The love of the cross makes us undertake voluntary afflictions, as for example, fasting, watching, hair-shirts and other macerations of the flesh, and makes us renounce pleasures, honours and riches: and the love in these exercises is very delightful to the beloved. Yet it is still more so when we receive sweetly and contentedly pains, torments and tribulations, by reason of the Divine will which sends us them. But love is then at its height when we not only receive afflictions with patience and sweetness, but cherish, love, and embrace them for the sake of the Divine good-pleasure, whence they proceed.
Now of all the efforts of perfect love, that which is made by acquiescence of spirit in spiritual tribulations, is doubtless the purest and noblest. The Blessed (S.) Angela of Foligno makes an admirable description of the interior pangs which she sometimes felt, saying that her soul was tortured like to a man who being tied hand and foot, should be hung by the neck without being strangled, and should hang in this state betwixt life and death, without hope of help, and unable to support himself by his feet or assist himself with his hands, or to cry out, or even to sigh or moan. It is thus, Theotimus: the soul is sometimes so overcharged with interior afflictions, that all her faculties and powers are oppressed by the privation of all that might relieve her, and by the apprehension and feeling of all that can be grievous to her. So that in imitation of her Saviour she begins to be troubled, to fear, and to be dismayed, and at length to sadden with a sadness like to that of the dying. Whence she may rightly say: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; and with the consent of her whole interior, she desires, petitions, supplicates, that, if it be possible, this chalice may pass, having nothing left her save the very supreme point of her spirit, which cleaving hard to the divine will and good-pleasure, says in a most sincere submission: O eternal Father, Ah! not mine but thy will be done. And the main point is that the soul makes this resignation amidst such a world of troubles, contradictions, repugnances that she hardly even perceives that she makes it; at least it seems done so coldly as not to be done from her heart nor properly, since what then goes on for the divine good-pleasure is not only done without delight and contentment, but even against the pleasure and liking of all the rest of the heart, which is permitted by love to bemoan itself (if only for the reason that it may not bemoan itself) and to sigh out all the lamentations of Job and Jeremias, yet with the condition that a sacred peace be still preserved in the depths of the heart, in the highest and most delicate point of the spirit. But this submissive peace is not tender or sweet, it is scarcely sensible, though sincere, strong, unchangeable and full of love, and it seems to have betaken itself to the very end of the spirit as into the donjon-keep of the fort, where it remains in its high courage, though all the rest be taken and oppressed with sorrow: and in this case, the more love is deprived of all helps, and cut off from the aid of the powers and faculties of the soul, the more it is to be esteemed for preserving its fidelity so constantly.
This union or conformity with the divine good-pleasure is made either by holy Resignation or by most holy Indifference. Now resignation is practised with a certain effort of submission: one would willingly live instead of dying, yet since it is God's pleasure that die we must, we yield to it. We would willingly live, if it pleased God, yea, further, we wish that it was his pleasure to let us live: we die submissively, yet more willingly would we live; we depart with a reasonably good will, yet we have a still stronger inclination to stay. Job in his afflictions made the act of resignation: If we have received good things at the hand of God, said he, why should we not receive the evil, why not sustain the pains and toils he sends us? Mark, Theotimus, how he speaks of sustaining, supporting, enduring; As it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord. These are words of resignation and acceptance, by way of suffering and patience.