“Because we said that God makes use of nothing other than love, it may prove beneficial to explain the reason for this before commenting on the stanza. The reason is that all our works and all our trials, even though they be the greatest possible, are nothing in the sight of God. For through them we cannot give him anything or fulfill his only desire, which is the exaltation of the soul. Of these other things he desires nothing for himself, since he has no need of them. If anything pleases him, it is the exaltation of the soul. Since there is no way by which he can exalt her more than by making her equal to himself, he is pleased only with her love. For the property of love is to make the lover equal to the object loved. Since the soul in this state possesses perfect love, she is called the bride of the Son of God, which signifies equality with him. In this equality of friendship the possessions of both are held in common, as the Bridegroom himself said to his disciples: I have now called you my friends, because all that I have heard from my Father I have manifested to you (Jn. 15:15). …

The soul, indeed, lost to all things and won over to love, no longer occupies her spirit in anything else. She even withdraws in matters pertinent to the active life and other exterior exercises for the sake of fulfilling the one thing the Bridegroom said was necessary (Lk. 10:42), and this: attentiveness to God and the continual exercise of love in him. This the Lord values and esteems so highly that he reproved Martha when she tried to call Mary away from her place at his feet in order to busy her with other active things in his service; and Martha thought that she herself was doing all the work and Mary, because she was enjoying the Lord’s presence, was doing nothing (Lk 10:39-41). Yet, since there is no greater and more necessary work than love, the contrary is true. The Lord also defends the bride in the Song of Songs, conjuring all creatures of the world, referred to by the daughters of Jerusalem, not to hinder the the bride’s spiritual sleep of love or cause her to awaken or open her eyes to anything else until she desire (Sg. 3:5).

… She should not become involved in other works and exterior exercises that might be of the slightest hindrance to the attentiveness of love toward God, even though the work be of great service to God. For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together.

…Great wrong would be done to a soul who possesses some degree of this solitary love, as well as to the Church, if we were to urge her to become occupied in exterior or active things, even if the works were very important and required only a short time. Since God has solemnly entreated that no one awaken a soul from his love (Sg. 3:5), who will dare do so and remain without reproof? After all, this love is the end for which we were created.

Let those, then, who are singularly active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would profit the Church and please God much more, not to mention the good example they would give, were they to spend at least half of this time with God in prayer… They would then certainly accomplish more, and with less labor, by one work than they otherwise would by a thousand. For through their prayer they would merit this result, and themselves be spiritually strengthened. Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm. God forbid that the salt should begin to lose its savor (Mt. 5:13). However much they may appear to achieve externally, they will in substance be accomplishing nothing; it is beyond doubt that good works can be performed only by the power of God.” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 28:1; 29:1-3)


You touched me so deeply through these words, my God,

when I was young, and so ravished by you;

and they still stand true before me today,

though now purified and clarified, made transparent,

correcting the imbalance and the unnecessary dichotomy,

and harmonizing all in love’s true center, its heartbeat,

in the embrace of the Heart of Jesus Christ,

in your own Trinitarian heartbeat as Father, Son, and Spirit.


For it is true that your work alone redeems the world,

your work alone saves sinful hearts from sin

and wounded hearts from the shackles of their fear,

and accomplishes all other good, whatever it may be,

as a gratuitous gift pouring out from your generosity,

even if such gifts appear to be, and are,

mediated through human prayer and activity.


One act of pure love is worth more than all other works put together:

this is simple truth, for every person in every single life.

What can we truly give to you, but ourselves, but love,

but the openness of heart to receive your gift,

your outpouring of your very self, in the Spirit, into us,

harnessing our reciprocal gift to you in response?


Yes, what do you desire but wedding human hearts to yourself,

but intimacy, communion in the life of the divine Persons,

each one of your children breathing forth the Holy Spirit

in union with the eternal breathing of the Father and the Son?


What sacred happiness, what breathtaking beauty, what glory,

that you have made us to breathe with you the very Breath you breathe,

already in this life, though imperfectly, and for all eternity

in the undimmed fullness and unmediated embrace of everlasting Joy!


And this mystery of sharing in your life and love,

it touches us, not just in the apex of our humanity,

the still-point of the spirit beyond our bodies and our life,

but rather descends into the rich fabric of our everyday experience,

sanctifying it all from within, making it holy:

that these bodies of flesh are temples of the spirit,

that our work, activity, play, and rest

becomes a ceaseless act of pure love, born of love’s purity,

and our very human communion with one another

is a transparent reflection and participation

in your own eternal life of intimacy as Father, Son, and Spirit.


Yes, each person can find their life written in these words,

their longing to encounter, at the heart of every moment,

the heartbeat of gratuitous intimacy and joy,

the playful communion of love, the kiss of Lover and beloved.


It is for this that we, your children, long:

the pure for-its-own-sake-ness of love and communion,

which alone gives meaning to all else, in fullness,

and also transcends all else in the pure togetherness of hearts in love.


And this will be our everlasting gladness when this life is passed,

and the whole world is re-created, made new,

in perfect transparency to the uncreated life of the Trinity,

and each and every created thing, and person,

affirmed and cherished uniquely precisely in this space.



And you also speak to me, uniquely, through these words,

and yet so far beyond them, too, in the heart,

telling me anew of your loving plan for me, your gift,

that my heart’s desire and spirit’s song for so long

has been guided by you, and by you matured.


For you indeed do wish for me to abide, uniquely,

in a place of stillness, silence, and prolonged prayer,

at the heart of my littleness and poverty,

in the midst of the humble destitution of my life,

in which you are my only security and safety,

in whom my frailty and smallness is cradled in your love,

and my human communion, too, sheltered and safeguarded

in its unique sacredness, its holiness in your sight,

as your gift, your manifestation, your delight.


A life of pure love, gratuitous and free,

useless in the eyes of the world, but precious in your sight:

the beauty of prayer and togetherness.


So simple it is, so vulnerable, so small,

but the most important thing of all,

made present in each and every life, uniquely,

is made present for me too, here.


You give this gift to me, to abide in me, and to bear fruit,

in living my humble life of prayer, in illness and incapacity,

in the stillness of the heart at rest, and its longing dilation,

in the pure love of which the words speak, so beautifully,

and yet also more human, more humble, more flesh-and-blood;

and in equal measure, though secondarily,

flowing from this primal place of intimacy, God, with you,

you manifest this gift, and make it live,

in the beauty of human communion,

in looking with your eyes of love upon the person

entrusted to me by you, to be with me here,

and in her loving, with you, all the world,

that the world may find and know your goodness and love,

and find fulfillment in your embrace eternally.


Yes, this most humble and simple life, my God,

is a witness, also, for all persons, of that central mystery,

that pure gratuity of love and intimacy that you desire

to have with us, Bridegroom of the bride, Father of the child,

the intimacy for which you have created us, union with you,

the true and everlasting rest of the restless heart,

and oh…so beautiful and lovable in yourself,

eternal Beauty, eternal Goodness, you who are Love!


And this central mystery is also manifest, alive,

in looking out, from this most intimate embrace,

upon your world with the light of your own gaze,

alive and active, so rich, so full, so beautiful,

affirming and cherishing each person with your own love,

and lifting all up into the consummating space of your embrace.


And, finally, it is manifest in your desire

for us to have such intimacy, such blessed communion,

in you, with one another, children of the same Father,

man and woman, son and daughter, siblings and friends,

sheltered and held in the communion that is yours,

made present in us, among us, and carrying us, at last,

to consummation in you who are eternal Intimacy:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without end.