Ave Maria Meditations
Those who follow diligently along the path of perfect virtue do not merely experience the joy of being liberated by Christ in the midst of the dangers presented to them. They also experience the joy of obtaining and possessing such blessings in their souls that they can say with much truth: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17: 21).
As Saint Paul says, this kingdom “consists” in having within oneself “justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14: 17). Such persons as these are so enthusiastic about what is just and good; and they love it so much that, if the laws of virtue were to disappear from books, “they would be found written in their hearts” (cf. Rom 2: 15). This is not because they know them by memory but because the resolute love of their hearts is exactly what the law speaks from outside. Their will is already so transformed by love of the good, and through putting it into practice with such love and delight, that to follow their heart’s desire is to follow virtue and to flee from vice. They have become the living law and measure of human actions that Aristotle was aiming at.
From here there is born a peace and a joy so complete that no one can understand them except the one who tastes them. This is because, as Isaiah says, “the peace of such as these is like a river and like the waves of the ocean” (cf. Is 48: 18). Saint Paul says that “this peace of God surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4: 7), and Saint Peter says that “this joy is nspeakable” (cf. 1 Pt 1: 8). It is “hidden manna” that is given to the one who manfully overcomes himself. “No one can taste it except the one who receives it” (cf. Rv 2; 17).
St. John of Avila