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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


The meditation of Christ's passion and His death is good; and oft to recall what pain and wretchedness He freely took for our health in going about and preaching, in hunger, thirst, cold, heat, reproaches, cursings, and sufferings; so that it be not grievous to an unprofitable servant to follow his Lord and Emperor.

He truly that says he dwells in Christ ought to walk as He did. Christ says truly by Jeremy: Have mind of my poverty and of my passage, of wormwood and gall; that is to say, of sorrow and bitterness, by which I went from the world to the Father.

Truly this mindfulness or meditation overcomes the fiend and destroys his crafts; it slakes fleshly temptation and kindles the soul to Christ's love; it raises and cleanses, and also purges the mind. I trow this meditation is most profitable of all others to them that are newly turned to Christ. For there truly is shown the manhood of Jesu Christ, in the which man should be repeatedly glad; in which he has matter for joy and also mourning. Joy for the sickerness of our gainbuying; heaviness for the filth of our sinning, on account of which it is to be grieved for that so worthy an offering is offered. For the boisterous and fleshly soul is not ravished into the contemplation of the Godhead unless all fleshly lettings be wasted away by ghostly meditation and contemplation of the manhood.

Truly when a man begins to have a clean heart, and no image of bodily things can beguile him, then sickerly he is admitted to high things, that in love of the Godhead he may be wonderfully made glad. Some think truly on the joy of the blessed angels and holy souls joying with Christ; and this thought belongs to contemplation. Some think on the wretchedness of man's condition and his filth, and they dispute in their thoughts about man's folly that for the vanities of this life forgets the joys unseen. Others thus dispose their thoughts: that they will nothing but the praise and desire of their Maker, so that they love Him as much as is possible for men in this life. To this meditation no man comes but he that is mickle used in these things before rehearsed. For truly it is a more excellent manner than others and makes a man most contemplative.

Therefore as the works and uses of saints are divers, so are their meditations divers. Yet all, because they come of one spring, go to one end, and they come or lead to one bliss; but by divers ways, through the one charity, that is more in one than another. Therefore the psalm says: Deduxit me super semitas justitiae; that is, He has led me upon the paths of righteousness;' as if to say, there is one righteousness and many paths by which we are led to the joy of the life everlasting; because whiles all are one in being, they are of divers needs, and in one righteousness they are led to God by divers paths. Some go by a low path, some by a mean, and some by a high. The higher path is given to him that is ordained from eternity to love Christ more, not because he works more than others, or gives more or suffers more, but because he loves more. Which love is heat and sweetness, and it seeks rest in all men.

No man may set himself in any of these paths; but he takes to that which God chose him. Sometimes they that seem in the higher are in the lower, and the reverse; for that is only inward in soul before God, not in anything that may be done outward of man. According to the disposition and desire of their meditation they are dressed to this path or to that. By outward works no man may be known who is more or who less before God. Therefore it is folly to deem of the chosen and say: he passes him; or, his merits are far below the meeds of this one, when plainly they know not their minds; the which if they knew they might lawfully deem.

Therefore truly God wills it to be secret from all creatures, that they despise not some too mickle, or honour some too mickle. For doubtless if they saw men's hearts, many that they honour they would despise as stinking and foul, and others that they set not by, nor yet desire to see, they would honour as most lovely, and as the holy angels.

Good thoughts also and meditations of the elect be of God, and such by His grace He sheds forth to each one as best accords to their state and condition. Therefore I can tell thee my meditations, but which is most effectual for thee I cannot opine, for I see not thy inward desires. I trow truly that those meditations in thee most please God and most profit thee that God by His mercy sheds in thee.

Nevertheless in the beginning thou mayest have the words of other men; that I know well by myself. Truly if thou despise the teachings of doctors and trow that thyself mayest find something better than they teach thee in their writings, know forsooth that thou shalt not taste Christ's love. For truly it is a fond saying: God taught them, why therefore shall He not teach me?' I answer thee: because thou art not such as they were. Thou art proud and sturdy, and they were lowly and meek; and they asked nothing of God presuming, but meeking themselves under all, took knowledge from the saints. He taught them therefore so that we should be taught in their books.

If truly thou now desirest the love of Christ in thy meditations, or to resound His praises -- as meseems -- thou art well disposed. But the thoughts in which thou feelest more sweetness in God profit thee more. To meditate well without sweetness profits thee little, except in that case when the need for sweetness is not felt.

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