Out of the question: Love has set me in a furnace

by
04 June 2008

Your answers

The Anglo-Catholic artist Martin Travers drew a beautiful device of the Crucifixion, which he encircled with the legend “He has set me in a furnace of love. Love has set me in a furnace.” This sounds to me like something from the Song of Songs, but it isn’t. Could someone please identify the source of this text? [Answers, 16 May]

I think I have tracked down the quotation in the book Franciscan Poets, by Benjamin Francis Musser, 1933. He quotes at length (pp. 243-245) from two poems attributed by St Bernadine of Siena to St Francis (although by others to Jacopone da Todi), In foco Amor mi mise and Amor di Caritade.

He translates the opening of In foco Amor mi mise as “Love has thrust me in the furnace, Love has thrust me in the furnace; he has plunged me in the furnace of love.”

The translation continues: “My new spouse, the beloved Lamb, has wed me with the nuptial ring; then, having cast me into prison, he pierced me with his dart, and has broken my heart.

“He has broken my heart and I am cast to the ground. Those arrows discharged from the crossbow of Love have wounded and inflamed me.

“Instead of granting me peace, he has made war upon me; I die of Love’s sweet pain.

“I die of yearning. Be not astonished. These wounds are inflicted by the sword of Love. Behold the blade is long and wide as an hundred braces; it has pierced me through.

“Then the darts rained upon me so thickly, that I was o’ershadowed with the agony. Then I raised my shield, but the shafts followed so closely upon each other that it afforded me no protection; they have broken my body, so strong was the arm that drew them.

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“He aimed them so surely that I despaired of parrying them, and I cried with all my strength that I might escape into the arms of death; ‘Thou dost violate the rules of the joust.’ But he designed an instrument of war which overwhelmed me with fresh assaults.

“The darts which he shot were of stone covered with lead, each one of which weighed fully a thousand pounds; he rained them thick as hail so that I was not able to count them. No one of them missed the mark.

“He never failed to pierce me, so truly could he aim. I was prostrate on the earth, and had no power to support my limbs. My body was broken and without feeling, like that of a dead man.

“Killed, not by physical death, but by excess of joy. Then, regaining power over my body, my strength was renewed so that I could follow the guides who were leading me to the court of heaven.

“After I had revived, straightway I armed myself, and made war on Christ; I rode into His territory and, meeting Him, I closed with Him, and took a speedy vengeance upon Him.

“When I was avenged, I made a truce with Him: for from the outset Christ had loved me with an ardent love. Now is my heart enabled to seek consolation in Christ.

“Love has cast me into the furnace, Love has thrust me into the furnace; he has plunged me into the furnace of love.”

I haven’t yet managed to source the full original Italian text, but believe it to be somewhere in the complete works of Bernadine of Siena.

Anne Hutchinson (Deputy Head of Library Services)
University College, Twickenham

Your questions

Who was the author of the prayer that begins: “O merciful Jesus, ever present on our Altars and with a Heart open to receive all who labour and are heavy laden”, and which expresses contrition for the sins (presumably of neglect, irreverence, unbelief, unworthy reception, etc.) committed against Jesus in the sacrament of the eucharist “since its first institution until now”?

A. M.

questions@churchtimes.co.uk

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