The soul is the first act and principle of all the vital movements of man, and, as Aristotle expresses it, the principle whereby we live, feel and understand: whence it follows, that we know the different kinds of life from the difference of movements; so much so, indeed, that animals when entirely without movement are entirely without life. Even so, Theotimus, love is the first act or principle of our devout or spiritual life, by which we live, feel and move: and our spiritual life is such as the movements of our love are, and a heart that has no movement nor affection, has no love; as on the contrary a heart possessed of love is not without affective movement. As soon therefore as we have set our affection upon Jesus Christ, we have consequently placed in him our spiritual life. But he is now hidden in God in heaven, as God was hidden in him while he was here below. Our life therefore is hidden in him, and when he shall appear in glory, our life and our love shall likewise appear with him in God. Hence S. Ignatius (Martyr) as S. Denis relates, said that his love was crucified, as though he would say: my natural and human love, with all the passions that depend on it, is nailed to the cross; I have put it to death as a mortal love, which made my heart live a mortal life; and as my Saviour was crucified and died according to his mortal life, so did I die with him upon the cross according to my natural love, which was the mortal life of my soul, to the end that I might rise again to the supernatural life of a love which, because it can be exercised in heaven, is consequently also immortal.
When therefore we see a soul that has raptures in prayer, by which she goes out from and mounts above herself in God, and yet has no ecstasy in her life, that is, leads not a life elevated and united to God, by abnegation of worldly concupiscences, by mortification of natural wills and inclinations, by an interior sweetness, simplicity, humility, and above all by a continual charity; -- believe, Theotimus, that all these raptures are exceedingly doubtful and dangerous; these are raptures fit to stir up men to admiration, but not to sanctify them. For what can it profit the soul to be ravished unto God by prayer, while in her life and conversation she is ravished by earthly, base and natural affections; to be above herself in prayer and below herself in life and operation, to be angelic in meditation and brutish in conversation? It is to halt on two sides, to swear by the Lord and swear by Melchom. In a word it is a true mark that such raptures and ecstasies are but operations and deceits of the evil spirit. Blessed are they who live a superhuman and ecstatic life, raised above themselves, though they may not be ravished above themselves in prayer. There are many saints in heaven who were never in ecstasy or rapture of contemplation. For how many martyrs and great saints do we see in history never to have had other privilege in prayer than that of devotion and fervour. But there was never saint who had not the ecstasy and rapture of life and operation, overcoming himself and his natural inclinations.
And who sees not, I pray you, Theotimus, that it is the ecstasy of life and operation that the great Apostle principally speaks of when he says: I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me; for he himself explains it in other terms to the Romans, saying that: Our old man is crucified with him, that we are dead to sin with him, and that we are also risen with him to walk in newness of life, that we may serve sin no longer. Behold, Theotimus, how two men are represented in each of us, and consequently two lives; the one of the old man, which is an old life; like, they say, the eagle's, which having grown into old age can but drag its wings along, and is unable to take flight: the other is the life of the new man, which also is a new life, like that of the eagle, which, being disburdened of its old feathers, now shaken off into the sea, takes new ones, and having grown young again, flies in the newness of its strength.
In the first life we live according to the old man, that is, according to the failings, weaknesses and infirmities contracted by the sin of our first father, Adam; and therefore we live to Adam's sin, and our life is a mortal life, yea death itself. In the second life we live according to the new man, that is, according to the graces, favours, ordinances and wills of our Saviour, and consequently, we live to salvation and redemption, and this new life is a lively, living and life-giving life. But whosoever would attain the new life, must make his way by the death of the old, crucifying his flesh with the vices and concupiscences thereof, burying it under the waters of holy baptism or penance: as Naaman drowned and buried in the waters of Jordan his leprous and infected old life, to live a new, sound, and spotless life; for one might well have said of him, that he was not now the old, leprous, corrupt, infected Naaman, but a new, clean, sound, and honourable Naaman, because he was dead to leprosy and was living to health and cleanness.
Now whosoever is raised up again to this new life of our Saviour, neither lives to himself, nor for himself, but to his Saviour, in his Saviour, and for his Saviour. So you also reckon, says S. Paul, that you are dead to sin but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.