Rejoicing in the embrace of God

A way in which the soul knows that God is within it is by an embrace which God bestows upon the soul. Never has a mother embraced her son with such love, nor can anyone else on this earth be imagined who embraces with a love that nears the indescribable love with which God embraces the soul. God presses it to himself with such tenderness and such love that I think that no one on earth who has not had this experience can believe it. Since I, the brother scribe, resisted her on this point – for I found it hard to believe – Christ’s faithful one [Blessed Angela] responded: “One could perhaps believe something of it but not its full expression.” This embrace of God sets ablaze a fire within the soul with which the whole body burns for Christ. It also produces a light so great that the soul understands the fullness of God’s goodness, which it experiences in itself, and which is, moreover, much greater than the soul’s experience of it. The effect then of this fire within the soul is to render it certain and secure that Christ is within it. And yet, what we have said is nothing in comparison to what this experience really is. I, the brother scribe, asked her, at this point, if the soul shed any tears in this state. Christ’s faithful one responded that the soul did not then shed any tears, either of joy or of any other kind; for this is another state, far superior to the one where the soul sheds tears of joy. In this state, God, likewise, produces in the soul such a super-abundance of joy that it does not know what more to ask for; more, if this state lasted, I would consider myself to be in paradise. This joy has an effect that can be observed in every part of the body. Everything bitter or injurious or whatever else one could be afflicted with becomes sweet. Moreover, I could not conceal the effect from my companion. I, the brother scribe, questioned Angela’s companion concerning this point. She told me that once while she and Angela were walking together along a road, the countenance of Christ’s faithful one became white and radiant, then ruddy and joyful, and her eyes grew large and shone so brilliantly that she no longer seemed herself. This same companion also told me: “When I saw Angela in this state I was filled with sadness and feared that someone, a man or a woman, would meet us and notice her in this state. I told Angela, ‘Why don’t you at least cover your face? Your eyes seem to shine like candles.’” This companion, because she was shy and very simple, and still did not know all the gifts of grace Angela had been granted, then began to lament and beat her breasts with her fists, and said to Christ’s faithful one: “Tell me why this is happening to you? Try to get out of sight or hide yourself somewhere, for we cannot walk around if you are in such a state.” Out of her simplicity and ignorance, she then cried out: “Woe is me, what are we going to do?” Christ’s faithful one, for her part, trying to console and reassure her, told her: “Do not fear, for even if we meet someone, God will help us.” This happened not only once but so many times that her companion said she could not count them. Christ’s faithful one herself also told me: “This joy lasted for many days, and certain joys I believe will never go away but will grow greater and find their fulfilment in heaven. For now I am not without them in my life; hence when something sad happens to me I immediately recall the joys of that state and I am not troubled.”

My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: “This world is pregnant with God!” Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation — that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else — but the power of God fills it all to overflowing.

Blessed Angela of Foligno (1248- 1309) was born into a wealthy family in Foligno, a town in the province of Perugia in east central Umbria, where she spent most of her life. She became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, devoting her life to prayer after the death of her husband. She experienced many religious visions of Christ’s crucifixion. These visions were later recorded by Brother Arnaldo – the brother scribe in the passage opposite – and came to be known as the Liber Visionum et Instructionum. She was canonised by Pope Francis in October 2013 and her feast day is celebrated on 4th January

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