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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER XXII

THE BURNING OF LOVE PURGES VICES AND SINS: AND OF THE TOKENS OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

The burning of love truly taken into a soul purges all vices; it voids both too mickle and too little, and plants the beauty of all virtues. It never stands with deadly sin, and if it do with venial yet nevertheless the moving and desire of love in God can be so burning that they waste all venial sins, without also thinking in deed of these same venial sins: for whilst the true lover is borne to God with strong and fervent desire, all things displease him that withdraw him from the sight of God. Truly whiles he is gladdened by songly joy, his heart may not express what he feels of heavenly things, and therefore he languishes for love.

Perfect men also never bear what may be burned to the life to come, for in the heat of Christ’s love all their sins are wasted. But lest any man ween himself perfect in vain when he is not, let him hear when a man has perfection in himself.

This truly is the life of the Perfect: to cast away all charge of worldly errands; to forsake father and mother and all thy goods for Christ; to despise all passing goods, for endless life; to destroy worldly desires with long labour; as far as it is possible to refrain from lechery and all unlawful movings; to burn only in the love of our Maker; after bitter sorrows and surpassing busyness in ghostly works, to feel the sweetness of heavenly contemplation: and so, I speak of men privileged, for the joy of God’s love, to be taken by contemplation into ghostly song or heavenly sound, and to bide sweetly in inward rest, all disturbances being put aback, in so mickle that whiles it is lawful to the man of God to work nothing outward, he is taken within to sing the sweetness of eternal love in songs of delight and unmeasured mirth. Thus, no marvel that he shall have sweetness in mind such as the angels have in heaven; although not so mickle.

Soothly in this wise is man made perfect; and he shall not need to be purged with fire after this life, who, being in the flesh, burns burningly with the fire of the Holy Ghost. And yet this perfect love makes not a man ay not to sin, but that sin lasts not in him but is wasted forthwith by the fire of love.

Truly such a lover of Jesus Christ says not his prayers like other righteous men, for, set in righteous mind, and ravished above himself by the love of Christ, he is taken into marvellous mirth, and a goodly sound is shed into him, so that he as it were sings his prayers with notes; also offering with his mouth melody that, though hidden from human sense, is full bright to God and to himself. Strength and ghostly virtue have now truly so mickle overcome in him heaviness of the flesh that he can be ay glad in Christ; whose heart, turned into fire of love, feels verily heavenly heat, so that he can scarcely with life bear the greatness of such burning love. But the goodness of God keeps him until the time ordained; the which gave it him that he so mickle, might love, and truly say, ‘I languish for love.’

As the Seraphim burned, he burns and loves; he signs and joys, he praises and grows warm; and the more pleasing he is, the hotter he burns in love. He not only dreads not death, but he is glad to die with the Apostle: Mihi, inquit, Christus vivere vita est, et mori gaudium, that is to say: ‘Christ to me is life; and to die great joy’; etc.

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