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HITHERTO we have spoken how you ought to assist at the Divine Office, what internal exercises you should undertake, what rule to be observed, what to be followed, what to be avoided in them. We will now pass to the rest that we have to speak of. As for corporal refections, beware of all excess, lest, being overladen, you be made inapt for all spiritual exercises. For it cannot be but that the belly, swelling by intemperance, must needs draw away the mind from God and those things that belong to salvation. Wine especially, being more largely used, although without drunkenness, is a great impediment. It inflameth the body, confoundeth the internal parts, and, distressing the alacrity of the spirit, stirreth up a beastly kind of sluggishness. In vain, therefore, doth that man aspire to a spiritual life that yieldeth to his belly lop off, therefore, all vicious desires. Take no care whether your meat or drink be very delicate or 71sweet of itself. If it be man’s meat, and reasonable, what need you desire more? You are a Monk: come then to the table to refresh your body of God’s gifts, not to nourish the pleasures of the flesh. Wherefore, if you are troubled about the goodness of your victuals, and do murmur, as I have already said, so I say again—you are no Monk. If JESUS were truly pleasing to your heart, what poor fare for His sake would not be pleasing to your palate. For JESUS is a more pleasant sauce, even to extreme poverty. Love Him, and all manner of food will not be less, nay, will be more, pleasing unto you than the delicious banquets of Kings. JESUS, being hungry for your sake, was often fed with bare bread; JESUS, thirsting for your sake, drank vinegar and gall. Take your meat and drink continently, leisurely, and moderately, excluding all brutish greediness. Have a care even of the natural delight that proceedeth from your natural refection. Do not reflect upon it, do not desire to feed your sensuality, for if you feed that it will feed on you and pollute you within. And as you must often deny the flesh what it evilly desireth, so sometimes you must force it to receive 72what it desireth not. For sometimes it doth in a manner loathe that which natural necessity requireth.
Furthermore, beware that, while you refresh your body, your mind be not in the meantime hunger- starved. Therefore let the mouth of your heart feed on the word of God, and let your ears receive the wholesome doctrine and deeds of the Saints. And if you happen to sit at that table where there is no holy reading, do not thus deprive yourself of your spiritual food, but, as much as silence will permit, converse inwardly either with your soul or with God, and propose to yourself some godly thing to keep yourself doing. As in your diet, so be also in your apparel. Reject, scorn, and detest whatsoever is contrary to monastical simplicity. Neither do you imitate those vain and wretched Monks that are ashamed of their estate and vocation, but not of their lewd life and conversation; who, if they are to go abroad and to come into the sight of seculars, will bewray their foolishness and curiosity. They must, forsooth, have such and such clothes, and wear their cassock after this or that fashion. They are ashamed to wear their apparel according as 73religion doth ordain, and according to the Constitutions of their Superiors and ancestors. And coming abroad, not like humble Monks, but like delicate and neat courtiers, by this prodigious sight they provoke wise men to sorrow and indignation, but find matter of mirth for the devil, evidently showing by this absurdity what they are within, viz., proud, wanton, and full of vainglory. Alas! wretched Monks, far wide from the scope of true religion. O Monks—not Monks, but monsters! O Monks detestable, by being thus deluded by the devil’s clothing. Is this it that you promised to God, when, by the most sacred vow of poverty, you solemnly renounced the world, with all the pomps and vanities thereof? Is this it that the King of Kings hath taught you by His word? Is this it that He hath showed by His example, when, being wrapped in base clouts, He had no other cradle than a manger; when, likewise, He was apparelled in a white garment and a purple robe in scorn? Is this to follow JESUS? Is this to follow JESUS’ footsteps? O intolerable confusion! O extremity of madness! Look to yourself, Brother, that you become not like these, but rather be content with 74plain apparel, whether you be within the monastery or without, for thus much your profession exacteth of you. Everywhere, but especially during the Divine Office, keep your eyes from wandering, neither lightly look about you either this way or that, unless necessity require, lest you chance to see something that may hinder you from attention and purity of heart. But although there be no fear of danger, yet monastical discipline requireth that, whether you rest or go, you use modestly to look down upon the ground. Never look curiously on the face of any.
Let not your gait be too swift or hasty, especially in the Church, unless it happen of necessity that it must be so. Neither out of the Church let it be overdone, or remiss, but modest and civil. In all things compose yourself to a laudable carriage of your whole body.
Let your looks before others be pleasing, with a decent gravity, behaving yourself courteously and affably towards all. And if against your will you happen to be over-sorrowful, so dissemble it that you seem not unpleasant and harsh, and so be troublesome to the rest. When you are forced to laugh, laugh sparingly and like a Monk. Avoid long 75laughter as a great impediment to you in your purpose, and as the destruction of your soul; knowing that vehement and immoderate laughter doth violate the cloisters of modesty, and, dispersing the interior powers of the soul, driveth the grace of the Holy Ghost out of your heart.
Above all things, love solitude, silence, and taciturnity. Be more ready to hear than to speak. Be not hasty, nor turbulent, nor clamorous, nor contentious in words; but speak modestly, bashfully, courteously, and, without dissembling, what is true and right. Be not, I say, too loud; nor yet so low that you cannot be understood, especially if the place, time, cause, or person to whom you speak require that you speak somewhat more loud than ordinary; for, as the voice of a Monk should always be bashful, and for the most part low, according to the holy ordinations of religion, so also sometimes it ought to be reasonably loud. Affirm nothing obstinately, unless matter of faith or necessity of salvation constrain; but whosoever contradicteth you, either yield or hold your peace; if neither ought to be done, affirm with modesty and humility what you know to be certain; for by this means you, shall take away all occasion of 76irreligious contention. Let not your words be biting. Willingly speak not anything that may be either to your own credit or others discommendation. But if out of necessity or utility, you speak any such thing, do it with a laudable modesty and a pure intention. Abhor dissolute tales as the poison of the soul. As for jests (if they happen in your presence), albeit you suffer them, yet relate them not. Never consent to a tongue that speaketh foolishly, unseemly, and perniciously. Yea, if such things are spoken, do you, if it seem good, mildly and with reason find fault with the speaker; if you think it not good, yet at least cut off his speech honestly and endeavour to draw him to better discourse: if, possibly, you may give no ear to backbiters. The liberty of external recreation granted you, either by walking or other wise, see you abuse not; that is, make such use of them that they hinder not your spiritual going forward, but rather further it. You may, indeed, to the honour of God slake your mind, but let it not loose, lest, whilst you wander abroad, being expelled out of yourself, some delight or passion contrary to the spirit lay hold on you, and disperse your interior senses and replenish them with bitterness. Therefore 77carefully learn, by a certain advised simplicity of mind, to abide within yourself, that the noise of vain cogitations and the motion of inordinate affections being represented, you may keep your heart in silence and liberty. Let God be your chief, yea, your whole thought and study, for it is not enough for you that He be your whole intention.
Likewise, in all external occupations endeavour that, with Martha, you do not only for the honour of God perform your work prudently, devoutly, and with alacrity, but that also in those works which you faithfully do to the honour of God, with Mary, you direct your mind, being freed from the tumult of cogitations and the confused imagination of sensible things, to God, or those things that are divine, especially if reasonable discourse or any other necessity hinder not.78
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