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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


Behold, thou wretched little man, how in the liking of fleshly lust the cruelty of endless damnation sleeps. Therefore thou oughtest to gainstand them that are busy to destroy those things -- that is to say virtues -- that Christ desires. Thy heart, truly, must empty out all desire for all kinds of passing vanity before it can burn with Christ's love. For the mind burning with Christ's spirit is fed only with the love of endless things, and is gladdened in a joyful song.

Truly if the sweetness of endless love be now biding in thy soul, withouten doubt it destroys all wantonness of fleshly wickedness; and delighting thee in Christ, it suffers thee to feel nothing but Christ; for neither thou fallest from Him, nor feelest anything sweet but Him. Forsooth the perfect when they die are brought anon before God and set in the seats of blissful rest, for they see that Christ is God and enjoy Him.

They that begin to love Christ, afterward in great joy of love and honeysweet burning shall not cease to sing full lovely songs to Jesu Christ. Truly no earthly thing pleases him that truly loves Christ, for by the greatness of love all passing things seem foul. With the bodily eyes fleshly things are seen, but the righteous behold heavenly things with a clean and meek heart: the which, enlightened by the flame of heavenly sight, feel themselves loosed from the burden of sin, and afterward they cease to sin in will; whose heart turned into fire halses in desire nothing earthly but always in busy to thirl high things.

They that are sickerly ordained to holiness, in the beginning of their turning, for dread of God, forsake sins and worldly vanities: and then they set their flesh under strait penance, afterward setting Christ's love before all other, and feeling a delight in heavenly sweetness in devotion of mind they profit mickle. And so they pass from degree to degree and flourish with ghostly virtues; and so, made fair by grace, they come at last to the perfection that stands in heart, and word, and deed. Christ's love certain makes him that has swallowed it as it were dead to receive these outward things: he savours what is upward, he seeks that which is above, and nought that is on earth.

No marvel the mind, sighing in desire of the heavenly kingdom, grows in love of the Spouse, and joying with gladness inshed bares itself from desire of earthly things; and fulfilled with the longing for true love tents with all his mind to see God in His fairness. Wherefore lightened with the flame of His love, it is busy only in His desire and seeks nothing but Him. Whiles a true soul, certain, desires burningly only the presence of the spouse, it is perfectly cooled from all wantonness of vainglory. For love therefore it longs, because it sets at nought all earthly things whiles it thus hies to endless joys.

He that delights himself in Christ's love, and desires to have His comfort continually, not only covets not the solace of man, but also with great desire flees it, as if it were smoke that hurts his eyes.

Like as the air is stricken by the sunbeam, and by the shining of his light is altogether shining; so a devout mind, enflamed with the fire of Christ's love and fulfilled with desire for the joys of heaven, seems all love, because it is altogether turned into another likeness; the substance abiding although it be wonderfully mirthed. For when the mind is kindled by the fire of the Holy Ghost, it is bared from all idleness and uncleanness, and it is made sweet with the spring of God's delight, alway contemplating and never failing; seeing not earthly things until it be glorified with the sight of the Lover.

Truly it behoves us to eschew all pride and swelling of heart, for this it is that has cast sad men into great wretchedness. What is more shameful? What more worthy to be punished? It is great scorn truly, and plain abomination, that the foulest worm, the worst sinner, the lowest of men, sets about to make himself great on earth, for whom the highest King and Lord of Lords has liked so mickle to meek himself. It thou wilt clearly behold Christ's meekness, of whatsoever degree thou mayest be, how mickle soever the riches or virtues thou hast, thou shalt find in this no matter of pride but of despising thyself, and a cause of meekness.

Thou therefore that despisest sinners, behold thyself, for thou makest thyself much worse than others; for truly God is more displeased with a proud righteous man than a meek sinner. When true meekness is set in thy mind, whatsoever thou doest well is done to the praise of thy Maker, so that despising thy virtue thou seekest His worship; that thou, being given to vanity, lose not thy meed everlasting.

Think therefore on Jesu with thy heart's desire; pass thy prayer to Him; be not weary ever to seek Him; care for nothing but Him alone.

Happy are the rich that have such a possession; and to have this forsake thou the vanities of the world; and He shall overcome thine enemy and bring thee to His kingdom. The fiend that noys thee shall be overcome; the flesh that grieves thee be made subject; the world that assays thee for to beguile, shall be despised, if thy heart cease not to seek Christ's love.

The man truly sits not idle the which in mind cries to Christ although his tongue be still; for the body never rests in fleshy rest whiles the mind stints not to desire heavenly things; nor is he idle that is greedy ever to covet things everlasting. Truly the thoughts of Christ's lovers are swift in going up and harmonious in course; they will not be bound to passing things nor tied to fleshly contagion, but cease not to ascend until they have come to the heavens. For whiles the body is weary in Christ's service, ofttimes the spirit being uplifted is taken up to heavenly refreshment and the contemplation of God. He truly that prays devoutly has not his heart wavering among earthly things but raised to God in the heavens. He that desires to have that he prays, busily takes heed what he prays, for whom he prays and to what end he prays, and that he loves Him Whom he prays; lest a wretch, asking reward from this life, be beguiled.

Saints forsooth have so great meekness that they think they know nought, and think themselves as those who say they do nought; they call themselves lowest of all and unworthiest, yea, like as them that they chastise with reproving. These, after God's commandment, rest in the lowest place, whose lowly sitting receives no reproof from God, but honour; not unthank nor loss of meed, but great and worthy worship, to the which meekness best disposes.

Truly this meekness gives praise to Christ, noy to the fiend, and joy to God's people; it makes Christ's servant to love more burningly, to serve more devoutly, to praise more worthily; and makes him fuller of charity. The more that a man meeks himself the more he raises God's worship on high. He that truly perseveres in the love of God and of his neighbour, and yet thinks himself unworthier and lower than others, by meekness and knowledge of himself overcomes enemies, and conquers the love of the High Judge, and shall be received into endless joy by the angels when he passes from this light.

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