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SHOWING HOW THESE FOUR DEGREES IN THEIR PERFECTION ARE FOUND IN CHRIST
If we wish to progress rightly in the four aforesaid degrees of the inward exercise which adorn a man’s bodily powers and the lower part of his nature, we should mark Christ, Who taught us these four ways and has gone before us therein. Christ, the bright Sun, rose in the heavens of the most high Trinity, and in the dawn of His glorious mother, the Virgin Mary; who was, and is, the dawn and daybreak of all those graces in which we shall rejoice eternally.
Now mark this: Christ had, and still has, the first degree; for he was one and in oneness. In Him were, and are, gathered and united all the virtues that ever were, and ever shall be, practised; moreover all the creatures who ever practised, and ever shall practise, these virtues. Thus He was the Father’s Only Begotten Son, and was united with human nature. And He was inward; for He brought to earth the fire that inflamed all the saints and all good men. And He yielded a sensible love and loyalty to His Father, and to all those who shall enjoy Him in eternity. And His devotion and His loving and aspiring heart burned and groaned before His Father because of the miseries of all men. His whole life, and all His works, from without and from within, and all His words, were thanksgiving and praise, and glorifying of His Father. This is the first degree.
Christ, the Sun of Love, sparkled and shone brighter still, and more ardently; for in Him was, and is, the fulness of all graces and gifts. And for this reason the heart of Christ and His way of life, and His conduct, and His service, over-flowed in mercy, in gentleness, in humility, and in generosity; and He was so gracious and so lovable that His ways and His person drew all men of goodwill. He was the unspotted lily amidst the flowers of the field, wherefrom all the just may suck the honey of eternal sweetness and eternal consolation. For all the gifts which were ever bestowed upon the manhood of Christ, Christ thanked and praised, according to His manhood, His Eternal Father, Who is the Father of all gifts; and He rested, as regards the highest powers of His soul, above all gifts, in the most high Unity of God, from which all gifts flow forth. Thus He possessed the second degree.
Christ the glorious Sun sparkled and shone higher still, and brighter, and more ardently; for all the days of His life long His bodily powers and His senses, His heart and His mind, were called and destined of His Father to that most high glory and beatitude which He now enjoys, according to His senses and His bodily powers. And He Himself was both naturally and supernaturally inclined thereto, according to His affections; nevertheless He was willing to abide in this exile until the time that His Father had foreseen and ordained from eternity. Thus He possessed the third degree.
When the due time had come wherein Christ should reap, and carry into the Eternal Kingdom, the fruits of all those virtues which ever had ripened, or ever should ripen, then the Eternal Sun began to descend; for then Christ humbled Himself, and delivered His bodily life into the hands of His enemies. And in this distress He was denied and forsaken of His friends, and from His human nature there was withdrawn all inward and outward consolation; and there was laid on it misery and sorrow, buffettings, blasphemies, and heavy burdens, and it paid the price of all our sins according to justice. And He bore these things in humble patience, and, whilst He was thus forsaken, He wrought the greatest work of love. And, thereby He has bought back and redeemed our eternal heritage. Thus is He adorned in the lower part of His noble manhood; for in it He suffered these pains for our sins. And this is why He is called the Saviour of the world, and why He is glorified, honoured, and exalted, and set on the right hand of His Father, where He reigns in mightiness; and all creatures, in heaven, and on earth, and in hell, bow the knee eternally before His most high Name.
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