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CHAPTER III: An Entry or good Beginning of a Spiritual Journey, showing how a Soul should behave herself in intending and working that will come to this Reforming, by example of a Pilgrim going to Jerusalem
NEVERTHELESS, for that thou covetest to know some manner of working by which thou mayest the sooner attain to this reforming, I shall show thee, as well as I can, the shortest and readiest help that I know in this working. And how that may be I shall tell thee by an example of a good pilgrim in this wise. There was a man that would go to Jerusalem and because he knew not the way he came to another man, who he believed knew the way thither better, and asked him whether he might come to that city, who answered that he could not come thither without great pains and travail, for the way is long and perilous, and full of great thieves and robbers and many other hindrances there be that befall a man in his going, and also there be many several ways as it seemeth leading thitherward. And many men travelling thitherward are oftentimes killed or robbed, and so may not come to that place which they desire. Nevertheless, there is one way, the which whosoever taketh and holdeth to it, I will undertake (saith he) he shall come to that city of Jerusalem, and shall never lose his life, nor be slain, nor die by default, though he should oft be robbed and well beaten, and suffer much pain in the going, yet his life shall be safe. Then said the pilgrim, so I may have my life saved, and come to the place that I covet, I care not what mischief I suffer in going. And therefore, tell and advise me what you think necessary, and I promise you on a certainty that I will follow your counsel. That other man answered and said thus: Lo, I set thee in the right way; this is the way, and see that thou bear in mind that which I tell thee. Whatsoever thou seest, hearest, or feelest, that would stay or hinder thee in the way, stick not at it, willingly consent not to it, abide not with it, behold it not, like it not, fear it not, but still go forward holding on thy way, and ever think and say with thyself that thou fain wouldst be at Jerusalem for that thou covetest and that thou desirest; and nought else but that, and if men rob thee and spoil thee, beat thee, scorn thee, despise thee, do not thou strive against such their doings, if thou mean to have thy life safe, but be content with the harm thou receivest, and hold on thy way, as if all that were nothing, lest thou receive more harm. Also if men would seek to stay thee by telling tales, and feed thee with lies or conceits to draw thee to merriment, or to forsake or prolong thy pilgrimage, give them a deaf ear and answer them not again, and say naught else but that thou wouldst fain be at Jerusalem. And if men proffer thee gifts, and would make thee rich with worldly goods, listen not to them, but think ever on Jerusalem. And if thou wilt hold this course and do that which I have said, I will undertake for thy life, that thou shalt not be slain, but that thou shalt come to that place that thou desirest.
Now to apply this spiritually to our purpose: Jerusalem is, as much as to say, a sight of peace; and betokeneth contemplation in perfect love of God; for contemplation is nothing else but a sight of God, which is very peace. Then if thou covet to come to this blessed sight of very peace, and be a true pilgrim towards Jerusalem, though it be so that I was never there, nevertheless, as far forth as I can, I shall set thee in the way towards it.
The beginning of the high way, in which thou shalt go, is reforming in Faith, grounded humbly on the faith and on the laws of holy Church as I have said before, for trust assuredly, though you have sinned heretofore, if you be now reformed by the Sacrament of Penance, after the law of holy Church, that thou art in the right way. Now then, since thou art in the safe way, if thou wilt speed in thy going and make a good journey, it behoveth thee to hold these two things often in thy mind: humility and Love; and often say to thyself, I am nothing, I have nothing, I covet nothing, but one. Thou shalt have the meaning of these words in thine intent, and in the habit of thy soul perpetually, though thou have them not always expressly in thy thought (for that is not necessary). Humility saith, I am nothing, I have nothing; Love saith, I covet nothing, but one, and that is Jesus. These two stirrings well fastened, with the minding of Jesus, make good music in the harp of the soul, when they be cunningly struck upon with the finger of reason; for the lower thou smitest upon the one, the higher soundeth the other. The less thou feelest that thou art, or that thou hast of thyself, through Humility, the more thou covetest for to have of Jesus, through desire of love. I mean not only that Humility which a soul feeleth by the sight and sense of his own sin, for frailness and wretchedness of this life, or of the wretchedness of his neighbour; for though this kind of Humility be true and wholesome, nevertheless it is boisterous and fleshly in comparison of that other, not so clean, nor soft, nor lovely. I mean that Humility which a soul feeleth through grace, in the sight and beholding of the endless being, and the wonderful goodness of Jesus, and if thou canst not see it with thy spiritual eye, yet that thou believe it; for through this sight of his being, either in full faith or in feeling, thou shalt esteem thyself not only the most wretched creature that is, but also as nothing in the substance of thy soul, though thou hadst never done any sin. And this is lovely Humility; for in respect of Jesus (who is truly all) thou art just nothing, and so must thou think that thou hast just nothing, but art as a vessel that standeth ever empty, and as if nothing were therein, as of itself; for do thou never so many good deeds outward or inward, until thou have and feel that thou hast the love of Jesus, thou hast just nothing. For with that precious liquor only may thy soul be filled, and with none other. And forasmuch as that thing alone is so precious and noble, therefore whatever else thou hast, or what thou dost, hold and esteem it as nothing as to rest in, without the sight and the love of Jesus. Cast it all behind thee, and forget it, that thou mayest have this, which is the best of all. Just as a true pilgrim, going towards Jerusalem, leaveth behind him house and land, wife and children, and maketh himself poor and bare from all things that he hath, that he may go lightly without letting. Right so, if thou wilt be a spiritual pilgrim, thou shalt strip thyself naked of all that thou hast, that are either good deeds or bad, and cast them all behind thee, that thou be so poor in thy own feeling that there be nothing of thy own working that thou wilt restingly lean on; but ever desiring more grace and love, and ever seeking the spiritual presence of Jesus. And if thou dost thus, then shalt thou resolve in thy heart fully and wholly that thou wilt be at Jerusalem, and at no other place but there; that is, thou shalt purpose in thy heart wholly and fully that thou wilt nothing have but the love of Jesus and the spiritual sight of Him in such manner as He shall please to show Himself; for to that end only art thou made and redeemed, and He it is that is thy beginning and thy end, thy joy and thy bliss. And therefore whatsoever thou hast, be thou never so rich in other deeds spiritual or corporal (unless thou have this love that I speak of, and know and feel that thou hast it) hold and esteem that thou hast right nothing. Imprint this well in the desire of thy soul, and cleave fast thereto, and it shall save thee from all perils in thy going, that thou shalt never perish, and it shall save thee from the thieves and robbers which I call unclean spirits, that though they spoil thee and beat thee by divers temptations, thy life shall ever be safe; and in brief, if thou keep it, as I have said, thou shalt escape all perils and mischiefs, and come to the city of Jerusalem in a short time.
Now then, since thou art in the way, and knowest the name of the place, and whither thou tendest, begin therefore to go thy journey. Thy setting forth is naught else but spiritual working, and bodily also, when there is need, which thou shalt use according to discretion in this wise. What work soever it is that thou shalt do (according to thy degree, and the estate thou art in), corporally or spiritually, if it help and further this gracious desire that thou hast to love Jesus, and make it more whole, more easy, and more mighty to all virtues and to all goodness, that work I hold the best, be it preaching, be it meditating, reading, or working; and as long as that work strengtheneth most thy heart and thy will to the love of Jesus, and draweth thy affections and thy thoughts farthest off from worldly vanities, it is good to use it; and if so be that through use the savour or good taste thereof groweth less, and thou thinkest of some other work that savoureth more, and thou feelest more grace in that other, take the other, and leave that. For though thy desire and the yearning of thy heart to Jesus ought ever to be unchangeable, nevertheless thy spiritual works that thou art to use, in praying or thinking, for the feeding and nourishing thy desire, may be divers, and may well be changed, after that thou feelest thyself disposed through grace severally to apply thy heart to them; for it fareth with works and this desire as it doth with sticks and a fire, for the more sticks are laid to the fire, the greater is the fire. Right so, the more several spiritual works that a man hath in his design, to keep entire this desires the mightier and more burning shall his desire be to God.
And therefore consider wisely what work thou canst best do, and which most helpeth to keep whole this desire of Jesus (if so be thou be free, and not bound by any obligation), and that do. Bind not thyself to voluntary customs unchangeably, which may hinder the liberty of thy heart to correspond or answer the motion or invitation of Jesus, if His grace at any time should specially visit thee. And I shall tell thee what customs are ever good and necessary to be kept, that is, such as consist in the getting of virtues, and in hindering or resisting of sin, such customs should never be left; for thou shouldst ever be humble, patient, sober and chaste, if thou do as thou shouldst. But the customs of other things, if they hinder a better good, are good to be laid aside, giving place to that which would be better for us. As thus, if a man have a custom to say so many beads or prayers, or to meditate of such or such a subject, for so long a time, or to watch, or kneel thus long, or any other such bodily deed, these customs are to be left sometimes when reasonable cause requireth, or when more grace cometh otherwise, or in some other exercise.
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