All the elect then, Theotimus, died in the habit of holy love; but further, some died even in the exercise of it, others for this love, and others by this same love. But what belongs to the sovereign degree of love is, that some die of love; and then it is that love not only wounds the soul, so as to make her languish, but even pierces her through, delivering its blow right in the middle of the heart, and so fatally, that it drives the soul out of the body; -- which happens thus. The soul, powerfully drawn by the divine sweetness of her beloved, to correspond on her side with his sweet attractions, forcibly and to the best of her power springs out towards this longed-for beloved who attracts her, and, not being able to draw her body after her, rather than stay with it in this miserable life, she quits it and gets clear; flying alone, as a fair dove, into the delicious bosom of her heavenly spouse. She throws herself upon her beloved, and her beloved draws and ravishes her to himself. And as the bridegroom leaves father and mother to cleave to his dearly beloved, so this chaste bride forsaketh the flesh to unite herself to her beloved. Now this is the most violent effect of love in a soul, and one which requires first a great offstripping of all such affections as keep the heart attached either to the world or to the body, so that as fire, having by little and little separated an essence from its mass, and wholly purified it, at length brings out the quintessence, -- even so holy love having withdrawn man's heart from all humours, inclinations, and passions, as far as may be, does at length urge out the soul, to the end that by this death, precious in the divine eyes, she may pass to eternal glory.
The great S. Francis, who in this subject of heavenly love ever returns before my eyes, could not possibly escape dying by love, because of the manifold and great languors, ecstasies and faintings which his love of God gave him; but besides this, God, who had set him forth to the view of the whole world as a miracle of love, willed that he should not only die for love but also of love. For consider, I beseech you, Theotimus, his death. Perceiving himself upon the point of his departure, he caused himself to be laid naked upon the ground, where having received as an alms a habit which they put on him, he discoursed to his brethren, animating them to the love of God and the Church, had our Saviour's passion read, and then with an extreme fervour began Psalm cxli.: I cried to the Lord with my voice; with my voice I made supplication to the Lord; and having pronounced these last words: Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name; the just wait for me, until thou reward me, he died, -- in his forty-fifth year. Who sees not, I beseech you, Theotimus, that this seraphical man who had so earnestly desired to be martyred and to die for love, died in the end of love, as in another place I have described?
S. Magdalen having for the space of thirty years lived in a cave which is yet to be seen in Provence, having seven times each day bad raptures and been borne up in the air by angels, as though she went to sing the seven canonical hours in their choir; in the end, upon a Sunday, she came to Church, where her dear Bishop, S. Maximin, finding her in contemplation, her eyes full of tears and her arms stretched out, communicated her, and soon afterwards she delivered up her blessed soul, which once again, for good and all, went to her Saviour's feet, to enjoy the better part, which she had already made choice of here below.
S. Basil had contracted a strict friendship with a physician, a Jew by nation and religion, with the intention of bringing him to the faith of Jesus Christ, which nevertheless he could not effect till such time as, worn out with fastings, watchings and labours, being upon the point of dying, he inquired of the physician what opinion he had of him, conjuring him to speak frankly. The physician did so, and having felt his pulse: -- there is no further remedy, said he; before the sun sets you will depart this life. But what will you say, replied the patient, if to-morrow I shall be alive? I will become a Christian, I promise you, said the physician. With this the saint prayed to God, and obtained a prolongation of his own temporal life, for the good of his physician's spiritual life, who having seen this miracle was converted, and S. Basil rising courageously out of his bed, went to the Church and baptized him with all his family, then returning to his chamber and to his bed, having entertained himself a good space with our Saviour in prayer, he holily exhorted the assistants to serve God with their whole heart, and finally, seeing the angels approach, and pronouncing with an extreme delight these words: O God I recommend unto thee my soul, and restore it into thy hands; he died. But the poor converted physician seeing him thus pass away, embracing him, and melting into tears over him: -- |O great Basil, said he, indeed if thou hadst willed thou wouldst no more have died to-day than yesterday.| Who does not see that this death was wholly of love? And the Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa of Jesus revealed after her death that she died of an impetuous assault of love, which had been so violent that nature not being able to support it, the soul had departed towards the beloved object of its affections.