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Practice.

Of Matilda’s daily life we know but little, having scarcely any incidents recorded in her book. Apparently, from various passages, we can learn that, like most Béguines, her time was chiefly occupied in tending the sick and poor.

She considered it needful to visit the sick in the Béguinage daily, “to comfort them with the lovely words of God, and to refresh them also in a gentle way with earthly things, for God is very rich. It is needful also to bestow much care on the cleanliness of the sick-room, and it is a good thing to be merry and to laugh with them, but in a godly manner. And it is well to serve them with ready hands, and to ask them kindly to tell what are their pains and complaints, and to show them that 67 they have a friend who will stand by them and care for them.”

Household matters, too, were a part of Matilda’s experience. “It is right to go every day into the kitchen, and to see that the needful provisions are good, so that our stinginess, or the cook’s laziness, may not rob the Lord of the bodily strength of His servants. A hungry mouth will sing the Lord’s praises ill, and a hungry man is little fit for study, and this is so much taken from the Lord’s service.”

Matilda also wrote letters, containing much wholesome advice. From a letter to a prior is the following:—

“We should listen to any complaints with sympathy, and be very faithful in giving counsel. If the brethren desire to build magnificently, you should hinder this, and say, ‘Ah, dearest brethren, let us rather build for God a beautiful palace in our souls, with the stones of Holy Scripture and holy graces.’

“The first stone of such a palace, in which the eternal God may dwell, and where His beloved may dwell with Him, is deep humility. We do not desire to build in pride and vanity, as the lords and ladies of this world; but we do need to build as heavenly princes upon earth, 68 knowing that at the last day we shall sit on thrones with the despised Jesus.

“And make sure that during the day or the night you find a full spare hour to converse with our dear Lord and God, praying to Him without let or hindrance. For the heavenly gift which God loves to give to His elect, His beloved children, is of a fine and noble sort, and it flows freely to the soul that draws near to Him, and to whom He bends down in His infinite love.

“For His heart was so smitten with love to us that He gave up all things, and emptied Himself for more than thirty years, that He might at last embrace His beloved, and give free course to His love.

“Will you not think of this? Could you be so uncourteous to Him, as to refuse Him one hour a day in return for these thirty years?

“When I, the lowest of the least, go to my prayers, I adorn myself for this hour. I put on as my only ornament my unworthiness, I array myself in the miry slough that I am, and I am shod with the precious time that I have lost day by day, and I am girded with the pain which I have caused to others. And I am wrapped in the cloak of my sinfulness, of which I am full; 69 and I put on my head the crown of my secret faults, wherewith I have trespassed against the Lord. Then I take the glass of the truth and look in it to see myself therein, and alas! I see but sorrow and shame. I would rather put on this dress than any rich attire, although it were better to be clothed in hell, and crowned with devils, than to be sinful as I am.

“And in this dress do I go to seek Jesus, my blessed Lord, and I find Him in no other way so truly as in my sin.

“Therefore with joy do I go to Him, with love and fear, and the uncleanness of my sin vanishes before His holy eyes, and He looks on me with such love, that my heart overflows with love to Him. And all the guilt and grief are gone, and He teaches me His will, and makes me to taste His sweetness, and He overwhelms me with His tender love.

“Prayer has a marvellous power, it makes the bitter heart sweet, and the sorrowful heart glad, and the poor rich, and the foolish wise, and the fearful bold, and the sick strong, and the blind to see, and the cold to burn. It draws the great God down into the small heart, and lifts the hungry soul up to God, the living Fountain. It brings together the 70 loving God and the loving soul in a blessed meeting-place, and they speak together of love.”

In another letter she says, “That which hinders spiritual people more, perhaps, than anything, is the little importance attached to small sins. I tell you in truth, when I neglect a pleasant laugh that would have hurt nobody, or when I allow bitterness in my heart even without showing it in word or action, or when I feel a little impatience in suffering pain, my soul becomes so dark, and my mind so dull, and my heart so cold, that I have to go and confess my sin with shame and tears. I feel like a dog who has been beaten till I breathe again freely in the love and mercy of God, and find myself again in the sweet garden of Paradise, out of which my sin had driven me.”

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