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[§ 103. THE SOUL OF MAN URGED TO SEEK AND TO FIND ITS GOD. THE MIND AROUSED TO THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD.]
AND now, poor mortal, avoid for a little while earthly employments, hide thee for a time from thy conflicting thoughts, throw aside thy burden some cares, and postpone to another time all wearisome distractions. Retire for a little space in God, and rest thee for a while in Him. Enter into the closet of thy heart; shut out all except God, and what may help thee in thy quest of Him, and with closed door seek Him. And then say, O my whole heart, say at once to God, ‘I seek Thy Face; Thy Face, O Lord, will I still seek.’
Now, therefore, O Lord my God, teach Thou my heart where and how to seek Thee; when and how to find Thee. If Thou art not here, O Lord, whither shall I go to seek Thee? But if Thou art everywhere, why do I not see Thee here? No; for in truth Thou inhabitest the inapproachable 282light. But where is the inapproachable light? Or how shall I approach the inapproachable? Or who will lead me into it, that I may see Thee in it? And then, what are the tokens by which I am to seek Thee, what the aspect by which I am to know Thee? O Lord my God, I have never seen Thee, and, I know not what Thou art like.
O what, most high God, what is this far-off exile of Thine to do? What is Thy servant to do, anxious from love of Thee, and far banished from Thy Presence? He yearns to behold Thee, and Thy Face is too far off from him; he longs to approach Thee, and Thy dwelling-place is inapproachable; he desires to find Thee, but knows not the place of Thy rest; and strives to seek Thee, but cannot tell what Thy Face is like.
O Lord, Thou art my God and my Lord, and I have never seen Thee. Thou hast made and re-made me, and all the blessings that I have are of Thy giving; and as yet I do not know Thee. I was created to behold Thee, and as yet I have not attained to the object of my creation. O sad estate of man! for man has foregone that for which he was created. O hard, O cruel lot! What, alas, did he lose, and what did he find? What went, and what remained? He lost the beatitude 283for which he was created, and he found the misery for which he was never made; that went without which no happiness is, and that remained which of itself is merest misery. And then he ate the bread of sorrows, and knew it not.
Ah, the general anguish of mankind, the universal wailing of the sons of Adam! Our first father had bread to the full, and we cry out for hunger. He abounded, and we are beggars: he so happy in having, so sad in foregoing; we so unhappy in our need, so miserable in our craving! And yet we remain empty. Why did he not keep and guard, when he might have done it so easily, what we lack so grievously? Why, why did he so block out the light, and cover us up in darkness? Why did he filch away our life, and bring in death instead? O woe-begone we! whence are we banished, whither are we driven? Whence hurled headlong, whither fallen low? From our home, to exile; from God and the vision of God, to self and its blindness; from the joys of immortality, to the horror and the bitterness of death. Miserable change! From how great good to how great ill!
Sad loss, sad grief, sad everything! But wo is me, poor me, one of other the poor sons of Eve banished from their God. What have I endeavoured, 284what achieved? Whither did I tend, and what have I reached? To what did I aspire, and where am I now sighing, ‘I sought for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble’? (Jer. xiv. 19.)
I reached forth to God, and I stumbled on self. I sought rest in my secret place, and ‘I met with trouble and sorrow’ (Ps. civ. 3) in my inmost parts. I wished to return in the joy of my soul, and lo, I am forced ‘to roar with the groaning of my heart’ (Ps. xxxvii. 9). Happiness was the goal of my hope, and lo, sigh is crowded upon sigh. And Thou, O Lord, how long? ‘How long, O Lord, wilt Thou forget me unto the end? how long dost Thou turn away Thy Face from me?’ (Ps. xii. 1.) When wilt Thou look on me and hear me? When wilt Thou lighten mine eyes and show me Thy Face? When wilt Thou restore Thyself to me?
Look on me, O Lord, and hear me, and en lighten me, and show me Thyself. Restore Thyself to me, that it may be well with me; Thou, without whom it goes so ill with me. Direct, O Lord, my labours and my endeavours unto Thee, for without Thee I am nothing worth. Thou invitest me; help me, O Lord, I pray Thee, that I sigh not from despair, but breathe again and hope. 285Lord, I pray Thee, for it is soured by its lonesomeness, sweeten my heart with Thy consolations. () Lord, I pray Thee, for I have begun to seek Thee hungering, let me not go away empty; I have drawn near famished with want, let me not depart unsatisfied. I have come, a beggar to the Rich, a wretch to the All-merciful; let me not turn back despised and without an alms. And even if I sigh before I can eat, give me something to eat after I have sighed.
O Lord, I am bowed down low, and cannot look up; raise me, that I may lift mine eyes on high. ‘My iniquities are gone over my head’ (Ps. xxxvii. 5) and overwhelm me, ‘and as a heavy burden’ they press me sore. Rescue me, unburden me; ‘let not the pit shut her mouth upon me’ (Ps. lxviii. 16). Be it mine to see Thy light from afar, even from the depth. Teach me to seek Thee; and when I seek, show Thyself; for I can neither seek Thee unless Thou teach me, nor find Thee unless Thou show Thyself to me. Let me seek Thee by desiring, and desire Thee in seeking; let me find Thee by loving, and love Thee in finding. I confess to Thee, O Lord, and I give Thee thanks that Thou hast created me in Thine image, so as ever mindfully to muse on Thee and 286love Thee. But the image is so defaced by the wear and waste of evil habits, and so befouled with the smoke and stain of sins, that it cannot do that for which it was created unless Thou remake and readorn it. I do not essay to sound Thy depths, O Lord, for I no way match my understanding to such an effort; but I do long in some sort to understand that truth of Thine which my heart believes and loves; for I seek not to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.
[§ 104. The inapproachable dwelling-place of God.] Truly, O Lord, this light in which Thou dwellest is an inapproachable light. For in truth there is nothing that can pierce it, so as to see Thee in its midst. And truly, too, I see it not, for it is too bright to be seen: and yet whatever I see, I see by it; like the weak eye which, whatever it beholds, beholds by the sun’s light, a light which it is unable to look upon in the sun itself. My understanding cannot aspire to reach it, for it is too bright, therefore it endures it not; nor can the eye of my soul bear to fix too long a gaze upon it, but is stricken by its brightness, quelled by its fulness, overwhelmed by its immensity, bewildered 287 by its grandeur. O supreme and inapproachable Light, holy and blessed Truth, who art far from me, near though I be to Thee, how far removed art Thou from my ken, present though I be to Thy sight! Thou art altogether present every where, and I do not see Thee; I move in Thee and am in Thee, and I cannot approach Thee; Thou art within me and round about me, and I feel Thee not.
Thus ever dost Thou in Thy light and Thy bliss hide Thyself from my soul; and she lingers on in her gloom and sadness. She strains her eye, and descries not Thy beauty; she listens, but catches not Thy harmony; she longs for Thee, but Thy fragrance breathes not on her; she feels for Thee, but nothing of Thee answers to her touch; she tastes, and discerns not Thy sweetness. For Thou hast all these in Thyself, beauty, harmony, fragrance, grace, and sweetness, after Thine own ineffable manner, since Thou hast bestowed them on created things in their own manner, as we recognise after a sensible manner; but the senses of my soul are ‘dulled, stupefied, and blunted by the old disease of sin. What art Thou, O Lord; what art Thou? Truly Thou art Life, and Truth, and Goodness, and Bliss, and Eternity, and every good!288
[§ 105. The goodness of God, the creative Life.] Rouse thyself now, O my soul; exert all thy powers, and think what that good is; how great and of what degree it is. For if all good things taken severally are delectable, think, O think, how delectable must be that good which includes all goods and the delightsomeness of all; a delightsomeness, not such as we have by experience known in created things, but as different from that as the Creator transcends the creature. For if created life be good, how good is the Life creative! If achieved salvation be a joyous thing, how joyous must that Salvation be by, which all salvation was achieved! If wisdom in the observation of visible things be a worthy object of love, how loveable must that Wisdom be which created all things out of nothing! In short, if in all delectable things there are many and great delights, what and how great must be the delightsomeness of Him who created all delightsome things!
And he who shall enjoy this good, what shall he have I rather, what shall he not have? What ever he shall wish, he will have; and not wish, he shall not have. Ay, he shall have blessings of body and of soul such as ear hath not heard, eye hath not seen, and heart of man hath not conceived.289
Why, then, dost thou wander wide, poor child of earth, in thy search after goods for body and soul? Love the One Good, in whom all good things are, and it is enough. For what, O my flesh, dost thou love? What dost Thou desire, O my soul? Whatever you love, whatever you desire, it is there. If beauty delights you, ‘fulgebunt justi sicut sol’ (St. Matt. xiii. 43)—the just shall shine as the sun. Or if fleetness, or strength, or suppleness of body, such as nothing may resist; ‘erunt similes angelis Dei’ (St. Luke xx. 36)—they shall be like the angels of God, for ‘it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body;’ spiritual, that is to say, in capacity, though not in essence. If health and long life have charms for you, healthful eternity and eternal health are there, for ‘the just shall live for evermore’ (Wisdom v. 16), and ‘the salvation of the just is from the Lord’ (Ps. xxxvi. 39). If abundance, ‘they shall be satisfied when the glory of God shall appear’ (Ps. xvi. 15). If melody, there the angels sing together without end to God. If satisfaction, ‘they shall be inebriated with the plenty of Thy house’ (Ps. xxxv. 9). If aught and every pure and stainless pleasure have attraction for you, ‘Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure’ (Ps. xxxv. 9). 290If wisdom, the Wisdom of God shall Himself display Himself to them eternally. If friendship, they shall love God more than themselves, and God will love them more than they love themselves; for they shall love Him, and in Him, one another; and He will love Himself, and them in Himself. If concord, all of them will have one will; for they shall have no will but God’s only. If power, they shall have perfect mastery of their own will, as God has of His. For, as God’s will shall be the exact measure of His power, so in Him shall their power be as their will. For, as they shall will nothing apart from Him, even so shall He will whatever they shall will, and what He shall will cannot by any possibility but be. If honour and riches, God will set His good and faithful servants over many things; yea, they shall be called the sons of God, and gods; and where the Son is, there shall they be also, ‘heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’ (Rom. viii. 17). If true security, they will assuredly be sure that they shall not lose their treasure by any choice of theirs, and that their lover Lord will not take it from His lovers; and that there is nothing stronger than God, that it should sever an unwilling God and His unwilling creatures from each other.291
But what and how great is the joy there, where such and so great is the good! O heart of man, poor heart; heart worn with woes, ay, over whelmed with woes; what, what would be thy joy if thou hadst all these blessings, and hadst them in abundance I Ask thine inmost self if it can com pass all its own joy that shall spring from its own so great bliss. Assuredly, if any other soul whom thou didst love even as thyself enjoyed the very same bliss as thou, thy joy would be doubled; for thou wouldst rejoice not one whit less for him than for thyself. And in like manner, if two, or three, or many more had the very same happiness as thyself, thou wouldst rejoice for each several soul among them as thou didst for thyself, if thy love for each of them were equal to thy love of thyself. In that perfect charity, therefore, of innumerable blessed angels and holy souls, in the home where none loves any other less than he loves himself it is alike true that each several soul, each several angel, shall rejoice for the sake of every other one no less than for his own sake.
If, then, the heart of man can scarce compass its own joy, to be begotten of its own so great bliss, how shall it be able to compass so many and so great joys? For ’tis true indeed that as great as 292is the love of any to another, so great will be his joy in that other’s good. But, O, in that perfect bliss, each one will love his God more, incomparably more, than will be his love for himself, and for all other beings with himself; and therefore he will rejoice more, more beyond all power of counting or imagining; he will rejoice more in the happiness of God than in his own happiness and that of all others besides. But and if they so love God with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, that all heart, all mind, all soul shall not be sufficient for His worthiness to be loved, why, then, the just will so rejoice in that supreme felicity with all their heart, all their mind, all their soul, that all heart, all mind, all soul shall not be sufficient for the fulness of their joy.
[§ 106. The fulness of joy.] My God and my Lord, my hope and the joy of my heart, speak Thou to my soul, and tell me if this be the joy of which Thou tellest us by Thy Son, ‘Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full’ (St. John xvi. 24). For I have found a joy, full and more than full. For though heart be full, life full, soul full, the whole being full of it, still, still there will be joy remaining and overflowing beyond measure. 293For not the whole of that joy shall enter into those who enjoy it, but they, wholly rejoicing, shall enter into it.
Speak, O Lord, speak to Thy servant interiorly in his heart, and tell me: is this the joy into which Thy servants are to enter, who shall enter into the joy of their God? Certainly, that joy wherewith Thine elect are to rejoice ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man’ (1. Cor. ii. 9) in this life. And I, O Lord have as yet neither said nor thought how great will be the joy of those Thy blessed ones. Only this can I say or think: they will rejoice even as they love, and they will love even as they know. O how perfectly will they know Thee, O Lord, and how entirely will they love Thee! No, in this life of a truth eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, how in that life Thy saints shall know Thee, and shall Thee. I pray Thee, O my God, grant me to know Thee, to love Thee, to rejoice in Thee; and if cannot in this life do so to the full, at least let me advance day by day more and more, until at last that ‘to the full’ shall be mine. Here let the knowledge of Thee increase in me, that maybe full; here let Thy love grow in me, that 294there it may be full; that thus my joy here may be great, great in hope; so as there to be full, full in Thee.
O Lord, Thou by Thy Son commandest, rather, Thou dost counsel us to seek, and Thou dost promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full. Be it so, O Lord; I ask what Thou dost counsel by Thy Wonderful, Thy Counsellor, so as to receive what Thou dost promise by Thy Truth; that so my joy may be full. And meanwhile let my mind draw from thence its musings, and my tongue eloquence; let my heart love it, and my mouth speak of it; let my soul hunger after it, and my flesh thirst for it, and my whole being desire it, until at last I enter into the joy of my Lord, who is Three and One, blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
ROB30N AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.
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