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[§ 66.] Set as we are in the midst of snares, we all too easily grow cold and remiss in our longings after heaven. We have need, therefore, of some constant monitor, whose use shall be that when we have relaxed our efforts and lost ground, we may presently be roused from sloth, and may return to God, our true and highest good. It was not, therefore, from rash presumption, but from a great love for my God that I applied myself to the compilation of this little work; that I might always have about me, collected out of the choicest sayings of the holy fathers, a brief word or two ready to hand about my God; so that whenever I find I am growing cold, I may read, and reading be inflamed to love of Him.
I. Of the wonderful Being of God. Be present with me now, O God; Thou whom I seek, whom I love, whom I confess with heart and mouth, and adore with all my powers. My mind, bound by all vows to Thee, inflamed with love of Thee, 182 breathing after Thee, yearning after Thee, longing to see Thee, Thee only, knows no other sweetness than to speak of Thee, hear of Thee, write of Thee, speculate on Thee, and muse anon on Thy glory in the heart’s deepest depth, that the sweet thought of Thee may be some little solace and repose to me in the midst of the whirl and turmoil of this present state. Thee, therefore, I invoke, O most desired Lord; to Thee I cry with a mighty cry in my inmost heart. Yes, indeed; invoking Thee, I invoke Thee in myself; for, but that Thou wert in me, I should not have been, and but that I was in Thee, Thou hadst not been in me. Thou art in me, since Thou dwellest in my memory; by it I know Thee, in it I find Thee, when I call Thee to mind, and when in Thee I delight concerning Thee, through Whom are all things and in Whom are all things.
Thou, O Lord, fillest heaven and earth; sustaining all things, but without effort; filling all things, but without contraction of Thyself; ever active, yet ever at rest; gathering together, yet needing nothing; seeking, though Thou lackest nothing; loving, but without distraction; jealous, yet free from care. Thou repentest, but art never sorry; Thou art angry, yet undisturbed. Thou 183changest Thy dealings, but alterest not Thy purpose. Thou recoverest what Thou findest, and Thou hast never lost. Never in want, yet Thou rejoicest in gain. Never greedy, yet Thou exactest usury. Thou payest in excess to whom Thou owest not, and ever receivest in excess, but only that Thou mayest owe. And who has anything that is not Thine? Owing nothing, Thou payest debts; paying what is due from Thee, Thou owest nothing. Thou art everywhere, and everywhere art entire. Perceived Thou mayest be, but Thou canst never be seen. In no place art Thou other wise than present, and yet Thou art far from the thoughts of the unjust. Nor art Thou absent in the place whence Thou art far removed; for though Thou be not there to bless, yet Thou art there to punish. Unmoved and unmoving dost Thou stand, and yet we follow after Thee, and following can not overtake Thee. Thou holdest all things, fillest all things, enfoldest all things, surpassest all things, and sustainest all things. Thou teachest the hearts of the faithful without sound of words. Undisturbed by reach of distance, unchanged by lapse of tune, tideless and ebbless, Thou makest the inaccessible light Thy dwelling, ‘which no man hath seen nor can see’ (1 Tim. vi. 16). Quiescent and 184self-sustained, still Thou evermore encirclest all. Thou canst not be parted and divided, for Thou art truly one; nor art Thou here, and there, and there again; but Thou All enfoldest all, fulfillest all, enlightenest and possessest all.
[§ 67.] II. Of the science of God, and the inadequacy of human speech to utter it. Though the whole world were filled with books, the unutterable science of Thy Being cannot have due utterance. For since Thou art all unspeakable, no writer’s and no limner’s skill could describe Thee or portray Thee. Thou art the Fountain of Light Divine, and the Sun of eternal splendour. Great Thou art without quantity, and therefore infinite; good without quality, and therefore the truly and supremely good; and none is good but Thou and Thou alone. Thy will is act; for power and will are one in Thee. By Thy mere will Thou madest all things out of nothing. Thou dost fulfil all creation without any lack whatever, and dost control it without toil, and rule it without fatigue; and there is nothing that can disturb the order of Thy Kingdom, whether in little things or in great Thou art contained in all places, independently of place; and enfoldest all things without distribution 185of Thyself; and neither moving nor inert art present everywhere. Thou art not the Author of evil, for Thou canst not make it. There is no thing that Thou canst not do, nor didst Thou ever repent of anything that Thou hadst done. As we were made by Thy goodness, so are we punished by Thy justice, and set free by Thy tender mercy. Thy omnipotence controls all things, and rules and fills what is has created. Nor, though we say that Thou fillest all things, do all things therefore hold Thee, for they are rather held by Thee. Thou dost neither pervade all things, one by one sever ally; nor must we suppose that each separate object holds Thee by way of proportion to its size, the greatest more and the least less, since rather Thou art all Thyself in all things, and all things are in Thee. Thy omnipotence embraces all things; nor can any one find a recess wherein to avoid Thy power. For he who has Thee not at peace with him will never escape Thee in Thine anger.
[§ 68.] III. Of the desire of a soul thirsting after God. Thee, therefore, O God of tenderest mercy, I invoke into my soul, the soul which Thou dost furnish for Thy reception by the very desire Thou breathest into it. Enter into it, I pray Thee, 186and fit it for Thyself; that what Thou hast made and remade, Thou mayest hold and keep; that so I may keep Thee as a signet upon my heart. I implore Thee, O most merciful, forsake not him that calls upon Thee; because, or ever I called on Thee, Thou didst call me, and didst seek for me, that Thy servant might seek Thee; and seeking might find Thee, and finding might love Thee. I have sought Thee, and I have found Thee, Lord; and now I desire to love Thee. Increase this my desire, and give what I seek; for wert Thou to give me all that Thou didst ever make, that all were not enough without the gift of Thyself. Therefore, O my God, give me Thyself; restore me Thyself. See how I love Thee; and if it is too little, let me love Thee more. I am enthralled by love of Thee; I burn with longings after Thee; I am entranced with the sweet thought of Thee. When my mind sighs .after Thee, and dwells on Thy unspeakable mercy, lo, the very burden of the flesh weighs less, the tumult of distracting thoughts is lulled, mortality with its weary load palsies me not according to its wont; all is hushed, all is still; my heart glows, my soul exults; my memory is quickened,. my understanding filled with light; and my whole spirit, set on fire with desire 187of the vision of Thee, finds itself ravished with love of the things unseen. O let my soul take wings like an eagle’s, let it fly and not faint; let it fly till it reaches the goodliness of Thy dwelling and Thy glorious throne; and there, seated at the table of refreshment set for the citizens above, let it feast on Thine Eyes, and take its full in the place of pasture hard by the rivers of plenty. Be Thou our exultation, for Thou art our hope, our salvation, and our redemption. Be Thou our joy, for Thou wilt be our prize. Ever, ever let my soul seek Thee, and grant Thou that seeking Thee she miss not her goal.
[§ 69.] IV. Of the misery of a soul that loves not and that seeks not our Lord Jesus Christ. Ah, wretched soul that seeks not Christ, nor loves Him; it lies barren and parched and sad. O God, his very life is loss who loves not Thee. He who cares to live, but not for Thee, is nothing and nothing worth. He who refuses to live to Thee is dead. He who is not wise in Thee is all unwise. O most compassionate Jesus, I commend myself to Thee. I yield and resign myself to Thee; for in Thee is my wisdom, my life, my all. I confide in Thee, I trust in Thee, I place all my hope in 188Thee; for through Thee I shall rise again, and live, and find my rest. I desire Thee, I love Thee and adore Thee; for with Thee shall I dwell, and reign, and be happy for ever. The soul that seeks Thee not, nor loves Thee, loves the world, serves sin, and is slave to vices; is never at rest and never safe. O most Merciful, let my mind be ever busied in Thy service; and all through this my pilgrimage let my heart burn with the fires of Thy love; let my spirit repose in Thee, O my God; let it in all its fancy flights muse upon Thee; let it sing Thy praises with jubilant joy, and so find consolation in its banishment. Let my soul fly and nestle under the shadow of Thy wings, safe from the billows of this life of cares. Let my heart, that sea troubled with great waves, rest itself in Thee and be calm. O Thou, who art rich in all divinest dainties; Thou, God and most bountiful dispenser of heavenly satisfaction, do Thou give refreshment to the weary, call the wanderer to his home, unbind the captive, restore the broken hearted. I pray Thee, by the bowels of that mercy of Thine, whereby as the Orient from on high Thou hast visited us, bid the door open to the poor wretch that knocks, and so let him enter in with unfettered step to Thee, and rest himself in Thee, 189and regale himself on Thee, the Bread of heaven; for Thou art the Bread and the Fountain of life, Thou art the Light of eternal brightness, Thou art the all and the very source of being of the good who love Thee.
[§ 70.] V. Of the desire of the soul. O God, the Light of all hearts that see Thee, the Life of all souls that love Thee, the Inspiration of all thoughts that seek Thee; grant me this, to cling fast to Thy holy love. Come, I pray Thee, into my heart, and inebriate it with the fulness of Thy pleasures, that so I may forget these things of time. It is shame and grief to me to endure the doings of this naughty world. What I see is sad, and all that I hear of transitory things is grief to me. Help me, O Lord my God, and put joy in my heart; come to me, that I may see Thee. But the dwelling of my soul is all too narrow till Thou come to it, and it be enlarged by Thee. It is all a ruin; build it up again. It contains very much, as I confess and know, which cannot but offend Thine eyes; but who shall cleanse it, or to whom else shall I cry but Thee? ‘Cleanse Thou me from my secret sins, O Lord; and from those of others spare Thy servant’ (Ps. xviii. 13). Make 190me, O sweet Christ, good Jesus, make me, I pray Thee, from love and desire of Thee, to lay aside the burden of carnal desires and earthly concupiscences. Let my soul rule the flesh, my reason the soul, Thy grace my reason; and then subdue me both inwardly and outwardly to Thy will. Grant me that my heart, and my tongue, and all my bones may praise Thee. Enlarge my mind, and raise my heart’s vision on high, and so let my soul rise with swift flight of thought to Thee, Thee the eternal Wisdom that presidest over all. Loose me, I beseech Thee, from the cords that bind me, that, rising clear of all things here below, I may hurry home to Thee, cling to Thee alone, and rest in Thee alone.
[71.] VI. Of the happiness of the soul set free from her earthly prison. Happy the soul that, loosed from her earthly prison, seeks heaven with unhampered wing; happy the soul that sees Thee face to face, O dearest Lord; that is touched by no fear of death, but gathers gladness from the incorruptible stores of the glory that cannot fail. Set free from toil and care, she fears no foe now, dreads no death now. She has Thee for her own; Thee, the merciful Lord, whom she long sought 191and ever loved; and, associated with the hymning choirs, sings through eternity sweet songs of cease less festival to the praise of Thy glory, O Christ, King of glory, O Lord Jesus. For she is inebriated with the plenteousness of Thy house, and Thou givest her to drink of the torrent of Thy pleasures. O happy society of the citizens on high, O happy concourse of all returners to Thee from the weary toil of this our pilgrimage to the loveliness of perfect splendour, to the excellency of perfect grace, where Thy lieges, O Lord, be hold Thee evermore. There nothing that can distract the mind is given the ear to hear. O, what chants are chanted there! What instruments of music there are there! What songs, what melodies without end are sung out there! There sweet-voiced organs sound ever to the hymns, and angels’ tenderest melodies, and songs of songs full wonderful, which by the citizens on high are tuned forth to Thy praise and glory. No bitterness, no gall- like harshness, finds place in that Thy realm; for there evil and evil one are not. There is no assailing foe, nor no wantonness of sin there. There is no want there, no uncomeliness, no strife, no insolence, no wrangling, no fear, no uneasiness, no pain, no doubt, no violence, no 192discord; but peace profound, and perfect love, and jubilation, and eternal praise of God, and unanxious rest for ever, and joy in the Holy Ghost for evermore. O, how blessed shall I be if I hear those Thy people’s jocund melodies, and their sweet hymns pouring forth with due honour praises to the most high Trinity! Happy, ay, too happy, shall I be, if I, this very self of mine, shall merit to sing to the Lord Jesus one of the dear songs of Sion.
[§ 72.] VII. Of the joy of Paradise. O life all life; O eternal and eternally-blessed life, where is joy without grief, rest without labour, honour without apprehension, riches without loss, life without death, perpetuity without decay, happiness without disaster; where are all good things in perfect charity; where is beauty and the vision face to face; where is plenitude of science in all and pervading all; where God’s goodness is beheld, and the Light enlightening all is glorified by the saints; where the present Majesty of God is discerned, and the eyes of all who gaze upon it are satisfied with that their food of life; where they ever see and long to see, and long without anxious care, and are filled without satiety; where the true 193Sun of justice replenishes all with the wonderful vision of His beauty, and so enlightens all the denizens of the celestial land that they themselves shine with a light enkindled by God, a light enlightening beyond all the glory of this our sun, and be yond all the splendours of a universe of stars, those who, reposing on the immortal Godhead, are thus made immortal and incorruptible, according to the promise of our Saviour Lord, ‘Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me; that they may see My glory’ (St. John xvii. 24); ‘that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us’ (ib. 21).
[§ 73.] VIII. Of the kingdom of heaven. O kingdom of heaven, O kingdom most blessed, O kingdom that knows not death, O kingdom without end; where are no successions of ages all through eternity; where perpetual nightless day knows no measurement by time; where the conqueror warrior, after finished toil, is laden with unspeakable gifts—
‘Where crowns undying wreathe the noble brow.’
O that, my load of sins removed, the Divine compassion would bid me, the last and least of 194Christ’s servants, lay down this load of flesh, that so I might pass away into the endless joys of His Kingdom, and rest me there, and join the all-holy choirs, and with blissful spirits pay court to the glory of our Creator, and see the face of God close present, and be touched by no fear of death, and rejoice untroubledly in the incorruption of an en during immortality, and united with Him who knoweth all things, lose all my blindness and ignorance, and count all that is of earth of little moment, and care not to look back upon or any more remember this valley of tears, with its toilsome life, its life subject to corruption, its life full of all bitterness, its life attended by ills and tyrannised by the powers of hell; this life, with its swelling humours, its parching fevers, its cankering riches, its surfeiting meats, its emaciating hunger, relaxing levity, consuming sorrows, and pinching care; this life, in which security blunts, wealth puffs up, poverty brings low, youth elates, old age bends double, weakness breaks, sorrow crushes, the devil plots, and the world flatters; whilst the flesh is seduced by pleasure, the soul blinded, and the whole man thrown into disorder. When, lo, amidst these so many and so great ills death steals on us, steals on us like a thief, and so effectually 195puts an end to earthly joys, that when they cease to be, they are reckoned not even to have had a being.
[§ 74.] IX. God comforts the sorrowing soul after her great griefs. But what praises or what return of thanks can we find it in our power to render unto Thee our God, who, in the very midst of the so bitter griefs that harass our mortality, never ceasest to console us with the wonderful visitations of Thy grace? Lo, here I am, a poor wretch full of many sorrows; and while I look forward fearfully to the end of this my life, while I review my sins, while I dread Thy judgment of me, while I think of the hour of death, while I shudder at the torments of hell, while I know not with what sort of strictness and scrutiny Thou art weighing all my works, and am profoundly ignorant of the sort of end that is to close it all; while, in short, I revolve all this and much besides in the depth of my heart; Thou, Thou, O Lord God, art close at hand to console me with Thy wonted mercy, and amidst these my complaints, these my excessive moanings and sighs deep drawn from the bottom of my heart, dost lift up my sad and anxious mind above the tops of the hills unto the 196garden of spices, and there settest me in a place of pasture beside the rivers of sweet waters, and preparest before me a table of manifold entertainment to refresh my wearied spirit and gladden my sad heart; and thus at last revived with these dainties and raised above the heights of the earth, I rest at last in Thee, in Thee, true Peace.197
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