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YOU desire of me, beloved Brother Odo, a spiritual mirror or looking-glass, wherein you may behold yourself, and exactly see both your beauty and deformity. This request of yours is somewhat strange. Certainly, I think that you know me not; for if you did, whence doth it happen, that you request a spiritual thing of a carnal man? Nevertheless, lest I might seem to neglect, or rather to contemn your request, behold I send what our penury hath been able to afford you. Accept therefore of this short instruction, by reading whereof you may peradventure slenderly learn what you are, what you are not, or certainly what you ought to be.
First and foremost, therefore, I admonish you often and seriously to consider the end of your 2coming into your monastery; that being dead to the world and yourself, you may live to God. Strive therefore with might and main to accomplish that for which you came; learn strongly to despise all sensible things, and manfully to break, and no less wholesomely to forsake yourself. Make haste to mortify your passions and vicious affections that are in you.
Busy yourself in repressing the unstable wanderings of your heart; strive to overcome weariness, idleness, and the irksomeness of your infirm mind. Spend your daily labour in these things; let this be your glorious contention and healthful affliction. Be not remiss; but arise, watch, look about you, and expose yourself wholly, lest you be evilly partial to yourself. God requireth thus much of you; so doth your state.
You are called a Monk: see that you be truly what you are called. Do the work of a Monk. Labour earnestly in beating down and casting forth vice.
Be always armed against the frowardness of nature, against the haughtiness of mind, against the pleasures of your flesh, and the enticements of 3sensuality. Understand well what I say. If you permit pride, boasting, vainglory, self-complacence, to domineer over your reason, you are no Monk.
If you frowardly follow your own sense, and dare despise every humble office, you are not what you are called—you are no Monk.
If as much as in you lieth you repel not envy, hatred, maliciousness, indignation; if you reject not rash suspicions, childish complaints, and wicked murmurings, you are no Monk.
If a contentious and earnest strife being risen between you and another, you do not presently treat of a reconciliation, and what wrong soever hath been done, you do not presently pardon sincerely, but seek for revenge, and retain a voluntary private grudge, and not a true and sincere affection in your heart, or show outwardly signs of disaffection—nay, if when occasion and necessity requireth, you defer to help him that hath injured you, you are no Monk, you are no Christian, you are abominable before God.
If having done amiss, you are ashamed regularly to accuse yourself and freely to confess your 4fault; if being blamed, reproved, and corrected, you be not patient and humble, you are no Monk.
If you neglect readily and faithfully to obey your ghostly Father, if you refuse to reverence and sincerely to love him as God’s vicar, you are no Monk.
If you willingly withdraw yourself from the Divine Office and other conventual acts, if you assist not watchfully and reverently in the service of God, you are no Monk.
If, neglecting internal things, you take care only about the external, and with a certain dry custom move your body but not your heart to the works of religion, you are no Monk.
If you give not your mind to holy reading and other spiritual exercises, if you have your mind so possessed with transitory matters that you seldom lift yourself up to eternal, you are no Monk.
If you desire delicate and superfluous meats, and intemperately long after the drinking of wine beyond the measure of a cup, especially if you be in health, and have beer or other convenient drink sufficiently, you are no Monk.5
If foolishly you require precious apparel, soft beds, and other solaces of the flesh which agree not with your state and profession; if, loving corporal rest, you refuse to undergo labour and affliction for God’s sake, you are no Monk.
If you cannot endure solitude and silence, but are delighted with idle speeches and inordinate laughter, you are no Monk.
If you love to be with seculars, if you desire to wander out of the monastery through the villages and cities, you are no Monk.
If you presume to take any small matter, to send, receive, or keep any things without the knowledge or permission of your Superior, you are no Monk.
If you esteem not the ordinations of holy religion, though never so little, and willingly do transgress them, you are no Monk. To conclude: If you seek any other thing in the monastery but God, and with might and main aspire not to perfection, you are no Monk.
As I have said, therefore, that you may truly be what you are called, and may not wear the habit of a Monk in vain, do the work of a Monk. 6Arm yourself against yourself, and as much as in you lieth overcome and subdue yourself. If presently you find not the peace you desire; if, I say, as yet you cannot be at rest, but are troubled and assailed by brutish motions and turbulent passions: yea, if so be by God’s permission, for your own profit, throughout your whole life you shall have to do with such enemies, despair not, be not effeminately dejected, but, humbling yourself before God, stand and be steadfast in your place, and skirmish stoutly; for even the vessel of election, St. Paul, endured temptations all his lifetime, in which he was buffeted by the angel of Satan. When he often beseeched our Lord to be freed from this trouble he obtained it not, for that it was not expedient for him; but our Lord answered his prayer, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is perfected in weakness.” And so afterwards St. Paul did gratefully endure the scourge of temptation. Being comforted by the example of this most strong and invincible champion, faint not in temptation, but endure manfully, remaining fixed and immoveable in this holy purpose; for without doubt, this labour of yours is grateful to God, 7although the same seem hard and insufferable to you. Go through this spiritual martyrdom with an invincible mind. Doubt not, although you be a thousand times wounded, and as often trod under foot, if you stand to it, if you give not ground to your enemy and like a coward cast not away your weapons, you shall receive a crown. Do according to your ability, and commend the rest to God’s disposing, saying: As Thy will is in Heaven, so be it done. Let the divine will and ordination be your chief consolation. Which way soever you turn yourself, wheresoever you are, you shall find tribulations and temptations as long as this life lasteth; which, that you may patiently endure, you ought always to be prepared.
But you are happy, if by grace you have proceeded so far that all grief and affliction whatsoever become truly pleasing to you for God’s sake. What think you, Brother, is my glass big enough; or is not this yet sufficient for you, but you yet desire to hear in more express terms, more abundantly and fully, how to compose yourself within and without, or how, according to reason, you ought to order every day before God.8
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