by the Love of Christ
by Catherine of Siena
Note: This excerpt is from Chapter 26 of the Dialogue
in which Catherine describes God’s explanation to her of Jesus’ role as
bridge between the divine and the human. She uses the language of metaphor
– such as the use of a bridge and a wall of stones – to portray the work
of the Lord Jesus and how he draws us to himself. Literal minded readers
might find the imagery obscure. It helps to read her works with the heart
as well as the mind.
Then God the eternal One responded to her soul:
I want to describe the Bridge for you. It stretches from heaven to earth
by reason of my having joined myself with your humanity which I formed
in the earth’s clay. This bridge has three stairs. Two of them were built
by my Son on the wood of the most holy cross, and the third even as he
tasted the bitterness of the gall and vinegar they gave him to drink. You
will recognize in these three stairs three spiritual stages. . . .
But though the bridge has been raised up so high, it still is joined
to the earth. Do you know when it was raised up? When my Son was lifted
up on the wood of the most holy cross he did not cut off his divinity from
the lowly earth of your humanity. So though he was raised so high, he was
not raised off the earth. In fact, his divinity is kneaded in the clay
of your humanity like one bread. Nor could anyone walk on that bridge until
my Son was raised up. This is why he said, “If I am lifted up high I will
draw everything to myself” (John 12:32).
Drawn by love
When my goodness saw that you could be drawn in no other way, I sent
him to be lifted onto the wood of the cross. I made of that cross an anvil
where this child of humankind could be hammered into an instrument to release
humankind from death and restore it to the life of grace. In this way he
drew everything to himself; for he proved his inspeakable love, and the
human heart is always drawn by love. He could not have shown you greater
love than by giving his life for you (John 15:13). You can hardly resist
being drawn by love, then, unless you foolishly refuse to be drawn.
I said that, having been raised up, he would draw everything to himself.
This is true in two ways: First, the human heart is drawn by love as I
said, and with all its powers: memory, understanding, and will. If these
three powers are harmoniously united in my name, everything else you do,
in fact or intention, will be drawn to union with me in peace through the
movement of love, because all will be lifted up in the pursuit of crucified
love. So my Truth indeed spoke truly when he said, “If I am lifted up high,
I will draw everything to myself.” For everything you do will be drawn
to him when he draws your heart and its powers.
What he said is true also in the sense that everything was created for
your use to serve your needs. But you who have the gift of reason were
made not for yourselves but for me, to serve me with all your heart and
all your love. So when you are drawn to me, everything is drawn with you
because everything was made for you. It was necessary, then, that this
bridge be raised high. And it had to have stairs so that you would be able
to mount it more easily.
The stones of
This bridge has walls of stone that travellers will not be hindered
when it rains. Do you know what stones these are? They are the stones of
true solid virtue. These stones were not, however, built into walls before
my Son’s passion. So no one could get to the final destination even though
they walked along the pathway of virtue. For heaven had not yet been unlocked
with the key of my Son’s blood, and the rain of justice kept anyone crossing
But after these stones were hewn on the body of the Word, my gentle
Son (I have told you that he is the bridge), he built them into walls,
tempering the mortar with his own blood. That is, his blood was mixed into
the mortar of his divinity with the strong heat of burning love.
By my power the stones of virtue were built into walls on no less a
foundation than himself, for all virtue draws life from him, nor is there
any virtue that has not been tested by him. So no one can have any life-giving
virtue but from him, that is, by following his example and his teaching.
He perfected the virtues and planted them as living stones built into walls
with his blood. So now all the faithful can walk without hindrance and
with no cringing fear of the rain of divine justice because they are sheltered
by the mercy that came down from heaven through the incarnation of this
Son of mine.