Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter VIII
Of many illuminations received by the Soul, and of the pure love of God. - Of conscience, and the remorse which God awakens in it.
When God wills to purify a soul from self-love, he first sends her his divine light, that by it she may discern a spark of that pure love wherewith he loves her, and how much he has done and still does by means of this love; for he has need of us in nothing, not even the least thing. We are his enemies, not only by our nature, which is inclined to evil, but by our manifold offences, which we are ever ready to repeat.
He also discovers to her that our sins can never excite his anger so far that he ceases to do us good while we are in this world; rather does it seem that the more our sins remove us from him, so much the more does he seek to draw us toward himself by many incentives and inspirations, in order that his continued love and his benefits may keep us still in his love. The better to effect this, he uses countless ways and means, so that every soul, beholding what he has done for her, may exclaim, full of admiration: "What am I that God seems truly to have no care for any one but me?"
And, among other things, he discovers to her that pure love with which he created us, and how he requires nothing of us but that we should love him with that same love wherewith he has loved us, and that we should remain ever with him, expecting no return except that he may unite himself to us.
And he shows her how this love was chiefly proved in the pure angelic creation, and afterwards in that of our father Adam, created in his purity and sincerity by that divine love of his, wherewith God desired to be loved and obeyed; for if he had not required submission in something from Adam and his posterity, such was the excellence in which they were created that each one could have believed himself a god, by reason of the rare gifts bestowed on both the body and the soul, and of the dominion given him over all created things; but God placed him under a slight restraint only, in order that he might ever know his Maker, and render him obedience.
God, moreover, made known to this Soul that he had created man for the highest good, namely, that with soul and body he might enter into his heavenly home.
He also showed her how great an evil is sin, into which she had herself fallen, and for which there was no remedy but another manifestation of his love, which he was obliged to make in her behalf. And he further instructed her in that ardent love for us of which our Lord Jesus Christ gave such proof on the earth, from the Incarnation even unto the Ascension, and all to save us from eternal damnation.
All this did God, by his most pure act, reveal in an instant to the Soul.
She then saw the liberty in which he had created her, not subjecting her to any creature, but to her Creator alone; for he had given her free-will, over which, while she remains in this world, nothing on earth or in heaven has any power.
He allowed her to see the great patience with which he had waited for her, and borne with so many of her sins, in which, if she had died, she would have been lost forever.
He reminded her how often she had been in danger of death; and how, through pure love alone, he had rescued her, that she might have time to know her error and escape eternal damnation.
He also reminded her of the many inspirations he had given her to save her from sin, and although she had not only disregarded, but even gone contrary to his will, yet in his goodness, he did not cease to send them, now in one way, now in another, and so allured her free-will, that he had, as it were, forced her to do that which in his goodness he required. And this, too, he did so gently and patiently, that no example of human love was ever known on earth, which could compare with it.
God also made known to this Soul that, by reason of the great love he bears him, his anger is never inflamed against man, but that he always loves him, and is ever seeking to unite him to himself in love; and that on his side this instinct never fails, so that his pure love, which ever burns yet never consumes, is always active on our behalf, and he shows himself terrible only toward sin. Moreover he hates nothing but sin, which alone prevents his love from doing its work in us; for even the devils, if it were not for the heinousness of their sins, would burn with divine love.
God made plain to her, also, how he is always waiting to inflame and penetrate the hearts of men with burning rays of love, and how he is thwarted by sin. Therefore, if sin is taken away, all things are in peace; where sin is, there is never aught but strife.
She saw, likewise, the love of God for man, which, however great a sinner he may be, is never so entirely extinguished as not to bear with him while life lasts; beyond that, all is hatred and never-ending wrath.
She saw, too, a ray of his mercy shining into hell; for the wicked deserve infinite punishment for an infinite time; but the divine mercy has made the time only infinite, but has limited the extent of the punishment, and therefore a greater one might justly have been inflicted.
This Soul also beheld a certain ray of love issuing from that divine fountain, and darting towards man with a force as if to annihilate him; and she saw that when it found impediments, then, if it were possible for God to feel pain, he would suffer the greatest of all grief. This ray aimed only to penetrate the soul, and it was her own fault if she were not penetrated by it, for the ray surrounded her on all sides, seeking entrance; but the soul, blinded by self-love, did not perceive it. And when God saw a soul self-condemned, who through her willfulness would not give entrance to the light, he seemed to say: "So great is the love which I bear to this soul, that I desire never to abandon her."
This is because the Soul, deprived of divine love, becomes almost as malignant as the divine love is good and gracious: I say, almost, for God still grants it a little mercy. She heard these words, also: "So great is the love I bear thee, that I would never willingly see thee lost; gladly would I suffer for thee, if I could, but love and evil cannot dwell together, and therefore I must abandon thee; and as through me thou wouldst have become capable of all blessedness, so, abandoned by me, thou wilt be capable of all wickedness." So many operations and effects of love were shown to this Soul, that words fail to narrate them.
Touched by this ray, the Soul saw and felt a certain flame of love proceeding from that divine source, which, for the moment, left her like one bereft of sense, without understanding, without speech, without feeling. In that pure and simple love, as God manifested it to her, she remained at that moment wholly absorbed, and never more did this sight depart from her memory; always she beheld that pure, divine love turned toward her.
She was then shown how she had lived without the knowledge of this great love, and how great were the faults in which she saw herself, and what she could do to correspond to this pure love; and so humbled was she in her own eyes that she would have publicly proclaimed her sins through the whole city, and could do nothing but incessantly repeat these words: "O Lord! no more world, no more sin," with a cry of inward anguish which came from the depths of her heart.
But all that she beheld did not prevent the other vision of that first love infused by the ray from doing its work within her; so that her mind was lost in that pure love in which she saw all things, especially those imperfections which were to be removed. Yet she did not estimate her sins according to the punishment they merited, but rather as committed against the great mercy of God, for she saw his pure love for the Soul, and it remained always in her heart, continually drawing her towards God, from whom it descended. This love so melted her that all her actions were done with that purity which now dwelt in her; and she continued so united with that ray, that nothing inferior to God could come between that light and the soul, either as to the will or its effects.