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6. O good God, what happens in a man to make him rejoice more at the salvation
of a soul that has been despaired of and then delivered from greater danger
than over one who has never lost hope, or never been in such imminent danger?
For thou also, O most merciful Father, "dost rejoice more over one that repents
than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance." And we listen with much delight
whenever we hear how the lost sheep is brought home again on the shepherd's
shoulders while the angels rejoice; or when the piece of money is restored to
its place in the treasury and the neighbors rejoice with the woman who found
it. And the joy of the solemn festival
of thy house constrains us to tears when it is read in thy house: about the
younger son who "was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found." For it
is thou who rejoicest both in us and in thy angels, who are holy through holy
love. For thou art ever the same because thou knowest unchangeably all things
which remain neither the same nor forever.
7. What, then, happens in the soul when it takes more delight at finding or
having restored to it the things it loves than if it had always possessed them?
Indeed, many other things bear witness that this is so--all things are full
of witnesses, crying out, "So it is." The commander triumphs in victory; yet
he could not have conquered if he had not fought; and the greater the peril
of the battle, the more the joy of the triumph. The storm tosses the voyagers,
threatens shipwreck, and everyone turns pale in the presence of death. Then
the sky and sea grow calm, and they rejoice as much as they had feared. A loved
one is sick and his pulse indicates danger; all who desire his safety are themselves
sick at heart; he recovers, though not able as yet to walk with his former strength;
and there is more joy now than there was before when he walked sound and strong.
Indeed, the very pleasures of human life--not only those which rush upon us
unexpectedly and involuntarily, but also those which are voluntary and planned--men
obtain by difficulties. There is no pleasure in caring and drinking unless the
pains of hunger and thirst have preceded. Drunkards even eat certain salt meats
in order to create a painful thirst--and when the drink allays this, it causes
pleasure. It is also the custom that the affianced bride should not be immediately
given in marriage so that the husband may not esteem her any less, whom as his
betrothed he longed for.
8. This can be seen in the case of base and dishonorable pleasure. But it is
also apparent in pleasures that are permitted and lawful: in the sincerity of
honest friendship; and in him who was dead and lived again, who had been lost
and was found. The greater joy is everywhere preceded by the greater pain. What
does this mean, O Lord my God, when thou art an everlasting joy to thyself,
and some creatures about thee are ever rejoicing in thee? What does it mean
that this portion of creation thus ebbs and flows, alternately in want and satiety?
Is this their mode of being and is this all thou hast allotted to them: that,
from the highest heaven to the lowest earth, from the beginning of the world
to the end, from the angels to the worm, from the first movement to the last,
thou wast assigning to all their proper places and their proper seasons--to
all the kinds of good things and to all thy just works? Alas, how high thou
art in the highest and how deep in the deepest! Thou never departest from us,
and yet only with difficulty do we return to thee.