"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."

St Augustine

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"Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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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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Blessed John of Rusybroeck   (1293-1381)

 

THE ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE (cont)

 

by Blessed John of Rusybroeck

 

THE SECOND BOOK

45. How Christ was, is, and ever will be the Lover of all


In order that we shall possess and desire this state of being common to all above the other conditions of which we have spoken (because this state is the highest of all) we shall take as a model Christ, Who was, and is, and eternally shall remain common to all; for He was sent down to earth for the common benefit of all men who would turn to Him.

Yet He Himself says that He is not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. These, however, are not only the Jews, but all those who shall see God in eternity. These belong to the house of Israel, and no one else; for the Jews despised the Gospel, and the Heathen entered and received it. And so all Israel, that is to say, all the eternally chosen, shall be saved.

Now mark how Christ gave Himself to all in perfect loyalty. His inward and sublime prayer flowed forth towards His Father, and it was a prayer for all in common who desired to be saved. Christ was common to all in love, in teaching, in tender consolation, in generous gifts, in merciful forgiveness. His soul and His body, His life and His death and His ministry were, and are, common to all. His sacraments and His gifts are common to all. Christ never took any food or drink, nor anything that His body needed, without intending by it the common good of all those who shall be saved, even unto the last day. Christ had nothing particular and of his own, but everything in common, body and soul, mother and disciples, cloak and tunic. He ate and He drank for our sake; He lived and He died for our sake. His pains and His sorrows and His miseries were of His own and for Him only; but the fruits and the profit which came forth from them are common to all. And the glory of His merits shall be common to all in eternity.
 

46. Reproving all those who live on Spiritual Goods in an Inordinate Manner


Now Christ left His treasure and His revenue here on earth. These are the seven sacraments and the outward goods of Holy Church, which He has gotten through His death, and which, therefore, should be in common. And His servants, who live thereon, should therefore be in common. All those who live on alms and are in the ecclesiastical state, should be in common at least in their prayers: and especially all religious who live in cloisters and in cells. In the beginning of Holy Church and of our Faith, popes, bishops, and priests, were all in common; for they went out and converted the folk, and established Holy Church and our Faith, and sealed them with their blood and with their death. These men were simple and onefold, and they had steadfast peace in the unity of the spirit. And they were enlightened with godly wisdom, rich and overflowing with faith and with love towards God and towards all men. But now, notwithstanding it is become wholly otherwise; for those who to-day possess the heritage and the revenue which were given to those others out of love and because of their holiness, are unstable of soul, and restless, and in multiplicity; for they have altogether turned towards the world, and do not thoroughly apprehend in their ground those things and that business which they have in hand. That is why they pray with their lips, but their heart does not savour the meaning, that is to say, it does not feel the secret wonder which is hidden in Scripture, and in the sacraments, and in their office. And therefore they are coarse and dull, and are not enlightened by the Divine truth, and they often seek food and drink and ease of body without moderation: would to God they were at least clean of fleshly sins! As long as they live thus, they shall never be enlightened; and whereas those others were generous, and overflowing with charity, and kept nothing for themselves, these are now greedy and avaricious, and deny themselves nothing. All this is contrary and unlike to the saints, and to that common way of which we have spoken. I speak of the general state of things: let each prove himself, and teach and reprove himself, if needs be; and, if not, let him rejoice and rest in peace in his clean conscience, and serve and praise God, for the good of himself and of all men, and for the glory of God.
 

47. Showing how Christ has given Himself to all in common in the Sacrament of the Altar


As I will specially praise and glorify this state of being in common, so I find another special treasure which Christ has left in Holy Church to all good men; in His supper upon the high feast of the Passover when Christ knew that He would pass from this exile to His father, after He had eaten of the Paschal Lamb with His disciples, and the ancient law had been fulfilled. At the end of the meal and of the feast, He desired to give to them a dish of singular excellence which He had long wished to do. And herewith He willed to make an end of the ancient law and begin the new. And He took bread in His holy and venerable hands, and consecrated His sacred Body, and after that His sacred Blood; and He gave them both to all His disciples, and left them to all good men in common for their eternal profit. This gift and this excellent dish rejoice and adorn all high festivals and all banquets, in heaven and on earth. In this gift Christ gives Himself to us in three ways. He gives us His Flesh and His Blood and His bodily life, glorified and full of joy and sweetness; He gives us His spirit with its highest powers, full of glory and gifts, truth and righteousness; and He gives us His personality through that Divine Light which raises His spirit and all enlightened spirits into the most high and fruitive unity.

Now Christ desires that we shall remember Him so often as we consecrate, offer, and receive His Body. Consider now how we shall remember Him. We shall mark and behold how Christ inclines Himself towards us with loving affection, with great desire, and with yearning delight, and with a warm and tender outpouring of Himself into our bodily nature. For He gives us that which He has in common with our manhood, that is, His Flesh and His Blood, and His bodily nature. We shall also mark and behold that precious body martyred, pierced and wounded for our sake, because of His love and His faithfulness towards us. Herewith we are adorned and nourished in the lower part of our manhood. In this most high gift of the Sacrament He also gives us His spirit, full of glory and rich gifts of virtue, and unspeakable marvels of charity and nobleness. And herewith we are nourished and adorned and enlightened in the unity of our spirit and in the higher powers, through the indwelling of Christ with all His riches. Moreover He gives us in the Sacrament of the Altar His most high personality in incomprehensible splendour. And through this we are lifted up to and united with the Father, and the Father receives His adopted sons together with His natural Son, and thus we enter into our inheritance of the Godhead in eternal blessedness.

When a man has worthily recollected and considered these things, then he shall go out to meet Christ in the same way in which Christ comes to him. He shall lift himself up to receive Christ with his heart, with his desire, with sensible love, with all his powers, and with a joyful craving. For even thus does Christ receive Himself. And this craving cannot be too great; for then our nature receives its own nature, that is, the glorified manhood of Christ, full of joy and worth. Therefore I would that a man, in thus receiving, should melt and flow forth in desire, in joy, and in delight: for he embraces and is united with Him who is the fairest, the most gracious and most lovable of all the children of men. In this yearning devotion, and in these delights, many a great benefit has been bestowed upon men, and many a secret and hidden wonder of the rich treasures of God has been revealed and disclosed to them. When a man, in thus receiving, bethinks himself of the martyrdom and the sufferings of this precious Body of Christ, which he receives, then he may sometimes rise into such loving devotion and such sensible compassion that he desires to be nailed with Christ to the cross, and longs to shed his heart's blood for the glory of Christ. And he presses into the wounds and into the open heart of Christ, his Saviour. In this exercise many a revelation and many a benefit have often been bestowed upon men.

This sensible love and compassion, and the power of the imagination united with the inward contemplation of the wounds of Christ, may be so great, that the man thinks that he feels the wounds and the bruises of Christ in his own heart and in all his limbs. And if any man could indeed in any way receive the stigmata of our Lord, it would be such a man as this. And herewith we satisfy Christ as regards the lower part of His manhood.

We shall also dwell in the unity of our spirit and should flow forth with an ample love in heaven and on earth, with clear discernment. And by this we bear some resemblance to Christ as regards the spirit, and give Him satisfaction.

We shall also, through the personality of Christ, with simplicity of intention and with fruitive love, transcend ourselves, and also the created being of Christ, and rest in our inheritance, that is, in the Divine Being in eternity. This Christ always desires to give us in ghostly wise, whenever we so exercise ourselves and make ourselves in readiness for Him. And He desires that we shall receive Him both in a sacramental and a spiritual way, as is meet and right and as reason demands. Though a man may not always have such feelings and such desires, if he intend the praise of God and His glory, and the increase of his own being and blessedness, he may go freely to the table of the Lord, if his conscience be clean from mortal sin.

 

48. Of the Unity of the Divine Nature in the Trinity of the Persons


The most high and superessential Unity of the Divine Nature, where the Father and the Son possess Their nature in the unity of the Holy Ghost—above the comprehension and understanding of all our powers, in the naked being of our spirit—is a supernal stillness, wherein God broods above all creatures in the created light. This most high Unity of the Divine Nature is living and fruitful; for, out of this same Unity, the Eternal Word is incessantly born of the Father. And, through this birth, the Father knows the Son; and, in the Son, all things. And the Son knows the Father; and all things in the Father. For they are one Simple Nature. From this mutual contemplation of the Father and the Son, in the eternal radiance, there flow forth an eternal content[53] and a fathomless love, and that is the Holy Ghost. And through the Holy Ghost, and through the Eternal Wisdom, God inclines Himself towards each creature in particular, and lovingly endows and enkindles each one, according to its worth and the state into which it has been put and to which it has been destined by its virtues and by the Eternal Providence of God. And thereby all good spirits, in heaven and on earth, are moved to virtue and righteousness.


 
 
   
 
53. The Flemish "welbehagen" is perhaps more accurately translated "well-being," "comfort" or "good pleasure." Cf. The Book of Truth, cap. 10. The idea intended is the complete and blissful self-comprehension and self-satisfaction of the Divine Essence; the "perfect round" which is enringed in love. So Dante—

"O luce eterna, che sola in te sidi,
sola t'intendi, e, da te intelletta
ed intendente te, ami ed arridi!"

(Par. xxxiii. 124.)