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The Form Of Perfect Living And Other Prose Treatises by Richard Rolle

CHAPTER VIII. Three degrees of love I shall tell thee, for I would that thou mightest winà

Three degrees of love I shall tell thee, for I would that thou mightest win to the highest. The first degree is called Insuperable. The second Inseparable. The third is, Singular. Thy love is Insuperable, when nothing that is contrary to GOD'S love overcomes it: but it is stalwart against all temptations; and stable, whether thou beest in ease or in anguish, or in health or in sickness: so that men think that thou wouldest not, even to have all the world without end, make GOD angry at any time: and thou wert liefer, if so it should be, to suffer all the pain and woe that might come to any creature, before thou wouldst do the thing that should displease Him. In this manner shall thy love be Insuperable that nothing can bring it down, but it may aye spring on high. Blessed is he or she who is in this degree: but yet are they blesseder who might hold to this degree and turn to the other, that is to Inseparable. Inseparable is thy love, when all thine heart, and thy thought, and thy might is so wholly, so entirely and so perfectly fastened, set and established in JESUS Christ, that thy thought comes never from Him, never departs from Him, sleeping excepted: and as soon as thou awakest, thine heart is on Him, saying Ave Maria, or Gloria Tibi, Domine, or Pater Noster, or Miserere mei, DEUS, if thou hast been tempted in thy sleep; or thinking on His love and His praise as thou didst waking. When thou canst at no time forget Him, waking or sleeping, whatso thou dost or sayst, then is thy love Inseparable. Full great grace have they that be in this degree of love. And methinks that thou, who hast nothing else to do but for to love GOD, mayst come thereunto if any may get it.

The third degree is highest and most wondrous to win. That is called Singular, for it has no peer. Singular love is when all comfort and solace is closed out of thine heart, but of JESUS Christ alone. Other joy it delights not in. For the sweetness of Him in this degree is so comforting, and lasting in His love, so burning and gladdening, that he or she who is in this degree can as well feel the fire of love burning in their soul, as thou canst feel thy finger burn if thou puttest it in the fire. But that fire, if it be hot, is so delectable and so wonderful, that I cannot tell it. Then, thy soul is loving JESUS, thinking of JESUS, desiring JESUS; in covetousness of Him breathing; to Him singing: of Him burning; in Him resting. Then the song of praise and of love has come. Then, thy thought turns into song and into melody. Then it behoves thee to sing the psalms which before thou said'st. Then must thou be long over a few psalms. Then, thou wilt think death sweeter than honey, for then thou art full of sighs to see Him whom thou lovest. [Then mayst thou boldly say |I languish for love.|] Then mayst thou say |I sleep, and my heart wakes.|

In the first degree, men may say |I languish for love,| or |I long in love.| And in the second degree also: for languishing is when men fail for sickness, and they who are in these two degrees fail from all the covetousness of this world, and from lust and liking of sinful life, and set their will and their heart to the love of GOD -- therefore they may say |I languish for love,| and much more that are in the second degree than in the first. But the soul that is in the third degree is all burning fire, and like the nightingale that loves song and melody, and fails for great love: so that the soul is only comforted in praising and loving GOD; and till Death come, is singing ghostly to JESUS, and in JESUS, and JESUS; not crying bodily with the mouth -- of that manner of singing I speak not, for both good and evil have that song. And this manner of song have none unless they be in this third degree of love: to the which degree it is impossible to come, but in a great multitude of love. Therefore, if thou wilt wot what kind of joy that song has, I tell thee, that no man wots, save he or she who feels it, who has it, and who loves GOD singing therewith. One thing tell I thee, it is of heaven, and GOD gives it to whom He will, but not without great grace coming before. Who has it, he thinks all the song and all the minstrelsy of earth naught but sorrow and woe (compared) thereto. In sovereign rest shall they be who get it. Wanderers and brawlers, and keepers of comers and goers early and late night and day, or any who are seized with any sin witfully and willingly, or who have delight in any earthly thing, they are also farther therefrom than heaven is from earth. In the first degree, are many: in the second degree are full few; but in the third degree are scarcely any: for aye the greater is the perfection the fewer followers it has. In the first degree, men are likened to the stars, in the second to the moon, in the third to the sun. Therefore says S. Paul: |Others of the sun, others of the moon, others of the stars,| so it is of the lovers of GOD. In this third degree, if thou mayst win thereto, thou shalt know of more joy than I have told thee yet. And among other affections and songs, thou mayst, in thy longing, sing this in thine heart to thy Lord JESUS, when thou dost covet His coming and thy going: |When wilt Thou come to comfort me: and bring me out of care, and give me Thee, Whom I may see, having evermore? My heart when shall it burst? for love then languished I no more. For love my thought has fast, and I am fain to fare away. I stand still mourning for the loveliest of lore; ... is love-longing; it draws me to my day; The brand of sweet burning for it holds me aye: From place and from playing: till I may get sight of my sweet One, Who never wends away. In wealth be our waking, without hurt or night. My love is everlasting, and longs unto that sight.|

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