"It is better to be burdened and in company with the strong than to be unburdened and with the weak. When you are burdened you are close to God, your strength, who abides with the afflicted. When you are relieved of the burden you are close to yourself, your own weakness; for virtue and strength of soul grow and are confirmed in the trials of patience."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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Blessed John of Rusybroeck   (1293-1381)

 

THE ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE (cont)

 

by Blessed John of Rusybroeck

 

THE SECOND BOOK

25. An Example showing how one is hindered in this Exercise


Now I will show you the hindrances and the dangers which he meets with who dwells in the fury of love. In this time, as you have heard, the sun is in the sign of the Lion; and this is the most unhealthy period of the year, although it is fruitful; for here begin the dog-days, which bring many a plague with them. Then the weather may become so unwholesome and so hot that in some countries herbs and trees wither and shrivel, and in some waters the fishes pine away and perish, and on the land men also sicken and die. And this is not caused only by the sun, for then it would be the same everywhere; in all countries and in all waters, and with all men. But the cause of it is often the corruption and the disorder of the matter on which the sun's power works.

So likewise it is when a man comes into this state of impatience. He enters in truth into the dog-days, and the splendour of the Divine rays burns so fiercely and so hotly from above, and the heart wounded by love is so inflamed from within—since the ardour of affection and the impatience of desire have been thus enkindled—that the man falls into impatience and striving, even as a woman who labours in child-birth and cannot be delivered. If the man then look steadfastly into his own wounded heart, and at Him Whom he loves, these woes grow without ceasing. So greatly does the torment increase that the man withers and shrivels in his bodily nature, even as the trees in hot countries; and he dies in the fury of love, and enters the kingdom of heaven without passing through purgatory. But though he dies well who dies of love, as long as a tree may bear good fruit, it should neither be felled nor uprooted.

Sometimes God flows forth with great sweetness into the turbulent heart. Then the heart swims in bliss, as a fish in water; and the inmost ground of the heart burns in the fury of love, even whilst it swims in delight in the gifts of God, because of the blissful and impatient ardour of the loving heart itself. And to dwell long in this degree consumes the bodily nature. All men who burn in the fury of love must pine away in that state; but those who can govern themselves well do not die.[48]
 

26. Another Example


And now I will warn you against another thing which may cause great harm. Sometimes in that hot season there falls the honey-dew of a certain false sweetness, which pollutes the fruit, or utterly spoils it. And it is most apt to fall at noon, in bright sunshine, and in big drops; and it is hardly to be distinguished from rain. So likewise, some men may be robbed of their outward senses by a certain light produced by the devil. And in this light they are enwrapped and ensnared, and at the same time many kinds of images, both false and true, are shown to them, and they are spoken to in diverse ways; and all this is seen and received of them with great delight.

And here there fall sometimes the honey-drops of a false sweetness, in which a man may find his pleasure. He who esteems it much receives much of it: and thereby the man is easily polluted, for if he will hold for true those things which are not like to truth, for the reason that they have been shown or spoken to him, he falls into error and the fruit of virtue is lost. But those who have trodden the ways whereof I have written before, though they may be tempted by this spirit and this light, they will recognise them and will not be harmed.
 

27. A Parable of the Ant


A brief parable I will give to those who dwell in the tumult of love, that they may endure this state nobly and becomingly, and may attain to higher virtues. There is a small insect called the ant. It is strong and sagacious, and very loth to die. It lives by choice amongst the congregation of its fellows, in hot and dry soil. The ant works during summer, and gathers grain for food for the winter. And it splits the grain in two lest it should sprout and be spoiled, and be of no use when nothing can be gathered anymore. And it seeks no strange ways, but always goes forth by the same way. And if it abides its time, it shall be able to fly.

Thus should these men do. They should be strong in abiding the coming of Christ, sagacious against the communications and inspirations of the devil. They should not desire death; but God's glory alone, and for themselves new virtues. They should dwell in the congregation of their heart and of their powers, and should follow the drawing and the inviting of the Divine Unity. They should dwell in warm and dry soil, that is, in the fierce tumult of love and in a great restlessness. And they should labour during the summer of this life, and gather the fruits of virtue for eternity; and they should split these fruits in two.

The one part is, that they should ever desire the most high fruition of Eternity; and the other part is that, by means of the reason, they should always restrain themselves as much as they can, and abide the time which God has ordained to them, and thus the fruit of virtue is preserved unto eternity. And they should not follow strange paths or singular ways; but they should follow the track of love through all storms to that place whither love shall lead them. And if they abide the time, and persevere in all virtues, they shall behold the Mystery of God and take flight towards It.
 

28. Of the Fourth Degree of the Coming of Christ


Now we will speak further of the fourth manner of the coming of Christ, uplifting and perfecting a man by inward exercise in the lower part of his being. But having likened all the inward comings to the splendour of the sun, and to its power, according to the course of the year, we will speak further, according to the course of the seasons, of another action and another work of the sun.

When the sun first begins to descend from the zenith to the nadir, it enters the sign which is called Virgo, that is, the Virgin, because now the season becomes unfruitful, as a virgin is. (In this time the glorious Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, ascended to heaven full of joy and rich in all virtues.) At this time the heat begins to grow less; and men begin to gather in, for use during the rest of the year, those ripe and lasting fruits which can be kept and consumed long afterwards, such as corn and wine and the durable fruits, which have now come to their maturity. And a part of the same corn is sown, so that it be multiplied for the benefit of men. In this season all the work of the sun of the whole year is perfected and fulfilled.

So likewise, when Christ the glorious Sun has risen to the zenith in a man's heart, as I have taught you in the third degree; and when He then begins to descend and to hide the shining of His Divine rays and to forsake the man; then the heat and impatience of love begin to grow less. Now when Christ thus hides Himself, and withdraws the shining of His brightness and His heat, this is the first work, and the new coming, of this degree. Then Christ speaks in ghostly wise within this man, saying: "Go ye out in such wise as I will now show you." So the man goes out, and finds himself poor and miserable and forsaken. Here all the tempest and fury and impatience of love grow less, and the hot summer passes into autumn, and all its riches are turned to great poverty.

Then the man begins to complain because of his wretchedness: Whither has gone the ardent love, the inwardness, the gratitude, the joyful praise? And the inward consolation, the intimate joy, the sensible savour, how has he lost them? How have the fierce tempest of love, and all the other gifts which he felt before, become dead in him? And he feels like an ignorant man who has lost all his pains and his labour. And often his natural life is troubled by such a loss.

Sometimes these unhappy men are also deprived of their earthly goods, of friends, of kinsmen; and they are abandoned of all creatures, their holiness is not known or esteemed, men speak evil of their works and their whole lives, and they are despised and rejected by all their neighbours. And at times they fall into sickness and many a plague, and some into bodily temptations; or, that which is worst of all, into temptations of the spirit.

From this poverty arise a fear lest one should fall, and a kind of half-doubt. This is the utmost point at which a man can hold his ground without falling into despair. Such a man likes to seek out good men, and to complain to them, and show them his miseries; and he desires the help and prayers of Holy Church and of all the just.
 

 
   
 
48. Rolle's Fire of Love provides an apt commentary upon this chapter. Thus he says of the devout and ardent lover who "burns in the fire of the Holy Ghost"—

"He utterly burns and longs for light while he thus fervently tastes of things heavenly . . . as the seraphim, to whom he is like in loving mind, he cries and says to his noble Lover, 'Behold, loving I burn, greedily desiring.' Thus with fire untrowed and thirling flame the soul of a lover is burned. It gladdens all things and heavenlike sparkles: nor happily do I long to make an end, but, always going to that which I love, death to me is sweet and sicker." (Incendium Amoris, I., cap. 14.)