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CHAPTER XI: How such special Grace for the Beholding of our Lord Jesus is withdrawn sometimes from a Soul; and how a Soul is to behave herself in the Absence and in the Presence of Jesus, and how a Soul shall alway desire (as much as is in her) the gracious Presence of Jesus
SHOW me then a soul that through inspiration of grace hath this opening of the spiritual sight into the beholding of Jesus that is separated and drawn out from the love of the world, so far forth that it hath purity and privity of spirit, spiritual rest, inward silence and peace of conscience, highness of thought, loneliness and privity of heart, the waking sleep of the Spouse, that hath lost the liking and joys of the world, taken with delight of heavenly savour, ever thirsting and softly hasting299299 Highing. after that blessed presence of Jesus; and I dare boldly300300 Hardly. pronounce that this soul burneth all in love, and shineth in spiritual light, worthy to come to the name and to the worship of the Spouse; for it is reformed in feeling, made able and ready to Contemplation. These are the tokens of inspiration in opening of the spiritual eye. For when the eye is opened, the soul is in full feeling of all the aforesaid virtues for that time.
Nevertheless it falleth out oftentimes that grace withdraweth in part by reason of the corruption of man’s frailty, and suffereth then the soul to fall into itself in sensuality,301301 Fleshly heed. as it was before; and then is the soul in pain and in sorrow, for it is blind and unsavoury and can do no good. It is weak and impotent, encumbered with the body and all the bodily senses. It seeketh and desireth after the grace of Jesus again, and it cannot find it; for the Scripture saith thus of our Lord: Postquam vultum suum absconderit, &c.—When our Lord hath hid His face, there is none that can behold Him.302302 Job 34. When He showeth His face, the soul cannot but see Him, for He is light; and when He hideth Himself, it cannot see Him, for the soul is dark.
His hiding is but a subtle trying of the soul. His showing is a wonderful merciful goodness in comfort of the soul. Wonder not though the feelings of grace be sometimes withdrawn from a lover of Jesus; for holy Writ saith the same of the Spouse, that it fareth thus with her: Quaesivi et non inveni illum, &c.— I sought Him, and I found Him not; I called, and He answered not.303303 Cant. 3. That is, when I fall down to my frailty and sin, then grace withdraweth; for my falling is the cause thereof, and not His flying, but then feel I pain of my wretchedness in His absence. And, therefore, I sought Him by great desire of heart, and He gave to me not so much as a feeble answer. And then I cried with all my soul: Revertere, dilecte mi—Turn again, Thou my beloved.304304 Cant. 4. And yet He seemed as if He heard me not. The painful feeling of myself, and the assailing of fleshly loves and fears in this time, and the wanting of my spiritual strength is a continual crying of my soul to Jesus. And nevertheless our Lord maketh strange, and cometh not, cry I never so fast; for He is sure enough of His lover, that he will not turn again to worldly loves quite; he can have no savour in them, and, therefore, stayeth He the longer.
But at the last when He pleaseth, He cometh again full of grace and faithfulness,305305 Sothfastness. and visiteth the soul that languisheth through desire, by sighings of love after His presence, and toucheth it, and anointeth it full gently306306 Softly. with the oil of gladness, and maketh it suddenly whole from all pain. And then crieth the soul to Jesus in a spiritual voice with a glad heart thus: Oleum effusum Nomen tuum.—Thy Name is as oil poured out.307307 Cant. 1. Thy Name is Jesus, that is, health. Then as long as I feel my soul sore and sick by reason of sin, pained with the heavy burthen of my body, sorrowful and fearful for perils and wretchedness of this life, so long, Lord Jesus, Thy Name is oil shut up, not poured forth. But when I feel my soul suddenly touched with the light of Thy grace, healed and cured308308 Sorted. from all the filth of sin, and comforted in love and in light with spiritual strength and gladness unspeakable, then can I say with lusty, loving and spiritual might to Thee: Thy Name, O Jesu, is to me oil poured forth. For by the effect of Thy gracious visitation I feel well the true exposition of Thy Name, that Thou art Jesus, health, for only Thy gracious presence healeth me from sorrow and from sin.
Happy is that soul that is ever fed with feeling of love in His presence, or is borne up by desire to Him in His absence. A wise lover is he, and well taught, that soberly and reverently behaveth himself in His presence, and lovely beholdeth Him without dissolute lightness, and patiently and easily beareth His absence without venomous despair and over painful bitterness.
This changeability of the absence and presence of Jesus, which a soul feeleth, is neither the perfection of the soul nor is it contrary to the grace of perfection or of Contemplation, but only a state of less perfection; for the more letting that a soul hath of itself from the constant feeling of grace, the less is the grace; and yet, nevertheless, is the grace in itself grace of Contemplation. This changeability of absence and presence falleth as well in the state of perfection as in the state of beginning, but after another manner; for even as there is diversity of feeling in the presence of grace betwixt these two states, right so is there in the absence of grace. And, therefore, he that knoweth not the absence of grace is apt to be deceived. And he that maketh309309 Keeps not. not much of the presence of grace is unthankful310310 Unkind. to the visiting thereof, whether he be in the state of beginners or of the perfect. Nevertheless, the more stableness that there is in grace unhurt and unbroken, the lovelier is the soul, and more like unto Him in whom is no changeableness,311311 Jas. 1. as the Apostle saith. And it is very meet that the Spouse should be like her Bridegroom Jesus in manners and in virtues, fully according to Him in stableness of perfect love. But that falleth out seldom here in Spouses of this life; for he that perceiveth no changeableness in the feeling of his grace, but is all alike, whole, stable, unbroken and unhurt, as he thinketh, he is either very perfect or very blind. He is perfect if he be sequestered from all carnal affections and inclinations312312 Commoning. to creatures, and hath all hindrances313313 Meanes. of corruption and of sin betwixt Jesus and his soul broken away, and is fully united314314 Oonyd. to Him with softness of love. But this is only from grace above man’s nature. Or he is very blind if he imagineth himself to be in grace without spiritual feeling of God’s inspiration, and setteth himself in a way of stableness, as if he were ever in feeling and in working of special grace, imagining all to be grace which he doth and feeleth, both inwardly and outwardly, thinking that whatsoever he doth or speaketh is grace, holding himself unchangeable in speciality of grace. If there be any such, as I hope there is none, he is full blind in feeling of grace.
Unto this I answer that bodily feelings, be they never so comfortable, are not to be desired nor regarded much if they come; but spiritual feelings, such as I have spoken of, if they come in that manner as I have said, should ever be desired. I mean the killing of all worldly love, the opening of the spiritual eye, purity of spirit, peace of conscience and all other spoken of before. We should ever covet to feel the lively inspiration of grace made by the spiritual presence of Jesus in our souls, if we could. And for to have Him in our sight with reverence, and ever feel the sweetness of His love by a wonderful familiarity of His presence. This should be our life and our feeling in grace after the measure of His gift in whom all grace is, to some more and to some less; for His presence is felt in divers manners as He pleaseth. And in this we should live and work that which belongeth to us to work, for without this we should not be able to live spiritually. For as the soul is the life of the body, right so is Jesus the life of the soul by His gracious presence.
And, nevertheless, this manner of feeling, though it be never so much, is but in faith in comparison of that which shall be of the selfsame Jesus in the bliss of Heaven. Lo, this feeling should we desire; for every reasonable soul ought to covet, with all its power, to approach to Jesus, and to be united to Him through feeling of His gracious invisible presence. How that presence is felt may better be known by experience than by any writing; for it is the life and the love, the might and the light, the joy and the rest of a chosen soul. And therefore, he that hath once truly felt it cannot forbear it without pain, neither can he choose but desire it, it is so good in itself and so comfortable. What is more comfortable here for a soul than to be drawn out through grace from the noisomeness of worldly business and filth of desires, and from vain affection of all creatures, into rest and softness of spiritual love, secretly perceiving the gracious presence of Jesus, and feelingly fed with the savour of His invisible blessed Face? Verily, I think nothing can make the soul of a lover full of mirth but the gracious presence of Jesus, as He can show Himself to a pure soul; such an one is never heavy, never sorry but when he is with himself in sensuality. He is never full glad, nor merry, but when he is out of himself as being with Jesus in spirit.
And yet is that no full mirth, for there ever hangeth a heavy lump of bodily corruption on his soul, and beareth it down, and hindereth much the spiritual gladness, and this must ever be whilst it is here in this life. But whereas I have before spoken of the changeability of grace, how it cometh and goeth, that thou mistake me not; thou must understand that I mean not of common grace, that is had and felt in faith and in goodwill to God; without having and lusting of which, and continuing in it, none can be saved, for it is in the least chosen soul that liveth. But I mean of special grace felt by inspiration of the Holy Ghost in that manner as I have said before. Common grace, which is Charity, lasteth whole whatsoever a man doth, as long as his will and his intent is true to God, which will of his keepeth him from sinning deadly, and the deed that he wittingly doth is not forbidden under a mortal sin; for this grace is not lost but by mortal sins. And then is a sin mortal when his conscience witnesseth with deliberation that it is mortal sin, and yet nevertheless he doth it; or else his conscience is so blinded that he holdeth it no deadly sin, although he doth the deed wilfully, which is forbidden by God and holy Church as a deadly sin.
Special grace felt through the invisible presence of Jesus, which maketh a soul a perfect lover, lasteth not ever alike whole in the height of feeling, but changeably cometh and goeth, as I have said before. Thus our Lord saith: Spiritus ubi vult spirat, &c.—The spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh, nor whither He goeth.316316 St John 3. He cometh secretly sometimes when thou art least aware of Him, but thou shalt know Him full well ere He go; for He wonderfully stirreth and mightily turneth thy heart into the beholding of His goodness, and then doth thy heart melt delectably as wax against the fire into softness of His love, and this is the voice that He soundeth. But then He goeth ere thou perceivest, for He withdraweth Himself somewhat, not wholly altogether, but from excess into moderation. 317317 Sobriety. The height of feeling passeth, but the substance and the effect of Grace dwelleth still. And that is as long as the soul of a lover keepeth himself pure, and falleth not wilfully into wretchedness or carelessness318318 Dissolution. in sensuality, nor to outward vanity, as sometimes it doth (though it have no delight therein) out of frailty. This is the changeability of grace which I meant and spake of.
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