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Four ways lead a man to a poor, perfect, contemplative life, seeing God inwardly. The first way is, that a man have a perfect will to give up all, that is against God, that is not a matter of God and that is not solely God, and thereby you obtain all virture.


The first way is this, that a man have a perfect will to give up all that is against God, also all of which God is not the cause and that is not God Himself. In the first path you leave all sins; in the second you leave the cause of sin, such as temporal property, wives, and so on. The third removeth all that entereth as a disturbing influence between God and man, such as spiritual images and forms, through which you can no longer find God. Man must conquer all virtue with a perfect will, must exercise himself willingly in all virtues that appertain to him, till he reacheth the summit of all virtues, so that none escape him till he hath attained all. Whoso 196omitteth one, strayeth away from the road of a poor and contemplative life. Poverty consisteth in a freedom from all burdens and a possession of every virtue; and the contemplative life is a life perfected in working. To whom virtue is lacking, lacketh also poverty; to whom a working life lacketh, lacketh also a contemplative life. For only when a man hath come to the highest point of a working life, doth a contemplative life begin, and no one contemplates the divine clarity, save he who hath seized hold on virtue with all his powers, in order that this force may lift him out of himself, out of all darkness of created things, into the divine clarity, in which clarity he will behold the purity of the Divine Being. Now he who lacketh this force must tarry down here below. For nothing can work beyond its force. And as man is sick by nature, therefore he cannot of himself raise himself above himself, but this must take place through a divine force of grace, and the force springeth out of virtue, and it is easy for him, who hath all virtue, to enter into himself and make room for God to work inwardly in him, and this working is full of delight. But it is difficult for him who hath not all virtue to enter into himself and make room for God to work in him, and this is because he is not receptive of the work, and he is still lacking in the force of grace, which springeth out of perfect virtue. Hence they scarcely detect that it is time for their meal, before they 197turn themselves to outward things in which they take more pleasure, rather than go into themselves. But to a man who is perfect in virtue, his meal seemeth ever too long, he would always wish to do without eating, that he might alway attend to his heart, and this would be more delightful to him than all eating and drinking and all external joy. For his delight is entirely from within, and not from without. And this is the case when he is dead to himself and God alone liveth in him. For where God is, there is joy and rapture without any distress. And people often fancy that a good man hath much woe, hut know not that it is so well with him. For every virtue and good work bringeth him a special delight. And he who hath the most virtue, hath also most joy. I shall perhaps be asked what the Lord meant when He said, “Blessed are they that weep and mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Here notice, that the joy of good people doth not issue from creatures, but from God. And thus as they have always a divine joy, in that proportion is the delight of creatures bitter to them, and our Lord meaneth that happy are they to whom all creatures are bitter and God alone delightful, of which St. Bernard said, “If you taste the divine spirit, all bodily things become bitter to you,”132132   It is really St. Gregory who says this: Qui coelestis vitae dulcedinem . . . perfecte cognoverit, ea quae in terris amaverat libenter cuncta derelinquit; in comparatione ejus vilescunt omnia. Homil. 11. in Evang. No. 2. and whoso goeth forth on the road of virtue, he cometh certainly to the goal of a perfectly contemplative life. For every virtue pusheth him forward, and helpeth him to it, as of himself he cannot get 198there. And when he cometh to this, that he obtaineth all virtue, he is led forward with power to the highest step of perfection.


The second road to true poverty, in which a man seeth the wonderful riches of God, is this, that he walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and follow Him in every possible manner. Thereby we receive all the divine light and all the light of grace, which lead man on the right road to a perfect contemplative life, as Christ Himself saith, “Whoso wisheth to come to the Father must enter through Me,”133133   John xiv. 6. that is, through His humanity, into the Godhead. This cometh to pass in two ways.

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