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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


The voice of the soul languishing with endless love bears the likeness of the seeker of His Maker, saying: Osculetur me osculo oris sui; that is to say: the Godhead might glad me with knitting me to His Son.' Therefore for love I long; because whom I love with all my mind I desire to see in His fairness. In the meanwhile, truly, in the labour and strife of my pilgrimage, I beseech He make me glad with sweetness of His love; and unto the time I can clearly see my Beloved, I shall think of His full sweet Name, holding it, joying, in my mind.

And no marvel that he be glad thereof in this life that has lust ever to fulfill the desires of His Maker. Nothing is merrier than JESU to sing, nothing more delightful than JESU to hear. Hearing it truly mirths the mind; and song uplifts it. And truly, whiles I want this, sighing, and heavy as it were with hunger and thirst, think myself forsaken. Forsooth when I feel the halsing and kissing of my Love, with untold delight as it were I overflow; whom true lovers, for love only of His unmeasured goodness, set before all things. Coming therefore into me, He comes inshedding perfect love. My heart also He refreshes, giving continuance; He warms me, and also makes fat, all lettings to love putting away.

Who then shall say that he must fall into stinking uncleanness of flesh, whom Christ has vouchsafed to fulfill with the sweetness of heavenly contemplation. Therefore henceforward it is sung: Laetabimur in te, memores uberum tuorum super vinnum. As who says: We desire to worship and joy in Thee; in Thy gladness we are merry, forsaking the lust and riches of worldly vanity, the which so beguile their lovers, that they know not the noy they suffer. And although we may not yet see Thy face, nevertheless so hotly we desire Thee, that though we should live for ever we should seek none other love.' For the longer we live the hotter we desire Thee, and the more joy we feel in Thy love, and painfully we hasten to Thee; for to Thy lovers noyous things pass, and mirth in ghostliness follows. That soul truly good JESU that loves Thee, would rather choose to suffer a horrible death than consent to any sin.

Nor soothly does he love Christ perfectly that dreads any but Christ; whiles all things turn to good to God's lovers. Perfect love overcomes pain, and also threats, because it feels no dread of any creature; it puts away all pride, and meekly gives stead to ilk thing; whereof it is said: Recti diligunt te, that is: Righteous men love Thee.' The righteous are the meek, loving truly, forgetting nothing, and though they stand in high perfection they behave themselves most meekly in mind and deed. And so ilk true lover may say within himself; Ilk man passes me in despising the world, and hate of sin; in desire for the heavenly kingdom; in sweetness and heat of Christ's love, and brotherly charity: some flourish in virtue, some shine in miracles; some are raised by the gift of heavenly contemplation; and some seek the secrets of scripture. When I behold the worthy life of so many, methinks I am as right nought, and among all others lowest.

Therefore the righteous flee full fast all earthly encumbrances, only drawing unto everlasting joys; in desire for all temporal things they greatly fail, and they rise with a high desire in God's love. And it is worthily said they love God; for going in the right way and the plain of shining charity, they seek nor savour nothing but Christ. To whose contraries it is said by the psalmist: Obsurentur oculi corum ne videant, et dorsum corum semper incurva; that is to say: Their eyes be dim that they see not, and their back bow thou always,' so that they only take heed to earthly things; everlasting putting behind. And therefore God's wrath is shed on them and righteous vengeance, with great fierceness of umbelapping torments. The righteous forsooth putting back all feignedness of heart, mouth, and deed, endeavour to joy without ceasing in the sight of God; and they bow themselves not to the love of void vanity, that, in their pilgrimage, they be not disturbed from the path of righteousness.

He therefore that desires to please Christ will do nothing, for good nor ill, against Christ's will. Full horrible it is to go into the fire of hell; but more to be hated is it to will to have lust in sin, because of which he may lose Christ for evermore.

Forsooth a soul parted from worldly vices, and sundered from venomous sweetness of the flesh; being given to heavenly desires, and as it were ravished, enjoys a marvellous mirth; because she feels now the gladness of the Beloved's love, so that she may contemplate more clearly, and desire more likingly. Also at this time the mouth of the Spouse and His sweetest kissing she asks, saying with voice: All earthly things are irksome to me: I feel the love of my Beloved; I taste the moisture of His marvellous comfort; busily I yearn after that sweetness so that I fail not, being put far from Him by temptation; Love makes me hardy to call Him that I love best, that He, comforting me and filling me, might kiss me with the kissing of His mouth.

Truly the more I am lift from earthly thoughts, the more I feel the sweetness desired; the more fleshly desires are slakened, the truelier everlasting are kindled. I beseech He kiss me with the sweetness of His refreshing love, straitly halsing me by the kissing of His mouth so that I fail not, and putting grace in me that I may continually grow in love. As children are nourished with their mother's milk, so chosen souls, burning in love, are fed with heavenly delight, by the which they shall be brought to the sight of the everlasting clearness.

Truly the delights of Christ's love are sweeter than all the delights of the world, and of fleshly savour. Forsooth all imaginations of fleshly lust and all plenteousness of worldly riches is but wretchedness and abomination in comparison with the least sweetness that is shed by God into a chosen soul. As great difference as is betwixt the sweetness of the highest plenty of worldly riches and the greatest need of worldly poverty, so infinitely more is it betwixt the sweetness of Thy love, my God, and the lust of worldly joy that fleshly men desire and go about, and in the which only they joy: for nought of Thy love they feel, in whom alone they should be glad.

Ghostly gifts truly direct a devout soul to love burningly; to meditate sweetly; to contemplate highly; to pray devoutly, and praise worthily; to desire JESU only, to wash the mind from filth of sins; to slaken fleshly desires; and to despise all earthly things and to paint the wounds and Christ's cross in mind; and, with an unwearied desire, with desire to sigh for the sight of the most glorious Clearness.

Such are the precious ointments with which a hallowed soul is best anointed and made fair with God's love.

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