith and things touching itor leading to it. And, since the things of faith are not of man, but comefrom the mouth of God Himself, God Himself reproved them because they enquirednot at His mouth in their affairs, so that He might answer, and might directtheir affairs and happenings toward the faith, of which at that time theyhad no knowledge, because it was not yet founded. But now that the faithis founded in Christ, and in this era of grace, the law of the Gospel hasbeen made manifest, there is no reason to enquire of Him in that manner,nor for Him to speak or to answer as He did then. For, in giving us, as Hedid, His Son, which is His Word -- and He has no other -- He spake to usall together, once and for all, in this single Word, and He has no occasionto speak further.
4. And this is the sense of that passage with which SaintPaul begins, when he tries to persuade the Hebrews that they should abandonthose first manners and ways of converse with God which are in the law ofMoses, and should set their eyes on Christ alone, saying: Multifariam multisquemodis olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis: novissime autem diebus istisIocutus est nobis in Filio.(401) And this is as though he had said: Thatwhich God spake of old in the prophets to our fathers, in sundry ways anddivers manners, He has now, at last, in these days, spoken to us once andfor all in the Son. Herein the Apostle declares that God has become, as itwere, dumb, and has no more to say, since that which He spake aforetime,in part to the prophets, He has now spoken altogether in Him, giving us theAll, which is His Son.
5. Wherefore he that would now enquire of God, orseek any vision or revelation, would not only be acting foolishly, but wouldbe committing an offence against God, by setting his eyes altogether uponChrist, and seeking no new thing or aught beside. And God might answer himafter this manner, saying: If I have spoken all things to thee in My Word,Which is My Son, and I have no other word, what answer can I now make tothee, or what can I reveal to thee which is greater than this? Set thineeyes on Him alone, for in Him I have spoken and revealed to thee all things,and in Him thou shalt find yet more than that which thou askest and desirest.For thou askest locutions and revelations, which are the part; but if thouset thine eyes upon Him, thou shalt find the whole; for He is My completelocution and answer, and He is all My vision and all My revelation; so thatI have spoken to thee, answered thee, declared to thee and revealed to thee,in giving Him to thee as thy brother, companion and master, as ransom andprize. For since that day when I descended upon Him with My Spirit on MountTabor, saying: Hic est filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui,ipsum audite(402) (which is to say: This is My beloved Son, in Whom I amwell pleased; hear ye Him), I have left off all these manners of teachingand answering, and I have entrusted this to Him. Hear Him; for I have nomore faith to reveal, neither have I any more things to declare. For, ifI spake aforetime, it was to promise Christ; and, if they enquired of Me,their enquiries were directed to petitions for Christ and expectancy concerningHim, in Whom they should find every good thing (as is now set forth in allthe teaching of the Evangelists and the Apostles); but now, any who wouldenquire of Me after that manner, and desire Me to speak to him or revealaught to him, would in a sense be asking Me for Christ again, and askingMe for more faith, and be lacking in faith, which has already been givenin Christ; and therefore he would be committing a great offence against Mybeloved Son, for not only would he be lacking in faith, but he would be obligingHim again first of all to become incarnate and pass through life and death.Thou shalt find naught to ask Me, or to desire of Me, whether revelationsor visions; consider this well, for thou shalt find that all has been donefor thee and all has been given to thee -- yea, and much more also -- inHim.
6. If thou desirest Me to answer thee with any word of consolation,consider My Son, Who is subject to Me, and bound by love of Me, and afflicted,and thou shalt see how fully He answers thee. If thou desirest Me to expoundto thee secret things, or happenings, set thine eyes on Him alone, and thoushalt find the most secret mysteries, and the wisdom and wondrous thingsof God, which are hidden in Him, even as My Apostle says: In quo sunt omnesthesauri sapientiae et scientiae Dei absconditi.(403) That is: In this Sonof God are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God. Thesetreasures of wisdom shall be very much more sublime and delectable and profitablefor thee than the things that thou desiredst to know. Herein the same Apostlegloried, saying: That he had not declared to them that he knew anything,save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.(404) And if thou shouldst still desireother Divine or bodily revelations and visions, look also at Him made man,and thou shalt find therein more than thou thinkest, for the Apostle sayslikewise: In ipso habitat omnis plenitudo Divinitatis corporaliter.(405)Which signifies: In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
7. It is not fitting, then, to enquire of God by supernatural means, noris it necessary that He should answer; since all the faith has been givenus in Christ, and there is therefore no more of it to be revealed, nor willthere ever be. And he that now desires to receive anything in a supernaturalmanner, as we have said, is, as it were, finding fault with God for not havinggiven us a complete sufficiency in His Son. For, although such a person maybe assuming the faith, and believing it, nevertheless he is showing a curiositywhich belongs to faithlessness. We must not expect, then, to receive instruction,or aught else, in a supernatural manner. For, at the moment when Christ gaveup the ghost upon the Cross, saying, Consummatum est,(406) which signifies,'It is finished,' an end was made, not only of all these forms, but alsoof all those other ceremonies and rites of the Old Law. And so we must nowbe guided in all things by the law of Christ made man, and by that of HisChurch, and of His ministers, in a human and a visible manner, and by thesemeans we must remedy our spiritual weaknesses and ignorances, since in thesemeans we shall find abundant medicine for them all. If we leave this path,we are guilty not only of curiosity, but of great audacity: nothing is tobe believed in a supernatural way, save only that which is the teaching ofChrist made man, as I say, and of His ministers, who are men. So much sothat Saint Paul says these words: Quod si Angelus de coelo evengelizaverit,praterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit.(407) That is to say:If any angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that whichwe men preach unto you, let him be accursed and excommunicate.
8. Wherefore, since it is true that we must ever be guided by that which Christ taughtus, and that all things else are as nothing, and are not to be believed unlessthey are in conformity with it, he who still desires to commune with Godafter the manner of the Old Law acts vainly. Furthermore, it was not lawfulat that time for everyone to enquire of God, neither did God answer all men,but only the priests and prophets, from whose mouths it was that the peoplehad to learn law and doctrine; and thus, if a man desire to know anythingof God, he enquired of Him through the prophet or the priest and not of GodHimself. And, if David enquired of God at certain times upon his own account,he did this because he was a prophet, and yet, even so, he did it not withoutthe priestly vestment as it is clear was the case in the First Book of theKings, where he said to Abimelech the priest: Applica ad me Ephod(408) --which ephod was one of the priestly vestments, having which he then spakewith God. But at other times he spake with God through the prophet Nathanand other prophets. And by the mouths of these prophets and of the priestsmen were to believe that that which was said to them came from God; theywere not to believe it because of their own opinions.
9. And thus, men were not authorized or empowered at that time to give entire credence to whatwas said by God, unless it were approved by the mouths of priests and prophets.For God is so desirous that the government and direction of every man shouldbe undertaken by another man like himself, and that every man should be ruledand governed by natural reason, that He earnestly desires us not to giveentire credence to the things that He communicates to us supernaturally,nor to consider them as being securely and completely confirmed until theypass through this human aqueduct of the mouth of man. And thus, wheneverHe says or reveals something to a soul, He gives this same soul to whom Hesays it a kind of inclination to tell it to the person to whom it is fittingthat it should be told. Until this has been done, it is not wont to giveentire satisfaction, because the man has not taken it from another man likehimself. We see in the Book of the Judges that the same thing happened tothe captain Gedeon, to whom God had said many times that he should conquerthe Madianites, yet he was fearful and full of doubts (for God had allowedhim to retain that weakness) until he heard from the mouth of men what Godhad said to him. And it came to pass that, when God saw he was weak, He saidto him: 'Rise up and go down to the camp.' Et cum audieris quid loquantur,tunc confortabuntur manus tuae, et securior ad hostium castra descendes.(409)That is: When thou shalt hear what men are saying there, then shalt thoureceive strength in that which I have said to thee, and thou shalt go downwith greater security to the hosts of the enemy. And so it came to pass that,having heard a dream related by one of the Madianites to another, whereinthe Madianite had dreamed that Gedeon should conquer them, he was greatlystrengthened, and began to prepare for the battle with great joy. From thisit can be seen that God desired not that he should feel secure, since Hegave him not the assurance by supernatural means alone, but caused him firstto be strengthened by natural means.
10. And even more surprising is thething that happened in this connection to Moses, when God had commanded him,and given him many instructions, which He continued with the signs of thewand changed into a serpent and of the leprous hand, enjoining him to goand set free the children of Israel. So weak was he and so uncertain(410)about this going forward that, although God was angered, he had not the courageto summon up the complete faith necessary for going, until God encouragedhim through his brother Aaron, saying: Aaron frater tuus Levites, scio quodeloquent sit: ecce ipse egredietur in occursum tuum, vidensque te, laetabiturcorde. Loquere ad eum, en pone verba mea in ore ejus: et ego ero in ore tuo,et in ore illius, etc.(411) Which is as though He had said: I know that thybrother Aaron is an eloquent man: behold, he will come forth to meet thee,and, when he seeth thee, he will be glad at heart; speak to him and tellhim all My words, and I will be in thy mouth and in his mouth, so that eachof you shall believe that which is in the mouth of the other.
11. Having heard these words, Moses at once took courage, in the hope of finding consolationin the counsel which his brother was to give him; for this is a characteristicof the humble soul, which dares not converse alone with God, neither canbe completely satisfied without human counsel and guidance. And that thisshould be given to it is the will of God, for He draws near to those whocome together to converse of truth, in order to expound and confirm it inthem, upon a foundation of natural reason, even as He said that He woulddo when Moses and Aaron should come together -- namely, that He would bein the mouth of the one and in the mouth of the other. Wherefore He saidlikewise in the Gospel that Ubi fuerint duo vel tres congregati in nominemeo, ibi sum ego in medio eorum.(412) That is: Where two or three have cometogether, in order to consider that which is for the greater honour and gloryof My name, there am I in the midst of them. That is to say, I will makeclear and confirm in their hearts the truths of God. And it is to be observedthat He said not: Where there is one alone, there will I be; but: Where thereare at least two. In this way He showed that God desires not that any manby himself alone should believe his experiences to be of God,(413) or shouldact in conformity with them, or rely upon them, but rather should believethe Church and(414) her ministers, for God will not make clear and confirmthe truth in the heart of one who is alone, and thus such a one will be weakand cold.
12. Hence comes that whereon the Preacher insists, where he says:Vae soli, quia cum ceciderit, non habet sublevantem se. Si dormierint duo,fovebuntur mutuo; unus quomodo calefiet? et si quispiam praevaluerit contraunum, duo resistent ei.(415) Which signifies: Woe to the man that is alone,for when he falleth he hath none to raise him up. If two sleep together,the one shall give warmth to the other (that is to say: with the warmth ofGod Who is between them); but one alone, how shall he be warm? That is tosay: How shall he be other than cold as to the things of God? And if anyman can fight and prevail against one enemy (that is, the devil, who canfight and prevail against those that are alone and desire to be alone asregards the things of God), two men together will resist him -- that is,the disciple and the master(416) who come together to know and dost the truth.And until this happens such a man is habitually weak and feeble in the truth,however often he may have heard it from God; so much so that, despite themany occasions on which Saint Paul preached the Gospel, which he said thathe had heard, not of men, but of God, he could not be satisfied until hehad gone to consult with Saint Peter and the Apostles, saying: Ne forte invacuum currerem, aut cucurrissem.(417) Which signifies: Perchance he shouldrun, or had run, in vain, having no assurance of himself, until man had givenhim assurance. This seems a noteworthy thing, O Paul, that He Who revealedto thee this Gospel could not likewise reveal to thee the assurance of thefault which thou mightest have committed in preaching the truth concerningHim.
13. Herein it is clearly shown that a man must not rely upon the thingsthat God reveals, save in the way that we are describing; for, even in caseswhere a person is in possession of certainty, as Saint Paul was certain ofhis Gospel (since he had already begun to preach it), yet, although therevelation be of God, man may still err with respect to it, or in thingsrelating to it. For, although God reveals one thing, He reveals not alwaysthe other; and oftentimes He reveals something without revealing the wayin which it is to be done. For ordinarily He neither performs nor revealsanything that can be accomplished by human counsel and effort, although Hemay commune with the soul for a long time, very lovingly. Of this Saint Paulwas very well aware, since, as we say, although he knew that the Gospel wasrevealed to him by God, he went to take counsel with Saint Peter. And wesee this clearly in the Book of Exodus, where God had communed most familiarlywith Moses, yet had never given him that salutary counsel which was givenhim by his father-in-law Jethro -- that is to say, that he should chooseother judges to assist him, so that the people should not be waiting frommorning till night.(418) This counsel God approved, though it was not HeWho had given it to him, for it was a thing that fell within the limits ofhuman judgment and reason. With respect to Divine visions and revelationsand locutions, God is not wont to reveal them, for He is ever desirous thatmen should make such use of their own reason as is possible, and all suchthings have to be governed by reason, save th ose that are of faith, whichtranscend all judgment and reason, although these are not contrary to faith.
14. Wherefore let none think that, because it may be true that God and thesaints commune with him familiarly about many things, they will of necessityexplain to him the faults that he commits with regard to anything, if itbe possible for him to recognize these faults by other means. He can haveno assurance about this; for, as we read came to pass in the Acts of theApostles, Saint Peter, though a prince of the Church, who was taught directlyby God, went astray nevertheless with respect to a certain ceremony thatwas in use among the Gentiles, and God was silent. So far did he stray thatSaint Paul reproved him, as he affirms, saying: Cum vidissem, quod non rectead veritatem Evangelii ambularent, dixi coram omnibus: Si tu judaeus cumsis, gentiliter vivis, quomodo Gentes cogis judaizare?(419) Which signifies:When I saw (says Saint Paul) that the disciples walked not uprightly accordingto the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all: If thou, beinga Jew, as thou art, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, how feignestthou to force the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? And God reproved not SaintPeter Himself for this fault, for that stimulation was a thing that had todo with reason, and it was possible for him to know it by rational means.
15. Wherefore on the day of judgment God will punish for their many faultsand sins many souls with whom He may quite habitually have held conversehere below, and to whom He may have given much light and virtue; for, asto those things that they have known that they ought to do, they have beenneglectful, and have relied upon that converse that they have had with Godand upon the virtue that He has given them. And thus, as Christ says in theGospel, they will marvel at that time, saying: Domine, Domine, nonne in nominetuo prophetavimus, et in nomine tuo daemonia ejecimus, et in nomine tuo virtutesmultas fecimus?(420) That is: Lord, Lord, were the prophecies that Thou spakestto us perchance not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast we not outdevils? And in Thy name performed we not many miracles and mighty works?And the Lord says that He will answer them in these words: Et tunc confiteborillis, quia numquam novi vos: discedite a me omnes qui operaminiiniquitatem.(421) That is to say: Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity,for I never knew you. Of the number of these was the prophet Balaam and otherslike to him, who, though God spake with them and gave them thanks, were sinners.But the Lord will likewise give their proportion of reproof to His friendsand chosen ones, with whom He communed familiarly here below, as to the faultsand sins of neglect that they may have committed; whereof there was no needthat God should Himself warn them, since He had already warned them throughthe natural reason and law that He had given to them.
16. In concluding this part of my subject, therefore, I say, and I infer from what has already beensaid, that anything, of whatsoever kind, received by the soul throughsupernatural means, must clearly and plainly, fully and simply, be at oncecommunicated to the spiritual director. For although there may seem no reasonto speak of it, or to spend time upon doing so, since the soul is actingsafely, as we have said, if it rejects it and neither pays heed to it nordesires it -- especially if it be a question of visions or revelations orother supernatural communications, which are either quite clear or very nearlyso -- nevertheless, it is very necessary to give an account of all these,although it may seem to the soul that there is no reason for so doing. Andthis for three causes. First, because, as we have said, God communicatesmany things, the effect, power, light and certainty whereof He confirms notwholly in the soul, until, as we have said, the soul consults him whom Godhas given to it as a spiritual judge, which is he that has the power to bindor to loose, and to approve or to blame, as we have shown by means of thepassages quoted above; and we can show it clearly by experience, for we seehumble souls to whom these things come to pass, and who, after discussingthem with the proper persons, experience a new satisfaction, power, lightand certainty; so much so that to some it seems that they have no effectupon them, nor do they even belong to them, until they have communicatedthem to the director, whereupon they are given to them anew.
17. The second cause is that the soul habitually needs instruction upon the things thatcome to pass within it, so that it may be led by that means to spiritualpoverty and detachment, which is the dark night. For if it begins to relinquishthis instruction -- even when it desires not the things referred to -- itwill gradually, without realizing it, become callous as it treads the spiritualroad, and draw near again to the road of sense; and it is partly with respectto this that these distinct things happen.
18. The third cause is that, for the sake of the humility and submission and mortification of the soul, itis well to relate everything to the director, even though he make(422) noaccount of it all and consider it of no importance. There are some soulswho greatly dislike speaking of such things, because they think them to beunimportant, and know not how the person to whom they should relate themwill receive them; but this is lack of humility, and for that very reasonit is needful for them to submit themselves and relate these things. Andthere are others who are very timid in relating them, because they see noreason why they should have these experiences, which seem to belong to saints,as well as other things which they are sorry to have to describe; for whichcause they think there is no reason to speak of them because they make noaccount of them; but for this very reason it is well for them to mortifythemselves and relate them, until in time they come to speak of them humbly,unaffectedly, submissively and readily, and after this they will always findit easy to do so.
19. But, with respect to what has been said, it must bepointed out that, although we have insisted so much that such things shouldbe set aside, and that confessors should not encourage their penitents todiscuss them, it is not well that spiritual fathers should show displeasurein regard to them, or should seek to avoid speaking of them or despise them,or make their penitents reserved and afraid to mention them, for it wouldbe the means of causing them many inconveniences if the door were closedupon their relating them. For, since they are a means and manner wherebyGod guides such souls, there is no reason for thinking ill of them or forbeing alarmed or scandalized by them; but rather there is a reason for proceedingvery quietly and kindly, for encouraging these souls and giving them anopportunity to speak of these things; if necessary, they must be exhortedto speak; and, in view of the difficulty that some souls experience in describingsuch matters, this is sometimes quite essential. Let confessors direct theirpenitents into faith,(423) advising them frankly to turn away their eyesfrom all such things, teaching them how to void the desire and the spiritof them, so that they may make progress, and giving them to understand howmuch more precious in God's sight is one work or act of the will performedin charity than are all the visions and communications that they may receivefrom Heaven, since these imply neither merit nor demerit. Let them pointout, too, that many souls who have known nothing of such things have madeincomparably greater progress than others who have received many of them.
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