"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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"God speaks to us without ceasing by his good inspirations."

The Cure D'Ars

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"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"

St Augustine

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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

33. Showing how these Four Degrees in their Perfection are Found in Christ


If we wish to progress rightly in the four aforesaid degrees of the inward exercise which adorn a man's bodily powers and the lower part of his nature, we should mark Christ, Who taught us these four ways and has gone before us therein. Christ, the bright Sun, rose in the heavens of the most high Trinity, and in the dawn of His glorious mother, the Virgin Mary; who was, and is, the dawn and daybreak of all those graces in which we shall rejoice eternally.

Now mark this: Christ had, and still has, the first degree; for he was one and in oneness. In Him were, and are, gathered and united all the virtues that ever were, and ever shall be, practised; moreover all the creatures who ever practised, and ever shall practise, these virtues. Thus He was the Father's Only Begotten Son, and was united with human nature. And He was inward; for He brought to earth the fire that inflamed all the saints and all good men. And He yielded a sensible love and loyalty to His Father, and to all those who shall enjoy Him in eternity. And His devotion and His loving and aspiring heart burned and groaned before His Father because of the miseries of all men. His whole life, and all His works, from without and from within, and all His words, were thanksgiving and praise, and glorifying of His Father. This is the first degree.

Christ, the Sun of Love, sparkled and shone brighter still, and more ardently; for in Him was, and is, the fulness of all graces and gifts. And for this reason the heart of Christ and His way of life, and His conduct, and His service, over-flowed in mercy, in gentleness, in humility, and in generosity; and He was so gracious and so lovable that His ways and His person drew all men of goodwill. He was the unspotted lily amidst the flowers of the field, wherefrom all the just may suck the honey of eternal sweetness and eternal consolation. For all the gifts which were ever bestowed upon the manhood of Christ, Christ thanked and praised, according to His manhood, His Eternal Father, Who is the Father of all gifts; and He rested, as regards the highest powers of His soul, above all gifts, in the most high Unity of God, from which all gifts flow forth. Thus He possessed the second degree.

Christ the glorious Sun sparkled and shone higher still, and brighter, and more ardently; for all the days of His life long His bodily powers and His senses, His heart and His mind, were called and destined of His Father to that most high glory and beatitude which He now enjoys, according to His senses and His bodily powers. And He Himself was both naturally and supernaturally inclined thereto, according to His affections; nevertheless He was willing to abide in this exile until the time that His Father had foreseen and ordained from eternity. Thus He possessed the third degree.

When the due time had come wherein Christ should reap, and carry into the Eternal Kingdom, the fruits of all those virtues which ever had ripened, or ever should ripen, then the Eternal Sun began to descend; for then Christ humbled Himself, and delivered His bodily life into the hands of His enemies. And in this distress He was denied and forsaken of His friends, and from His human nature there was withdrawn all inward and outward consolation; and there was laid on it misery and sorrow, buffettings, blasphemies, and heavy burdens, and it paid the price of all our sins according to justice. And He bore these things in humble patience, and, whilst He was thus forsaken, He wrought the greatest work of love. And, thereby He has bought back and redeemed our eternal heritage. Thus is He adorned in the lower part of His noble manhood; for in it He suffered these pains for our sins. And this is why He is called the Saviour of the world, and why He is glorified, honoured, and exalted, and set on the right hand of His Father, where He reigns in mightiness; and all creatures, in heaven, and on earth, and in hell, bow the knee eternally before His most high Name.
 

34. Showing how a Man should Live if he would be Enlightened


The man who lives in true obedience and in the moral virtues, according to the commandments of God, and besides this practices the inward virtues according to the teaching and stirring of the Holy Ghost, who is just in deed and in word, who seeks not his own, neither in time nor in eternity, who can bear with equanimity and with true patience, darkness and heaviness, and all kinds of miseries, and thanks God for everything, and offers himself up with humble resignation: he has received the first coming of Christ according to the way of inward exercise. And he has gone out from himself in the inward life, and has adorned with rich virtues and gifts his quickened heart and the unity of his body and senses. When such a man has been altogether purified and set at rest, and is gathered together into unity as regards his lower powers, he can be inwardly enlightened, if God deems that the time is fit and he craves it. It may also come to pass, that a man may be enlightened at the beginning of his conversion, if he yield himself wholly to the will of God and renounce all selfhood; all lies in this. Such a man, however, must afterwards pass through those degrees and ways of the outward and the inward life which have been shown heretofore; but this would be easier to him than to another, who mounts from below upwards, for he has more light than the other man.
 

35. Of the Second Coming of Christ, or, the Fountain with Three Rills


Now we will speak further of the second manner of the coming of Christ, in those inward exercises by which a man is adorned, enlightened, and enriched in the three highest powers of the soul. This coming we will liken to a living fountain with three rills.[49]

The fountain-head, from which the rills flow forth, is the fulness of Divine grace within the unity of our spirit. There grace dwells essentially; abiding as a brimming fountain, and actively flowing forth in rills into all the powers of the soul, each according to its need. These rills are special inflowings or workings of God in the higher powers, wherein God works by means of grace in many diverse ways.
 

36. The First Rill adorns the Memory[50]


The first rill of grace, which God causes to flow forth in this coming, is a pure simplicity, shining in the spirit without differentiation. This rill takes its rise from the fountain within the unity of the spirit; and it flows straight downwards and pours through all the powers of the soul, the lower and the higher; and raises them above all multiplicity and all busyness and produces simplicity in a man; and shows and gives him the inward bond of unity of spirit. Thus he is lifted up as regards his memory, and is freed from distracting images and from fickleness.

Now in this light, Christ demands a going out in conformity with this light and with this coming. So the man goes out, and knows and finds himself, through this simple light which has been poured into him, to be united and established and penetrated and confirmed, in the unity of his spirit or mind. Thereby the man is raised up and set in a new state, and he turns inwards, and fixes his memory upon the Nudity, above all the distractions of sensible images, and above multiplicity. Here the man possesses the essential and supernatural unity of his spirit, as his own dwelling-place and as his own eternal, personal heritage. He ever has a natural and a supernatural tendency towards this same unity; and this same unity through the gifts of God and through simplicity of intention, shall have an eternal loving tendency towards that most high Unity, where, in the bond of the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son are united with all saints. And thus the first rill, which demands unity, is satisfied.[51]
 
 
   
 
49. Probably Ruysbroeck had here in mind such a "fountain" or lavabo as was to be seen in almost any fourteenth century cloister: a cistern or basin fed by a duct of running water, and pouring itself out in several streams into the lower basin or trough which provided washing-places for the brethren.
 
50. It should be remembered that for the medieval psychologist the term "memory" included all that we mean by "mind."
 
51. "The Godhead," says Dionysius, "is celebrated by religion as One and as Unity, because of the simplicity and oneness of its supernatural indivisibility. Thereby, as by a unifying power, we are unified; and, when our various diversities have been gathered together in a supernatural way, we are collected into a divine onefoldness and union wherein we are like unto God." (Divine Names, cap. 1.)