|O Lord, the most Fair, the most tender,
My heart is adrift and alone;
My heart is weary and thirsty,
Athirst for a joy unknown.
From a child I followed it, chased it,
By wilderness, wold, and hill;
I never have reached it or seen it,
Yet must I follow it still.
In those olden years did I seek it,
In the sweet, fair things around;
But the more I sought and I thirsted,
The less, O my Lord, I found.
When nearest it seemed to my grasping
It fled like a wandering thought;
I never have known what it is, Lord,
Too well know I what it is not.
It is I, it is I, the Eternal,
Who chose thee Mine own to be --
Who chose thee before the ages,
Who chose thee eternally.
I stood in the way before thee,
In the ways thou wouldest have gone;
For this is the mark of My chosen,
That they shall be Mine alone.'| -- Henry Suso
AMONGST the |Friends of God| known to Dr. Tauler, was one who wrote a book, called |The Book of Eternal Wisdom,| which the Master read and valued, and which has come down to our times.
The writer of this book was Henry Suso, whose real name was De Berg. His father was a man of an old and wealthy family, near the town of Constance. His mother was a pious woman, who lived in dread of her husband, for he cared only for the things of the world, and treated her with harshness and severity. She was a devout Catholic, but appears to have been amongst those who had learnt to know the Lord, and to Him had she given her heart truly and simply, though in much ignorance and darkness. She went to mass, but her heart was with the Lord Himself, and she remembered His death each time with loving tears, little understanding how contrary to His Word was the service in which she took part. Her son Henry was a boy of a loving and a tender heart, and by nature a minstrel and a poet. He has been called the |Minnesinger of the Friends of God| -- a minnesinger being the German name which answered to the troubadours of Provence, or the bards of Wales. He had a tender sympathy, we are told, |not with men alone, but with every little beast and bird, and all the small creatures God had made,| and it grieved him if ever he saw any that suffered or were in need. And on the other hand he had a rare and rapturous delight in the sights and sounds of the beautiful earth around him; in fountains and in flowers, and in the gladness of spring time, and in the crimson morning light upon the great range of the high Alps, and in the swift rushing of the Rhine, and the deep blue shadows on the lake of Constance near his father's home. And he loved the stars of heaven, and the song of birds. And he had a love of knightly deeds, and of all that was great and noble. And most of all he loved his mother, and liked to be called by the name of her family, Suso, rather than by that of his father.
From his mother he learnt to love the services and the music of the Church. And when he was still a child, he devoted himself to the |Queen of Heaven,| the Virgin Mary, and in the month of May, which was the month of Mary, |he had a custom, when the fair summer came, and the flowers appeared on the earth, to keep himself from plucking them or touching them, till the day came that was the feast of Mary, and he then would make a wreath with many a loving thought, and carry it into the chapel of the Virgin, and put the wreath upon her image, and kneel down humbly before it.|
And as yet his heart, so alive to human love, and to beauty, and to the religion of man, was dead to God, and dark and miserable.
For a time he was sent to a school at Cologne, and thus separated from the mother he loved so well. He had been there but a short time, when in a dream his mother appeared to him, and with great joy she spoke to him, and said, |My child, love God, and trust in Him wholly, He will never leave thee nor forsake thee. See, I have departed from this world, and I am not dead, I shall live eternally with the eternal God.| Then did she kiss him on his mouth with a motherly kiss, and blessed him heartily, and passed away out of his sight. He began to weep, and he called after her and said, |Oh my faithful holy mother, remember me when thou art with God!| And thus he awoke weeping bitterly, and it was told him soon after that his mother was dead.
His home was now no longer a home to him, for his father cared only for war and chivalry, and therefore at the age of thirteen, he was taken into the Dominican convent at Constance, and was educated in order to be a monk.
For five years he |wore a semblance of holiness, yet was his mind but ill at ease. And it seemed to him that if only God would keep him from great sins that might bring him into ill repute, it mattered not how many little sins he allowed in himself. But God preserved him from finding anything to satisfy him in the pleasures that he sought, for as soon as he had found that which he desired, it ceased to please him, and he believed that if he had some other thing, his restless heart would be at peace, but the rest came not.
|And at times he bethought him that he would fight against all temptations, and give his heart to God. But the evil one spoke to his heart and said, Count the cost; it is easy to begin, but it is hard to hold on.' And a friend who was but a spokesman of the enemy said to him, It is quite right you should amend your ways, but not in such desperate fashion; be moderate in all things, and eat and drink and live like other men, only keep from sin. Be as good as you like in your own heart, but keep to the middle course in your conduct, so that no one may be offended. If the heart is good, all is good, and you may lead a merry life with others, and be a good man all the time. Other people mean to go to heaven as well as you, but they see no need of being so strict.' But it seemed to him as though his friend were like one who counselled him to catch an eel by taking hold of its tail, and he said in his heart, He who desires to have God, and the world also, desires an impossible thing.' And therefore he determined within himself that he would set himself earnestly to the task of denying himself, and breaking off all worldly ways, and forbidding himself all worldly company.
|But now and then, when he felt sad and wearied, his nature was too strong for him, and he went back to his old companions to have a cheerful time. But it always came to pass that he went home more sad and wearied than before, for their talk was wearisome to him, and his ways were intolerable to them. And at times they would say to him, What in the world has come to you?' or, Why do you not do as other people?' And a third would say, All the people who want to be so good, are sure to come to a bad end at last.' And then he felt dumb and said to himself, There is no way out of it but flight. If I had not heard all this evil talk, it would have done me no harm.' And the worst was, he had none to whom he could tell his grief, for none understood the desire of his heart, and he was all alone.|