Angela of Foligno: My Love for Thee was no Deceit Friday, Mar 29 2013 

AngelaFoliginoI heard the divine voice saying within my soul, “My love for thee was no deceit.”

This word was as a shock of mortal pain unto my soul, for the eyes of my mind were instantly opened, and I saw that what He said was very true.

I saw the working and effect of that delight; I saw all that the Son of God had done for the sake of this love, and I saw what Christ Crucified had borne in life and in death for the sake of this deep and unspeakable love.

Wherefore did I understand that it was indeed true that His love for me had been no deceit or jest, but love most perfect and profound.

Then did I perceive just the opposite in myself, that is to say, I knew that I loved Him deceitfully and not truly.

[…] Then were other words spoken unto me… : “My love for thee was no deceit, My service of thee was not feigned….”

Then cried my soul, saying, “Oh Master, that which Thou sayest is not in Thee, is wholly in me; for never have I loved Thee saving deceitfully. I have served Thee with lies and I have never desired to draw nigh unto Thee in very truth for fear lest I might feel those burdens which Thou didst feel and bear for my sake. Wherefore have I never served Thee sincerely and for Thine own sake, but with negligence and duplicity.”

Now when I perceived how that He had loved me sincerely, how that He bore in Him all the signs of true love, and how that He had drawn nigh unto me to such a degree that He was become Man in order that He might more completely bear and feel in Himself all our sufferings, I did feel such exceeding great anguish that…I thought mine heart would burst asunder.

[…] After this He spake certain words unto me which did manifest and show forth His boundless love, saying: “If there were any person who desired to feel Me in his mind, I would not withdraw Myself from him; and unto whomsoever did desire to behold Me would I willingly show Myself, and with whomsoever did desire to speak unto Me would I joyfully converse.”

These words did arouse in me the desire never to feel or say or do aught which should offend God. And this is what God desireth and especially seeketh in His sons and His elect; for He hath called and chosen them in order that they may think, see, and speak according unto His will, and that they may take heed to do nothing contrary thereunto.

Angela of Foligno (1248-1309): Book of Divine Consolation, pp. 207-209.

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Angela of Foligno: The Only Thing Necessary is to Find God and Wholly Fix Our Minds Upon Him Friday, Jan 4 2013 

AngelaFoliginoThe soul, therefore, hears and understands only those matters into the inner meaning of which it can penetrate.

For when the soul is illumined by the presence of God and reposes in God’s bosom and God is in the soul, then is it exalted above itself and hears and rejoices and rests in that divine goodness, concerning which none can report because it is above all intelligence and all manner of speech and above all words.

But herein does the soul swim in joyfulness and in knowledge, and, thus enlightened, it comprehends the meaning of all the difficult and obscure sayings of Christ.

[…] Sometimes the soul is suddenly exalted unto God with such joy that, if it were to endure, I do think that the body would not be able to bear it, but would lose all its members and its sensation.

God often treats thus with the soul and in the soul, and when the soul desires to hold Him fast He instantly departs.

There remains, nevertheless, great joy and assurance in the soul, truly such great joy that it in no way doubts that God is still present, but there is nothing which I can liken unto that seeing and hearing, nor am I able to describe it.

[…] You must know…that there is only one thing necessary unto us, which is God, to find God and wholly fix our minds upon Him. This is necessary unto us.

But in order that our minds may be the better fixed upon God it is needful that we should cast off all perverse and useless habits, all superfluous familiarity with men and women of whatsoever nature, all superfluous knowledge and the desire to hear many new things, all superfluous labours and occupations.

And, briefly, it is needful that man should put away from him all things which do distract his mind.

Then must he instantly plunge into the abyss of his wretchedness and bethink him what things he hath done in times past, what he is doing in the present, and what he will do in the future, and how that his fate in the next world will be according unto his deserts.

Then comes death, which will be unto all eternity. And no day and no night must pass wherein he doth not think upon these things.

Wherefore must he constantly think and meditate and use all his endeavour to comprehend the mercy of God, how that He did most mercifully ordain that Christ Jesus should suffer all this wretchedness with him, and he must take heed that he never forgets this great benefit.

Angela of Foligno (1248-1309): Book of Divine Consolation, pp. 36-39.

Benedict XVI on Angela of Foligno (4): The More You Pray, the More You will be Illumined Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

Continued from previous post

In Angela’s spiritual itinerary the passage from conversion to mystical experience, from what can be expressed to the inexpressible, happens through the crucifix.

And the “suffering God-man,” who becomes her “teacher of perfection.”

Hence, all her mystical experience tends to a perfect “likeness” with him, through ever more profound and radical purifications and transformations.

In such a stupendous enterprise Angela puts her whole self, soul and body, without sparing herself penances and tribulations from the beginning to the end, desiring to die with all the pains suffered by the God-man crucified to be transformed totally in him.

“O children of God,” she recommended, “transform yourselves totally in the suffering God-man, who so loves you that he deigned to die for you the most ignominious and all together ineffably painful death and in the most painful and bitter way. This only for love of you, O man!”.

This identification also means to live what Jesus lived: poverty, contempt, sorrow because, as she affirmed:

“Through temporal poverty the soul will find eternal riches; through contempt and shame it will obtain supreme honor and very great glory; through a little penance, made with pain and sorrow, it will possess with infinite sweetness and consolation of the Supreme God, God eternal”.
From conversion to mystical union with Christ crucified, to the inexpressible. A very lofty way, whose secret is constant prayer:

“The more you pray,” she affirms, “the more you will be illumined; the more you are illumined, the more profoundly and intensely you will see the Supreme Good, the supremely good Being.

“The more profoundly and intensely you see him, the more you will love him; the more you love him, the more he will delight you.

“And the more he delights you, the more you will understand him and become capable of understanding him.

“You will arrive successively to the fullness of light, because you will understand that you cannot understand”.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Medieval Mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno (translation by Zenit).

Benedict XVI on Angela of Foligno (3): The More We See the God and Man Jesus Christ, the More we are Transformed in Him through Love Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

Continued from previous post

Understand that, in her mystical journey, Angela understood profoundly the central reality:

What would save her from her “unworthiness” and from “deserving hell” will not be her “union with God” and her possessing the “truth,” but Jesus crucified, “his crucifixion for me,” his love.

In the eighth step, she says: “However I did not yet understand if my deliverance from sin and hell and conversion to penance was a greater good, or his crucifixion for me”.

And the unstable balance between love and sorrow, perceived in all her difficult journey toward perfection.

Precisely because of this she contemplated by preference the crucified Christ, because in this vision she saw realized the perfect balance:

On the Cross is the man-God, in a supreme act of suffering, which is a supreme act of love.

In the third Instruction the blessed insists on this contemplation and affirms: “The more perfectly and purely we see, the more perfectly and purely we love.

“That is why the more we see the God and man Jesus Christ, the more we are transformed in him through love.”

“What I have said of love…I say also of sorrow: The more the soul contemplates the ineffable sorrow of the God and man Jesus Christ, the more it sorrows and is transformed in sorrow”.

To be immersed, to be transformed in love and in the sufferings of Christ crucified, is to be identified with him.

Angela’s conversion, begun with that confession of 1285, came to maturity only when God’s forgiveness appeared to her soul as the free gift of love of the Father, source of love:

“There is no one who can give excuses,” she affirms, “because each one can love God, ad He does not ask the soul other than that He wills it good, because He loves it and is its love”.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Medieval Mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno (translation byZenit)

 

Benedict XVI on Angela of Foligno (2): Whoever Wants to Preserve Grace must not Take the Eyes of his Soul off the Cross Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

Continued from previous post

We will now consider only some “steps” of the rich spiritual path of our blessed.

The first, in reality, is an introduction: “It was the knowledge of sin,” as she specifies, “following which the soul has great fear of being damned; in this step she wept bitterly”.

This “fear” of hell responds to the type of faith that Angela had at the time of her “conversion”; a faith still poor in charity, namely, of love of God.

Repentance, fear of hell, and penance opened up to Angela the prospect of the sorrowful “way of the cross” that, from the eighth to the 15th step, would then lead her on the “way of love.”

The friar confessor recounts: “The faithful one now said to me: I had this divine revelation:

“‘After the things that you have written, now write that whoever wants to preserve grace must not take the eyes of his soul off the Cross, whether in joy or in sadness, which I grant him and permit’”.

However, in this phase Angela still “does not feel love”; she affirms: “The soul feels shame and bitterness and does not yet experience love, but sorrow”, and is dissatisfied.

Angela feels she must give God something in reparation for her sins, but understands slowly that she has nothing to give him, in fact, of her “being nothing” before him.

She understands that it will not be her will that will give her love of God, because it can only give her “nothingness,” “non-love.”

As she will say: only “true and pure love, which comes from God, is in the soul and makes one recognizes one’s defects and divine goodness.

“[…] Such love bears the soul in Christ and she understands with certainty that no deceit can be verified or exercised. Together with this love nothing can be mixed that is of the world”.

To open oneself only and totally to the love of God, which has its highest expression in Christ:

“O my God,” she prays, “make me worthy of knowing the most high mystery of your most holy incarnation for us. “[…] O incomprehensible love! Above this love, that made my God become man to make me God, there is no greater love”.

However, Angela’s heart always bore the wound of sin; even after a well made confession, she found herself forgiven and still prostrated by sin, free and conditioned by the past, absolved but in need of penance.

And even the thought of hell accompanied her because the more the soul progresses on the way of Christian perfection, all the more it will be convinced not only of being “unworthy” but of deserving hell.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Medieval Mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno (translation by Zenit).


Benedict XVI on Angela of Foligno (1): Jesus Lives in the Heart of Every Believer and Desires to Take Total Possession of It Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

The Book of Blessed Angela of Foligno, which gathers the documentation on our Blessed, recounts this conversion; it indicates the necessary means: penance, humility and tribulations; and narrates in passages, the succession of experiences of Angela, begun in 1285.

Recalling them, after having lived them, she sought to recount them through her friar confessor, who transcribed them faithfully, trying afterward to systematize them in stages, which he called “steps or changes,” but without succeeding in ordering them fully.

This is because the experience of union of Blessed Angela was a total involvement of the spiritual and corporal senses, and of what she “understands” during her ecstasies remained, so to speak, only a “shadow” in her mind.

“I really heard these words,” she confesses after a mystical rapture, “but what I saw and understood, and that he [God] showed me, in no way do I know or am I able to say, though I will willingly reveal what I understood with the words that I heard, but it was an absolutely ineffable abyss.”

Angela of Foligno presents her mystical “experience” without elaborating them with her mind, because they are divine illuminations that are communicated to her soul in an improvised and unexpected way.

The friar confessor himself had difficulty in reporting such events, “also because of her great and admirable reserve regarding the divine gifts”.

To Angela’s difficulty in expressing her mystical experience is added also the difficulty for her listeners to understand her – a situation that indicates clearly how the only and true Teacher, Jesus, lives in the heart of every believer and desires to take total possession of it.

Thus in Angela, who wrote to one of her spiritual sons: “My son, if you saw my heart, you would be absolutely constrained to do everything that God wills, because my heart is that of God, and God’s heart is mine.”

The words of St. Paul resound here: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Medieval Mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno (translation by Zenit).

Angela of Foligno: Transformation into Christ through Prayer Saturday, Oct 24 2009 

It is in prayer that one finds God. There are three schools, that is, three types of prayer, without which one does not find God. These are bodily, mental, and supernatural.

Bodily prayer takes place with the sound of words and bodily movements such as genuflections. I never abandon this type of prayer. For sometimes when I want to devote myself to mental prayer, I am impeded by my laziness or my sleepiness. So I turn to bodily prayer, which leads to mental prayer.

It should be done with attention. For instance, when you say the Our Father, you should weight carefully what you are saying. Do not run through it, trying to complete a certain  number of them, like little ladies doing piece work.

Prayer is mental when meditating on God so occupies the soul that one thinks of nothing but God. If some other thought comes to mind I no longer call such prayers mental. Such prayer curbs the tongue and renders one speechless.

The mind is so totally filled with God’s presence that it cannot think or speak about anything except about God and in God. From mental prayer, then, we move on to supernatural prayer.

I call prayer supernatural when God, bestowing this gift upon the soul and filling it with his presence, so elevates the soul that it is stretched, as it were, beyond its natural capacities.

In this type of prayer, the soul understands more of God than would seem naturally possible. It knows that it cannot understand, and what it knows it cannot explain, because all that it sees and feels is beyond its own nature.

In these three schools of prayer you come to know who you are and who God is. From the fact that you know, you love. Loving, you desire to possess what you love. And this is the sign of true love: that the one who loves is transformed, not partially, but totally, into the Beloved.

But because this transformation does not go on without interruption, the soul is seized by the desire to seek all the ways by which it can be transformed into the will of the Beloved, so it can return again to the vision.

It seeks what was loved by the Beloved. God the Father provided a way for us to attain this transformation and this way is through the Beloved, that is, through God’s own Son, whom he made the Son of poverty, suffering, contempt, and true obedience.

Angela of Foligno (1248-1309): Selected Writings translated with an introduction by Paul Lachance, OFM (Classics of Western Spirituality series), pp. 286-7


Angela of Foligno: Preparation for Communion Wednesday, Oct 14 2009 

One should really do some serious thinking before going to receive the great favors accorded in this most high mystery.

One should keep in mind whom one is approaching, what state one is in, and how and why one approaches it.

For one is going to a good which is the All Good, the cause of every good, the giver, producer, and possessor of every good. Hence it is the only good, for without this good there is no other good.

This good suffices, fills and satisfies all the saints and the blessed spirits, all the just justified by grace, and the souls and bodies of all the blessed who reign in glory.

One is also going to receive the Good, God made man, the one who satisfies, abounds, overflows and enjoys himself in all creatures, above all creatures, and beyond all creatures, without mode or measure.

The creature cannot know or possess this Good except to the extent that this Good itself wishes.

This Good wishes it as much as the creature, according to the degree of its being, is able to receive it from the one who is being, who bestows being to all, and who is above all being.

Angela of Foligno (1248-1309): Selected Writings translated with an introduction by Paul Lachance, OFM (Classics of Western Spirituality series), p. 298