* Sometimes God comes into the soul when it has neither called, prayed, or summoned him. and he instills into the soul and uncommon fire and love and sweetness in which it delights and rejoices greatly. The soul believes that the presence of God himself has cause this consolation, but this is not certain. But then the soul perceives that God is within itself - although it cannot see him inwardly - because it does sense and take delight in that his grace is present. Yet even this is not certain.
But then the soul further perceives that God speaks to it with most sweet words that it delights in still more. And it rejoices because it feels God's presence. Yet some doubts still remain, but only a few. For as yet the soul possesses no perfect certainty that God is truly within it because other spirits can produce such conversation and feelings. So it still may be in doubt. It seems to me that this comes either from the soul's own wickedness and sinfulness, or else by the will of God, who does not want the soul to feel certain and secure.
But when the soul senses the the presence of God more deeply than usual, then it assures itself of his inward presence. The soul feels his presence with an understanding so marvelous and so profound and with such great love and divine fire that it loses all love for itself and for the body. It speaks and knows and understands things that it has never heard from any human being. And it understands with such great illumination that it can scarcely hold it's peace. If it does hold it's peace, it does so out of the abundance of it's zeal so that it my not displease God it's Lover, nor cause offence, and likewise by reason of it's humility. It does not want to speak of things so exceedingly high in order that it may not draw attention to itself.
In a vision I beheld the fullness of God in which I beheld and comprehended the whole creation, that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else. And in everything that I saw, I could perceive nothing except the presence of the power of God, and in a manner totally indescribable. And my soul in an excess of wonder cried out: "This world is pregnant with God!" Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation -- that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else -- but the power of God fills it all to overflowing.
God is the one who leads me and elevates me to that state. I do not go to it on my own, for by myself I would not know how to want, desire, or seek it. I am now continually in this state. Furthermore, God very often elevates me to this state with no need, even, for my consent; for when I hope or expect it least, when I am not thinking about anything, suddenly my soul is elevated by God and I hold dominion over and comprehend the whole world. It seems, then, as if I am no longer on earth but in heaven, in God.
Even if at times I can still experience outwardly some little sadness and joy, nonetheless there is in my soul a chamber in which no joy, sadness, or enjoyment from any virtue, or delight over anything that can be named, enters. This is where the All Good, which is not any particular good, resides, and it is so much the All Good that there is no other good. Although I blaspheme by speaking about it -- and I speak about it so badly because I cannot find words to express it -- I nonetheless affirm that in this manifestation of God I discover the complete truth. In it, I understand and possess the complete truth that is in heaven and in hell, in the entire world, in every place, in all things, in every enjoyment in heaven and in every creature. And I see all this is so truly and certainly that no one could convince me otherwise. Even if the whole world were to tell me otherwise, I would laugh it to scorn. Furthermore, I saw the One who is and how he is the being of all creatures. I also saw how he made me capable of understanding those realities I have just spoken about better than when I saw them in that darkness which used to delight me so. Moreover, in that state I see myself as alone with God, totally cleansed, totally sanctified, totally true, totally upright, totally certain, totally celestial in him. And when I am in that state, I do not remember anything else…
When I am in that darkness I do not remember anything about anything human, or the God-man, or anything which has a form. Nevertheless, I see all and I see nothing. As what I have spoken of withdraws and stays with me, I see the God-man. He draws my soul with great gentleness and he sometimes says to me: "You are I and I am you." I see, then, those eyes and that face so gracious and attractive as he leans to embrace me. In short, what proceeds from those eyes and that face is what I said that I saw in that previous darkness which comes from within, and which delights me so that I can say nothing about it. When I am in the God-man my soul is alive. And I am in the God-man much more than in the other vision of seeing God with darkness. The soul is alive in that vision concerning the God-man. The vision with darkness, however, draws me so much more that there is no comparison. On the other hand, I am in the God-man almost continually. It began in this continual fashion on a certain occasion when I was given the assurance that there was no intermediary between God and myself. Since that time there has not been a day or a night in which I did not continually experience this joy of the humanity of Christ.
Likewise, divine goodness granted me, afterward, the grace that from two there was made one, because I could not will anything except as he himself willed. How great is the mercy of the one who realized this union! -- it almost completely stabilized my soul. I possessed God so fully that I was no longer in my previous customary state but was led to find a peace in which I was united with God and was content with everything.
No one can be saved without divine light. Divine light causes us to begin and to make progress, and it leads us to the summit of perfection. Therefore if you want to begin and to receive this divine light, pray. If you have begun to make progress and want this light to be intensified within you, pray. And if you have reached the summit of perfection, and want to be superillumined so as to remain in that state, pray.
I saw a fullness, a brightness with which I felt myself so filled that words fail me, nor can I find anything to compare it with. I cannot tell you that I saw something with a bodily form, but he was as he is in heaven, namely, of such an indescribable beauty that I do not know how to describe it to you except as the Beauty and the All Good.
God presents himself in the inmost depths of my soul. I understand not only that he is present, but also how he is present in every creature and in everything that has being, in a devil and a good angel, in heaven and hell, in good deeds and in adultery or homicide, in all things, finally, which exist or have some degree of being, whether beautiful or ugly. She further said: I also understand that he is no less present in a devil than a good angel. Therefore, while I am in this truth, I take no less delight in seeing or understanding his presence in a devil or in an act of adultery than I do in a good angel or in a good deed. This mode of divine presence in my soul has become almost habitual. Moreover, this mode of God's presence illuminates my soul with such great truth and bestows on it such divine graces that when my soul is in this mode it cannot commit any offense, and it receives an abundance of divine gifts. Because of this understanding of God's presence my soul is greatly humiliated and ashamed of its sins. It is also granted deep wisdom, great divine consolation, and joy.
No matter how far the understanding of the soul is able to stretch itself, that is nothing in comparison to what it experiences when it is lifted beyond itself and placed in the bosom of God. Then the soul understands, finds its delight, and rests in the divine goodness; it cannot bring back any report of this, because it is completely beyond what the intelligence can conceive, and beyond words; but in this state the soul swims.
And immediately upon presenting himself to the soul, God likewise discloses himself and expands the soul and gives it gifts and consolations which the soul has never before experienced, and which are far more profound than earlier ones. In this state, the soul is drawn out of all darkness and granted a greater awareness of God than I would have thought possible. This awareness is of such clarity, certitude, and abysmal profundity that there is no heart in the world that can ever in any way understand it or even conceive it. Even my own heart cannot think about it by itself, or ever return to it to understand or even conceive anything about it. This state occurs only when God, as a gift, elevates the soul to himself, for no heart by itself can in any way expand itself to attain it. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing that can be said about this experience, for no words can be found or invented to express or explain it; no expansion of thought or mind can possibly reach to those things, they are so far beyond everything -- for there is nothing which can explain God. I repeat there is absolutely nothing which can explain God. Christ's faithful one affirmed with utmost certitude and wanted it understood that there is absolutely nothing which can explain God.
The soul cannot have true knowledge of God through its own efforts or by means of any created thing, but only by divine light and by a special gift of divine grace. I believe there is no quicker or easier way for the soul to obtain this divine grace from God, supreme Good and supreme Love, than by a devout, pure, humble, continual, and violent prayer.
By prayer I mean not merely prayer from the mouth, but of the mind and heart, of all the powers of the soul and senses of the body. This is the prayer prayed by the soul who wills and desires to find this divine light, studying, meditating and reading without cease in the Book and the more-than-a-book of Life. This Book of Life is the entire life of Christ while he lived as a mortal on earth.
Today I would like to speak to you about Blessed Angela of Foligno, a great medieval mystic who lived in the 13th century. People are usually fascinated by the consummate experience of union with God that she reached, but perhaps they give too little consideration to her first steps, her conversion and the long journey that led from her starting point, the "great fear of hell", to her goal, total union with the Trinity. The first part of Angela's life was certainly not that of a fervent disciple of the Lord...for Blessed Angela the experience of union meant the total involvement of both the spiritual and physical senses and she was left with only a "shadow" in her mind, as it were, of what she had "understood" during her ecstasies. "I truly heard these words", she confessed after a mystical ecstasy, but it is in no way possible for me to know or tell of what I saw and understood, or of what he [God] showed me, although I would willingly reveal what I understood with the words that I heard, but it was an absolutely ineffable abyss". Angela of Foligno presented her mystical "life", without elaborating on it herself because these were divine illuminations that were communicated suddenly and unexpectedly to her soul. Her Friar confessor too had difficulty in reporting these events, "partly because of her great and wonderful reserve concerning the divine gifts" (ibid., p. 194). In addition to Angela's difficulty in expressing her mystical experience was the difficulty her listeners found in understanding her. It was a situation which showed clearly that the one true Teacher, Jesus, dwells in the heart of every believer and wants to take total possession of it. So it was with Angela, who wrote to a spiritual son: "My son, if you were to see my heart you would be absolutely obliged to do everything God wants, because my heart is God's heart and God's heart is mine". Here St Paul's words ring out: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2: 20).
Pope BENEDICT XVI, GENERAL AUDIENCE (Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, 13 October 2010)
The redeeming character of Franciscan enthusiasm-it's ability to change, brace and expand the most unlikely spirits and impel them to exacting discipline and selfless work-are fully shown in her.
Evelyn Underhill in The Mystics of the Church Pub 1925. Republished James Clarke and co. Ltd. 1975.