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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


The heat of a longing spirit shows in himself a pure love for the fairness of God. For he seeks nothing but His Beloved, and all other desires he entirely slakens; and so the mind is freely borne into that it sweetly loves, and the bond of the lover's will is stably confirmed, whiles nothing happens that may let a lover from his purpose, nor that may gar him turn again to think of aught else; so that loving with great easiness he may receive his desire, and all tarrying being put back, may swiftly run to the halsing of love.

Among these delights which he tastes -- burning in so sweet love -- he feels a heavenly secret inshed that no man yet may know but he that has received it; and he bears in himself the lectuary that moistens all joyful lovers in Jesu, and makes them happy so that they cease not to hie to sit in heavenly seats and endlessly to enjoy the love of their Maker. After that truly they earn while abiding in heavenly sights; and set on fire inwardly, all their innermost soul is gladdened with the playful shining of light; and they feel themselves made glad with merriest love, and wonderfully melted in joyful song.

Therefore their thoughts are made sweet in His service because studying and meditating on scripture and also writing they think on their Love, and they go not from their wonted voice of praise. That forsooth shall be considered marvellous, when one mind shall fulfill and take heed to two things in one time: that is, it offers worship and love to Jesu in singing and joying in mind, and together with that, it understands that that is in books; and neither hurts the other.

But this grace is not given generally and to all, but to a holy soul inbued with the holiest, in whom the excellence of love shines, and songs of love longing -- Christ inspiring -- commonly burst up, and being made now as it were a pipe of love, and joying sounds more goodly than can be said, in the sight of God. The which soul knowing the mystery of love, with a great cry ascends to his Love. In wit most sharp and wise, and in feeling subtle; not spread in the things of this world, but all gathered and set in one God, that he may serve Him in clearness of conscience and shining of soul, whom he has purposed to love and himself to give to Him.

The clearer certain the love of a lover is the nearer and more present to him God is. And thereby he joys more clearly in God, and the more he feels of His sweet goodness, that is wont to inshed itself to lovers and to glide into the hearts of the meek with mirth beyond comparison. This forsooth is pure love: when desire of none other thing is mingled with it. Nor has he any inclination to the beauty of the bodily creature, but rather the sharpness of his mind being cleansed, is altogether stabled into the one desire of everlastingness; and with freeness of spirit he continually beholds heavenly things -- as he that is ravished by the beauty of any whom he beholding cannot but love.

But as it is shown ravishing is understood in two ways. One manner forsooth is when some man is ravished out of fleshly feeling, so that in the time of his ravishing he plainly feels nought in the flesh, nor what is done concerning his flesh; and yet he is not dead but quick, for the soul yet gives life to the body. And in this manner saints and the chosen are sometimes ravished to their profit and other men's learning; as Paul was ravished to the third heaven. And in this manner also sinners are ravished sometimes in a vision, that they may see the joys of the saints and the pains of the damned for their own and others correction; as we read of many.

Another manner of ravishing there is, that is the lifting of the mind into God by contemplation. And this manner of ravishing is in all that are perfect lovers of God, and in none but in them that love God. And this is well called a ravishing, as the other, for it is done with a violence and as it were against nature; and truly it is above nature that of a foul sinner a child fulfilled with ghostly joy may be born unto God. This manner of ravishing is to be desired and to be loved. Truly Christ had ay the contemplation of God, but never the withdrawing from bodily governance.

Therefore it is diverse to be rapt by love in the feeling of the flesh, and to be rapt from bodily feeling to a joyful or dreadful sight. That ravishing of love I hold best in which a man may earn most meed. To see heavenly things clearly belongs not to increase of meed, but to reward.

They also are called ravished by love that are wholly and perfectly given to the desires of their Saviour, and worthily ascend to the height of contemplation. With wisdom unwrought are they enlightened, and are worthy to feel the heat of the undescried light, with whose fairness they are ravished.

This truly happens to a devout soul when all her thoughts are ordered in God's love, and all waverings of mind pass into stableness. And now she neither wavers nor hovers, but with all desires brought into one and set in full great heat she desires after Christ; reaching out and given to Him as if there were nothing but these two, that is to say, Christ and the loving soul. To Him therefore she is tied with the band of love, unable to be loosed, and by surpassing of mind -- flying above the bounds of the body -- she draws a marvellous moisture from heaven. To which she would never have come unless she had been ravished by God's grace from inward affections, and set in ghostly height; in which, no marvel, she receives healthful gifts of grace.

Whiles therefore she thinks only of godly and heavenly things with a free heart, not compelled, and knowingly, she sees also her mind taken above all bodily and visible things, and changed into heavenly. Withouten doubt it is near that she may verily receive unto herself and feel the heat of love, and then be molten into ghostly song and the sweetness thereof. That truly shall follow from this ravishing to him that is chosen thereto; therefore this ravishing is great and wonderful. Truly as I suppose it passes all deeds of this life, for it is trowed a foretaste of everlasting sweetness. It passes also, unless I be beguiled, all other gifts that in this pilgrimage God gives to His saints for meed. In this truly they are worthy a higher place in heaven who hereby, in this life, have loved God more burningly and restfully.

As to high rest, it is to be desired to seek and hold it. For in mickle business, or in unsteadfastness or wavering of mind, it is neither gotten nor holden. Therefore when any one is lift to this, he lives full of joy and virtue, and shall die in sicker sweetness; and after this life he shall be full worthy, and near to God among the companies of angels.

In the meantime certain he has sweetness, heat, and ghostly song -- on which I have before oft touched -- and by these he serves God, and loving Him, cleaves to Him without parting. But since this corruptible body grieves the soul, and this worldly dwelling casts down our mind -- thinking many things -- therefore he sings not ay with such busyness, nor does the soul cry at all times with evenlike ghostly song. Sometimes; certain she feels more of heat and sweetness and she sings with difficulty, sometimes truly when heat is felt less she is ravished to song with great sweetness and busyness. Oft also with great mirth she flies and passes into ghostly song, and she knows also that the heat and sweetness of love are with her.

Nevertheless heat is never without sweetness, although sometimes it is without ghostly song, the which also lets bodily song, and noise of chatterers makes it turn again into thought. In the wilderness they meet more clearly, for there the Loved speaks to the heart of the lover -- as it were a shameful lover that halses not his Beloved before men nor kisses like a friend, but in common and as a stranger.

Heavenly joy comes anon into a devout soul departed, sicker in mind and body, from worldly business, and desiring only to enjoy Christ's pleasance; and marvellously mirthing her, melody springs out to her, whose token she receives so that from henceforward she suffers not gladly any worldly sound.

This is ghostly music that is unknown to all that are occupied with worldly business, lawful or unlawful. There is no man that has known this but he that has studied to take heed to God only.

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