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world, to teach all that every good comes
through Him alone, so that all might feel bound
to render Him service and gratitude, as their

1 6o Blessed yohn of Avila

most true and generous Benefactor. Because
of this they loved Him even better after His
departure, than while He was amongst them,
and felt so great an affection infused by the
Holy Ghost into their souls for the Word
of God, from Whom He proceeds and in Whom
He reposes, that they fearlessly preached Him
to the world, even at the cost of their lives.

If the mystery of this feast were accomplished
in our hearts, we should be sure to celebrate its
outward ceremonies well. Were our souls
watered with but one drop from the mighty
river which flows from the throne of God and
the Lamb, it would quench in us all thirst for
anything in this world, and remove the aridity
and hardness which make us so dry, tepid, and
miserable. How grateful should we feel to our
Saviour for having redeemed us, and blotted
out our sins and given us perfect joy instead
of sorrow! Suffering, exile, the absence from
those we love, the want of things we now think
necessary, or other trials would no longer afflict
us. So powerful is the fire of the Holy Spirit,
that it mounts upwards, and gives us a love
and trust in God that no water of sorrow or
affliction can extinguish: it remains ever alight;
it fills and inflames our hearts, burning away all
evil, so that not even death can conquer him
whose evil passions it has destroyed.

This is the beloved Guest, Who cured the
wound which our Lord's departure made in the
hearts of those who loved Him, and filled the

Letter XXIV i6i

place He had left empty. If the Paraclete could
console them for the absence of Jesus, how much
more can He comfort us in any grief caused by
the loss of creatures ! He is the Parent Who
cares so tenderly for the orphaned that He
clothes them with power from on high, and
sheltering them beneath His mantle, teaches
them that there is One in heaven Whom they
may dare, without presumption, to call their
Father. He raises the fallen, enlightens our
darkness, warms what is frozen, brings back
the erring, refreshes the weary, and each day
gives souls new strength to fly upwards, even
to the mount of God.

Surely such a wonderful gift should fill us
with zeal, and make us give all our hearts'
aflFections'to purchase this precious pearl, which
is our true treasure, and which alone can make
us happy. All around we hear the tidings of
His coming to men, and of His longing to
dwell in their hearts. Let us not allow Him
to pass by, but constrain Him to visit and
comfort us that we may serve Him the better.
He will need little entreaty; ask Him in our
Lord's name, for the Father sends Him through
Jesus Christ His Son. It is our Saviour Who
obtained for us poor mortal creatures, frail,
impure and subject to many evils though we
be, the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is higher
above us than the firmament is from the earth.
Our vileness could never have attracted Him.
Our Redeemer, the Only-Begotten of His

1 62 Blessed yohn of Avila

Father in heaven, abased Himself to become
Man on earth, and taking our weakness on
Himself, suffered, toiled and gave His life,
that the Paraclete, the Creator of all things,
might deign to come to us, poor vessels of clay.

Let us then thank our Saviour, and rejoice
in the fruit of His labours. Since, through
His merits, the Holy Spirit wills to dwell
within us, let us not be so ungrateful as to lose
both of these favours, nor so foolish as to reject
the Holy Ghost, Who deigns to become our
Father and our Guide. We should go forth
with love, to meet Him Who comes with love;
we should feel an ardent longing to receive
Him, for where He is much longed for. He
gladly stays. Let us cry, with Isaias: "My
soul hath desired Thee in the night: yea, and
with my spirit within me in the morning early
I will watch to Thee." (XXVL 9.) That
soul " desires " the Holy Spirit by night, which
in the time of sorrow puts no confidence in
itself, but sighs to Him, as the. Comforter of
the afflicted and the Solace of all in pain: it
" watches for Him in the morning early," when
its first care is to provide a dwelling for this
divine Guest, and to study how best to obtain
this grace. If the Holy Ghost is thus
eagerly desired and invoked. He will come, like
our Lord, Who was the Desired of all nations,
and will assuredly enter our hearts, for He
loves those who long to possess Him.

Let us invite the Paraclete, then, by heart and

Letter XXIV 163

voice, to dwell within us, and let us be sure we
have some feast to offer Him when He comes.
To please Him we must destroy our fleshly
passions, for He detests them; we must mortify
our own judgment, so that we can be taught by
Him, for two people cannot govern a house well
unless the wiser take control. We must also
renounce our own will, which is the chief enemy
of the Holy Spirit, Who teaches us to say " Not
my will, but Thine be done. " (St. Luke. XXII.
42.) Let us too, cleanse our consciences by
confession and penance from the slightest defile-
ment, for this Heavenly Guest is a Lover of
purity, and there must be nothing to offend Him
in the place where He lodges : we must keep
peace both with ourselves and with others, for
even quarrelsome people hide their dissensions
before a guest whom they wish to honour.

When this mighty King deigns to make our
hearts His palace, we should close them to all
else, and being recollected in His presence, not
let our minds leave Him to wander elsewhere.
We should worship Him with the deepest
reverence, assuring Him that nothing shall ever
make us desert Him, or be allowed to come
between us. Then we shall enjoy Him as we
ought, for He can give us a happiness of which
nothing can deprive us. Then our sorrows
shall be turned into joy, and we shall drink of
the river of the delights of God until it inebriates
us. It will be a great consolation to me to
know that you are in the hands of Him Whp

164 Blessed John of Avila

will preserve, and teach, and save you eternally,
and I beg of Him to take you under His

JLettet rrt)


Dear Madam,

It would interest me to
know what is passing in your soul during this
week, which is consecrated to the Holy Ghost.
He gives light to the understanding, love to
the will, and even strength to the body, which
gift is symbolised by the parable of the three
loaves the man offered his friend, on returning
hungry and weary from his journey. The Holy
Spirit takes away the hunger our heart feels
when wandering amongst creatures, and fills it
with the bread of fulness and satisfaction.

Woe to us if we feel not the nothingness of
all that is visible and turn not to God, if only
because we are wearied at discovering the defects
and nothingness of all in which we hoped to
find our rest. When, O God, will our souls
be chaste and loyal to Christ our Spouse; when
will our love, untainted by affection for any
creature, be wholly given to Him? When
shall we learn that He alone is the Master of

Letter XXV 165

our souls, that He created us for Himself, and
that He alone can satisfy us? Can we not
remember that we have often experienced how
ill the world treats those who trust it, and that
our souls have never known rest nor peace
except, when, realising their miseries and
poverty, they have taken refuge in God and
been received in His embrace? A short space
of this joy is worth more than a life-time spent
in the empty noise and vanities of this foolish
world. There can be no better time than this
to say to earthly things " I know you not," and
to cleanse and empty our souls, so as to provide
a dwelling-place for the God Who created us
from nothingness.

The Paraclete Who will visit us is so holy
that He would not come even to the disciples,
until our Lord's Body was taken from their
sight, to show how utterly empty must be the
temple in which He dwells. I am glad that,
having prepared your heart by His grace, you
have received Him into it, both to His joy and
your own. Rejoice with the Holy Ghost, for
He is joy itself; remember how St. Paul tells
us not to grieve "the Holy Spirit of God,
whereby you are sealed unto the day of
redemption," (Ephes. IV. 30.) that is, the last
Judgment. To be dull and sad, to serve Him
slothfuUy and tepidly, and to perform actions
displeasing to this most holy Guest, is " to
grieve the Holy Spirit."

He is " flame," and wishes His servant to

66 Blessed John of Avila

be ardent and to glow with fervour, and to
throw on to the fire kindled in his heart the
fuel of good works, and light it up with holy-
thoughts. This will prevent this heavenly flame
from dying out. Our spiritual vitality depends
on its burning: if we keep it alive, it will
maintain our life in God, although we are only
returning to Him what He has first given us.

This week will have been a real feast to you,
as you have kept not only its outward observ-
ances, with those who care for nothing but its
ritual and festivities, but in your heart also, as
God commands. Who wishes us " to adore
Him in spirit."

Let us now consider how you are to prepare
for the feast of Corpus Christi which is so near
at hand. It would indeed be a disgrace for the
Christian soul not to long and hunger after this
holy Bread. Christ was waited for even by the
three Kings in their far-off country, and desired
by the prophets and patriarchs long before the
Incarnation. What greater joy than to see our
Lord, Whom heaven and earth cannot contain,
veiled beneath the accidents of bread: sometimes
borne by our hands, passing amongst us through
our streets, and making Himself our companion,
and again, sometimes deigning to enter into
our poor sinful breasts.

Do not let my words pass from your mind,
but rouse yourself to consider this great favour
and work of God. Empty your heart of all
^se^ that it may hunger keenly for this celestial


Utter XXV 167

Bread on which the Angels feed. Be watchful
during these days lest your attention wander.
This is the week consecrated to the Holy Ghost,
therefore beg Him for grace to observe devoutly
the feast of the Body of Christ. That Body
was conceived by Him, and when we receive
Holy Communion on that day, the Paraclete
will come to us also, because it was through
our Lord's merits that He was sent to us.
Christ's merits are imparted to us in the Holy
Eucharist in proportion to the worthiness of our

Thus one festival prepares us for the next
and should make us long for it. Unlike the
banquets of the world, where those who have
feasted at noon are not hungry at night, each
festival of the Church increases our appetite for
the next, fulfilling God's promise in Leviticus
(XXVL 5.) " the threshing of your harvest
shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage
shall reach unto the sowing time: and you shall
eat your bread to the full." Blessed be God,
for so bountifully providing for us that He
even bestows on us His very Self. The Son is
given to us, and through Him the Holy Spirit,
and with Them comes the Father. Thus the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reside
within us, and we already have a beginning
here of that intercourse with God which will be
perfect in the next life. Let us thank Him for
all His mercies and prepare ourselves to receive
the favours that still remain to be bestowed on

1 68 Blessed John of Avila

us. With hearts raised on high, let us celebrate
the feasts of heaven, so that from temporal joys
we may pass to those which are eternal, in which
I pray that you, Madam, may have your share.

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Online LibraryJuan Bautista DavilaLetters of Blessed John of Avila → online text (page 10 of 10)