Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
THE ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE (cont)
by Blessed John of Rusybroeck
THE SECOND BOOK
29. Showing what the Forsaken Man should do
Here the man should bethink himself with a humble heart that of his own he has nothing but misery; and he should say in resignation and self-abandonment the words which were spoken by the holy man Job: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it hath been done; blessed be the name of the Lord. And he should renounce himself in all things, and should say and mean in his heart, "Lord, I am as willing to be poor in all those things of which I have been deprived as I am ready to be rich, O Lord, if it be Thy will and to Thy glory; not my will according to nature, O Lord, but Thy will and my will according to spirit be done. For I am Thine own, O Lord, and would as well be in hell as in heaven, if it were to Thy glory. Lord, do unto me according to Thy good pleasure."
Of all this suffering and
abandonment the man should make an inward joy; and he should give
himself into the hands of God, and should be glad because he is
able to suffer for the glory of God. And if he be true to this
disposition, he shall taste such an inward joy as he never tasted
before; for nothing is more joyful to the lover of God, than to
feel that he belongs wholly to his Beloved. And if he has indeed
followed the way of the virtues straight to this degree, even
though he has not passed through all the states which have been
pointed out heretofore, it is not needful, if he feels within
himself the source of the virtues: which is in activity, humble
obedience; and, in passivity, patient resignation. In these two
things this degree is established in everlasting surety.
When such utterly resigned men have thus been deprived of all consolation, and believe that they have lost all virtues, and are forsaken of God and of all creatures: then if they are able to reap them, all kinds of fruit, the corn and vine, are ready and ripe. And this image means, that all that the body can endure, whatsoever it be, should be offered up to God gladly, and of one's own free will, and without resistance to the supreme Will. All the outward and inward virtues, which a man practised with joy in the fire of love; these, since he knows them and is able to perform them, he should now practise diligently and with courage, and should offer them up to God. Never were they so dear to God; for never were they so noble and so fair. All the consolations which God ever gave should gladly be given up, if it be to His glory.
This is the harvest of the corn, and of all kinds
of ripe fruits, on which we shall live eternally, and which make
us rich in God. Thus the virtues are made perfect, and sorrow is
turned to eternal wine. By such men, and by their lives and their
patience, all those who know them and all their neighbours are
taught and changed for the better: and so the corn of their
virtues is sown and multiplied for the benefit of all good men.
At this season of the year, so soon as the equinox is come, the sun begins to descend and the weather becomes cooler. And then some imprudent men become full of noxious humours, which enter into the stomach, and spoil the health and bring many diseases: and these destroy the appetite and the taste of good food, and bring many to death. And some men are corrupted by these noxious humours, so that they get dropsy, and have therefrom long torments and sometimes die. And from the super-abundance of these humours come sickness and fever from which many men suffer, and of which some die.
And so likewise it is, when men of good-will, who once tasted God, have swerved from Him and from truth, and have gone astray; these either sicken in the way of perfection, or wither away as regards virtue, or fall into eternal death, through one of these maladies, and some through all three. Especially when he is forsaken a man has need of much strength, and must exercise himself in the way I have just taught you: thus he shall not be deceived.
But the unwise man, who rules himself ill, falls easily into these maladies; for in him the weather has grown cooler. For this reason his nature becomes slow in virtue and in good works, and craves for comfort and softness of the body; often without discretion and more than is needful. And other men would like well to receive solace from God, if they might partake of Him without pains and labour. And some seek for solace in creatures, wherefrom great harm often ensues. And some think themselves sick and feeble and that their powers are exhausted, and believe that they have need of all that they can get, and that they must cherish their bodies in comfort and repose.
When a man yields himself in such a way, and seeks without
discretion after bodily things and comforts; then all such things
are noxious humours which fulfil the stomach, that is to say, the
man's heart, and take from him the taste and the enjoyment of good
food, that is to say, of all the virtues.
If a man thus falls into sickness and cold, he is sometimes caught by dropsy, that is to say, he has an inclination towards the outward possession of earthly things. The more such men acquire, the more they desire; for they straightway become dropsical. The belly, that is, the appetites or lusts, swells terribly, and the thirst will not be quenched. But the face of conscience and discretion becomes small and thin, for these men put hindrances against the inflow of the grace of God.
If they thus accumulate the waters of earthly possessions about the heart, that is, if they cling to them with desire, they cannot progress in works of charity; for they are sick, they lack the inward spirit of life and breath, that is to say, they lack the grace of God and inward charity. And therefore they cannot rid themselves of the waters of earthly riches: the heart is submerged in them, and they are often choked therein and die an eternal death.
But those who keep the waters of earthly riches far below the
heart, so that they are master of their possessions and can
renounce them whenever it is needful: these, though they may
suffer long from inordinate inclinations, may yet be cured.
Those men who are full of noxious humours, that is to say, full of inordinate inclination towards bodily comfort and towards foreign and creaturely consolations, can fall into four kinds of fever.
The first kind is called the quotidian fever. It is a multiplicity of the heart; for these men wish to know all things, and to speak of all things, and to criticise and to judge all things, and meanwhile they often fail to observe themselves. They are weighed down by many strange cares; they must often hear what they do not like; and the least thing troubles them. Their thoughts are restless; first this, then that, first here, then there; they are like to the winds. This is a daily fever; for they are troubled, and busied, and in multiplicity, from morning until evening, and sometimes in the night also, whether they sleep or wake. Though this may exist in a state of grace and without mortal sin, yet it hinders inwardness and inward practices and takes away the taste of God and of all virtues. And this is an eternal loss.
The second kind of fever comes on alternate days. It is called fickleness. If it lasts long it is often dangerous. This fever is of two kinds: sometimes it comes from intemperate heat, and sometimes from cold. The one which comes from intemperate heat befalls certain good men; for when they are, or have been, touched by God, and then are forsaken of Him, they sometimes fall into fickleness.
To-day they choose one way of life, and to-morrow another; at one time they wish to be silent, and another time they wish continually to speak. First they wish to enter into this order, then into that. First they wish to give all their goods to God, then they wish to keep them. At one time they wish to wander abroad, at another to be enclosed in a cell. At one time they long to go often to the Sacrament, and shortly afterwards they value this but little. At one time they wish to pray much in a loud voice, and another time but shortly after, they would keep silence. And this is both a vain curiosity and a fickleness, which hinder and impede a man from comprehending inward truth, and destroy in him both the source and the practice of all inwardness.
Now mark whence this unstable condition comes in some good men.
When a man sets his thoughts and his inward active endeavour on
the virtues and on outward behaviour more than on God and on union
with God: though he remains in the grace of God (for in the
virtues he aims at God), yet none the less his life is unstable,
for he does not feel himself to rest in God above all virtues. And
therefore he possesses something that he does not know; for, Him
Whom he seeks in the virtues and in the multiplicity of acts, he
possesses within himself, above intention, above virtues, and
above all ways and means. And therefore, if this man would
overcome his fickleness, he must learn to rest above all virtues
in God and in the most high Unity of God.
Such men are fickle of heart; for in all the
things which they do, nature is secretly seeking its own, often
without their knowledge, for they know not themselves. Such men
choose and abandon, first one way of life, then another. To-day
they choose one priest, to whom they would go for confession and
for counsel their whole life long; and to-morrow they will choose
another. On all things they will ask advice, but hardly ever do
they act upon it. All things for which they are blamed and rebuked
they like to excuse and to justify. Of fine words they have
plenty, but little is in them. They like well to have a reputation
for virtue, but without great effort. They wish their virtues to
be known, and these are therefore empty, and have no savour either
of God nor of themselves. Others they teach, but will themselves
hardly be taught or reproved. A natural self-love and a hidden
pride make them thus fickle. Such people walk on the verge of
hell: one false step, and into it they fall.