The Bridegroom replies to His Bride, and to prepare her for the grace which He would bestow, as well as to instruct her in the use of what she has already received, He gives her a most important direction -- If thou know not, says He, go forth. He means to say that she cannot know the divine object of her love, however passionately she may desire it, except she first know herself; for the nothingness of the creature helps our conception of the all of God. But as the light necessary for discovering the creature's abyss of nothingness exists only in the all of God, He directs her to go forth. Whence? From herself. How? By abandonment and fidelity in applying it to everything, permitting herself no natural satisfaction and no life in self or any creature. And whither? To enter into God by an absolute self-abandonment, where she will find that He is all and in all (Coloss. i.17; iii.2); and that she herself, consequently, and every creature, are merely nothingness.
Now, nothingness deserves no esteem, because it has no good; neither does it merit love, for it is nothing; it is only worthy, on the contrary, of contempt and hatred on account of the self-esteem and self-love entirely opposed to God, that have been implanted in it by sin. If the creature, then, aspire to Divine Union, it must be well persuaded of the all of God and its own nothingness, and must go forth of itself, feeling nothing but contempt and hatred for itself, that it may reserve all its esteem and love for God; and by this means, it may attain to union.
This going forth from self by a perpetual abandonment of every selfish interest, is the interior work which the Heavenly Bridegroom prescribes to those who are sighing after the kiss of His mouth. He thus signifies it to this soul by the single expression, go forth, which is sufficient to guide her inward course.
As regards the outward, it is His will that she should neglect no part of her duty in the station in which He has placed her, a direction which comprehends infinitely more than the most minute detail could do, and while she must follow the attraction of the Holy Spirit in all liberty as to the inward life, He would have her also conform to the external usages of religion and be obedient to those in authority, as to the exterior, and this He expresses by going forth in the footsteps of the flock, that is to say, in the ordinary, common way, externally, and by feeding the kids, -- that is, the senses -- by the shepherds' tents.