That a Man should be industrious to recover again his ancient Dignity and reform within him the Image of the Trinity, and how it may be done
This mercy not to be presumed upon.
NEVERTHELESS, though this that I have said be true, through the endless mercy of God to thee and to me and to all mankind we are not, therefore, in confidence hereof to be more careless, or wilfully negligent in our living; but the more busy to please Him, and the rather, because now we are restored again in hope by the passion of our Lord, to the dignity and bliss which we had lost by Adam's sin. Though we should prove not to be able to recover it fully here in this life, yet should we desire and endeavour to recover the image and likeness of the dignity we had, so that our soul might be reformed, as it were in a shadow, by grace to the image of the Trinity which we had by nature, and hereafter shall have fully in bliss. For that is the life which is truly contemplative to begin here, in that feeling of love and spiritual knowing of God, by opening of the spiritual eye, which shall never be lost nor taken away, but shall be perfected in a far higher manner in heaven. Thus did our Lord promise to St Mary Magdalen (that was a true Contemplative) when He told her that she had chosen the better part (which was the love of God in Contemplation) that should never be taken from her.96
This image is not restored perfectly in this life.
I do not say that in this life thou canst recover so whole and so perfect a cleanness and innocency, knowing and loving of God, as thou hadst at first, and shalt have hereafter, neither mayest escape all the wretchedness and pains of sin; nor that thou living in mortal flesh canst wholly destroy and kill within thee all false vain loves, nor eschew all venial sins, but that they will (unless they be stopped by great fervour of charity) spring out of thy heart, as water doth out of a stinking well. But I wish that if thou canst not fully quench it, yet thou mayest somewhat slack it, and come as near as thou canst to cleanness of soul. For our Lord promised to the children of Israel, when He led them into the land of Promise, and in them by a figure to all Christians, saying: All the land which thy foot shall tread upon shall be thine.97 That is to say, so much land as thou canst tread upon with thy foot of true desire, so much shalt thou have in the land of Promise, namely, in the bliss of Heaven, when thou comest thither.
That this Dignity and Image is restored by Jesus, and how He is to be desired, sought and found
How Jesus is to be sought.
SEEK, then, that which thou hast lost, that thou mayest find it; for well I wot, whosoever once hath an inward sight, but a little of that dignity and that spiritual fairness which a soul hath by creation, and shall have again by grace, he will loathe in his heart all the bliss, the liking and the fairness of this world, as the stink of carrion; and he will never have any will or mind to do other deed, night or day (save what mere need of nature requireth) but desire, mourn, seek, and pray how he may come again thereto.
By desiring Him.
Nevertheless inasmuch as thou hast not as yet seen what it is fully, for thy spiritual eye is not yet opened, I shall tell thee one word for all, in the which thou shalt seek, desire and find it; for in that one word is all that thou hast lost. This word is Jesus: I mean not this word Jesus painted upon the wall, as written in letters on the book, or formed by lips in sound of the mouth, or framed in thy mind by imagination, for in this wise may a man that is void of charity find Him; but I mean Jesus Christ, that blessed Person, God and Man, Son of the Virgin Mary, whom this name betokeneth; that is all goodness, endless wisdom, love and sweetness, thy joy, thy glory, and thy everlasting bliss, thy God, thy Lord, and thy salvation.
If, then, thou feelest a great desire in thy heart to Jesus, either by calling to mind this name Jesus, or by minding, or thinking, or saying of any other word; or in Prayer, or Meditation, or any other deed which thou dost; which desire is so much, that it putteth out, as it were, by force all other thoughts and desires of the world, and of the flesh, that they rest not in thy heart; then seekest thou well thy Lord Jesus. And when thou feelest this desire to God, or to Jesus (for it is all one), holpen and comforted by a ghostly might, insomuch that it is turned into love, affection, and spiritual savour and sweetness, into light and knowing of truth, so that for the time, the point of thy thought is set upon no other created thing, nor feeleth any stirring of vainglory, nor of self-love, nor any other evil affection (for they cannot appear at that time), but this thy desire is only enclosed, rested, softened, suppled, and anointed in Jesus, then hast thou found somewhat of Jesus; I mean not Him as He is, but a shadow of Him; for the better that thou findest Him, the more shalt thou desire Him. Then observe by what manner of prayer, or meditation, or exercise of devotion thou findest greatest and purest desire stirred up in thee to Him, and most feeling of Him, by that kind of prayer, exercise or work seekest thou Him best, and shalt best find Him. Therefore if it come into thy mind, asking as it were of thyself: What has thou lost, and what seekest thou? lift up thy mind and the desire of thy heart to Jesus Christ, though thou be blind, and canst see nought of His Godhead, and say that: Him hast thou lost, and Him wouldst thou have, and nothing but Him, to be with Him where His is. No other joy, no other bliss in Heaven or in earth, but Him.
And though it be so, that thou feelest Him in devotion, or in knowing, or by any other gift or grace, rest not there, as though thou hadst fully found Jesus; but forget that which thou hast found, and always be desiring after Jesus more and more, to find Him better, as though thou hadst right nought found in Him. For wot thou well, that what thou feelest of Him, be it never so much, yea, though thou wert ravished with St Paul into the third heaven, yet hast thou not found Jesus as He is in His joy, know thou, or feel thou never so much of Him, He is still above it. And therefore, if thou wilt fully find Him, as He is in His joy, do thou never cease from spiritual desiring and loving of Him, whilst thou livest.
What profit it is to have the desire of Jesus
Verily I had rather feel and have a true an; clean desire in my heart to my Lord Jesus Christ, though I see little of Him With my spiritual eye, than to have without this desire all the bodily penance of all men living, all visions, all revelations of Angels appearing, all songs and sounding to the ear, all tastes and smellings, fervours or any delights, or bodily feelings, and (to be brief) all the joys of heaven and earth which are possible to be had, without this desire to my Lord Jesus. David the Prophet felt (as I conceive) this desire in himself, when he said thus: What have I in Heaven but Thee, and what can I desire on earth besides Thee?98 As if he had said, Lord Jesus, what heavenly joy is liking to me without desire of Thee, whilst I am on earth, or without love of Thee when I come to Heaven? As who should say, right none. If, then, thou wilt feel anything of Him, bodily or spiritually, covet nothing but only to feel in truth within thee a desire of His grace and of His merciful presence, so that thou mayest think that it is not possible for thy heart to find any rest in anything but in Him. Thus coveted David, when he said thus: My soul hath coveted, or longed after, the desire of thy righteousness at all times.99 Seek, then, as David did, desire by desire. And if thou feelest, by thy desire in prayers and in meditations, the familiar presence of Jesus Christ in thy soul, bind thy heart fast thereto, that it fall not from it; and if thou shouldst stumble, that thou mayest soon find Him again.
Jesus desires to be sought and found.
Seek, then, Jesus, whom thou hast lost, for He would be sought, and is desirous to be found, for He Himself saith: Every one that seeketh findeth.100 The seeking is painful, but the finding is joyful; do, therefore, after the counsel of the wise man, if thou wilt find Him: If thou shalt seek wisdom (that is Jesus) like silver, and as treasures shalt dig her up, then shalt thou understand the fear of our Lord, and shalt find the knowledge of God.101 It behoveth thee to delve deep in thy heart, for therein Jesus is hid, and cast out perfectly all loves and likings, sorrows and fears of all earthly things, and so shalt thou find wisdom, that is Jesus.
Two lanthorns to find Jesus by. 1. His Word. 2. Reason.
Be thou, then, like the woman in the Gospel, of whom our Lord saith: What woman is there, that hath lost her groat and doth not light a candle, and turn her house upside down, and seek till she finds it?102 As who should say, there is none but would do so. And when she hath found it, she calleth to her friends, and saith to them thus: Make mirth with me and melody, for I have found my groat which I had lost. This groat is Jesus which thou hast lost, and if thou wilt find Him, light up a lanthorn, that is God's Word, as David saith: Thy Word is a lanthorn to my feet.103 By this lanthorn shalt thou see where He is, and how to find Him. And if thou wilt, thou mayest together with this, light up another lanthorn, that is the reason of thy soul. For as our Lord saith: The lanthorn (or light) of thy body is thy bodily eye.104 Right so may it be said, that the lanthorn of thy soul is reason, by the which thy soul may see all spiritual things. By this lanthorn mayest thou find Jesus, that is if thou hold up this lanthorn from underneath the bushel, as our Lord saith: No man lighteth a (candle or) lanthorn to set it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick.105 That is to say, thy reason must not be overlaid with earthly business, or vain thoughts, and earthly affections, but always upwards, above all vain thoughts and earthly things as much as thou canst. If thou do so, thou shalt see all the dust, all the filth and small motes106 in thy house (for He is light itself), that is to say, all fleshly loves and fears in thy soul. I mean not perfectly all; for as David saith: Who knoweth all his trespasses?107 As who should say, no man. And thou shalt cast out of thy heart all such sins, and sweep thy soul clean with the besom of the fear of God, and wash it with thy tears, and so shalt thou find thy groat, Jesus; He is thy groat, thy penny, thy heritage.
He must be sought with some pains.
This groat will not be found so easily as 'tis thought, for this work is not of one hour nor of one day, but many days and years, with much sweat and labour of body108 and travail of soul. And if thou cease not, but seek busily, sigh and sorrow deeply, mourn stilly,109 and stoop low, till thine eyes water for anguish and for pain, for that thou hast lost thy treasure Jesus, at the last (when His will is) well shalt thou find thy groat Jesus. When thou hast found Him, as I have said, that is when in purity of conscience feelest the familiar and peaceful presence of that blessed man Jesus Christ, at least a shadow or glimmering of Him; thou mayest, if thou wilt, call all thy friends to thee to make mirth with thee and melody, for that thou hast found thy groat Jesus.
In what place Jesus is lost and found, and God's mercy manifested herein.
See then the mercy and courtesy of Jesus. Thou hast lost Him, but where? Soothly in thy house, that is to say, in thy soul, that if thou hadst lost all thy reason of thy soul by its first sin, thou shouldst never have found Him again; but He left thee thy reason, and so He is still in thy soul, and never is quite lost out of it.
Nevertheless thou art never the nearer Him till thou hast found Him. He is in thee, though He be lost from thee; but thou art not in Him till thou hast found Him. This is His mercy also, that He would suffer Himself to be lost only there, where He may be found, so that thou needest not run to Rome, nor to Jerusalem to seek Him there, but turn thy thoughts into thy own soul where He is hid, as the Prophet saith: Truly thou art the hidden God,110 hid in thy soul, and seek Him there. Thus saith He Himself in the Gospel: The Kingdom of Heaven is likened to a treasure hid in the field, the which when a man findeth, for joy thereof, he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.111 Jesus is a treasure hid in the soul. Then if thou couldst find Him in thy soul, and thy soul in Him, I am sure for joy thereof thou wouldst part with the liking of all earthly things to have Him. Jesus sleepeth in thy heart spiritually, as He did sometime bodily when He was in the ship with His disciples; but they, for fear of perishing, wakened Him, and soon after He saved them from a tempest. Do thou so, stir Him up by prayer, and waken Him with great crying of desire, and He will soon rise and help thee.
We ourselves are the lets and hindrances of finding Him.
Nevertheless I believe thou sleepest oftener to Him than He doth to thee; for He calleth thee full oft with His sweet, secret voice, and stirreth thy heart full stilly, that thou shouldst leave all other jangling of other vanities in thy soul, and hearken only to Him. Thus saith David in the person of our Lord: Hear, O daughter, and consider; incline thine ear, and forget thy own people and thy father's house.112 That is, forget the people of thy worldly thoughts, and the house of thy fleshly and natural affections. Here thou seest how our Lord calleth thee, and all others that will hearken to Him. And what hindereth thee that thou canst neither see nor hear Him? Soothly there is so much din and noise in thy heart of vain thoughts and fleshly desires, that thou canst neither hear Him nor see Him? Therefore put away those unquiet noises, and destroy the love of sin and vanity, and bring into thy heart the love of virtues and full charity, and then shalt thou hear thy Lord speak to thee.
Humility and charity are the special liveries of Jesus.
As long as Jesus findeth not His image reformed in thee, He is strange, and the farther from thee; therefore frame and shape thyself to be arrayed in His likeness, that is in humility and charity, which are His liveries, and then will He know thee, and familiarly come to thee, and acquaint thee with His secrets. Thus saith He to His disciples: Whoso loveth Me, he shall be loved of My Father, and I will manifest Myself unto him.113 There is not any virtue nor any good work that can make thee like to our Lord without humility and charity, for these two above all others are most acceptable to Him, which appeareth plainly in the gospel, where our Lord speaketh of humility thus: Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble in heart.114 He saith not, Learn of me to go barefoot, or to go into the desert, and there to fast forty days, nor yet to choose to yourselves disciples (as I did), but learn of Me meekness, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Also of charity He saith thus: This is My commandment, that ye love one another as I loved you, for by that men shall know you for My disciples.115 Not that you work miracles, or cast out devils, or preach, or teach, but that each one of you love one another in charity. If therefore thou wilt be like Him, have humility and charity, Now thou knowest what charity is, namely, To love thy neighbour as thyself.