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Of some ways by which man may with certainty attain to Union with God, and may also have unceasing Communion with Him. How he may have peace with the world, the evil enemy and his own flesh.

Dilectus meus loquitur mibi, surge, propera, amica mea.

“My beloved speaketh to me: arise, make haste, my love.”

Thus spake the Bride in the Book of Love. Now, he who wishes to be the friend, and to know whether he be the spouse of our Lord, must take note of the following marks, and see whether he possesses them. If he possesses them, then he is, undoubtedly, a chosen spouse.

The first is that he must have peace with our Lord, so that no created being can disturb his inner peace. Thus saith the prophet: “He will give you true peace in this place.”1212    Jer. xiv. 13 The spouse of our Lord must so comport herself, that she readily renounces all things in humble confidence, retaining her divine peace unimpaired within, and renouncing all things in Him and by Him. Now wouldest thou ask, with whom thou shalt have peace? With the world, the enemy, and thine own flesh. But how? With the world, by not heeding what the world may do unto thee, either taking thee or leaving thee; to this thou mayest attain with patience.

Secondly, that thou mayest be at peace with the enemy; but man can scarcely ever attain to this. The enemy is constantly striving with him, and is always interfering in all man’s works and actions in order to hinder him. There is nothing by which man can so completely quench the fiery darts of the enemy as by fervent and devout prayer; for it burneth and chaseth him away, and forceth him to flee with all his lusts. Therefore, when man is conscious of the fiery arrows which are shot at him, and which would deprive him of his spiritual peace, let him at once betake himself to secret prayer with all his might, and take no heed of hindrances; and thus he will be rid of all hindrances, while nothing more grievous can happen to the enemy. Thus we read of St Bartholomew, that he prayed, and then the devil cried our: “Oh, thou burnest me with thy prayers, and thou hast bound me with fiery bands.”

Thirdly, thou must have peace with thyself. But how? Thou must in all things subject thy body to thy spirit, that in all things thou mayest have dominion over it, that it may not hinder the in any work that God requires of thee. Thus did the holy saints: for they had dominion over their own bodies, and trained them so well, that that which the spirit desired, the body sprang forward to do, as though it would say: “Here I am before thee.” We read that it was so with the humble Francis. There are four things that a man must do, in order to acquire this dominion over his own body. First, thou must deprive thy body of all that pleases it, whether eating, drinking, sleeping or waking, and of all comfort. When thou seest that it is ready to rebel, bridle it with a discipling that is still more severe. Secondly, thou must renounce all thirst for and all the consolation of the world, and all worldly things and cares. Let the dead bury their dead; follow thou God. If thy friend dies; or joy, grief, honour or riches, or whatever it may be, is thy portion or comes to thee, bear all patiently in God. A saint once said: “With whomsoever thou rejoicest, and with whomsoever thou sorrowest, with him wilt thou also be judged.” St Paul says: “Reckon yourselves to be dead unto the world.” The dead man careth not whether he be praised or blamed, whether goods are given him or withheld. A dead or a dying man careth nothing for gold or jewels, for honour, friends, joy or consolation. Thou must do as one of the old Fathers did, who dwelt in a wood. His own brother came to him and said: “Dear brother, I am in great distress; a cart of mine, laden with goods, has fallen into the water, help me to drag it out;” and he cried and wept and besought him urgently. The old Father replied: “Go, and ask that brother, who still dwells in the world, for help. Why comest thou to me?” Then the man, who was a merchant, said: “That brother has been dead a whole year.” Then said the old man. “So have I been dead for twenty years;” and thus he dismissed him, and troubled himself no more.

Thirdly, thy mind must be always fixed on God. Thou must be always in the Presence of God. Verily, if thou desirest to have the Creator of all creatures, thou must renounce all creatures; for it cannot be otherwise, but only insomuch as thy soul is emptied and bared; the less of the creature, the more of God: this is but a bargain. St Augustine says: “That man is far too covetous who is not satisfied with God; for what canst thou desire that thou canst not find in Him? Remember that whatever such a heart can desire is to be found a thousandfold in Him. Desirest thou love or faithfulness, or truth, or consolation, or His constant Presence?—all, all can be found without measure in Him. Desirest thou beauty? He is of all the most beautiful; desirest thou riches? He is of all the richest; desirest thou power? He is of all the most powerful. Whatever thy heart can desire, may be found a thousandfold in Him; for in God alone canst thou find the best blessings.” Therefore drive out all creatures with all their consolations. Say: “Get thee away: thou art not He Whom I seek; Whom I desire, Whom I love.” Whether it be honour, or riches, or joy, or friendship, say: “Get thee away, flee from me, let me alone, let me be, I heed thee not.”

Whence comes it that God is so strange to thee, and that His loving Presence is so often lost or withheld? There is but one reason; that thy mind is not emptied and bared, and that thou troublest thyself about the creature, and art corrupted thereby. St Bernard says contemplation is nothing else than a cleaving to God, a forgetfulness of all earthly things. St Augustine says: “He can contemplate who is free from all earthly thoughts, and thinks of the things that are of God.” and he also says: “O good Jesus, my soul longs unspeakably for Thy love. I beseech Thee that I may be enraptured with the vision, the Cross, and the most holy sweetness of Thy Humanity. May I be able to withstand the vanity and the temptations of the world, and long to be caught up into heaven, to fathom the mystery of the Sacraments of God. May I so increase in spiritual things that I may be caught up, as it were, to gaze on Thy Divine and Holy Trinity, so that in all my works I may acknowledge Thy Divine Will, and be united with Thee. And, though I sometimes let down to the first or second stage, may I have no difficulty in rising up again; so that, when I see or hear of earthly things, I may not heed them, but die unto them and live alone unto Thee. There is one thing that thou must know; wert thou only freed from the likeness of the creature thou mightest have God unceasingly; for He could not refuse thee, either in heaven or in earth. He must come to thee. Had He sworn, He must change His word, and come to thee, and completely fill thy soul, if He found it empty; for, do what thou wilt, as long as the creature reigns in thee, thou must do without God and remain in vanity. If thou withholdest the least part of thyself from Him, assuredly He will take much from thee of that which He is, an immense portion.

There was once a fair and beautiful woman, who bare a child, that was as black as a Moor. Master Albertus was told of this great trouble. He found a picture of a Moor that the woman had seen and he said to her: “Woman, I have found the father of your child.” And he compared the matter to a hen that was set in sight of a sparrow hawk, and all her young were fashioned after the likeness of sparrow hawks. Thus all who are born after the Divine Likeness are divine; and all that are born after the flesh are carnal.

Fourthly, thou must subdue thy natural senses, and at all times hold the mastery over them; thou must see, and yet not see, and never raise thine eyes, nor listen with thine ears, nor open thy mouth, without good cause. Thy hands, thy feet and all thy members must never be allowed their own way. Thou must guard them carefully and keep them securely, that nothing may suggest itself to them, or be heard or seen by them that is not divine. For, St Augustine says: “We must die and yet not die, we must keep under our nature and our senses by force.” Then God will rule over us, and without doubt we shall also rule over ourselves. Amen.

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