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CHAPTER XI

OF THE LOVE OF GOD

O sweet and delectable light that is my Maker unmade; enlighten the face and sharpness of my inward eye with clearness unmade, that my mind, pithily cleansed from uncleanness and made marvellous with gifts, may swiftly flee into the high mirth of love; and kindled with Thy savour I may sit and rest, joying in Thee, Jesu. And going as it were ravished in heavenly sweetness, and made stable in the beholding of things unseen, never, save by godly things, shall I be gladdened.

O Love everlasting, enflame my soul to love God, so that nothing may burn in me but His embraces. O good Jesu, who shall grant me to feel Thee that now may neither be felt nor seen? Shed Thyself into the entrails of my soul. Come into my heart and fill it with Thy clearest sweetness. Moisten my mind with the hot wine of Thy sweet love, that forgetful of all ills and all scornful visions and imaginations, and only having Thee, I may be glad and joy in Jesu my God. Henceforward, sweetest Lord, go not from me, continually biding with me in Thy sweetness; for Thy presence only is solace to me, and Thy absence only leaves me heavy.

O Holy Ghost that givest grace where Thou wilt, come into me and ravish me to Thee; change the nature that Thou hast made with Thy honeyed gifts, that my soul fulfilled with Thy liking joy, may despise and cast away all things in this world. Ghostly gifts she may take of Thee, the Giver, and going by songful joy into undescried light she may be all melted in holy love. Burn my reins and my heart with Thy fire that on Thine altar shall endlessly burn.

O sweet and true Joy, I pray Thee come! Come O sweet and most desired! I pray Thee come! Come O sweet and most desired! Come my Love, that art all my comfort! Glide down into a soul longing for Thee and after Thee with sweet heat. Kindle with Thy heat the wholeness of my heart. With Thy light enlighten my inmost parts. Feed me with honeyed songs of love, as far I may receive them by my powers of body and soul.

In these, and such other meditations be glad, that so thou mayest come to the pith of love. Love truly suffers not a loving soul to bide in itself, but ravishes it out to the Lover; so that the soul is more there were it loves, than where the body is that by it lives and feels.

There are soothly three degrees of Christ’s love, by one or another of which he that is chosen to love profits. The first is called, unable to be overcome; the second, unable to be parted; the third is called singular.

Then truly is love unovercomeable when it can not be overcome by any other desire. When it casts away lettings, and slakes all temptations and fleshly desires; and when it patiently suffers all griefs for Christ, and is overcome by no flattery nor delight. All labour is light to a lover, nor can a man better overcome labour than by love.

Love truly is undeparted when the mind is kindled with great love, and cleaves to Christ with undeparted thought. Forsooth it suffers Him not to pass from the mind a minute, but as if he were bound in heart to Him it thinks and sighs after Him, and it cries to be holden with His love that He may loose him from the fetters of mortality, and may lead him to Him Whom only he desires to see. And most this name JESU he in so mickle worships and loves that It continually rests in his mind.

When therefore the love of Christ is set so mickle in the heart of God’s lover and the world’s despiser that it may not be overcome by other desire of love, it is called high. But when he holds undepartedly to Christ, ever thinking of Christ, by no occasion forgetting Him, it is called everlasting and undeparted. And if this be high and everlasting, what love can be higher or more?

Yet there is the third degree that is called singular. It is one thing to be high, and another to be alone; as it is one thing to be ever presiding, and another to have no fellow. Truly we may have many fellows and yet have a place before all.

Truly if thou seekest or receivest any comfort other than of thy God, and if peradventure thou lovest the highest, yet it is not singular. Thou seest therefore to what the greatness of worthiness must increase, that when thou art high thou mayest be alone. Therefore love ascends to the singular degree when it excludes all comfort but the one that is in Jesu; when nothing but Jesu may suffice it.

The soul set in this degree loves Him alone; she yearns only for Christ, and Christ desires; only in His desire she abides, and after Him she sighs; in Him she burns; she rests in His warmth. Nothing is sweet to her, nothing she savours, except it be made sweet in Jesu; whose memory is as a song of music in a feast of wine. Whatever the self offers to her besides it or comes into mind, is straightway cast back and suddenly despised if it serve not His desire or accord not with His will. She suppresses all customs that she sees serve not to the love of Christ. Whatever she does seems unprofitable and intolerable unless it runs and leads to Christ, the End of her desire. When she can love Christ she trows she has all things that she wills to have, and withouten Him all things are abhorrent to her and wax foul. But because she trows to love Him endlessly she steadfastly abides, and wearies not in body nor heart but loves perseveringly and suffers all things gladly. And the more she thus lives in Him the more she is kindled in love, and the liker she is to Him.

No marvel loneliness accords with such a one that grants no fellow among men. For the more he is ravished inwardly by joys, the less is he occupied in outward things; nor is he let by heaviness or the cares of this life. And now it seems as if the soul were unable to suffer pain, so that not being let by anguish, she ever joys in God.

O my soul, cease from the love of this world and melt in Christ’s love, that always it may be sweet to thee to speak, read, write, and think of Him; to pray to Him and ever to praise Him. O God, my soul, to Thee devoted, desires to see Thee! She cries to Thee from afar. She burns in Thee and languishes in Thy love. O Love that fails not, Thou hast overcome me! O everlasting Sweetness and Fairness Thou hast wounded my heart, and now overcome and wounded I fall. For joy scarcely I live, and nearly I die; for I may not suffer the sweetness of so great a Majesty in this flesh that shall rot.

All my heart truly, fastened in desire for JESU, is turned into heat of love, and it is swallowed into another joy and another form. Therefore O good Jesu have mercy upon a wretch. Show Thyself to me that longs; give medicine to my hurt. I feel myself not sick, but languishing in Thy love. He that loves Thee not altogether loses all; he that follows Thee not is mad. Meanwhile therefore be Thou my Joy, my Love, and Desire, until I may see Thee, O God of Gods, in Syon.

Charity truly is the noblest of virtues, the most excellent and sweetest, that joins the Beloved to the lover, and everlastingly couples Christ with the chosen soul. It reforms in us the image of the high Trinity, and makes the creature most like to the Maker.

O gift of love, what is it worth before all other things, that challenges the highest degree with the angels! Truly the more of love a man receives in this life, the greater and higher in heaven shall he be. O singular joy of everlasting love that ravishes all His to the heavens above all worldly things, binding them with the bands of virtue.

O dear charity, he is not wrought on earth that—whatever else he may have—has not Thee. He truly that is busy to joy in Thee, is forthwith lift above earthly things. Thou enterest boldly the bedchamber of the Everlasting King. Thou only art not ashamed to receive Christ. He it is that thou hast sought and loved. Christ is thine: hold Him, for He cannot but receive thee, whom only thou desirest to obey. For withouten thee plainly no work pleases Him. Thou makest all things savoury. Thou art a heavenly seat; angels fellowship; a marvellous holiness; a blissful sight; and life that lasts endlessly.

O holy charity, how sweet thou art and comfortable; that remakest that that was broken. The fallen thou restorest; the bond thou deliverest; man thou makest even with angels. Thou raisest up those sitting and resting, and the raised thou makest sweet.

In this degree or state of love is love chaste, holy, and wilful; loving what is loved for the self, not for goods, and fastening itself altogether on that that is loved. Seeking nothing outward, pleased with itself: ardent, sweet-smelling, heartily binding love to itself in a marvellously surpassing manner. In the loved one joying; all other things despising and forgetting; thinking without forgetfulness; ascending in desire; falling in his love; going on in halsing; overcome by kissing; altogether molten in the fire of love.

Thus truly Christ’s lover keeps no order in his loving nor covets no degree, because however fervent and joyful he be in the love of God in this life, yet he thinks to love God more and more. Yea, though he might live here evermore yet he should not trow at any time to stand still and not progress in love, but rather the longer he shall live the more he should burn in love.

God truly is of infinite greatness, better than we can think; of unreckoned sweetness; inconceivable of all natures wrought; and can never be comprehended by us as He is in Himself in eternity. But now, when the mind begins to burn in the desire for its Maker, she is made able to receive the unwrought light, and so inspired and fulfilled by the gifts of the Holy Ghost—as far as is lawful to mortals—she has heavenly joy. Then she overpasseth all things seen, and is raised up in height of mind to the sweetness of everlasting life. And whiles the soul is spread with the sweetness of the Godhead and the warmness of Creating Light, she is offered in sacrifice to the everlasting King, and being accepted is all burned up.

O merry love, strong, ravishing, burning, wilful, stalwart, unslakened, that brings all my soul to Thy service and suffers it to think of nothing but Thee. Thou challengest for Thyself all that we live; all that we savour; all that we are.

Thus therefore let Christ be the beginning of our love, whom we love for Himself. And so we love whatever is to be loved ordinately for Him that is the Well of love, and in whose hands we put all that we love and are loved by. Here soothly is perfect love shown: when all the intent of the mind, all the privy working of the heart, is lift up into God’s love; so that the might and mirth of true love be so mickle that no worldly joy, nor fleshly merchandise, be lawful nor liking.

O love undeparted! O love singular! Although there were no torments for the wicked, nor no meed in heaven should be trowed for chosen souls, yet shouldst thou never the sooner loose thee from thy Love. More tolerable it were to thee to suffer an untrowed grief than once to sin deadly. Therefore truly thou lovest God for Himself and for no other thing, nor thyself except for God; and thereof it follows that nothing but God is loved in thee. How else should God be all in ilk thing, if there be any love of man in a man?

O clear charity, come into me and take me into thee and so present me before my Maker. Thou art savour well tasting; sweetness well smelling, and pleasant odour; a cleansing heat and a comfort endlessly lasting. Thou makest men contemplative; heaven’s gate thou openest; the mouths of accusers thou sparrest; thou makest God be seen and thou hidest a multitude of sins. We praise thee, we preach thee, by the which we overcome the world; by whom we joy and ascend the heavenly ladder. In thy sweetness glide into me: and I commend me and mine unto thee withouten end.

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