Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
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.
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.
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
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.
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.