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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER X

THAT GOD’S LOVE IS TO BE MINGLED WITH ILK TIME AND DEED NOR FAILS NOT FOR WEAL OR WOE, AND OF THE WORTHINESS AND THE GAINING THEREOF: AND OF TEARS TURNED TO SONG

Love of the Godhead that perfectly thirls a man, and truly enflames with fire of the Holy Ghost, takes the soul to itself with marvellous gladness and from memory of so great love allows her not to wander for a moment. It binds the mind of the lover, so that it may not turn to vain things; and he continually goes after his Love.

We can forsooth if we be true lovers of our Lord Jesu Christ, think upon Him when we walk, and hold fast the song of His love whiles we sit in fellowship; and we may have mind of Him at the broad and also in tasting of meat and drink. At every morsel of meat and draught of drink we ought to praise God, and in time of our meat taking and the space betwixt morsels to yield Him praising with honey sweetness and a mental cry, and to yearn with desire while at meat. And if we be in labour of our hands what lets us to lift our hearts to heaven and without ceasing to hold the thought of endless love? And so in all time of our life, being quick and not slow, nothing but sleep shall put our hearts from Him.

O what joy and gladness glides into the love? O with how happy and truly desireable sweetness it fulfills his soul? Love certain is life without end, abiding where it is set and made firm in Christ. When this love after loving desire is rooted in the heaven, neither prosperity nor adversity may change it, as the wisest men have written. Then no marvel it shall turn the night to day, darkness to light, heaviness to melody, noy to solace, and labour to sweet rest.

This love truly is not of imagination or feigned, but true and perfect, and given to Christ without parting, yielding angel’s song with melody to Jesu. And forsooth if thou love in this manner as I have said, full glorious shalt thou be—with the best and worthiest in the Kingdom of God—near to that quickening light. Meantime all the impugnations of the fiend’s movings that arise from fleshly friendship and the coveting of worldly things thou shalt well overcome in the heat of love and virtue of prayer. Thou shalt also overcome the likings of fairness; showing that thou wilt not be defiled once on account of all things that can be thought. With that also thou shalt be filled with ghostly food, and the delight of endless love; so thou shalt know the sign in sickerness and as it were in very knowledge, that thou art the lover of the Everlasting King.

Nevertheless this happens to no man unless either God says it to him, or that in this life he feels a great part of the meed to come biding in him. But whereto do I speak of them with the others, which although they be chosen have not yet tasted this holy lectuary? Sometimes I marvel at myself that I have spoken of the excellence of God’s lovers, as who should say, whoever wills might come to it. And yet it is not for ilk runner nor willer, but of the lover, lifter up, and taker of Christ. The smallness of my mind certain knows not how to open that which as a blabberer, I am busy to show. Yet I am compelled to say somewhat, although it be unable to be spoken, that hearers or readers may study to follow it; finding that all love of the fairest and loveliest worldly thing, in comparison to God’s love, is sorrow and wretchedness.

Therefore consider and know well with your understanding that our Lord makes His lover marvellous and raises him on high and suffers him not to be cast down with unworthy love of vain hope, but keeps him stably in Himself for the sweetest love. Love truly is continual thought with great desire for the fair, the good and lovely: for if the thing I love be fair and not good, I show myself unworthy to love it, if it be good it is to be loved. Truly love of the creature, though it be good and fair, is forbidden to me, so that I should offer and keep all my love for the Well of goodness and fairness, that He that is my God and my Jesu be my Love. He only has fairness and goodness of Himself, and He is the same fairhead and goodness. Other things, whatever they be, are neither fair nor good but of Him, and the nearer to Him the fairer and better they are. Therefore He is most worthily loved that in Himself contains all things that are worthy to be loved and to be sought of a lover, wherefore He withholds nothing on His part save that He might be loved most burningly. Truly if I love aught else my conscience bites me that I love not right. I dread that that I love loves me not again; and yet if I dread not on this account I should be fearful on account of death that departs ill lovers and wastes all their vanity.

Ofttimes also other noys happen that disturb the gayness and sweetness of lovers; but he that truly loves God with all his heart is so much the clearer in his conscience as he knows himself the more burning in the love of God. Therefore he knows his loveliest Love from whose sweetness death departs not, but when he passes from this world then he finds his Love perfectly, and to Him most sickerly is joined, so that never after shall he be put from Him, but busily he runs in merriest halsing and, openly seeing Him he has loved and coveted, shall be glorified without end.

This love I liken to fire unslakened, the which no power of enemies can cast down, no softness of flattery can overcome. This love cleanses us from our sins, and burns in unmeasured heat the obstacles that might let to love, and in the hottest flame of God’s love makes us clearer than gold and brighter than the sun. This love brings us ghostly medicine; and I suppose there is no thing among all others that can be numbered by clerks that may succour us so mickle and cleanse us and from all dregs of wickedness clear us, as fervent love of the Godhead and continual thought of our Maker. Tears are wont to wash us from defaults and heaviness of hearts puts by damnation, but burning love passes all other things more than can be thought, and makes man’s soul shine most excellently. Therefore before all things that we can do it gets the heart of the Everlasting King, and is worthy to be contemplated in joyful song.

I say not greeting is unprofitable, nor sorrow of heart uncomely or not to be loved in this exile, and I marvel that any so highly ravished in song of love can not greet in his devotion or praying or meditation. Rather I say that the prayer and meditation of such a lover is turned into song and molten into melody of heavenly sweetness, so that he gives the sound of angels rather than of man; anointed by which honied heat he is taken not to heaviness but to joy and, his tears as it were wiped away, he is mirthed in the spring of endless and true joy.

Our doctors say: the perfect ought to weep, and the more perfect the more plenteous they should be of tears because of the wretchedness of this life and the delay of the heavenly life. To me certain a wonderful longing in God’s love was near, and noy of bodily greeting has ceased for the greatness of inward sweetness. He certain that is not burned with endless love needs to be purged with tears. Love is enough to chastise him that languishes in everlasting love; there is no wound greater and sweeter than of love. If such a one forsooth would weep he is not greatly suffered in privy devotion, in that the Holy Ghost uprising him, he is rapt in mind, and with angel’s sweetness he sings to God his praises and loving thoughts.

The seat of love is lift on high for into the heavens it runs, and on earth also methinks it subtly and craftily makes men, sometime lovely, wan and pale. It makes them to wither that afterward they may wax green, and to fail that they may be strong. Therefore he draws near to the rest of endless joy, and dreadless himself, mingles with those singing to his Maker; for the more burningly he loves the sweeter he sings and the more delicious he feels that that he strongly desired. And if the way seem sharp and long to them that love not, love nevertheless couples God to man, and with short labour fulfills the abiders.

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