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In the third place, how true poverty is a pure working.


God is a pure working, therefore also is poverty a pure working; and each thing worketh according to its form. Poverty is a pure, simple working. Perhaps some one might say, What does pure signify? That is pure which is one, a unity, and severed from all else. Poverty is one, and severed from all difference, and therefore poverty is pure. That therefore which is pure worketh purely. What then is working? Working is nothing else than making something out of nothing, or making of one thing another, or making a thing better than it was before, or making into nothing something that is. And this mode hath poverty to itself.


First, Poverty maketh something out of nothing. Thus when a man hath left all that is not God or godlike and cleaveth only to God, God must needs give himself and all things back again to such a man. Hence, what was not his before, becometh now his own, as, for example, the good works that other men work, and also those that Christ worked ever, and all the saints, and all good men have worked, or still work, and will work, these are the property of a pure man, as though he had worked them himself. For in the fact that he goeth out of himself and out of all things that are not God, and turneth 35to God with all love, he obtains thus a community with God and all things that are godlike; and what he is then incapable of doing by works he accomplisheth through love. What another doeth through works that he maketh his own through love, for “love appropriates other’s virtues,” as St. Gregory saith.4141   Quisquis charitatem habet etiam dona alia percipit; quisquis charitatem non habet, etiam dona quae percipisse videbitur amittit. Homil. 9 in Evang. No. 6. And thus a poor man maketh out of nothing something. Further, a poor man’s works are so widely spread, so broad, that in a moment he worketh all works. And internally and hi isolation he worketh all external and internal works that are good, and he worketh them not by accident but essentially; and as the essence of a thing is much nobler than accidents, thus the virtues of a poor man are much nobler than those of another man who worketh virtue in accidents.


Secondly, poverty maketh out of one work another. For instance, when a man is overladen with time and creatures he hath also his working in time and with the creature, and he cannot be empty of them. When now he turneth himself from time and from creatures, and turneth to God and to eternity, he hath henceforth his working with God and in eternity, and no longer in time and with the creature; hence out of time he maketh eternity, and out of the creature, God. And this is what poverty seeketh, and therefore is its working pure.



Thirdly, poverty changeth a good work into something better and more perfect; as, for example, when a poor man goeth on the way of God, and his going is always to something better and more intimate; as St. Gregory saith, “The going in the way of God is always a forward march.”4242   According to Denifle this teaching is the following: Not to advance on the way of the Lord is called to go back. St. Bernard developed this view most clearly in his Epistle 254. No. 4: “Nolle proficere deficere est.” Again, in Epistle 385, No. 1.—Tauler only cites him; but compare St. Gregory, Lib. past, curae, p. 3. admon. 35. And thus a poor man goeth always in the truth, and increaseth, while he is in time; and therefore poverty is a pure working, as he maketh things continually better and still better.


In the fourth place, poverty hath this, that it destroyeth one thing and maketh another in its stead. Thus a man has inherited from the fall of Adam that his nature is full of sinful inclinations; and to destroy these man must do it by virtues,—and in the stead of each sin must this man place a virtue;4343   This passage, though different in other versions, has its justification in a sentence of St. Gregory, Hom. 32 in Evang. No. 1, where he says of God: Coelestis medicus singulis quibusque vitiis obviantia adhibet medicamenta. and thus we must overcome vice with virtue. He who wisheth to cast out all vice must have all virtue, and in no other way can you overcome vice save by virtues. Hence poverty is a pure working, for it continually killeth vices and seizes hold of virtues and obtains them. Wherefore we must at all times exercise ourselves in virtues if we would be empty of vices; for whensoever a man is empty or idle with respect to virtues vice gains power over him. If, then, a poor man at all times worketh 37virtue vice hath no power over him. All things are a virtue to him if he proposeth God’s honour in all things. Of this St. Paul speaks when he saith, “To the pure all things are pure.”4444   Titus i. 15.


But some one might say: How can there be working in poverty, for poverty is a mere state of being, and what is mere or simple is immovable, whereas working is movable and takes place in movement? How then can poverty and working agree together? To this I answer and say, that poverty is a likeness to God. Now God is in Himself immovable, and yet He moveth all things; so likewise is poverty in itself a stationary being, immovable and yet with God it moveth all things. For poverty is dissolved in God and united to Him; that then which is one hath one working. Now God and poverty are one, and therefore poverty worketh with God all things, and yet it remaineth pure and simple and immovable with God. Again, man is compounded of time and eternity. When, then, man is raised with the highest forces out of time into eternity, he becometh immovable, according to the highest forces; for eternity is immovable that, therefore, which is in eternity is immovable also. If man with his highest part is in eternity, he is immovable, and yet he moveth the lowest forces according 38to time. For poverty is to be taken according to the highest faculties, and the highest faculties are immovable. So, therefore, poverty is also immovable, and yet worketh with the highest forces in the lowest and not the lowest in the highest. A simile. The angel moveth heaven and the things that are in heaven, and yet he remaineth unmoved. So also is it here. Thus, then, is poverty a pure working and yet immovable.

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