XIV

THE MYSTICAL MARRIAGE

THE long, long preparation was completed and the time had come at last when our Lord would clasp His beloved Spouse in the closest union possible to a soul on earth.

The wonderful ceremony of her Mystical Marriage took place during the night of the 23rd of October, 1887, between the feast of the Holy Redeemer and that of St. Raphael. She wrote at once to Father Snow and a few days later sent a somewhat fuller account in reply to a request from Father Powell. Her eyes had beheld that which it is not given to man to utter and she speaks as one still dazed from the glory of that vision. Her very writing, wavering and almost illegible, betrays that she was trembling on the verge of ecstasy as she wrote. The following is what she wrote to Father Powell:

AMDG et in hon BVM et St J

[245] "In the Name of the most august and blessed Trinity and in holy obedience I write of the unspeakable favours which Jesus Christ true God and true Man, my divine Spouse and only Treasure through the excess of His infinite Love has bestowed on me, the very least of His little ones. Oh my Father, how can I find words to express this wonderful mystery, this excess of His mercy and love which is more astounding to me than the great mystery of the Incarnation. Oh my Love, my Love, my beautiful One, My Jesus, my Own, my All, my God, my (the writing becomes illegible).

"Oh my Father it seems to me almost impossible to continue, or rather I should say I am unable to begin and describe what I would. This is the third paper I have spoiled; I am carried away at the recollection of His wonderful condescension. I have twice before written the four pages and when I read them over I found it full of little prayers, and now again I find myself like one only half awake, for my whole being seems lost in His infinite immensity, His wonderful Attributes, the unspeakable dignity to which He has raised this little nothing. And so prostrating myself before the thrice holy Trinity and before Jesus, my own Jesus, my spouse and my Treasure, I beg of Him to guide my hand and my understanding that I may write without these little wanderings and make clear to you all that you would wish to know, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. Oh my soul bless the Lord and magnify, for He has regarded the nothingness of His handmaid and has had compassion on my weakness and misery. He has drawn up this little drop of water from the earth into the ocean of His infinity, into the Essence of the Unity and Trinity of the Almighty God of Wisdom and Love, the all-pure and uncreated One, and made me one with Himself in the most holy and solemn bond of marriage. He has really and truly united Himself to me in the presence of the whole court of heaven, presenting me as His beloved Spouse to the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, and His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the Cherubim and Seraphim, etc. etc. and making me feel and understand how this sacred alliance was as real and as true as the union of His divine and human Nature in the one Person of Himself, Jesus Christ the Coeternal Son and the Son of Mary since the moment of the Incarnation.1 And in His Name and with His help, I will tell the way as far as I can that all has been accomplished.

"Remember oh my Love and my Lord that I am all Thine and Thou art the God of Truth, the Word that is God, and that now I am one with Thee as the body and soul of man are one person, so my words must be a reflection of Thine, must be, as Thou hast said to me they shall be, Wisdom and Truth, as the honey that drips from the hive, pure and sweet, and all men may confess that these things are the works of Thy Wisdom and Love.

"Since the feast of our holy Father St. Francis2, when my divine Spouse gave me the general absolution (as I complained to Him that I had not been able to receive it from the hands of a priest and we had no Franciscans here), He caressed my soul as it were and told me that He would give me the absolution, not to take away sins from which He had preserved me, but to saturate me with His most Precious Blood and make me more like Himself. And He let me feel that my soul (through His presence and the holy Sacraments) gave great glory to the adorable Trinity and was a reflection of Themselves in the powers in which He had and they had taken up their abode and which was glistening and saturated with His adorable precious Blood. He told me frequently that, as I had given myself wholly to Him to be His entirely, so He would be all mine, and that He would glorify me in the sight of the angels and saints, because I had emptied myself and become as naught to myself and had gladly clothed myself with the sins of others for the price they had cost Him and for the love of His image and likeness. And because I desired Him with a longing nigh unto death, He would unite Himself to me in the closest union possible and clothe me with the brightness of His glory, and because I had rejoiced and united myself to Him when I was reviled by men and had clothed myself in the fool's garment (as it were), as He was during His bitter Passion, so He was about to clothe me with the wedding garment of Purity, Charity and Truth. He also shot those fiery darts of love from His Sacred Heart into the very centre of my poor soul so frequently that I felt as though my breast was a liquid fire: a boiling seemed to be going on in and through my entire being, and the pain it caused was so excessive that I continually cried aloud to Him for pity and told Him again and again that He knew how I loved and desired Him and begged of Him to burn away all that was not Himself and so unite me and make me all His own, though never for one moment dreaming of the unutterable favour which His love has accomplished. In this fire which burns very clearly for there is no smoke or wet fuel — in this consuming flame all is brightness, and the light thereof is very pure so that the soul sees very clearly what God is and what He has done for her and that she has nothing of her own, all being the gift of her great and wise Creator and Redeemer, and she knows and understands how the Holy Spirit has sanctified her, and seeing what she is and what God is, she is as it were annihilated in His sacred presence. Oh how He has taught me what I am and what I owe Him and His excessive love!

"Well, on Sunday the 23rd, the feast of our Holy Redeemer, I thought of the holy Sacrifice being offered for me, I tried to make the same act of oblation to God of myself as my divine Spouse made to His Eternal Father during His most bitter Passion, and I felt that He graciously accepted the offering I made. Then in the evening I begged of the angel Raphael to guide me to my divine Spouse as he did of old the young Tobias, and I sent the angel of the Incarnation to present my soul to Him with all its affections, my body with all its senses to be all His forever, and I begged him to present me through the hands of Mary His Queen and my Mother as a clean oblation in His sight. Then I repeated several times: 'Oh Wisdom of the Sacred Head, guide me in all my ways, oh love of the Sacred Heart consume me with Thy fire', when I found my soul fluttering on my lips almost and my spirit softly stealing through the gates of death and I was fainting away with desire, and yet such a calm sweet peace was in my soul that it seemed to check the throbbing of my poor heart that tried to break, because it was overwhelmed with His goodness and love and yearned to be united with Him whom it loves with all its affections. Oh how I hunger and thirst after Him for He alone can satisfy! And as I was thus literally dying I think of desire of Him, He appeared holding the b. Sacrament before me and I thought He had come as He so frequently does to feed me with His adorable Body and refresh me with His most precious Blood, but refrained for some time (it seemed an age to me) and stood gazing into the very centre of my poor trembling soul, which would have left this poor prison of the flesh if it could to fly to and rest in Him, her only Good. Then He gave me Himself in Holy Communion and the Sacred Host liquified and I seemed to drink of the Precious Blood till I was saturated through and through. And it changed all into Itself, and my divine Spouse spoke to my soul and said He would now fulfil the promise He had made to me so often and present me to the adorable Trinity, and unite Himself to me in presence of the whole court of heaven. I felt annihilated at these words, for I felt my nothingness and unworthiness and I think I would really have died if He had not supported me by a new miracle of power and love. Then He said, 'Arise my Beloved that I may glorify the triune God in Unity and espouse thee in Their adorable presence.' And turning then to His blessed Mother, He gave me to her as her daughter, and Mary taking hold of my hand gave it to Jesus and He withdrew the ring that He had before placed upon it and then replaced it on the same finger, saying: 'I espouse thee in the Name and in the presence of the uncreated Trinity and in presence of My Immaculate Mother, and I give you to her as a daughter and my Spouse for ever.'

"I was wrapped in the Essence of the Eternal Godhead and I heard and saw things which it is not given to man to utter, and when I began to come to myself I beheld the ring (which encircled the finger next the little finger of my left hand) which was a circle of thorns as it were, set with seven beautiful crystals more beautiful than diamonds which looked like liquid gems, the centre representing the Holy Soul of my divine Spouse in which the adorable Trinity is represented by the three powers, and are as it were a reflecting glass in which They behold their Unity in Essence. Then to the right is represented the Sacred Head as the Seat of divine Wisdom, and on the other side the Sacred Heart is represented, and the other four are to represent the Wounds in His sacred Hands and Feet. Oh what brightness and beauty issues from this little ring; what glory it gives, that I could not behold it I think and live if it were not that He who gave it sustains me with His power. Then He allowed me to see the soul I have often seen before but now more beautiful than ever3, and He told me, as I sang with the angels hymns of praise, that was the soul of His beloved Spouse, that that glory was my nuptial robe and that He with the Father and Holy Spirit were glorified in me and that I should dwell with them and His Blessed Mother and St. Joseph for ever. He also told me to remember that I was His, that He was Almighty God and I like Him must be about my Father's business. I understand I have a great deal to do for souls and many difficulties will surround me, but I must take courage and have great confidence in Him. Since then it seems to me that so many saints are with me, and the angels as a guard of honour watch in admiring wonder the mercies of the adorable Trinity to this very least of His little ones, and I could and do continually unite with my dear Mother Mary in singing the Magnificat and singing praises to the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ my Divine Spouse.

"DEAR REV. FATHER,

"I could not describe what God has taught me while held in His infinite and divine Essence, for it seems to me that no form is represented to the understanding, but that the soul is in God's Immensity, and she sees and knows mysteries which are hidden in God and which it is not given to her to utter, and she enjoys without actually knowing what she enjoys. The secrets of God are made known, but the understanding, being lost in God, cannot comprehend what He has taught her.

"But when I see you I will try and tell you more.

"Begging your prayers and blessing and promising to do all I can for you and yours, I remain dear rev. Father

"Your obedient and devoted child                        
"In the S. Head and loving Heart            
"TERESA HIGGINSON        
"Enfant de Marie."

The following is a letter to Father Snow:

[246a] "In the name of the Adorable and undivided Trinity, and to the glory of Jesus my divine Spouse and only Treasure, in honour of Mary my Immaculate Queen and Mother, and in obedience, I will try and write something of those things which He has vouchsafed to me the very least of His little ones. I have written an account of the unspeakable favour which Jesus Christ the Son of God and the ever blessed Virgin Mary has granted to me, and when I read it over it seemed in no way to convey what He really has accomplished, for the change that has come over my soul is so astounding that I cannot express it or convey by any comparison what has really been done. I feel and realise those wondrous words of our dear Lord, 'My peace I give you' etc. and it brings such a sweet bright light in the soul that they only can understand who experience it, and our dear Lord has taught me the hidden things of God with such excessive delights that all the senses enjoy such an immense degree of sweetness that nothing here could in any way describe. And if you wish me to tell you what I have seen or what He has taught me, I can only say He has taught me great truths hidden in His immensity. He has laid open His secret and I have drunk to excess, and yet, as there is no image of any sort represented to the understanding, the soul learns and enjoys without knowing what she learns and enjoys. These things may seem to you to be folly on my part, but perhaps it is on account of my nothingness and misery that I am not able to give you a better idea of what passes now or how my soul is contained or held in God and how He acts with her. But even if it is so, oh how I thank Him for knowing nothing and having nothing but Himself, oh how rich I am in His possession! And though the soul may be astounded at first at His condescension, yet afterwards when she considers His immense love, she lies as it were in peace without in any way considering herself. Yet she knows and understands how He is all hers and she is all His, but she has no thought but of Him. I mean she forgets her own misery and sins and does not wish to do this or that but only His adorable Will, and this she hungers and thirsts for as He makes her understand like Him she 'must be about her Father's business' and testify to the world the love and goodness of Jesus, her divine Spouse. Oh that I had the tongue of men and angels that I might proclaim to the whole world what He is and His wonderful love, that I could tell or give them to taste how sweet is the Lord and what they lose who run after the empty bubbles of the world. Oh all we could do or suffer for ages would be nothing to purchase so great a good. Oh that I could tell what I experience in Him who is all good, all powerful, all Wisdom. My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid.

"Oh my Father, you must pardon me. I do really wish and desire to make all clear to you, and I beg of Him, whom I know will not refuse my request, to teach you by experience and show you my soul as He sees it, that so you may know how to guide and take me with you to His eternal possession.

"Ah what a foretaste I have already of that eternal bliss, for the soul seems to have become one with God in such a close bond of union that all fear of losing Him seems out of the question, for it seems that the soul as a little drop of vapour is drawn up into the immeasurable ocean of God's infinity. Here she feels to possess all and she cares not whether she lives or dies.

"I don't know but what those great impetuosities may return, but at present I feel as though I had not to run after God as it were, but that I possessed Him and was more closely united to Him than my soul is to my body, that He is the soul of my existence and that I feel and live in Him, that He does all and that I do nothing.

"He has taught me oh so clearly too, all that He has done for me and how miserable a wretch I should have been without Him, and when He shows me the beauty with which He has clothed me and the wonderful works He has accomplished in me, I am forced as it were to sink in the abyss of my own nothingness and praise Him for His mighty acts. And instead of trying to run away as it were at telling you, I feel as though I were robbing Him of that which is His if I did not try to tell you as I know things myself, for all is His and I am and have nothing, and it would seem to be a false humility that I have hitherto had — wishing to hide His favours, as though I considered they were in some way mine, or that I had anything to do with them.

"I seem to have become as a powerful eagle that can soar to and gaze on the midday sun, and as those who look at the sun can see nothing but it for some time, so now I see nothing but Him in all things and all things in Him. That great fear of death and desire of it are gone and I feel such a real disengagement from all created objects, and I feel to have gained such a great dominion over myself that I don't think anyone can understand but those to whom our dear Lord my Spouse and only Love has given it, for I know too so well that I never could have acquired it no matter how I worked or exerted myself. It is all His work and I feel myself so freed out of this prison of death that I lie basking in peace in the light of His Truth. He has dug deep in the trench that so He might fill me with Himself. He has filled up the valleys on a level with the hills, and the mountains He has lowered that I may view their tops and look down on all things beneath. Oh my Father, I could never tell you all that in His goodness and mercy He has done for me, and it seems to take away from it rather than anything else when I try to express them in such cyphers as is the language of men, when trying to describe the truths and favours of Almighty God.

"Begging of you again and again to bless the Lord for all He has done for me, and offering His adorable Precious Blood in thanksgiving, I unite my voice with His, with Mary's and the whole court of Heaven in praising and blessing our God who sitteth upon the throne, and the Lamb who redeemed us by His blood and made us to reign with Him for ever and ever. Amen.

"TERESA HIGGINSON              
"Enfant de Marie"
 

CLITHEROE, FEAST OF ST. WINIFRED, 1887.

[246] "Oh my Father it seems presumption almost on my part to attempt to describe the wonderful things our dear b. Lord has done for my poor soul, and yet I know I must endeavour that you may thoroughly understand His workings in me. Though it seems as if I could not comprehend at once all that His infinite goodness accomplishes, oh how clearly He has taught me in very truth the true estimate of all things here and to judge rightly of His gifts and graces. Here the soul becomes as it were a very queen of liberty, she has bound up all for Jesus and He sets His little captive free, she has sunk in the abyss of her own nothingness and He raises her to a most intimate union with Himself and the adorable Trinity. She has stripped herself of all things for His sake and He clothes her in His glory. She has tasted of the bitterness of life for His sake and He fills her with unutterable sweetness; and now she who was so afraid and weak is made strong and desires to fly to the heights and gaze on and bury herself in the centre of that sun at which sometimes she felt unable to look, for the light was too strong for her weakness. Now she desires to plunge deeper and deeper into that eternal Essence, to gaze into that sparkling crystal and there drink the waters of life and eat the food of the strong. Here she is taught that she is nothing and has nothing, that all is her divine Spouse's, and she feels as though she could go to the tops of the mountains and proclaim His greatness, His wisdom, His love, and His goodness aloud to the whole world, that all might acknowledge that He is the Lord and praise and magnify His Holy Name.

"I feel as though I had no heart or soul but that God Himself is my soul and there He shines and rules all in such wonderful wisdom and peace. Oh my soul, bless the Lord and let all that is in thee praise His Holy Name. It would seem to me as though our dear Lord my divine Spouse and Mary my dear queen and my mother were keeping high court within my poor soul and allowing me to understand the glory that so many angels and saints are enjoying in His presence, for they are present with and seem to accompany me. Oh my Father, if it were only to witness the beauty of the stones in this circle of our union, to behold the gems that represent His sacred Wounds, I think it is more than human nature could endure, and it seems to fill my poor body even with a spiritual life and brightness that it seems buoyed up so to speak; but I do not now care what becomes of it, whether it is raised up before others or not. His glory and Holy Will are all I desire. I feel as though I could sing the Magnificat aloud with my more than Mother Mary.

"T. HIGGINSON.              
"Enfant de Marie."

Canon Snow, who had so long been looking for this great development in her soul, wrote at once to congratulate her:

"OCT. 28 87.

"MY DEAR CHILD,

"I praise and thank our dear Lord exceedingly for His great goodness m bestowing this unspeakable favour upon you and I rejoice with you and congratulate you with all my heart upon your marriage with the Lamb, for that is the name of the degree of union to which in His goodness He has now raised you, and it is the highest union to which any soul can attain upon earth. You are now, more than ever, His. You must now have but one thought — how you can please so good a Spouse. You must think only of His interests and He will take good care of yours. By all our dear Lord's dealings with you I knew He was preparing you for this union and I referred to it sometimes in speaking to you, and told you of the change it would make in your soul — how you would have more courage and think less of yourself (when people praised you etc.) and only of Him and His honour.

"I was away Wednesday and Thursday, and only read what you wrote last night, but I have had great joy and consolation ever since. But I feel like Lazarus in the presence of Dives and I beg of you and your divine Spouse that I may have some of the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table...

"With every good wish to you and your friends
           "I remain my dear child yours affecly. in Christ

"ALFRED SNOW."

The very greatness of the favour conferred upon her did but cause her to sink more deeply into the abyss of her humility which henceforth could find its only adequate expression in the words of Our Lady's own 'magnificat'. It confirmed her too in her obedience, for she wrote to Father Snow:

[247] "I think I told you nearly everything and I shall now be looking out for a letter from you telling me exactly how to act, as I do not wish to delay in giving Him the best fruit from the garden, rendering to Him in the most perfect and suitable manner all that is in my power."

Nor does this stupendous event seem to have carried her out of herself or blinded her to the ordinary course of life, as is seen from the following perfectly simple and matter-of-fact letter, written only two days after it had taken place.

AMDG et in hon BVM et St J

"53 LOWERGATE, CLITHEROE, OCT. 26. 87.

[243] "DEAR REV. FATHER,

"I received yours this morning and I am really grateful to you for all your kindness. I should be most pleased to go to Edinburgh but I think it is too much to expect, though I have a feeling which is more than a fancy that I have to go to Scotland and do something there for the furthering of the Devotion or the good of souls. May His Holy Will be fully accomplished in me and by me. Oh I do really wish to begin and do something for the glory of His Holy Name who does for me such unheard of wonders; at least I have never heard or read of the marvellous prodigies He works in me. May His adorable Name be forever blessed!

"I am sorry that I have been so careless and I will try and be more careful for the future, but it only shows how miserable I am and how unable to do anything of myself, when I cannot put two pieces of paper in their proper places" (she had enclosed only half her letter), "but I shall be most grateful to you if you will give me some penance for these acts of carelessness — small straws show which way the wind blows. I should like you also to set me certain things to perform, anything that you think would give glory to our dear b. Lord and do good to this miserably wretched sinner.

"Dear — has never written since the beginning of the month. I wonder why she does not write. I wrote last but I suppose I shall have to write again if I want a letter. Miss Roberts has been troubled very much with toothache, but she has had two extracted and she is somewhat better. The rest of my good friends here are pretty well and all unite with me in best wishes.

"Thanking you again and again, and begging your prayers and blessing, I remain dear rev. Father

"Your obedient and devoted child                        
"In the S. Head and loving Heart           
"TERESA HIGGINSON             
"Enfant de Marie

"Ever since Sunday night I am buoyed up as it were and if I did not know that I must do something for souls here, I should not be able to live."


1. For further explanation of these words see p. 229.

2. She had become a Franciscan Tertiary in October, 1885.

3. It was thus revealed to her (as Father Snow had all along believed) that this soul was none other than her own, and from this time in her humility she never once again alludes to it.