"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."

Thomas á Kempis

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."

Thomas á Kempis

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"We must not be behind time in doing good; for death will not be behind his time. "

St Phillip Neri

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Blessed John of Rusybroeck   (1293-1381)




by Blessed John of Rusybroeck



37. The Second Rill enlightens the Understanding

Through inward charity and loving inclination and the faithfulness of God, there arises the second rill from the fulness of grace within the unity of the spirit; and it is a ghostly light which flows forth and shines into the understanding, discerning diverse things. For this light shows and proves in truth the distinctions between all the virtues; but this does not lie wholly in our power. For, even if we always had this light within our souls, it is God Who makes it to be silent and to speak, and He may show it and hide it, give it and take it away, in any time and place; for this light is His. And He therefore works in this light when He wills, and where He wills, and for whom He wills, and what He wills. These men have no need of revelations, neither of being caught up above the senses; for their life, and dwelling-place, their way, and their being, are in the spirit, above the senses and above sensibility. And there God shows to such men what is His good pleasure, and what is needful for them or for other men. Nevertheless God could, were such His will, deprive such men of their outward senses, and show them from within unknown similitudes and future things in many ways.

Now Christ wills that this man go out and walk in this light, in the way of this light. Therefore this enlightened man shall go out and shall mark his state and his life from within and from without, and see whether he is perfectly like unto Christ, according to His manhood and according to His Godhead. For we have been created in the image and after the likeness of God. And he shall raise his enlightened eyes, by means of the illuminated reason, to the intelligible Truth, and mark and behold in a creaturely way the most high Nature of God and the fathomless attributes which are in God: for to a fathomless Nature belong fathomless virtues and activities.

The most high Nature of the Godhead may thus be perceived and beheld: how it is Simplicity and Onefoldness, inaccessible Height and bottomless Depth, incomprehensible Breadth and eternal Length, a dark Silence, a wild Desert, the Rest of all saints in the Unity, and a common Fruition of Himself and of all saints in Eternity. And many other marvels may be seen in the abysmal Sea of the Godhead; and though, because of the grossness of the senses to which they must be shown from without, we must use sensible images, yet, in truth, these things are perceived and beheld from within, as an abysmal and unconditioned Good. But if they must be shown from without, it must be done by means of diverse similitudes and images, according to the enlightenment of the reason of him who shapes and shows them.

The enlightened man shall also mark and behold the attributes of the Father in the Godhead: how He is omnipotent Power and Might, Creator, Mover, Preserver, Beginning and End, the Origin and Being of all creatures. This the rill of grace shows to the enlightened reason in its radiance. It also shows the attributes of the Eternal Word: abysmal Wisdom and Truth, Pattern of all creatures and all life, Eternal and unchanging Rule, Seeing all things and Seeing Through all things, none of which is hidden from Him; Transillumination and Enlightenment of all saints in heaven and on earth, according to the merits of each. And even as this rill of radiance shows the distinctions between many things, so it also shows to the enlightened reason the attributes of the Holy Ghost: incomprehensible Love and Generosity, Compassion and Mercy, infinite Faithfulness and Benevolence, inconceivable Greatness, outpouring Richness, a limitless Goodness drenching through all heavenly spirits with delight, a Flame of Fire which burns all things together in the Unity, a flowing Fountain, rich in all savours, according to the desire of each; the Preparation of all saints for their eternal bliss and their entrance therein, an Embrace and Penetration of the Father, the Son, and all saints in fruitive Unity.

All this is observed and beheld without differentiation or division in the simple Nature of the Godhead. And according to our perception these attributes abide as Persons do, in manifold distinctions. For between might and goodness, between generosity and truth, there are, according to our perception great differences. Nevertheless all these are found in oneness and undifferentiation in the most high Nature of the Godhead. But the relations which make the personal attributes remain in eternal distinction.

For the Father begets distinction. For the Father incessantly begets his Son, and Himself is unbegotten; and the Son is begotten, and cannot beget; and thus throughout eternity the Father has a Son, and the Son a Father. And these are the relations of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Father. And the Father and the Son breathe forth one Spirit, Who is Their common Will or Love. And this Spirit begets not, nor is He begotten; but must eternally pour forth, being breathed forth from both the Father and the Son. And these three Persons are one God and one Spirit. And all the attributes with the works which flow forth from them are common to all the Persons, for They work by virtue of Their Onefold Nature.[52]

The incomprehensible richness and loftiness of the Divine Nature, its outpouring generosity toward all in common, fills a man with wonder. And, above all, he wonders at the universality of God and His outpouring upon all things. For he beholds the incomprehensible Essence as a common fruition of God and all saints. And he sees the Divine Persons as a common outpouring and a common activity in grace and in glory, in nature and above nature, in all places and at all times, in saints and in men, in heaven and on earth, in all creatures, rational, irrational, and material, according to the merits, the need, and the receptivity of each.

And he beholds heaven and earth, sun and moon, the four elements, together with all creatures, and the course of the heavens, created for all in common. God, with all His gifts, is common to all: the angels are common: the soul is common to all its powers, to the whole body, to all its members, yet in each member is entire; for the soul cannot be divided, save by the reason. For though, according to the reason, the highest powers and the lowest, the spirit and the soul, are certainly divided; yet, in nature, they are one. So too God is whole and special to each, and yet common to all creation; for by Him all things are; within Him and upon Him, heaven and earth and all nature depend.

When a man thus considers the wonderful wealth and loftiness of the Divine Nature, and all the multiplicity of gifts which He gives and offers to His creatures, then there grows up within him a wonder at such manifold richness, at such loftiness, and at the immeasurable faithfulness of God to His creatures. And thence springs a particular inward gladness of the spirit, and a high trust in God, and this inward gladness envelops and drenches all the powers of the soul and the most inward part of the spirit.

38. The Third Rill establishes the Will to every Perfection

From this gladness and the fulness of grace and the faithfulness of God, there is born and flows forth the third rill in this same unity of the spirit. This rill, like a fire, enkindles the will, and swallows up and consumes everything into unity. And it fills to the brim and flows through all the powers of the soul, with rich gifts and with a singular nobility: and it calls forth in the will a tender spiritual love without effort.

Now Christ says inwardly within the spirit by means of this burning brook: Go ye out by practices in conformity with these gifts and with this coming. By the first rill, which is a simple light, the memory has been lifted above sensible images, and has been grounded and established in the unity of the spirit. By the second rill, which is an inflowing light, understanding and reason have been enlightened, to know the diverse ways of virtue and of practice, and discern the mysteries of the Scriptures. By the third rill, which is an inpouring heat, the supreme will has been enkindled in tranquil love, and has been endowed with great riches. Thus has this man become spiritually enlightened; for the grace of God dwells like a fountainhead in the unity of his spirit; and its rills cause in the powers an outflowing with all the virtues. And the fountainhead of grace ever demands a flowing-back into the same source from whence the flood proceeds.

39. Showing how the Established Man shall go out in Four Ways

Now the man who is established in the bonds of love shall dwell in the unity of the spirit; and he shall go out with enlightened reason and with overflowing love in heaven and on earth; and he shall mark all things with clear discernment; and he shall dispense and distribute all things, out of true generosity, and because of his richness in God.

In four ways this enlightened man is invited and urged to go out. The first going out shall be towards God and towards all saints; the second going out shall be towards sinners and towards all perverted men; the third going out shall be towards purgatory; and the fourth, towards himself and towards all good men

40. He shall go out towards God and towards all Saints

Now understand this: this man shall go out and observe God in His glory with all saints. And he shall behold the rich and generous outflowing of God, with glory, and with Himself, and with inconceivable delights towards all the saints, according to the longing of all spirits; and how these flow back, with themselves, and with all that they have received and can achieve, towards that same rich Oneness from which all bliss comes forth.

This flowing forth of God always demands a flowing back; for God is a Sea that ebbs and flows, pouring without ceasing into all His beloved according to the need and the merits of each, and ebbing back again with all those who have been thus endowed both in heaven and on earth, with all that they have and all that they can. And of some He demands more than they are able to bring, for He shows Himself so rich and so generous and so boundlessly good: and in showing Himself thus He demands love and adoration according to His worth. For God wishes to be loved by us according to the measure of His nobility, and in this all spirits fail; and therefore their love becomes wayless and without manner, for they know not how they may fulfil it, nor how they may come to it.

For the love of all spirits is measured: and for this reason their love perpetually begins anew, so that God may be loved according to His demand and to the spirit's own desires. And this is why all blessed spirits perpetually gather themselves together and form a burning flame of love, that they may fulfil this work, and that God may be loved according to His nobility. Reason shows clearly that to creatures this is impossible; but love always wills the fulfilment of love, or else will be consumed, burned up, annihilated in its own failure. Yet God is never loved according to His worth by any creatures. And to the enlightened reason this is a great delight and satisfaction: that its God and its Beloved is so high and so rich that He transcends all created powers, and can be loved according to His merits by none save Himself.

This rich and enlightened man shall distribute gifts to all the angelic choirs, and all spirits, each in particular according to its merits, out of the richness of his God and out of the generosity of his own ground; which is illuminated and overflowing with great and wonderful gifts. He passes through all choirs, through all hierarchies and orders, and beholds how God dwells in all according to the merit of each. This enlightened man goes swiftly and in ghostly wise round and through all the heavenly hosts, rich and overflowing with charity, and enriching and inundating the whole celestial company with fresh glory out of the Richness and Abundance of the Trinity and Unity of the Divine Nature.

This is the first going out, towards God and towards all saints.

52. This wonderful description of the attributes of God contains many reminiscences of mystical writers, from St Paul onwards: especially St Augustine, Dionysius, St Bernard, and Meister Eckhart. Cf. St Augustine, Confessions, bk. 1. caps. 3 and 4, Dionysius the Areopagite, Divine Names, caps. 1 and 7, and Celestial Hierarchy, cap. 7, St. Bernard, de consideratione, bk. v. cap. 8, Meister Eckhart, Predichten. There are striking parallels to this and other similar passages in Ruysbroeck in the Book of Truth of his contemporary Suso.