"Then the disciples of John approached him and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. "
One of the primal images for the mystical relationship between God and the soul is the relationship between the bride and the bridegroom. I've been reading Michael Casey's book Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer. Along with that reading I have been experiencing a renewed attraction to our Lord,.... wanting to spend more time with Him, more deeply desiring His presence in my life.
Here is a section from Bernard of Clairvaux, 74th Sermon on the Song of Songs. It's a different translation than the excerpt in Casey's book, a little archaic in language. but I was too lazy to type his version into the computer. Sorry! It's a summer Saturday!
"You ask then how I knew he was present, when his ways can in no way be traced? He is life and power, and as soon as he enters in, he awakens my slumbering soul; he stirs and soothes and pierces my heart, for before it was hard as stone, and diseased. So he has begun to pluck out and destroy, to build up and to plant, to water dry places and illuminate dark ones; to open what was closed and to warm what was cold; to make the crooked straight and the rough places smooth, so that my soul may bless the Lord, and all that is within me may praise his holy name.
So when the Bridegroom, the Word, came to me, he never made known his coming by any signs, not by sight, not by sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized his coming; it was not by any of my senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depths of my being. Only by the movement of my heart, as I have told you, did I perceive his presence; and I knew the power of his might because my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection.
I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible; at the very slightest amendment of my way of life I have experienced his goodness and mercy; in the renewal and remaking of the spirit of my mind, that is of my inmost being, I have perceived the excellence of his glorious beauty, and when I contemplate all these things I am filled with awe and wonder at his manifold greatness.7.
But when the Word has left me, all these spiritual powers become weak and faint and begin to grow cold, as though you had removed the fire from under a boiling pot, and this is the sign of his going. Then my soul must needs be sorrowful until he returns, and my heart again kindles within me - the sign of his returning. When I have had such experience of the Word, is it any wonder that I take to myself the words of the Bride, calling him back when he has withdrawn? For although my fervor is not as strong as hers, yet I am transported by a desire like hers.
As long as I live the word `return,’ the word of recall for the recall of Word, will be on my lips.As often as he slips away from me, so often shall I call him back. From the burning desire of my heart I will not cease to call him, begging him to return, as if after someone who is departing, and I will implore him to give back to me the joy of his salvation, and restore himself to me.III.
I assure you, my sons, I find joy in nothing else if he is not here, who alone gives me joy. And I implore him not to come empty-handed but full of grace and truth, as is his nature - as he did yesterday and the day before. Herein is shown his likeness to a roe or a fawn, for his truth has the sharp eyes of a roe, and his grace the gladness of a fawn.8. I need both of these: I need truth that I may not be able to hide from him, and grace that I may not wish to hide. Indeed, without both of these his visitation would not be complete, for the stark reality of truth would be intolerable without grace, and the gladness of grace might appear intolerable without truth.
Truth is bitter unless seasoned with grace, and devotion without the restraining power of truth can be capricious and uncontrolled and even arrogant. How many have received grace without profit because they have not also accepted a tempering measure of truth? In consequence they have luxuriated in it too much, without reverence or regard for truth; they have not considered the ripe maturity of the roe, but have given themselves over to the caprices and gladness of the fawn. Thus it has come about that they have been deprived of the grace which they wished to enjoy by itself. To them it could be said, though too late, `Go then, and learn what it means to serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice in him with awe.’
The holy soul which had said in her abundance `I shall never be moved,’ and then feels that the Word has turned his face away finds herself not only moved but much troubled; thus she learns in sorrow that with the gift of devotion she needed also the steadying power of truth. The fulness of grace, then, does not consist of grace alone. What use is it to know what you ought to do, if you are not given the will to do it? But what is the use of having the will if you have not the power? How many have I known who are the sadder for knowing the truth because they could not plead ignorance as an excuse when they knew the demands of truth but did not fulfil them?"