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HOW PERFECT LOVE IS GOTTEN BY CLEANNESS AND LOVE: AND OF IMPERFECT LOVE AND FAIRNESS, AND OF THREE MIGHTS OF GOD’S LOVE: AND OF THE RICH AND POOR: AND OF ALMS
From cleanness of conscience and plenteousness of ghostly gladness and inward mirth, rises the song of joy and the burning of endless love in a mind loving truly. No marvel that loving in this manner, love has been perfectly had, great in desire, with a moving altogether dressed to God, and by no letting removed from His love; withouten strife of vain thoughts, constantly cleaving to Christ; in Jesu ever joying; from Him never distracted; with ill never moved; whom dead flies never deceive or cast down from the sweetness of the ointment.
The world, the flesh, and the devil have none effect upon him, although they prick him; but he treads them under his feet, setting their strength at nought. Withouten seething he boils; he loves with great desire; he sings with sweetness; he shines with heat; he is delighted in God without gainstanding; he contemplates with unbroken upgoing. He vanquishes all things; he overcomes all things; of all the things that he likes nothing seems to him impossible. Truly whiles any man is busy to love Christ with all his strength he feels in himself, forsooth, great sweetness of eternal life.
We are turned truly to Christ if we strive to love Him with our whole mind. Certain, so marvellous a Thing is God and so liking to see, that I wonder that any man can be so mad and go out of the way that he should take no heed to the sight of Him in his soul. Truly not he that does great and many things is great; but he that loves God mickle is great, and loved of God.
Philosophers forsooth have travailed mickle, and yet without fruit they have vanished. And many that seemed Christians have done great things and showed forth marvels, and yet they were not worthy to be saved; for the plenteousness of the heavenly crown is not for the doers, but for the lovers of God.
Lord Jesu, I ask Thee, give unto me movement in Thy love withouten measure; desire withouten limit; longing withouten order; burning without discretion. Truly the better the love of Thee is, the greedier it is; for neither by reason is it restrained, nor by dread distressed, nor by doom tempted. No man shall ever be more blest than he that for greatness of love can die. No creature truly can love too mickle. In all other things all that is too mickle turns to vice, but the more the strength of love surpasses the more glorious it shall be. The lover truly languishes if he has not by him the likeness of that he loves. Therefore it is said: Nunciate dilecto quia amore langueo, that is to say: ‘Show to my love that I languish for love.’ As who should say: ‘Because I see not that I love, for love I wax slow also in body.’
Forsooth turned to Christ with all my heart, I am tied first by true penance, and so forsaking all things that long to vanity, after the taste of ghostly sweetness, I shall be ravished to sing in songful and godly praise. Whereof I say: Ego cantabo dilecto meo; and in the psalm: In te cantatio mea semper. That is to say: ‘To my love I shall sing’; and in the psalm: ‘In thee is ever my song.’ No marvel that they therefore that thus have lived in God’s love, and sweetly have burned in inward flagrance withouten dread, in death shall pass from this light, but truly with joy; and after death ascend to the heavenly kingdoms.
Therefore it is said of the flame of God’s love that it takes the mind to wound it. ‘I am wounded by charity, and I am made to languish for my love’; whereof it is said, Amore langueo, ‘for love I languish’; and to moisten it, that it so goes out towards the Beloved that it forgets the self and other things besides Christ. Therefore he says: Pone me ut signaculum super cor tuum; that is to say: ‘As a token set me on Thy heart.’
What is love but the transforming of desire into the thing loved? Or love is great desire for the fair, the good, and lovely, with continuance of thought going in to that thing that it loves, the which, when it has, then it joys; for joy is not caused save by love. All those loving are truly made like to their love, and love makes him that loves like to that that is loved.
Truly neither God nor other creature disdains or forsakes to be loved, but gladly all things say they would be loved, and are gladdened by love. They are not heavy truly in loving unless they have loved an unkind thing; or if they trow they can not have that thing they have lovingly sought. This is never so in the love of God, but ofttimes this happens in the love of the world or of woman.
I dare not say that all love is good, for that love that is more delighted in creatures than in the Maker of all things, and sets the lust of earthly beauty before ghostly fairness, is ill and to be hated; for it turns from eternal love and turns to temporal that can not last. Yet peradventure it shall be the less punished; for it desires and joys more in love and be loved than to defile or be defiled. The fairer a creature is, the more lovable it is in the sight of all. Therefore some were wont busily to get health from a shapely form rather than from a despised, which has many occasions of bringing in ill. And nature teaches the fairer the thing, the more sweetly to be loved. Nevertheless ordinate charity says the greater the good, the more it is to be loved; for ilk fleshly beauty is as hay, lightly vanishing, but godliness truly hides; and ofttimes God chooses the sick and despised of the world, and forsakes the strong and fair. Wherefore it is said in the psalm: Tradidit in captivitatem virtutem eorum, et pulcritudinem eorum in manus inimici; that is to say: ‘Their strength has he given to bondage, and their fairness into the hands of their enemies.’ And in another place: Habens fiduciam in pulcritudine tua, fornicata es; that is in English: ‘Having trust in thy fairness, thou hast done fornication.’
It is of love also to melt the mind; as it is written: Anima mea liquefacta est, ut dilectus locutus est; that is to say: ‘My soul was molten as my Love spake.’ Truly sweet and devout love melts the heart in God’s sweetness, so that the will of man is made one with the will of God in wonderful friendship. In which onehood such sweetness of liking heat and song is inshed into a loving soul, how great the feeler cannot tell.
Love forsooth has strength in spreading, in knitting, and turning. In spreading, truly: for it spreads the beams of its goodness not only to friends and neighbours, but also to enemies and strangers. In knitting truly: for it makes lovers one in deed and will; and Christ and every holy soul it makes one. He truly that draws to God is one spirit, not in nature but in grace, and in onehood of will. Love has also a turning strength, for it turns the loving into the loved, and ingrafts him. Wherefore the heart that truly receives the fire of the Holy Ghost is burned all wholly and turns as it were into fire; and it leads it into that form that is likest to God. Else had it not been said: Ego dixi dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes; that is to say: ‘I have said ye are gods, and are all the children of the high God.’
Forsooth some men have so loved each other that they nearly trowed there were but one soul in them both. Truly the man poor in worldly goods, though he is rich in mind, is far from such love. It were marvel truly if he that behoves ever to take and seldom or never can give, had a friend in the which he might trust in all things. By others, therefore, trowed unworthy of true love, he has a steadfast friend, Christ; and of Him he can faithfully ask whatsoever he will. Truly where man’s help fails, without doubt God’s is near.
Nevertheless it were more profitable to the rich if he chose a holy poor man to his special friend, with whom he would share in common and gladly give him all that he had, yea more than the poor wills, and love him affectionately as his best and kindest friend. Therefore Christ said unto the rich, ‘Make you friends,’ meaning, forsooth, the holy poor who are God’s friends; and gladly God gives to the true lovers of such poor, for their love, the joys of Paradise. Soothly I trow that such rich should be well pleased with their friendship! But the verse now is true that saith: Pontus erit siccus cum pauper habebit amicum; ‘The sea shall be dry when a poor man has a friend.’
Some rich soothly I have found giving as they thought their meat to the holy poor, who would not give clothing or other necessaries, trowing it were enough if they gave but meat; and so they make themselves half friends, or in part; caring no more for the friendship of the good poor than of the evil poor. And all things of any price that might be given, they save for themselves and their children. And so the holy poor are holden no more to them but as they are to others of their good-doers, that give them clothes or other goods. And yet, what is worse, the poor seem a full great burden to the rich.
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