An extract from 'The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross'
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O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.
1. May God be pleased to help me here, for I certainly need his help to explain the deep meaning of this stanza. Readers of this commentary should be attentive for, if they have no experience, it will perhaps seem somewhat obscure and prolix; but if they do have experience, it will perhaps seem clear and pleasant to read. In this stanza the soul exalts and thanks its Bridegroom for the admirable favors it receives from its union with him. It states that by means of this union it receives abundant and lofty knowledge of God, which is all loving and communicates light and love to its faculties and feeling. These who were once obscure and blind can now receive illumination and the warmth of love, as they do, so as to be able to give forth light and love to the one who illumined them and filled them with love. True lovers are only content when they employ all they are in themselves, all they are worth, have, and receive, in the beloved; and the greater all this is, the more satisfaction they receive in giving it. The soul rejoices on this account because, from the splendors and love it receives, it can shine brightly in the presence of its Bridegroom and give him love. The verse follows:
O lamps of fire!
2. First of all it should be known that lamps possess two properties: They transmit light and give off warmth.
To understand the nature of these lamps and how they shine and burn within the soul, it ought to be known that God in his unique and simple being is all the power and grandeur of his attributes. He is almighty, wise, and good; and he is merciful, just, powerful, loving, and so on; and he is the other infinite attributes and powers of which we have no knowledge. Since he is all of this in his simple being, the soul views distinctly in him, when he is united with it and deigns to disclose this knowledge, all these powers and grandeurs, that is: omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, mercy, and so on. Since each of these attributes is the very being of God in his one and only suppositum, which is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and since each one is God himself, who is infinite light or divine fire, we deduce that the soul, like God, gives forth light and warmth through each of these innumerable attributes. Each of these attributes is a lamp that enlightens the soul and gives off the warmth of love.