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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER VI

OF DIVERS GIFTS OF GOD’S CHOSEN: AND HOW SAINTS COME TO LOVE IN PRAYING, MEDITATING, LOVING, SUFFERING, ADVERSITY AND HATING VICE, AND THAT LOVE COMES FROM GOD AND THAT HIS LOVE IS NECESSARY, AND THAT TRUE LOVERS FALL NOT BY TEMPTATIONS OF THE FLESH, AS OTHER IMPERFECT ONES: NOR ARE HURT BY THE DREGS OF SIN ALTHOUGH THEY LAST.

The chosen truly that are fulfilled with love, and take more heed in mind to loving than to aught else, have wonderfully shown to us the secrets of lovers the which, surpassing in fervour and supernaturally, have received the fire of love, and with a wonderful desire have yearned after their Beloved Jesu. Divers gifts truly are disposed to God’s lovers: some are chosen to do; some to teach; some to love. Nevertheless all the holy covet one thing and run to one life, but by divers paths: for everyone chosen goes to the kingdom of bliss by that way of virtue in the which he is most used. And if that virtue in which he surpasses more burningly draws him to the sweetness of God’s love, the which is supposed stronger in the most rest, truly when he shall come to God, he receives for meed that dwelling-place of heavenly joy and the seat that Christ has ordained to be had withouten end by the most perfect lovers.

The lover therefore says the glorious ditties of love he has made; and he that is surpassingly chosen to God’s love, first he cares and desires that his heart never depart from his Beloved; so that the memory of Jesu be to him as melody of music at a feast and is sweeter in his mouth than honey or the honeycomb. But the longer he exercises himself in ghostly study the sweeter to him it is. And then it withdraws his mind from vain and evil thoughts, and binds it to the desires of his Maker, and altogether gathers it into Christ and it is stabled in Him, the Well of love. So that he loves Him only, and he prays that he may be glad only in Him.

Now sweet affections come into his soul, and wonderful meditations favourable only to God, the which being tasted, and spread in this mind with intentness, affect her more than may be spoken; they lead with great liking and sweetness of spirit to the contemplation of heavenly things, and they cleanse from desire of worldly solace. So that God’s lover seeks nothing in this world but that he may be in the wilderness, and only takes heed to the likings of his Maker. Afterward truly strongly and well used in praying, and given to high rest in meditation, killing all wickedness and uncleanness, and taking a strait way with discretion, he greatly profits in the virtue of everlasting love. And his affection goes up on high, so that the entrance is opened, in the beholding of heavenly mysteries, to the eye of his mind. The burning also, which before he felt not, begins to kindle his soul, and whiles he is profitably occupied in that, now quicklier and now more slowly it warms—as this corruptible body suffers the soul that it heavies, and ofttimes with divers heaviness down casts. So that the same soul anointed with heavenly sweetness, and quickening with heavenly delight, cheers herself mickle to pass forth by good desire, and irks to dwell in this mortal flesh. Nevertheless she gladly suffers adversity that happens, for sweetly she rests in the joy of eternal love.

And all these things that happen can not destroy that joyful song that she had received, made glad in Jesu, nay but the fiend’s falsehoods fly away ineffectual; and the beguiling vanity of worldly honours goes in despite, nor is fleshly softness sought or loved. These things are armed against God’s chosen so that all they that have their conversation in heaven might together fall, unavised, to their overturning.

But it profits not to overcome them unless the holy Lover of God, in Christ’s Name, resolute and as it were without strife, being glad says: Tu autem susecptor menus es: ‘Lord, Thou art my taker,’ that the malicious prickings of my froward enemies make me not unrestful. Gloria mea: my Joy, for in Thee is all my joy. Not in my virtue, for it is not sent save from Thee. Worthily is all given to Thee, nothing to me. Et exaltans caput meum: ‘and my head,’ that is to say the highest part of my soul by the which the netherer, Thee favouring, is governed. Lifting her up to ghostly song and contemplation Thou sufferest her not to be cast down or bound into the low and foul likings of this world. This soothly is the head that in the oil of ghostly gladness Thou hast made fat, that it should increase in charity and be to me a Calix inebrians: that is to say a drink of inward sweetness inebriating my soul with love of my Maker. And sleepy shall I lie, verily turned from love of temporal things; and so as it wee with sweetness, feeling nothing of earthly mirth or heaviness, I shall be led to the everlasting cleanness.

Truly in this sweetness of high love the conscience shines. For cleanness lasts there, and the heart waxes likingly warm; and the mind, mirthed with gifts, waxes hot. Nor likes she to behold the pleasures of this exile, but she halses the bitterness of this world more gladly than the sweetness to follow; for enjoying the delights that fail not, she ceases not to cleave to the love of Jesu with such burning desire, that as soon and as lightly thou mightest turn the world upside down as call back her mind from her Saviour.

All things forsooth she hates that are contrary to God’s love; and she burns unweariedly to fulfill those things that she sees and knows are pleasing to God. This certain she would not leave for any pain or wretchedness, but would hie the quicklier to do God’s will if she should perceive any hard thing she might offer for that cause. Nor truly does she think or desire any other thing but to love Christ truly, and to do His will in everything without ceasing.

A mind that has received this burning will, in goodness from his Beloved, is made rich with devotion from God. Forsooth He chose her that she might be such a one that might abide Christ’s perfect lover; and be a choice vessel that shall be filled with the noblest liquor of the sweetness of heavenly life. And His name which is chosen out of thousands shall continue in everlasting remembrance, and be ever withheld within the self in thought. And then by God’s help she shall cast out all lettings to love and shall be glad in God. For the darts of our enemies shall not avail against such a lover, but she shall receive from her love sickerness of conscience, with untrowed cleanness of inward sweetness, and every hour shall yield up her spirit. For being in ghostly crying, she is friendlily cleansed every day by the burning of love, so that no filth of spiritual foulness may last. Whiles in continual thought she is with God, she casts out all wickedness that the malice of our enemy moves to; and the fire of love verily biding in her mind, it cleanses all the contagion of sin that is drawn out by an ungotten desire.

Truly the affection set in a great height is so sicker that it is alway ware of negligence and casts it away as a deadly enemy; and whiles it lives it leaves not busyness and dread. For the better a man is, and the more acceptable to God, the more he burns in charity, and the more he is stirred by the prickings of love to work more busily and strongly that that belongs to his degree and life. And he is alway busy that the memory of his sweetest Beloved slide not from his thought for a minute, that not only as a clothing but as deed he may have and think of Him whom he knows he is bidden to love with all his heart. And he greatly dreads lest he be drawn into these things that the least grieve Him. He certain not only busies him with all his heart to fulfill that—as he is bidden—to love Christ; but also he is taken with great delight, so that he never forgets his Beloved nor bowing to temporal liking will part himself from His love—if he might withouten pain do that he would. He is truly expert that ghostly liking is sweeter than bodily love; and therefore it were marvel if he should slip into so great wrongs; and if, forsaking ghostly cheerfulness, he would make ready to rejoice in this feigned and as it were false felicity; or overcome by fleshly beauty, would desire that which forsooth ilk holy lover of God hates.

No marvel that fleshly desire has beguiled some; and beauty shown to the sight has drawn away some wise and even devout men to unlawful halsing, because they were not perfectly grounded in charity, nor cleaved they alway to eternal love; wherefore haled by temptations, when they seemed to ascend, before they might come to height have fallen down.

But a true lover of everlasting doubtless holds himself stable among temptations, and in that strife he wins a crown, when others, unsteadfast, are slain. And Christ’s lovers cease not to cut away all obstacles, and they shed forth all their heart wholly before their Maker—and not as these that have not fastened their foot in love, and, cast down from the height of their endeavour, wax lean—but rather going on without change, stand stable in the well begun, and are nourished and brought forth in the sweetness of heavenly savour; that they may give light by example of holiness to them that are without, and within they may burn sweetly with the fire of love.

Errors also of fleshly desire they shall slay by the desire of cleanness; although no man in this life can fully slaken engendered concupiscence, or be so perfect that he may live in flesh and never sin. And so neither by this nor that shall a perfect man be here perfectly healed, but in heaven where the light of joy comforts his wits to behold God; and everlasting peace shall discomfit and cast out griefs and heaviness, that now no grief of corruption be, now when everlasting bliss confirms the discomforter.

In the meantime the mind is awakened and desires to be kindled by abiding love, and it studies to eschew the liking for these seen vanities. Truly the dregs of sin abide unto death, but they and the longing of nature perish in death. So that every chosen one, abling himself to love, and strengthened by high grace against these dregs, and armed with cleanness, should exercise himself in glorious battles, and should cast down all things that hostile lovers pursue.

Herefore sickerly whiles the fighting one overcomes and is not overcome he is lift up to a marvellous mirth in which all his inward members joy. For he feels himself inspired by a mystery of love, and he ascends on high in honeysweet heat and contemplates with ghostly song the sweet praise shed forth to the lovers—hastening to death and to nothingness at the movings of the fleshly affections.

Some add hereto: saying that a sweet thing sounds in his heart, and ghostly song, wherefore, thirsting, he is ravished and gladdened. But they have not expounded it so that I could understand how their thought was changed to song and melody abides in the mind; and in what manner of praising he sings his prayers.

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