Why is it that the betrothed asks that they will not look upon her in her blackness? Because the soul, entering now into the state of faith, and spoliation of sensible grace, loses by degrees the sweet vigor that led her so easily to the practice of virtue, and made her externally so beautiful. And not being able any longer to perform, her previous acts, because God requires something else of her, she seems to have fallen back into a state of nature.
This seems so to those who are not enlightened, and it is for this reason that she exclaims: I beseech you, my friends and companions, who have not yet arrived at so interior a point, you, who are yet in the first experiences of the spiritual life, judge me not because I am dark colored externally, nor because of my outward defects, real or apparent; for they do not happen from want of love and courage, as is the case with souls in the beginning, but because my divine Sun has looked upon me with his constant, burning beams, and changed my color. He has taken away my natural complexion that I might have only such a one as his fiery fervor would give me. It is the violence of love that dries up and tans my skin, and not its departure. This blackness is an advance, not a relapse; but a progress not for your imitation at your tender age, for the blackness which you would give yourselves would be a defect; to be right it must only proceed from the Sun of Righteousness, who, for His own glory and the highest good of the soul, burns up and destroys that dazzling outward complexion which was a source of blindness to the soul, though a cause of great admiration to those about, to the great prejudice of the Bridegroom's glory.
My mother's children beholding me thus black, sought to compel me to resume my active life, and direct my attention to the exterior, instead of devoting myself to the destruction of my interior passions; they strove against me for a long while, and in the end, not being able to resist them, I yielded to their desires; but in attending to these outward and foreign things, I have not kept mine own vineyard, which is my interior, where my God dwells. That is my whole care, and the only vineyard I ought to keep; and since I have not kept mine own; since I have been inattentive to the voice of my God, I have been still less faithful in guarding those of others. This is the persecution that souls are ordinarily subjected to, when it is once perceived that their constant introversion causes neglect of some external thing, the soul being entirely turned inward, and hence not being able to apply herself to the correction of certain trifling defects that the Bridegroom will Himself remedy in due time.