THE ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL
by Blessed John of Rusybroeck
THE SECOND BOOK
17. Of the Second Degree of our Inward Exercise, which
increases Inwardness by Humility
But, having likened the four degrees of the first coming of Christ
to the splendour and the power of the sun, we also find in the sun
another power and another action, which hastens the ripening, and
increases the numbers, of the fruit.
When the sun rises very high, and enters the sign of Gemini (that
is, the Twins; or a twofold thing of one nature), which happens in
the middle of the month of May: then it has a double power over
flowers and herbs and everything that grows out of the earth. If,
then, the planets which govern nature are well ordered according
to the need of the season, the sun shines upon the earth and draws
the moisture into the air. Thence come dew and rain; and the
fruits increase and multiply.
So likewise, when Christ that bright Sun has risen in our hearts
above all things; when the demands of our bodily nature which are
opposed to the spirit have been curbed and discreetly set in
order; when we have achieved the virtues in the way of which you
have heard in the first degree; when, lastly, through the ardour
of our charity, all the pleasure, and all the peace, which we
experience in these virtues, have been offered up and devoted to
God, with thanksgiving and praise:—then, of all this there may
come down a sweet rain of new inward consolation and the heavenly
dew of the sweetness of God. This makes the virtues grow, and
multiplies them twofold if we hinder it not. This is a new and
special working, and a new coming, of Christ into the loving
heart. And by it a man is lifted up into a higher state than that
in which he was before. On this height Christ says: Go ye out
according to the way of this coming.
18. Of the Pure Delight of the Heart and the Sensible
From this sweetness there springs a well-being of the heart and of
all the bodily powers, so that a man thinks himself to be inwardly
enfolded in the divine embrace of love. This delight and this
consolation are greater and more pleasant to the soul and the body
than all the satisfactions of the earth, even though one man
should enjoy them all together. In this well-being God sinks into
the heart by means of His gifts; with so much savoury solace and
joy that the heart overflows from within. This makes a man
comprehend the misery of those who live outside love. This
well-being melts the heart to such a degree, that the man cannot
contain himself through the fulness of inward joy.
19. Of Spiritual Inebriation
From this rapturous delight springs spiritual inebriation.
Spiritual inebriation is this; that a man receives more sensible
joy and sweetness than his heart can either contain or desire.
Spiritual inebriation brings forth many strange gestures in men.
It makes some sing and praise God because of their fulness of joy,
and some weep with great tears because of their sweetness of
heart. It makes one restless in all his limbs, so that he must run
and jump and dance; and so excites another that he must
gesticulate and clap his hands.
Another cries out with a loud
voice, and so shows forth the plenitude he feels within; another
must be silent and melt away, because of the rapture which he
feels in all his senses. At times he thinks that all the world
must feel what he feels: at times he thinks that none can taste
what he has attained. Often he thinks that he never could, nor
ever shall, lose this well-being; at times he wonders why all men
do not become God-desiring. At one time he thinks that God is for
him alone, or for none other so much as for him; at another time
he asks himself with amazement of what nature these delights can
be, and whence they come, and what has happened to him.
This is the most rapturous life (as regards our bodily
feelings) which man may attain upon earth. Sometimes the excess of
joy becomes so great that the man thinks that his heart must
break. And for all these manifold gifts and miraculous works, he
shall, with a humble heart, thank and praise and honour and
reverence the Lord, Who can do all this; and thank Him with
fervent devotion because it is His will to do all this. And the
man shall always keep in his heart and speak through his mouth
with sincere intention: "Lord, I am not worthy of this; yet I have
need of Thy boundless goodness and of Thy support." In such
humility he may grow and rise into higher virtues.
20. What may hinder a Man in this Inebriation
When, however, this coming and this degree are granted to such men
as first begin to turn from the world; even though their
conversion be perfect, and they have abandoned all worldly
consolation, that they may be wholly God's, and may live
altogether for Him,—yet they are still feeble and have need of
milk and sweet things, and not of the strong food of fierce
temptation and the loss of God. And in this season, that is to
say, in this state, hoar-frost and fog often harm such men; for it
is just in the middle of May according to the course of the inward
life. Hoar-frost is the desire to be somewhat or the belief that
one is somewhat; or to be attached to one's self, or to suppose
that we have earned these consolations and are worthy of them.
This is hoar-frost, which may destroy the flowers and fruits of
all the virtues. Fog is, the desire to rest in inward consolations
and sweetness. This darkens the air of the reason; and the powers,
which ought to open and flower, close again. And thereby one loses
the knowledge of truth, and yet may keep a certain false
sweetness, which is given by the devil, and which in the end shall
lead us astray.
||The word "weelden," here translated "rapturous
delight," really means a luxury of enjoyment: an overpassing
and voluptuous rapture, in which the soul partakes of the rich
content of God.