How Love slayeth Covetousness, Lechery and Gluttony, and the fleshly delight and savour in all the five Bodily Senses, softly and easily, through a gracious beholding of Jesus
Love slayeth Covetousness.
COVETOUSNESS also is slain in a soul by the working of love, for it maketh the soul so covetous of spiritual good and so inflamed to heavenly riches that it setteth right nought by all earthly things. It hath no more joy in the having of a precious stone than a chalk-stone; no more love hath he in an hundred pounds than in a pound of lead. It setteth all things that must perish at one price; he heedeth no more the one than the other, as to his love; for he knows well that all these earthly things which worldly men set so great price by and love so dearly must pass away and turn to nothing, both the thing itself and the love of it. And therefore he worketh his thoughts betimes into that judgement and esteem of them which they must come to hereafter, and so accounteth them as nought. And when worldly lovers strive and fight and plead for earthly goods, who may first have them; the lover of Jesus striveth with no man, but keepeth himself in peace, and is well contented with that which he hath, and will strive for no more; for he thinketh that he needs no more of all the riches on earth than a scanty bodily sustenance for to sustain his bodily life withal, as long as it pleaseth God, and that he can easily have. And therefore would he have no more than he barely needeth for the time, that he may freely be discharged from the trouble of keeping and spending of it, and fully give his heart and his business about the seeking of Jesus for to find Him in cleanness of spirit; for that is all his covetousness; for why? -- only the clean in heart shall see Him.
Love slayeth Natural Affections.
Also, the fleshly love of father and mother and other worldly friends hangeth not upon him. It is even cut from his heart with the sword of spiritual love, so that he hath no more affection to father or mother, or to any worldly friend than he hath to another man, except he see or feel in them more grace or more virtue than in other men, or except that his father or mother hath the selfsame grace that some other men have. But if they be not so, then loveth he other men better than them, and that is charity. And thus doth God's love slay covetousness of the world, and bringeth into the soul poverty of spirit. And that doth love, not only in them that have right nought of worldly goods, but also in some creatures that are in great worldly state and have earthly riches to spend. Love slayeth in some of them covetousness so far forth that they have no more liking nor savour in having of them than of a straw. No, though it should so happen that they should lose them through default of those that should look after them, yet set they nought thereby. For why? -- the heart of God's lover is, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, taken so fully with the sight of the love of another thing, which is Jesus, and that is so precious and so worthy that it will receive no other love to rest in it that is contrary thereto.
Love slayeth Lechery.
And not only doth love this, but also it slayeth the liking of Lechery and all other bodily uncleanness, and bringeth into the soul true chastity, and turneth it into liking. For the soul feeleth so great delight in the sight of Jesus that it liketh for to be chaste, and it is no great difficulty to it to keep chastity, for therein is most ease and most rest.
How Love slayeth Gluttony.
And in the same manner the gift of love slayeth the lusts of Gluttony, and maketh the soul sober and temperate, and beareth it up so mightily that it cannot rest in the liking of meat and drink. But it taketh such meat and drink, whatever it be, as least hindereth or chargeth the bodily complexion, if it can easily come by it; nor for the love of itself, but for the love of God. On this wise the lover of God seeth well that he needeth to sustain his bodily life with meat and drink, as long as God will suffer them to continue together. Here, then, will be the discretion of the lover of Jesus, as far as I understand that hath feeling and working in love, that in what manner he may best keep his grace whole, and be least letted from working in it through taking of bodily sustenance, so shall he do. That kind of meat, which least letteth and least troubleth the heart, and may keep the body in strength, be it flesh, be it fish, be it bread and ale, that I suppose the soul chooseth for to have, if it can come thereby. For the whole business of the soul is to think on Jesus with reverent love, constantly, without letting of anything, if that it might. And therefore since it must needs be letted somewhat and hindered the less it is letted and hindered by meat or drink or any other thing the better it is. It had rather use the best meat and most costly if it less hinder the keeping of his heart, than to take only bread and water, if that hinder him more; for he hath no regard for to get great merit by the pain of fasting, and be put thereby from softness and quietness of heart, but all his business is for to keep his heart as stably as he can in the sight of Jesus and in the feeling of His love. And surely I am of the opinion that he may with less lust and liking use the best meat, that is good in its kind, than another man that worketh all by reason without the special gift of love can use the worst. Ever excepting such meat as is dressed with art and curiosity only for lust, for such manner of meat cannot at all accord with him. And also on the other side, if little meat, as only bread and beer, most helpeth and quieteth his heart, and keepeth it most in peace, that is most acceptable to him for to use; and, namely, if he feel his bodily strength sustained thereby, and have the gift of love withal.
Love slayeth Sloth and Idleness.
And yet doth love more, for it slayeth sloth and fleshly idleness, and maketh the soul to be occupied in goodness, and, namely, inwardly in beholding of him, by virtue whereof the soul hath savour and spiritual delight in praying, in meditating, and in all manner of doing that belongeth to him to do according to the state he is in, without heaviness or painful bitterness, whether he be religious or secular.
Love slayeth the Delight of the Five Senses.
Also, it slayeth the vain likings of the five bodily senses. As first of the sight of the eyes, so that the soul hath no liking in the sight of any worldly thing, but feeleth rather pain and disease in beholding of it, be it never so fair, never so precious, never so wonderful. And, therefore, as worldly lovers run out sometimes for to see new things, for to wonder at them, and so for to feed their hearts with the vain sight of them; right so a lover of Jesus is busy for to run away, and withdraw himself from the sight of such manner of things, that the inner sight be not letted; for he spiritually seeth another manner of thing, which is fairer and more wonderful, and that would he not forbear.
Right on the self-same wise is it of speaking and hearing. It is a pain to the soul of a lover of Jesus for to speak or hear anything that might let the freedom of his heart from thinking on Jesus, whatever song, or melody, or music271 outward it be, if it hinder the thought that it cannot freely and restfully pray, or think on him, it liketh him right nought. And the more delectable it is to other men, the more unsavoury it is to him. And also to hear any manner of speaking of other men, unless it be somewhat touching the working of his soul into the love of Jesus, it liketh him right nought, he is right soon weary of it. He had rather be in peace, and hear right nought, nay speak right nought, than for to hear the speaking and the teaching of the greatest Clerk on earth, with all the reasons that he can say to him by human wit, except he can speak feelingly and stirringly of the love of Jesus; for there lies his skill272 principally. And therefore would not he speak of anything else, nor hear, nor see anything, but what might help him, and further him into more knowledge, and to better feeling of Him.
Of worldly speech it is no doubt that he hath no savour in speaking, nor in hearing of it, nor in worldly tales, nor tidings, nor in any such vain jangling that belongeth not to Him. And the same is of smelling and tasting. The more the thoughts are distracted and broken from spiritual rest by the use either of smelling, or tasting, or of any of the senses, the more he avoideth it. The less that he feeleth of them, the better273 he is. And if he could live in the body without the feeling of any of them he would never feel them, for they trouble the heart oft-times, and put it from rest; but they cannot fully be eschewed. Nevertheless the love of Jesus is sometimes so mighty in a soul, that it overcometh and slayeth all that is contrary thereto for a time.
What virtues and Graces a Soul receiveth through opening of the inner eye into the gracious Beholding of Jesus, and how it cannot be gotten only by Man's Labour, but through special Grace and his own Labour also
THUS worketh love in a soul, opening the ghostly eye into the beholding of Jesus by inspiration of special grace, and maketh it pure, subtle and able to the work of Contemplation. What this opening of the spiritual eye is the greatest scholar on earth cannot imagine by his wit nor show fully by his tongue; for it cannot be gotten by study, nor by man's industry alone, but principally by grace of the Holy Ghost, and with human industry. I am afraid to speak anything of it, for methinketh that I cannot, it passeth my attempt,274 and my lips are unclean. Nevertheless, because it seems to me that love asketh, yea, love biddeth that I should, therefore shall I say a little more of it as I hope love teacheth. This opening of the spiritual eye is that lightsome darkness and rich nought that I spake of before, and it may be called purity of spirit and spiritual rest, inward stillness and peace of conscience, highness of thought and loneliness of soul, a lively feeling of grace and retiredness275 of heart, the watchful sleep of the spouse and tasting of heavenly savour, burning in love and shining in light, the gate276 of Contemplation and reforming in feeling. All these expressions are found in holy writings of divers men, for every one of them speaketh according to his feeling in grace. And though all these be divers in show of words, yet are they all one in meaning and verity; for that soul which through visiting of grace hath one of them hath all. For why? a soul sighing to see the Face of Jesus when it is touched through special grace of the Holy Ghost, it is suddenly changed, and turned from the state that it was in into another manner of feeling. It is wonderfully separated and drawn first into itself, from the love and the liking of all earthly things, so much that it hath lost the savour of the bodily life, and of all things save only Jesus. And then is it clean from all the filth of sin, so far forth that the minding of itself, and all other inordinate affections to any creature is suddenly washed and wiped away, so that there remains no middle thing or impediment betwixt Jesus and the soul, but only the bodily life, and then it is in spiritual rest. For why? all painful doubts and fears, and all other temptations of spiritual enemies are driven out of the heart, that they trouble not, nor sink not into it for the time. It is in rest from the annoyance of worldly business, and painful hindrances of wicked stirrings; but it is full busy in the free spiritual working of love. And the more it laboureth so, the more rest it feeleth.
This restful labouring is full far from fleshly idleness and from blind security. It is full of spiritual working, but it is called rest, for that grace loseth the heavy yoke of fleshly love from the soul, and maketh it mighty and free through the gift of spiritual love for to work gladly, softly and delectably in all things to which grace stirreth it to work in. And therefore it is called an holy idleness and a rest most busy, and so it is in regard of stillness from the great crying of the beastly noise of fleshly desires and unclean thoughts. This stillness is made by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost through the beholding of Jesus. For why? His voice is so sweet and so mighty that it putteth to silence in a soul all the jangling of all other speakers; for it is a voice of power,277 softly founded in a pure soul, of the which the Prophet saith thus: Vox Domini in virtute. -- The voice of our Lord Jesus is with power.278 This voice is a lively words and speedy, as the Apostle saith: Vivus est sermo Dei, &c. -- The word of the Lord is lively and powerful, more piercing than any sword is.279 Through speaking of this word is fleshly love slain, and the soul kept in silence from all wicked stirrings. Of this silence it is said in the Apocalypse thus: Factum est silentium in coelo, &c. -- Silence was made in heaven as it were half an hour.280 By Heaven is meant a pure soul lifted up through grace from earthly love to heavenly conversation, and so it is in silence. But forasmuch as that silence cannot last whole continually by reason of the corruption of the bodily nature; therefore it is compared to the time of half an hour, a very short time the soul thinketh it to be, though it be never so long; and therefore it is but half an hour.
And then hath it peace in conscience. For why? Grace putteth out the gnawing, pricking, striving and fighting of sins, and bringeth in peace and concord, and maketh Jesus and a soul both one in full agreement of will. There is no upbraiding of sins, nor sharp reproving of faults made at that time in a soul, for they have kissed and are made friends, and all is forgiven that was done amiss.
Thus feeleth the soul, then, with great humble security and great spiritual gladness, and conceiveth a full great281 certainty of salvation by this accordmaking; for it heareth a secret witnessing of the Holy Ghost to the conscience, that he is a chosen son to a heavenly heritage. Thus St Paul saith: Ipse Spiritus testimonium perhibet spiritui nostro, &c. -- The Holy Spirit beareth witness to our spirit that we are God's sons.282
This witnessing of conscience verily felt through grace is the very joy of the soul, as the Apostle saith: Gloria mea est testimonium, &c. -- My joy is the witness of my conscience:283 and that is, when it witnesseth peace and accord, true love and friendship betwixt Jesus and a soul. And when it is in this peace, then is it in highness of thought.
When the soul is bound with the love of the world, then is it beneath all creatures; for everything goeth over it, and beareth it down by mastery, that it cannot see Jesus nor love Him. For even as the love of the world is vain and fleshly, right so the beholding and thinking and using of all creatures is fleshly; and that is a thraldom of the soul. But then through opening of the spiritual eye into Jesus the love is turned, and the soul is raised up according to its own nature above all bodily creatures. And then the beholding and thinking, and the using of them is spiritual, for the love is spiritual. The soul hath then great disdain to be obedient284 to the love of worldly things, for it is high set above them through grace. It setteth nought by all the world. For why? It will all pass away and perish. Unto this highness of heart, as long as the soul is kept therein, cometh no error nor deceit of the enemy; for Jesus is really in sight of the soul at that time, and all other things are beneath it. Of this the Prophet speaketh thus: Accedat homo ad cor altum et exaltabitur Deus. -- Let a man come to a high heart, and God shall be exalted.285 That is, a man that through grace cometh to the highness of thought shall see that Jesus is only exalted above all creatures, and he in Him.
And then is the soul thus set aloft, estranged from the fellowship of worldly lovers, though his body be in the midst among them, full far is he parted from carnal affections of creatures. He careth not though he never see man, nor speak with him, nor have comfort from him, that he might for ever continue in that spiritual feeling. He feeleth so great familiarity286 of the blessed presence of our Lord Jesus, and so much savour of Him, that he can easily for love of Him forget the fleshly affection and the fleshly mind of all creatures. I say not that he shall not love nor think of other creatures, that he shall think on them in fitting time, and see them and love them spiritually and freely, not fleshly and painfully as he did before. Of this loneliness speaketh the Prophet thus: Ducam eam in solitudinem, &c. -- I will lead her into solitude,287 and I will speak to her heart.288 That is, the grace of Jesus leadeth the soul from troublesome289 company of fleshly desires into loneliness of thought, and maketh it forget the liking of the world, and soundeth by sweetness of His inspiration words of love in the ears of the heart. A soul is thus lonely when it loveth Jesus, and attendeth fully to Him, and he hath lost the savour and the comfort of the world; and that it may better keep this loneliness, it fleeth the company of men as much as it can; and seeketh loneliness of body, which helpeth much to the loneliness of the soul, and to the free working of love, the less hindrance that it hath from without of vain janglings, or from within of vain thinking, the more free it is in spiritual beholding. And so it is in retiredness290 of heart.
A soul is all without, whilst it is overlaid and blinded with worldly love, it is as common as the highway, for every stirring which cometh from the flesh or from the fiend sinketh in or goeth through it. But then through grace it is drawn into the privy-chamber, into the sight of our Lord Jesus, and heareth His privy counsel, and is wonderfully comforted in the hearing. Of this speaketh the Prophet thus: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi. -- My privity to me, my privity to me.291 That is, the lover of Jesus, through inspiration of grace, taken up from outward feeling of worldly love, and ravished into the privity of spiritual love, yieldeth thanks to Him, saying thus: My privity to me. That is, my Lord Jesus, Thy privity is showed to me, and privily hid from all lovers of the world; for it is called hidden Manna, which may easier be asked than told what it is. And that our Lord Jesus promiseth to His lover, saying thus: Dabo sibi Manna absconditum, &c. -- I will give her the hidden Manna which no man knoweth but he that taketh it.292 This Manna is heavenly meat, and angels' food, as the Scripture saith; for angels are fully fed and filled with clear sight in burning love of our Lord Jesus, and that is Manna; for we may ask what it is, but cannot know what it is. But the lover of Jesus is not yet filled here, but is fed with a little taste of it, whilst he is bound in this bodily life.
This tasting of this Manna is a lively feeling of grace had through the opening of the spiritual eye. And this grace is not another grace from that which a chosen soul feeleth in the beginning of his conversion; but it is the self-same grace, only it is otherwise felt and showed to a soul. For why? Grace groweth with a soul, and the soul groweth with grace. And the clearer that a soul is parted from the love of the world, the more mighty is its grace, the more inward and more spiritual is the showing of the presence of our Lord Jesus come to be. So that the same grace which at first turneth him from sin, and maketh him beginning and profiting by gifts of virtue and exercise of good works, maketh him also perfect. And that grace is called a lively feeling of grace; for he that hath it feeleth it well, and knoweth well by experience that he is in grace. It is full lively to him; for it quickeneth the soul wonderfully, and maketh it so whole that it feeleth no painful disease of the body, though it be feeble and sickly. For why? Then is the body most mighty, most whole and most restful, and the soul also. Without this grace the soul cannot live but in pain; for it thinketh that it can keep it for ever, and nothing can put it away; but it is not so, for it passeth away full easily. Nevertheless though the sovereign feeling passeth away, and is withdrawn, the virtue293 of it stayeth still, and keepeth the soul in sobriety,294 and maketh it to desire the coming again thereof.
And this is the waking sleep of the Spouse, of the which the Scripture thus: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat. -- I sleep, and my heart waketh.295 That is, I sleep spiritually when through grace the love of the world is slain in me, and wicked stirrings of fleshly desires are dead, insomuch that I scarce feel them. I am not held by them, my heart is made free. And then it waketh, for it is quick and ready to love Jesus, and see Him. The more I sleep from outward things, the more am I awake in knowing of Jesus and of inward things. I cannot be awake to Jesus, except I sleep to the world. And therefore the grace of the Holy Ghost, shutting the fleshly eye, causeth the soul to sleep from worldly vanities, and opening the spiritual eye, keepeth it awake to the sight of God's majesty covered under the cloud of His precious Humanity. As the Gospel saith of the Apostles, when they were with our Lord Jesus in His transfiguration, first they slept: Et evigilantes viderunt majestatem. -- They waking beheld His glory.296 By sleep of the Apostles is understood the dying of worldly love through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; by their awaking is understood their Contemplation of Jesus. Through this sleep the soul is brought into rest from the noise of fleshly lust, and through waking is raised up to the sight of Jesus and spiritual things. The more that the eyes are shut297 in this manner of sleep from the appetite of earthly things, the sharper is the inner sight in lovely beholding of heavenly beauty.298 This sleeping and this waking doth love work through the light of grace in the soul of the lover of our Lord Jesus.
How such special Grace for the Beholding of our Lord Jesus is withdrawn sometimes from a Soul; and how a Soul is to behave herself in the Absence and in the Presence of Jesus, and how a Soul shall alway desire (as much as is in her) the gracious Presence of Jesus
SHOW me then a soul that through inspiration of grace hath this opening of the spiritual sight into the beholding of Jesus that is separated and drawn out from the love of the world, so far forth that it hath purity and privity of spirit, spiritual rest, inward silence and peace of conscience, highness of thought, loneliness and privity of heart, the waking sleep of the Spouse, that hath lost the liking and joys of the world, taken with delight of heavenly savour, ever thirsting and softly hasting299 after that blessed presence of Jesus; and I dare boldly300 pronounce that this soul burneth all in love, and shineth in spiritual light, worthy to come to the name and to the worship of the Spouse; for it is reformed in feeling, made able and ready to Contemplation. These are the tokens of inspiration in opening of the spiritual eye. For when the eye is opened, the soul is in full feeling of all the aforesaid virtues for that time.
The state of Aridities.
Nevertheless it falleth out oftentimes that grace withdraweth in part by reason of the corruption of man's frailty, and suffereth then the soul to fall into itself in sensuality,301 as it was before; and then is the soul in pain and in sorrow, for it is blind and unsavoury and can do no good. It is weak and impotent, encumbered with the body and all the bodily senses. It seeketh and desireth after the grace of Jesus again, and it cannot find it; for the Scripture saith thus of our Lord: Postquam vultum suum absconderit, &c. -- When our Lord hath hid His face, there is none that can behold Him.302 When He showeth His face, the soul cannot but see Him, for He is light; and when He hideth Himself, it cannot see Him, for the soul is dark.
His hiding is but a subtle trying of the soul. His showing is a wonderful merciful goodness in comfort of the soul. Wonder not though the feelings of grace be sometimes withdrawn from a lover of Jesus; for holy Writ saith the same of the Spouse, that it fareth thus with her: Quaesivi et non inveni illum, &c. -- I sought Him, and I found Him not; I called, and He answered not.303 That is, when I fall down to my frailty and sin, then grace withdraweth; for my falling is the cause thereof, and not His flying, but then feel I pain of my wretchedness in His absence. And, therefore, I sought Him by great desire of heart, and He gave to me not so much as a feeble answer. And then I cried with all my soul: Revertere, dilecte mi -- Turn again, Thou my beloved.304 And yet He seemed as if He heard me not. The painful feeling of myself, and the assailing of fleshly loves and fears in this time, and the wanting of my spiritual strength is a continual crying of my soul to Jesus. And nevertheless our Lord maketh strange, and cometh not, cry I never so fast; for He is sure enough of His lover, that he will not turn again to worldly loves quite; he can have no savour in them, and, therefore, stayeth He the longer.
But at the last when He pleaseth, He cometh again full of grace and faithfulness,305 and visiteth the soul that languisheth through desire, by sighings of love after His presence, and toucheth it, and anointeth it full gently306 with the oil of gladness, and maketh it suddenly whole from all pain. And then crieth the soul to Jesus in a spiritual voice with a glad heart thus: Oleum effusum Nomen tuum. -- Thy Name is as oil poured out.307 Thy Name is Jesus, that is, health. Then as long as I feel my soul sore and sick by reason of sin, pained with the heavy burthen of my body, sorrowful and fearful for perils and wretchedness of this life, so long, Lord Jesus, Thy Name is oil shut up, not poured forth. But when I feel my soul suddenly touched with the light of Thy grace, healed and cured308 from all the filth of sin, and comforted in love and in light with spiritual strength and gladness unspeakable, then can I say with lusty, loving and spiritual might to Thee: Thy Name, O Jesu, is to me oil poured forth. For by the effect of Thy gracious visitation I feel well the true exposition of Thy Name, that Thou art Jesus, health, for only Thy gracious presence healeth me from sorrow and from sin.
Happy is that soul that is ever fed with feeling of love in His presence, or is borne up by desire to Him in His absence. A wise lover is he, and well taught, that soberly and reverently behaveth himself in His presence, and lovely beholdeth Him without dissolute lightness, and patiently and easily beareth His absence without venomous despair and over painful bitterness.
This changeability of the absence and presence of Jesus, which a soul feeleth, is neither the perfection of the soul nor is it contrary to the grace of perfection or of Contemplation, but only a state of less perfection; for the more letting that a soul hath of itself from the constant feeling of grace, the less is the grace; and yet, nevertheless, is the grace in itself grace of Contemplation. This changeability of absence and presence falleth as well in the state of perfection as in the state of beginning, but after another manner; for even as there is diversity of feeling in the presence of grace betwixt these two states, right so is there in the absence of grace. And, therefore, he that knoweth not the absence of grace is apt to be deceived. And he that maketh309 not much of the presence of grace is unthankful310 to the visiting thereof, whether he be in the state of beginners or of the perfect. Nevertheless, the more stableness that there is in grace unhurt and unbroken, the lovelier is the soul, and more like unto Him in whom is no changeableness,311 as the Apostle saith. And it is very meet that the Spouse should be like her Bridegroom Jesus in manners and in virtues, fully according to Him in stableness of perfect love. But that falleth out seldom here in Spouses of this life; for he that perceiveth no changeableness in the feeling of his grace, but is all alike, whole, stable, unbroken and unhurt, as he thinketh, he is either very perfect or very blind. He is perfect if he be sequestered from all carnal affections and inclinations312 to creatures, and hath all hindrances313 of corruption and of sin betwixt Jesus and his soul broken away, and is fully united314 to Him with softness of love. But this is only from grace above man's nature. Or he is very blind if he imagineth himself to be in grace without spiritual feeling of God's inspiration, and setteth himself in a way of stableness, as if he were ever in feeling and in working of special grace, imagining all to be grace which he doth and feeleth, both inwardly and outwardly, thinking that whatsoever he doth or speaketh is grace, holding himself unchangeable in speciality of grace. If there be any such, as I hope there is none, he is full blind in feeling of grace.
But thou mayest object: That we ought to live only by Faith, and not covet spiritual feelings, nor regard them if they come; for the Apostle saith: The just shall live by faith.315
Unto this I answer that bodily feelings, be they never so comfortable, are not to be desired nor regarded much if they come; but spiritual feelings, such as I have spoken of, if they come in that manner as I have said, should ever be desired. I mean the killing of all worldly love, the opening of the spiritual eye, purity of spirit, peace of conscience and all other spoken of before. We should ever covet to feel the lively inspiration of grace made by the spiritual presence of Jesus in our souls, if we could. And for to have Him in our sight with reverence, and ever feel the sweetness of His love by a wonderful familiarity of His presence. This should be our life and our feeling in grace after the measure of His gift in whom all grace is, to some more and to some less; for His presence is felt in divers manners as He pleaseth. And in this we should live and work that which belongeth to us to work, for without this we should not be able to live spiritually. For as the soul is the life of the body, right so is Jesus the life of the soul by His gracious presence.
And, nevertheless, this manner of feeling, though it be never so much, is but in faith in comparison of that which shall be of the selfsame Jesus in the bliss of Heaven. Lo, this feeling should we desire; for every reasonable soul ought to covet, with all its power, to approach to Jesus, and to be united to Him through feeling of His gracious invisible presence. How that presence is felt may better be known by experience than by any writing; for it is the life and the love, the might and the light, the joy and the rest of a chosen soul. And therefore, he that hath once truly felt it cannot forbear it without pain, neither can he choose but desire it, it is so good in itself and so comfortable. What is more comfortable here for a soul than to be drawn out through grace from the noisomeness of worldly business and filth of desires, and from vain affection of all creatures, into rest and softness of spiritual love, secretly perceiving the gracious presence of Jesus, and feelingly fed with the savour of His invisible blessed Face? Verily, I think nothing can make the soul of a lover full of mirth but the gracious presence of Jesus, as He can show Himself to a pure soul; such an one is never heavy, never sorry but when he is with himself in sensuality. He is never full glad, nor merry, but when he is out of himself as being with Jesus in spirit.
And yet is that no full mirth, for there ever hangeth a heavy lump of bodily corruption on his soul, and beareth it down, and hindereth much the spiritual gladness, and this must ever be whilst it is here in this life. But whereas I have before spoken of the changeability of grace, how it cometh and goeth, that thou mistake me not; thou must understand that I mean not of common grace, that is had and felt in faith and in goodwill to God; without having and lusting of which, and continuing in it, none can be saved, for it is in the least chosen soul that liveth. But I mean of special grace felt by inspiration of the Holy Ghost in that manner as I have said before. Common grace, which is Charity, lasteth whole whatsoever a man doth, as long as his will and his intent is true to God, which will of his keepeth him from sinning deadly, and the deed that he wittingly doth is not forbidden under a mortal sin; for this grace is not lost but by mortal sins. And then is a sin mortal when his conscience witnesseth with deliberation that it is mortal sin, and yet nevertheless he doth it; or else his conscience is so blinded that he holdeth it no deadly sin, although he doth the deed wilfully, which is forbidden by God and holy Church as a deadly sin.
Special grace felt through the invisible presence of Jesus, which maketh a soul a perfect lover, lasteth not ever alike whole in the height of feeling, but changeably cometh and goeth, as I have said before. Thus our Lord saith: Spiritus ubi vult spirat, &c. -- The spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh, nor whither He goeth.316 He cometh secretly sometimes when thou art least aware of Him, but thou shalt know Him full well ere He go; for He wonderfully stirreth and mightily turneth thy heart into the beholding of His goodness, and then doth thy heart melt delectably as wax against the fire into softness of His love, and this is the voice that He soundeth. But then He goeth ere thou perceivest, for He withdraweth Himself somewhat, not wholly altogether, but from excess into moderation.317 The height of feeling passeth, but the substance and the effect of Grace dwelleth still. And that is as long as the soul of a lover keepeth himself pure, and falleth not wilfully into wretchedness or carelessness318 in sensuality, nor to outward vanity, as sometimes it doth (though it have no delight therein) out of frailty. This is the changeability of grace which I meant and spake of.
A Commendation of Prayer offered up to Jesus by a Contemplative Soul, and how stableness in Prayer is a secure work to stand in; and how every Feeling of Grace in a chosen Soul may be called Jesus. But the more clean the Soul is, the more worthy the Grace is
THE soul of a man, whilst it is not touched with special grace, is blunt and gross for spiritual work, and can do nought therein. It skilleth not thereof by reason of its weakness. It is both old and dry, undevout and unsavoury in itself. But then cometh the light of grace, and through touching maketh it sharp and subtle, ready and able to spiritual work, and giveth it a great freedom and a perfect readiness in will to be pliable319 to all the stirrings of grace, ready to work after that grace stirreth the soul. For by opening of the spiritual eye it is wholly applied to grace, ready to pray. And how the soul then prayeth I shall tell thee.
The most special prayer that the soul useth and hath most comfort in, I suppose, is the Pater noster or else Psalms of the Psalter. The Pater noster for unlearned men; and Psalms and Hymns and other service of holy Church for the learned. The soul prayeth, therefore, not in that manner as it did before, after the common way of men by highness of voice, or by reasonable speaking out; but in full great stillness of voice and softness of heart. For why? His mind is not troubled nor hindered with outward things, but wholly gathered together into itself. And the soul is set, as it were, in the spiritual presence of Jesus, and, therefore, every word and every syllable is sounded savourly, sweetly and delectably, with full accord of mouth and of heart. For why? The soul is then turned all into the fire of love. And, therefore, every word that it secretly prayeth is like a spark rising out of a burning fire, which heateth320 all the powers of the soul, and turneth them into love, and enlighteneth them so comfortably that the soul listeth ever to pray and to do nothing else. The more it prayeth the better it may, and the mightier it is. For grace helpeth the soul well, and maketh all things light and easy, that it delighteth to chant and sing the praises321 of God with spiritual mirth in heavenly delight. This spiritual work is the food of the soul, and this prayer is of great virtue, for it wasteth and bringeth to nought all secret and open temptations of the enemy, and slayeth all the mind and all the liking of the world and of fleshly sins. It beareth up the body and the soul from painful feeling of the wretchedness of this life. It keepeth the soul in the feeling of grace and working of love, and nourisheth it ever alike hot, as sticks nourisheth the fire. It putteth away all irksomeness and heaviness of heart, and holdeth it in strength and spiritual gladness.
Of this prayer speaketh David thus: Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum &c. -- Let my prayer be dressed as incense in Thy sight.322 For even as incense that is cast into the fire maketh a sweet smell by the smoke rising up to the air, right so a Psalm savourly and softly sung or said in a burning heart, giveth up a sweet smell to the face of our Lord Jesus, and to all the Court of Heaven. There dare no flesh-fly rest upon the pot's brink boiling on the fire. Even so can no fleshly delight rest upon a clean soul, that is all bilapped323 and warmed in the fire of love, boiling and blowing up Psalms and prayers to Jesus. This prayer is always heard of Jesus. It yieldeth grace to Jesus, and receiveth grace again. It maketh a soul familiar,324 and, as it were, hail-fellow with Jesus, and with all the Angels in Heaven, use it who so can. The work is good and gracious in itself. And though it be not altogether perfect Contemplation in itself, nor the working of love by itself, nevertheless it is in part Contemplation. For why? It cannot be exercised in this manner but by plenty of grace through opening of the spiritual eye. And, therefore, a soul that hath this freedom and this gracious feeling in praying with spiritual savour and heavenly delight hath the grace of Contemplation in the manner as it is.
This prayer is a rich offering filled all with fatness of devotion, received by Angels and presented to the face of Jesus. The prayer of other men, who are busy in active works, is made of two words; for they oftentimes form in their hearts one word through thinking of worldly business, and speak with their mouth another word of the Psalm sung or said. Yet, nevertheless, if his intent be true his prayer is good and acceptable, though it lack savour and sweetness. But this prayer of a Contemplative man is made but of one word; for as it is formed in the heart, right so doth it wholly sound in the mouth, as it were nothing but one and the same thing, both which formeth it and which soundeth it. And verily no more it is, for the soul, through grace, is made whole in itself so far parted from sensuality,325 that it is master of the body, and then is the body nothing else but as an instrument and a trumpet of the soul in the which the soul bloweth sweet notes of spiritual prayers to Jesus. This is the trumpet that David spake of thus: Buccinate in neomenia, &c. -- Blow ye the trumpet in the new moon.326 That is, ye souls that are reformed in spiritual life through opening of the inner eye, blow ye devoutly the sounding of Psalms with the trumpet of your bodily tongue. And, therefore, since this prayer is pleasant to Jesus, and so profitable to the soul, it is good for him who is new converted to God (and desires to please Him, and coveteth to have some quaint feeling of grace) to covet this feeling, that he may through grace come to this liberty of spirit and offer his prayers and his Psalms to Jesus continually and stably and devoutly, with whole mind and burning affection towards Him, so that he may be ready for it through custom when grace will stir him up thereto. This is a secure feeling, and a true one. If thou canst attain unto it and keep it, thou shalt not need to run about here and there and ask questions of every spiritual man what thou shouldst do, how thou shouldst love God, and how thou shouldst serve God, and speak of spiritual matters, that pass thy understanding, as perhaps some do: Such kind of doings are not profitable unless in case of necessity. Keep thee to thy prayers, quietly at first with thy own great industry, that thou mayest afterwards come to this restful feeling of spiritual prayer, and that shall teach thee wisdom enough in verity without feigning or fancy; and hold thee on in such prayer if thou hast gotten it and leave it not; but if grace come otherwise, and removeth it from thee for a time, causing thee to work on another manner, then mayest thou leave it for a time, and after return again thereto. And he that hath this grace in prayer asketh not whereupon he should set the point of his thought in his prayer, whether upon the words that he speaketh, or else on God, or on the Name of Jesus, as some ask, for this feeling of grace will teach him well enough. For why? The soul is turned into the eye, and sharply beholdeth the face of Jesus, and is ascertained that it is Jesus that it feeleth and seeth. I do not mean Jesus as He is in Himself, in fulness of His blessed Godhead; but I mean Jesus, as He is pleased to show Himself to a clean soul, yet in the body according to the cleanness that it hath. For thou must know that every feeling of grace is Jesus, and may be called Jesus. And according as the grace is more or less, so feeleth the soul more or less of Jesus. Yea, the first feeling of special grace in a beginner, which is called grace of compunction and contrition for his sins, is verily Jesus. For why? He causeth that contrition in a soul by His presence. But Jesus is then very grossly and rudely felt, very far from this spiritual subtlety; for the soul can nor may do no better by reason of its uncleanness. Nevertheless, afterward, if the soul profit and increase in virtues and in cleanness, the same Jesus, and none other, is seen and felt by the same soul when it is touched with grace; but that is more spiritually, and nearer to His Divinity. And verily that is the chiefest thing that Jesus loveth in a soul, that it may be made spiritual and divine in sight and in love, like to Him in grace, as He is by nature; for that shall be the end of all lovers.
Then mayest thou be secure, that at what time thou feelest thy soul stirred by grace, specially in that manner as I have said before, by opening of thy spiritual eye that thou seest and feelest Jesus, hold Him fast whilst thou may, and keep thyself in grace, and let Him not easily go from thee. Look after none other Jesus but that same, by feeling of that self-same grace more divinely that it may increase in thee more and more. And be not afraid, though Jesus whom thou feelest be not Jesus as He is in His full Godhead, that thou therefore mayest be deceived if thou trust to that feeling. But trust thou well, if thou be a lover of Jesus, that thy feeling is true, and that Jesus is truly felt and seen of thee through His grace as thou canst see Him here. And therefore trust fully to thy feeling when it is gracious and spiritual, and keep it tenderly, and have great dainty, not of thyself, but of it, that thou mayest see and feel Jesus still better and better. For grace shall ever teach thee by itself, if thou wilt fall thereto, till thou come to the end.
But perchance thou beginnest to wonder why I say one time that grace worketh all this, and another time that love worketh, or God worketh?
Unto this I answer thus: That when I say that grace worketh, I mean both love, and Jesus, and God; for all is one, and nought but one; Jesus is love,327 Jesus is grace, Jesus is God. And because He worketh all in us by His grace for love, as He is God, therefore may I use which of these four words I list after my stirring in this writing.
How a Soul through the opening of the spiritual Eye receiveth a gracious Love enabling to understand the Holy Scriptures, and how Jesus, that is hid in the Holy Scriptures, showeth Himself to His Lovers
WHEN a soul thus feeleth Jesus in prayer, he thinketh that he shall never feel otherwise. Nevertheless it happeneth that sometimes grace putteth vocal prayer to silence, and stirreth the soul to see and to feel Jesus in another manner. And that manner is first to see Jesus in the holy Scriptures; for Jesus, who is all truth, is hid and covered therein, folded in a soft Syndon, under fair words, that He cannot be known nor felt but of a clean heart. For why? Truth will not show itself to enemies, but to friends, that love and desire it with an humble heart. For Truth and Humility are full true sisters, fastened together in love and charity, and there is no distance of counsel betwixt them two. Humility presumeth upon Truth, and not at all on itself; and Truth esteemeth well of Humility, so they accord well together. Then forasmuch as the soul of a lover is made humble through inspiration of grace by opening of the spiritual eye, and seeth that it is nought of itself, but only hangeth on the mercy and the goodness of Jesus perpetually, being borne up by the favour and help of Him only, and truly desiring His presence, therefore seeth it Jesus; for it seeth the truth of holy Scriptures wonderfully showed and opened above study and industry and reason of man's natural wit. And that may well be called the feeling and the perceiving of Jesus. For Jesus is the fountain of Wisdom, and by pouring down of His Wisdom into a clean soul, by little and little, He maketh the soul wise enough for to understand all holy Scripture; not all at once in special beholding, but through that grace the soul receiveth a new ability and a gracious habit to understand it, particularly when it cometh to mind. This opening and this cleanness of understanding is made by the spiritual presence of Jesus: for right as the Gospel saith of the two Disciples going to Emmaus, burning in desire and speaking of our Lord Jesus, our Lord appeared to them presently as a pilgrim, and taught them the prophecies of Himself. And as the Gospel saith: Aperuit illis sensum, &c. -- He opened their wits that they might understand the Scriptures.328 Right so the spiritual presence of Jesus openeth the wit of His lover, that it burneth in desire to Him and bringeth to His mind by ministration of Angels, the words and sentences of holy Writ unsought and unconsidered one after another and expoundeth them readily, be they never so hard nor so secret. The harder they be, and farther from man's understanding by reason, the more delectable is the true showing of them. When Jesus is the teacher, it is expounded and declared literally, morally, mystically, and heavenly, if the matter will bear it. By the literal (which is the easiest and plainest) corporal nature is comforted. By the moral, the soul is informed concerning vices and virtues, to be able wisely to distinguish the one from the other. By the mystical it is enlightened to see the works of Jesus in holy Church, readily to apply the words of holy Writ to Christ our head, and to holy Church, which is His mystical body. The fourth, which is heavenly, belongeth only to the working of love, and that is, when all truth in holy Writ is applied to love. And because this is most like to heavenly feeling, therefore I call it heavenly.
The lover of Jesus is His friend, not for that he deserveth it, but because Jesus of His merciful goodness maketh him His friend by true accord. And therefore to him He showeth His secrets, as to a true friend that pleaseth Him by love, not serveth Him through fear in slavery. Thus He saith Himself to His Apostles: Jam vos dixi amicos quia quaecumque audivi a Patre meo nota feci vobis. -- Now have I called you friends, for I have made known unto you all that I have heard of the Father.329 To a clean soul whose palate is purified from filth of fleshly love, holy Writ is lively food and sustenance delectable, It savoureth wonderful sweetly when it is well chewed by spiritual understanding. For why? The spirit of life is hid therein, that quickeneth all the powers of the soul, and filleth them full of sweetness of heavenly savour and spiritual delight. But verily he must have white teeth, and sharp, and well picked, that can bite of this spiritual bread; for fleshly lovers and heretics may not touch the inward flour of it. Their teeth are bloody, and full of filth, therefore must they be fasting from feeling of this bread. By teeth I understand the inward senses of the soul, which in fleshly lovers and heretics are bloody, full of sin and worldly vanities. They would, but they cannot come through curiosity to the truth in knowing of holy Writ; for their senses are corrupted by original and actual sin, and are not yet healed through grace. And therefore they do but gnaw upon the outward bark, speak they never so much thereof. The inner savour within they taste not of. They be not humble, they be not pure for to see it. They be not friends to Jesus, and therefore He showeth them not His counsel. The mystery of holy Writ is closed under a key, and sealed with a signet of Jesus' finger, which is the Holy Ghost, and therefore without His love and His leave may none come in. He alone hath the key of skill330 in His keeping, as holy Writ saith,331 and He Himself is the key: and He letteth in whom He will by inspiration of His grace, and breaketh not the seal.
And this doth Jesus to His lovers, but not to all alike, but to them that are specially inspired for to seek Truth in holy Writ, with great devotion in praying, and with much business in studying going before. These may come to the finding of it, when our Lord will be pleased to show it. See now, then, how grace openeth the spiritual eye, and Heareth the senses of the soul wonderfully above the frailty of corrupt nature. It giveth the soul a new ability whether it will read holy Writ, or hear it, or meditate in it, for to understand truly and savourly the truth of it in the manner aforesaid; and also for to turn readily all reasons and words that are literally spoken in spiritual understanding. And that is no great wonder, for the same Spirit that made the Scriptures, expoundeth it and declareth it to a clean soul for its comfort -- namely, the Holy Ghost.
And this grace may be, and is, as well in laymen as in the learned, as to the substance and true feeling of the verity and spiritual savour of it in general, though they see not so many reasons in special; for that needeth not. And when the soul is thus enabled, and enlightened through grace, then he chooseth to be alone sometimes, out of the letting and meddling with all creatures, that he may freely exercise his instrument, which I call his reason of beholding of verity which is contained in holy Scriptures. And then will there fall into his mind words and reasons and senses enough to busy him, and that full orderly and full seriously. And what comfort and spiritual delight, what savour and sweetness a soul can then feel in that spiritual exercise through divers illuminations, inward perceivings, secret knowings and sudden touchings of the Holy Ghost, a soul can only know by experience, and not otherwise. And I hope that he shall not err, if so be his teeth, that is his inward senses, be kept white and clean from spiritual pride, and from curiosity of his natural wit. I believe David felt full great delight in this manner of working, when he said thus: Quam dulci faucibus meis eloquia Tua, &c. -- How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! sweeter than honey to my mouth.332 That is, Lord Jesus, Thy holy words endited in holy Writ, brought to my mind by grace, are sweeter to my taste, that is the affections of my soul, than honey is to my mouth. Verily this is a fair work without painful travail for to see Jesus thus. This is one manner of sight of Jesus, as I said before; not as He is, but clothed under the likeness of works and of words, per speculum, in aenigmate. -- In a glass, and by a likeness,333 as the Apostle saith. Jesus is endless might, wisdom and goodness, righteousness, truth, holiness and mercy. And what this Jesus is in Himself can no soul see nor hear; but by the effects of His working may be seen through the light of grace. As thus, His might is seen by making of all creatures of nothing; His wisdom in orderly disposing of them; His goodness in saving of them; His mercy in forgiveness of sins; His holiness in gifts of grace; His righteousness in severely punishing of sin; His gentleness in true rewarding of good works. And all this is expressed in holy Writ, and this a soul seeth there with all other attributes that pertain thereto. And be thou well assured, that such gracious knowings in holy Writ, or in other writings, which are made by the assistance of God's grace, are nought else but sweet letters sent and made betwixt a loving soul and Jesus the beloved. Or else, that I may speak trulier, betwixt Jesus the true lover and the souls beloved of Him. He hath full great tenderness of love to all his chosen children, that are here closed in clay of this bodily life. And therefore, though He be absent from them, high, hid above in the bosom of the Father, filled with the delights of the Blessed Godhead, yet notwithstanding He thinketh upon them, and visiteth them full oft through His gracious spiritual presence, and comforteth them by His letters of holy Writ, and driveth out of their hearts heaviness and wearisomeness, doubts and fears, and maketh them truly glad and merry in Him, believing in all His promises, and humbly continuing fulfilling His will.
St Paul saith thus: Quoecumque scripta sunt, &c. -- Whatsoever things are written, are written for our instruction, that we might have hope through the comfort of the Scriptures. And this is another work of Contemplation, to see Jesus in the Scriptures after the opening of the spiritual eye. The cleaner the sight is in beholding, the more comforted is the affection in tasting. A full little savour felt in a clean soul of holy Writ in this manner abovesaid, should make the soul set little price by knowing of all the seven liberal arts, or of all the world, or all worldly wisdom; for the end of this knowing is the salvation of a man's soul in everlasting life; and the end of that other knowledge, as to himself, is but vanity and a fading delight, unless by grace it be turned to this end.
Of the secret Voice of Jesus sounding in a Soul, and how it may be known. And how all the gracious Illuminations made in a Soul be called the Speakings of Jesus
LO, these are fair new feelings in a clean soul; and if a soul were filled with such, it might be said, and that truly, that it were reformed somewhat in feeling, but not yet fully; for why? Yet Jesus showeth more, and leadeth the soul inward, and beginneth to speak more familiarly and more lovely to a soul, and maketh it more ready to follow the stirrings of grace. For the Prophet saith: Quocumque ibat spiritus, illuc gradiebantur et rotae sequentes eum. -- Whithersoever the spirit went, thither went the wheels following him.334 By wheels are understood the true lovers of Jesus, for they are round in virtue, without angle of frowardness; and lightly whirling through readiness of will after the stirrings of grace; for according as grace stirreth and teacheth, so they follow and work, as the Prophet saith.
But first, they have a full secure experience, and a true knowing of the voice of grace, ere they do so; that they be not deceived by their own feigning, or by the mid-day fiend. Our Lord Jesus saith thus of His lovers: Oves meae vocem meam audiunt, &c. -- My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they know Me.335 The privy voice of Jesus is full true, and it maketh a soul true; there is no feigning in it, nor on fancy, nor pride, nor hyprocrisy; but gentleness, humility, peace, love and charity. And it is full of life, love and grace. And therefore when it soundeth in a soul, it is of so great power sometimes, that the soul suddenly layeth aside all that was in hand, as praying, speaking, reading or thinking; in the manner abovesaid, and all manner of bodily work, and listeneth thereto fully, hearing and perceiving in rest and in love the sweet sound of this spiritual voice, as it were ravished from the mind of all earthly things, and then in this quiet, Jesus sometimes showeth Himself as an awful336 master, and sometimes as a reverend Father, and sometimes as a lovely Spouse. And it keepeth a soul in a wonderful reverence, and in a lovely beholding of Him, that the soul liketh well then, and never so well as then; for it feeleth so great security, and so great rest in Jesus, and so much savour of His goodness, that it would ever be so, and never do other work. It thinketh that it toucheth Jesus, and through virtue of that unspeakable touching, it is made whole and stable in itself, reverently beholding Jesus only, as if there were nothing but Jesus, one thing, and himself another, borne up only by the savour and the wonderful goodness of Him; that is that thing which he feeleth and seeth. And this feeling is ofttimes without special beholding of holy Writ, and with but few words formed in the mind; only there falls in among sweet words, according to the feeling either of loving, or worshipping, or admiring, or otherwise sounding, as the heart liketh. The soul is very much separated from love or liking of the world, through virtue of this gracious feeling, and also very much from minding of the world in that time. It taketh no heed thereof, for it hath no time thereto. But then sometimes anon, together with this, falleth into a soul divers illuminations through grace, which I call the speakings of Jesus, and the sight of spiritual things; for be thou assured, that all the business that Jesus maketh about a soul, is for to make it a true perfect spouse to Him in the height and the fulness of love, and that cannot be done suddenly. Therefore Jesus, who is love, and of all lovers the wisest, proveth by many ways, and by many wonderful means, ere this can come about. And therefore that it may come to the effect of true espousing, He hath such gracious speakings of a wooer to a chosen soul. He sheweth His privy jewels; many things He giveth, and more He promiseth; and showeth courteous dalliance. He often visiteth her with much grace and spiritual comfort, as I have said before; but how He doth this in particular, I cannot fully tell thee, for it needeth not. Nevertheless somewhat shall I say, according as grace enableth me.
The drawing of a soul fully to perfect love, is, first by the showing of spiritual things to a clean soul, when the spiritual eye is opened; not that a soul should rest therein, and make an end there, but should by that search Him and love Him who is highest of all, without any beholding of any other thing than He.
But thou wilt ask, what are these spiritual things, because I speak so oft of spiritual things?
To this I say that spiritual things may be said all the truth of holy Scripture. And therefore a soul that through light of grace can see the truth of Scripture, seeth spiritual things, as I have said before.