The second part of this book teaches man to do his good work with freedom of spirit, in place and in time, as falls to each work: not compelled thereto, nor to do it with anger, nor with a dead heart. For Holy Writ says: |GOD loves a cheerful giver,| or GOD loves him who gives Him aught with a glad heart: and certainly the works that turn out to the praise of God, and the health of man's soul, like prayers and holy thoughts, and a clear mind about GOD, and GOD'S deeds; these and others like them will allow of little rest, if they be well (done). Prayer is a sacrifice that greatly pleases GOD, if it be made in the manner it ought to be: therefore GOD asks it of us as a debt, when He says this: -- |GOD created the peoples for His praise and His glory|; and |the Sacrifice of praise shall honour Me.| And the Apostle, |we ought always to pray and not to faint.| Therefore, it behoves man ever to pray and never to fail. He is ever praying, who is doing good. And certainly men of religion are bound to worship GOD with prayer, and men of Holy Church; for they live by alms and tenths: for all the world labours to bring them what they need close at hand, so that they may serve GOD in rest, and with their holy prayers make reconciliation between GOD and man. And also maidens and widows who have taken the oath of chastity, all these, more than others, are bound to pray. He that will please GOD with prayer will offer it to GOD with a free will and loving heart, and will prepare himself before, as Solomon counsels: |Before prayer, prepare thy soul, and be not as one that tempteth GOD.| He tempts GOD who yearns not to win that for which he prays: or despairs to speed well therein; and who makes sin and evil life: such a man thinks not he loves. Of such S. Gregory speaks: -- |What wonder if tardily our prayers are heard by the Lord, when we tardily or not at all hear the Lord when He commands?| And Isidore: -- |He cannot have assured confidence in his prayers who even thus far in the commands of GOD is slothful, and whom the remembrance of sinful doing delights.| Whoever will speed of his prayer, let him do what good he can; flee sin, call his heart from the world, and keep it at home as the Gospel teaches; |When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father.| |Enter,| he says, |thy bed,| that is, |call thine heart home,| and |then fasten thy door|; i.e., |hold thy wits in thee, that none go out.| For it is but folly to pray to GOD to come to us, poor needy wretches, to give us alms of His dear-worthy grace, and not abide His coming, but turn our back on Him. S. Isidore says that the soul must be cleansed from the stain of sin, and the heart be withdrawn from the provocations of the world, in order that prayer may rise without hindrance to GOD. For far is that man from GOD, pray he never so much, whose prayers are mixed with worldly thoughts: therefore says the Psalm |Be still, and see that I am GOD.| This ought to stir us up to pray with great dread and consideration for we speak with Almighty-GOD, when we are naught but unworthy wretches. For so did Abraham, GOD'S private friend, who said: -- |I speak to my Lord which am but dust and ashes.| And Isidore says: -- |we ought to pray with sighings and tears, and remembrance of our grimly sins, and of the many pains and bitter we shall endure for them, unless we amend us, and He have pity on us.| Also, he who prays shall hope to speed well in that for which he prays; for Christ Himself said, |All things are possible to the believing|: therefore we shall pray to GOD as to our Father in that for which we pray, if we love Him as our Father, and be His children. For He says to all His.... He says |Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He shall give it to you.| There are six things to know in prayer: first, how a man shall prepare himself before. The second, to whom he shall pray: the third, for whom he shall pray: the fourth, what he shall ask in prayer: the fifth, what hinders prayer: the sixth, what might and virtue prayer is of. The first is written already, and begins at, |Before prayer, prepare thy soul,| and lasts as far as here. The second, to whom shalt thou pray? Soothly, before all others, to GOD Almighty, as the prophet bids, |Be subject to GOD and pray to Him.| And in the Gospel, GOD says, |Thou shalt adore the Lord thy GOD.| Saints we honour and pray to, not as givers of goodness, but as GOD'S friends to help us to win from Him that we pray after. Therefore, let us believe in GOD with all our heart, and certain hope, and perfect charity: our Lord GOD is to be loved. The third, for whom shall men pray? A great clerk says, |Every Christian man is a living member of Holy Church, therefore is he bound to pray for all, but specially for men of Holy Church, as the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, all who have cure of men's souls: also for our foes and our friends; and all who are in deadly sin, that they, through grace, may rise: for all who are in Purgatory, whom GOD'S mercy awaits; and after, all who have occupations, both quick and dead. And S. Gregory says that he who prays for all, the sooner shall be heard and sped of his prayer: and S. Ambrose; |If thou prayest for all, all will pray for thee.| And S. Jerome; |Necessity binds a man to pray for himself, but charity of brotherhood stirs him to pray for all: and charity, more than necessity, stirs GOD to hear.| The fourth, what shall men ask in prayer? Certainly, grace in this life, and endless joy in the other; for so GOD teaches us and says: |Seek first the kingdom of GOD and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.| GOD is debtor to those who are righteous, to find them what they need of earthly goods: for righteousness makes men GOD'S children, and a father by his nature is bound to find for his children. Earthly goods are not to be asked in prayer, for they have done harm to many, therefore Solomon says |How long, ye fools, will ye desire those things which are hurtful to you?| Therefore, every man should ask of GOD with fear, that he ask and pray his Lord that if He see that his prayer be necessary and reasonable, that He will fulfil it: and if it be not necessary and reasonable, that He will withdraw it; for what may help and what may harm, the Leech knows better than the sick man. But one of these two shall we trust to have through prayer; either, that we pray for, or that which is better for us. The fifth, what hinders our prayer from being heard by God? Six things: the first is the sin of him who prays; as GOD says through the prophet, |when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; because your hands are full of blood.| And David: |If I have looked upon iniquity with my heart, the Lord will not hear.| And the prophet; |Our sins have hid His face from us.| And the Gospel: |Because we know GOD does not hear Sinners.| The second is the unworthiness of that for which men pray, and that GOD, through the prophet, forbids them to pray for: |Pray not for this people, neither lift up (praise) nor prayer for them; for I will not hear.| It tells in the life of the holy Fathers that one who was bound in sin came to the holy Abbot, S. Anthony, and said, |holy Father, have mercy on me and pray for me:| to whom the holy Abbot said; |I will have no mercy on thee, unless thou helpest thyself and leavest thy sin.| The third is foul and idle thoughts, that hinder us from thinking on our prayers. Of such false prayers, God says through His prophet: |This people honour ME with their lips, but their heart is far from ME.| It is great wickedness of us unworthy wretches that when we speak with prayer to Almighty GOD, we also unwittingly hearken not to what we say. Soothly, great displeasure we do to GOD when we pray Him to hear our prayer, and we will not hear it ourselves: but it is worse to waste our time in foul and idle thoughts. Abraham, when he made a sacrifice to GOD, fowls of the air lighted thereon, and would have defiled it; and he cleared those birds away, so that none durst come nigh it, till all the time were passed, and the sacrifice made. Let us do so with these flying thoughts, which defile the sacrifice of our prayer. This sacrifice is agreeable to GOD, when it comes from a clean and loving heart. GOD bids: |send prayer to ME, and I shall send grace to thee; and whatso thou dost for ME, I forget it not.| The fourth, that hinders our prayer from being heard, is hardness of heart; and that is in two manners; first hardness of heart against the poor; and thereof the prophet says |who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he may call and I will not hear him.| The other is the hardness of those who will not forgive to those who have misdone them: to such, Solomon says: -- |Forgive thy neighbour who has injured thee while he prays to thee, and thy sins shall be forgiven.| And the Gospel says: |As thou standest praying, forgive if thou hast aught against any, and your Father which is in heaven will forgive your sins.| The fifth, that hinders our prayer from being heard, is little yearning after the things that men pray for: and S. Augustine says: |GOD stores this up for thee, that with thy whole heart it may be desired; |for He will not to give to Thee hastily, that so thou mayst learn great things greatly to desire.| And S. Gregory says: |if with our mouth we pray after the bliss of heaven, and do not yearn for it in our heart, we are crying still.| The sixth, that hinders our prayer; is foul and idle speech, that we fill our lips with; for if thou givest a great lord drink in a slutty cup, were the drink never so good, he would feel disgust therewith, and bid throw it away, were his thirst never so sore: so GOD does with a prayer that comes from a foul mouth; He esteems it not, but turns therefrom. Therefore says S. Gregory: |The more our lips are defiled with foolish talking, so much the less are they heard by GOD in prayer.| The sixth, what might and virtue prayer is of. Men who were before this age, who kept themselves in soothfastness, and spoke nothing idle, won from GOD what they prayed for: and that was shewn to a holy hermit Florentius, who dwelt in a wilderness unknown of men. So much vermin was there about this hermitage, that none durst come thither by a long way. A deacon was in that land, who heard of this hermit, and he came at the last to the place where this hermit was dwelling; but he saw so much vermin about that he durst not come near: but cried out for help in fear. The holy man came out to know who it was that cried; and he saw a man standing there, and inquired what he would have. And the deacon said; |holy Father, I have sought thee from far, and now I have found thee, I should have joy enough if I might come to thee, but I cannot for these venomous beasts that are here so many.| When the holy man heard this, he fell down on his knees, and prayed GOD that He would destroy those worms: and all soon a grisly storm arose with a thunder, and slew all the worms. Then said the hermit to our Lord; |Lord, these beasts lie here so thickly, that I cannot come to him nor he to me, save we be poisoned by them. Lo, Lord, they lie here dead, but who shall lift them away?| At his word, many birds came, and carried them all clean away. Hereof speaks S. Gregory: -- |Because GOD'S servants withdraw themselves from the world and its works, uselessly they cannot speak: so they bind them to silence that they dare say no word save it be teaching others or praising GOD: and therefore, when they ask GOD aught, He grants it at once.| But we, woful wretches, who deal with the world, that chatter all the day like magpies; now lie, now twist, now speak evil, now quarrel, now backbite, now swear great oaths, these defile our prayer and hinder it, that it is not heard; for our mouth is as far from praying GOD, as it is near the world with idle speech. Prayer is so mightful if it have its right, that it masters the fiend, and hinders him from doing his will. For so it did the fiend whom Julian the Emperor commanded to go to the other side of the world to bring him tidings how it was there. When he had flown ten days' journey thitherward, he came over the place that Publius the hermit dwelled in, who was praying at that time. And his prayer overtook the fiend, and held him there fast fully ten days -- for all that time, the hermit was in prayer: and when he ceased, the fiend turned back, for he could no further go, since prayer hindered him.
When thou hast gathered home thine heart and its wits, and hast destroyed the things that might hinder thee from praying, and won to that devotion which GOD sends to thee through His dear-worthy grace, quickly rise from thy bed at the bell-ringing: and if no bell be there, let the cock be thy bell: if there be neither cock nor bell, let GOD'S love wake thee, for that most pleases GOD. And zeal, rooted in love, wakens before both cock and bell, and has washed her face with sweet love-tears; and her soul within has joy in GOD with devotion, and liking, and bidding Him good-morning, and with other heavenly gladness which GOD sends to His lovers. Blessed are they above others whom GOD wakens, for they have many joys while others sleep, for they find that gladness before them, rise they never so soon; for GOD Himself thus says: |he that early wakens to ME, he shall find ME to speak with him, and shall rejoice himself in ME, and have ME at his will.| Be then a waker, and rise quickly, and thank heartily thy Lord GOD, for the rest thou hast had, and for the care of angels. Since a knight has great liking to be called to come and speak with the king, when he knows it is for his great profit: with greater reason, ought GOD'S knight, that is every Christian man, to be ready at the calling of his Lord, Who calls him for his great profit, and for nothing else. Soberly, rise thou with a good cheer, and think that thou hearest GOD call thee with these words: |Arise My love, My fair one, and come and shew Me thy face: I yearn that the voice of thy prayer may ring in Mine ears.| Think in thy rising, how that night many men perished in life, and some in soul, and some in body and soul: some burned, some drowned, some suddenly dead without repentance or shrift, and their souls drawn by fiends to hell; some fallen into deadly sin, as lust, gluttony, theft, envy, manslaughter, and other several sins. And from all these perils, thy good GOD hath delivered thee, of His goodness not of thy desert. What hast thou done to GOD that He should care for thee so, and suffer so many others to be lost? and peradventure thou hast done worse than they have done. If thou lookest well at what GOD has done for thee though thou hast not served Him, thou mayst find that GOD is as busy to do thee profit as if He had naught else to do, and as if He had forgotten this whole world, and thought only on thee. When thou hast this thought, lift up thine heart to GOD and say: -- |I thank Thee, dear-worthy Lord, with all my heart, Who hast thus cared this night for me, a so unworthy wretch, and hast suffered me that with life and health I thus abide this day. I thank Thee, Lord, for this great good, and many others that Thou hast done to me, a so unkind and unworthy wretch, more than all others: that Thou shewest me such kindness against my evil deeds.| And put thyself and all thy friends in GOD'S hands, and say thus: |Into Thy dear-worthy hands, my Lord, I yield my soul and body, and all my friends, kindred and stranger: and all who have done me good bodily or ghostly, and all who have received Christianity: that Thou, for the love of Thy Mother, that dear-worthy Maiden, and the beseeching of Thy Saints defend us this day or this night from all perils of body and soul, and from all deadly sins, from temptation of the devil, and sudden death, and from the pains of hell, and make us dread them. Do Thou hallow our hearts with grace of Thy Holy Ghost, and make us, whatsoever we do here, do Thy will, that we never separate from Thee, dear Lord. Amen.| When thou hast done, go to the Church or Oratory: and if thou canst win to none, make thy chamber thy Church. In the church is most devotion to pray, for then is GOD on the altar to hear those that to Him pray, and grant them what they ask or what is better: and in presence of Saints, and in worship of churches that are hallowed, protection of angels who are there to serve their Lord and thee -- for their office is to receive thy prayer, and bear it to GOD, and bring thee grace from Him, as S. Bernard says: |Rise then quickly, at GOD'S call, and put all heaviness from thee, and answer thy Lord with the words which Samuel said to GOD Who called him in the night: 'Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.'|
For eight things we ought to wake and ever be doing good: this short life: the strait way we have to go: our good deeds that are so few: our sins that are so many: death that we are sure of and wot not when: the strait and so hard doom of Doom's-day, for every idle thought shall be shewed there, then shall every foul word and sinful work be greatly pressed, for GOD says |For every careless word,| etc.: and S. Anselm, |what wilt thou do in that day when all the time expended is required of thee; how it has been laid out by thee, even to the minutest thought.| The seventh thing is the strong pain of hell: the eighth, is the joy of heaven. After thine uprising, pray for the souls that are in pain of Purgatory, and think that thou hearest them cry on thee the words of Job: |Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, my friends, for the hand of GOD is laid upon me,| and help them with De Profundis, and Absolve. After, greet our Lady, with Salve Regina, on thy knees. Go then to the Church, and bid thy vain thoughts and business of the world keep outside thereof: and at thine incoming, say to thy soul, |Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord, and thou shalt hear His Voice, and behold His temple.| Holy Church is the entrance and gate of Heaven. After, fall down before the Cross, and honour Him because He was slain on the Cross, and say |We adore Thee, O Christ, and bless Thee, because by Thy holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.| And then before thou uprisest, have in thy mind how hotly His love burned, That died for thee on the Cross. After, begin thy matins, but first cross thy lips and say |O Lord, open my lips|: i.e., |Lord, open my lips that all night have been shut from praising Thee, and I cannot open them, except Thou help me.| And then say, DEUS in adjutorium, with these words, pour out thine heart before GOD and say; |Lord, as my Doom's-Man, before Thee I stand: do Thou avenge me of my foes, which hinder me from serving Thee, and they assail me keenly so that I be soon overcome unless Thou dost help me.| And at Gloria Patri, bow down and say with thine heart, |Lord, of Thy blessing, I beseech Thee.| Turn thee to the angels who stand about to thy comfort and help, and as thy wardens to keep thee from thy foes, and thus say to them Venite exultemus, Domino. Afterwards, cast thine eye on somewhat, and keep it there while thou makest thy prayers, for this helps much to the stabling of thine heart; and paint there, thy Lord, as He was on the cross; think on His feet and hands that were nailed to the tree; and on the wide wound in His side, through the which way is made to thee, to win His heart; thank thy Lord thereof, and love Him therefor: for these, they who thither may win, find treasure of love. Think thou seest His wounds streaming of blood, and falling down on the earth; and fall thou down and lick up that blood sweetly, with tears kissing the earth, with remembrance for that rich treasure, which for thy sins was shed, and say thus with thine heart: -- |Why lieth this blood here as if lost, and I perish for thirst? Why drink I not of this rich payment that my Lord gives me to drink and cool my tongue, and hear what GOD says to me: He who is thirsty, let him come and drink. Thou shalt taste and see how pleasant the Lord is; how sweet, how mild, how merciful. With such meditations, angels come to thy soul, and GOD is there, and says to His lover: -- |What wouldest thou that I should do for thee?| and thou dost answer; |Lord it is enough for me, a sinful wretch and outcast of Thy people, to praise Thee and love Thee, if I could, for so I well ought.| If thou canst win to such thinkings in thy prayers, thou shalt have such joys that it shall be a pain to thee to think of aught else. S. Bernard, for the liking that he had for such stirrings desired that matins-time might last till Dooms-day. Think, when thou standest or kneelest in prayer, that thou seest JESUS Christ come with angels and holy Saints on each side, and angels carrying before Him basketsfull of help which is left from the feasts of Saints who dwell with GOD in heaven: that GOD bade them gather up to help the poor with, that naught might be lost. This help is meat to us poor wretches, who would perish in default of it, unless GOD had pity on us. Think thou hearest GOD cry: |Whoso has need of meat, put forth thine hand, and have.| And bow thou with thine head to GOD, and lament thy poverty to Him and say |There is no bread in mine house|; and also say, |Lord, so long meatless have I been, that I die of hunger save Thou takest pity on me; and naught can hold my life in me, save meat that Thou givest.| Stir thyself up with such recollections, and by others that may kindle thy devotion and raise it to Him, even until thou thinkest thou hearest Him say to thee, |Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.| And then, through GOD'S grace, shalt thou feel something of that heavenly food that feeds all Hallows, that thou mayest with liking sing the Maiden's Song, that is GOD'S Mother's, Magnificat anima mea dominum et exultavit spiritus meus in DEO salutari meo. When GOD, through His grace, sends thee such likings, turn thou kindly to the angels who stand before thee, and to them say: |I pray you as my keepers whom GOD has sent to me, that ye thank your good Lord for me.| And turn thou then to the altar, where GOD truly is, and say, |Truly, O GOD, great is Thy mercy towards me,| that is, |Soothly Lord, great is Thy mercy that Thou shewest to me.| With such love-stirrings, GOD comes to His lovers: and waits not till the prayer be made, but presses in to the midst, and softens the languishing soul, with a bedewing of heavenly sweetness: and tears and sighings are messengers of GOD'S coming. Blessed are they who thus mourn and languish to GOD, for they shall never separate from GOD, but have Him ever at their will.
How GOD comes to His lovers; and how sometimes He departs from them. GOD, when He comes to His lovers gives them to taste how sweet He is; and before they can fully feel, He goes from them, and, as an Eagle, spreads His wings, and rises above them, as if He said: |Some part mayst thou feel how sweet I am: but if ye will feel this sweetness to the full, fly up after Me, and lift your hearts up to Me, where I am sitting on My Father's right hand, and there ye shall be fulfilled in joy of Me.| GOD comes to His lovers to comfort them; he departs from them so that they should humble themselves, and that they should not over-much pride themselves for the joy that they have of His coming: for if thy spouse were aye with thee, thou wouldest esteem thyself over well and despise others: and if He were aye with thee thou wouldest impute it to nature and not to Grace. Therefore, through His grace, He comes when He will, and to whom He will, and departs when He will: so that His long dwelling makes one not more unworthy; but that after His departing, He be more yearned for and sought with zealous love and sighings and tears. But beware thou, GOD'S lover, though thy Spouse withdraw Himself from thee for a while, He sees all thy deeds, and thou canst hide nothing from Him: and if He wit thou lovest any but Him, unless it be for love of Him, or if thou makest any love-semblance to other than Him, so soon He departs from thee. Jealous is thy Spouse, delicate, noble and rich; seven times brighter than the sun; in fairness and might all others He surpasses, and what so He wills is done in heaven and earth and hell. If He sees any stain of filth in one who should be His dear, He turns from him soon, for uncleanness can He see none. Therefore, be thou chaste, shame-full, and mild of heart, and with love-longing yearn for Him above all things. And when GOD withdraws this heavenly likeness and sweetness from thee, as sometimes need be in this deadly life, give not thyself to fleshly lusts and likings of the world; but to prayer and meditation, reading of Holy Writ, or honest work. And ever mourn thou after thy love, as a young child who misses his Mother. For he that, after such knowing of GOD and tasting of His sweetness, turns him back and gives him to sin, he has no defence for his sin against GOD. An unhappy chance it is and full of care to love the fellowship of GOD and of His angels and Saints and to serve the fiend and follow his counsel with lusts and likings and works of sin: that heart which was hallowed through the Holy Ghost to be GOD'S temple, that was raised here above his nature to have heavenly likings and joy with GOD, all soon makes itself loathly and foul with foul thoughts: those ears that heard the words that it is allowable to speak to none, open themselves to hear back-bitings and lyings and other idle speech; those eyes that just now were baptized with tears, open themselves to see vanities: that tongue that just now spake to GOD in prayer, all soon with that dirty tongue, forswears, backbites, and speaks foul words. Pray we to GOD that of His goodness He keep us from these vices. Of GOD'S coming men may know by this that S. Bernard says: |When thou art stirred of man in outer or inner spirit to care for righteousness and stand up for it, to be meek and patient, to love thy brothers in GOD, to be buxom to thy superiors, to love chastity and cleanness in body and soul, token is it that Almighty GOD comes to visit thy soul.| If thou takest godly chastening from thy friend for thy sin, or words that stir thee to virtues and good ways, this makes way for and token of GOD'S coming. Then if thou puttest from thee slowness and heaviness, and with a love-yearning likest such words; then dear-worthy GOD thy Lord hastes Him to thee, for the desire that GOD has to thee; kindles thy desires to have likings for such words, and makes thee bitterly repent thy sin and amend thy life. For, at His incoming, He wakens the soul, stirs it and softens it, and washes its wounds with wine, and softens them with oil; that is, stirs it to repent bitterly what it has misdone, and softens it with hope of mercy and forgiveness of sins. He rives sin up by the roots, as a gardener does evil weeds, and grafts good trees, and sows good seed, where the weeds grew. So does GOD, who is called a gardener while He is in man's soul: He rives up sins by the roots, and grafts in that soul virtues and good ways: what was dry He bedews it with grace: what was black and mirk, He makes it white: what was bound, He looses: what was cold, He makes warm with love. By these stirrings, mayst thou know thy Lord is come; by stirring of thy heart, destroying of vices, withdrawing from lusts, amending of life, repenting misdeeds, beginning of a new man in GOD, every day more and more. And by this mayst thou wit, when He goes from thee; the gladness wanes, slow thou waxest dry and heavy, as a stone; love cools in thee like a pot that had been welded, and the fire was withdrawn therefrom. But then needs the soul to mourn sorely until He come again. If foul thoughts egg thee on to leave the Lord thy GOD, say this |Whose is this image and superscription?| if he says |Caesar's,| that is the prince of this world, that is the fiend of hell, say to him, |Go again thou foul fiend with thy false money: bear it again with thee to hell; for my gates are shut, and my Lord dwells herein, therefore have I no time to deal with thee.| Think on that holy greeting that Gabriel made to that maiden, Mary in Nazareth, how joyful she was in body and soul in that time; through that quieting, with her assent, she was fulfilled of grace, so that she won might and power, in heaven, and earth, and hell; and on her hangs all the world's health and restoring of those that fell. Think on the birth of her Child, how she bare Him without sorrow and grief that all other women have naturally in time of birth; and she clean maiden after. Think when He was born, they laid Him in a crib before an ox and an ass, other cradle had He none. There was none to serve Him with the light of torches as men do before great lords: therefore there came a fire from heaven that lighted the house He was in, and Bethlehem; and angels came from heaven to sing the child asleep with a merry voice. Think how Three Kings came from far lands through knowing of a star, and offered Him gold, incense and myrrh: think how sweetly the child smiled on them, and with His lovely eyes sweetly looked on them. Think how poorly His Mother was clad when the Kings kneeled before her: for on her she had but a white smock as the clerks say, more to cover herself with than for shewing of pride. Think how His Mother came with Him to the Temple to make her offering of cleansing, and bowed to fulfil the Law as if they were sinful. Think how the old priest Symeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed GOD: for there, through the stirring of the Holy Ghost, he saw the Saviour of all this world between His hands, and prayed that he might pass out of this world, |for mine eyes have seen Him Who saves the folk.| Think of that sorrow His Mother had when she missed Him and sought Him three days, and then found Him among the Masters, hearing and inquiring of points of the Law. Think how He came to be christened of S. John: how the Holy Ghost lighted then on Him in the likeness of a Dove, the Father there with voice recorded that He was His Son. Think how He hallowed wedlock in the house of the Ruler of the Feast, and there, to show that He was Almighty GOD changed water into wine. In the wilderness, how he fasted 40 days without meat; how He overcame the fiend that tempted Him with three: with gluttony, and covetousness, and vain-glory, and of the wonder men had of His preaching, for all the words He spake to them were full of grace. How He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, health to the leper, with touching of His hands: and many other sicknesses that were in their nature incurable, He healed through the might of His words, for He could do more than Nature. How He was weary of much going; rested Him at the well; and then He bade give Him water to drink for He thirsted sore. Then, open thine heart with sore sighings, and think on the passion and pains that JESUS Christ suffered, as they are written before on the xviii leaf.
He may ask grace of GOD, and certainly trust to speed, who here stirs himself up with good works, and with devotion and likings: flavours them so that they may be savoury to his dear Lord. Works of penance, as fasting, waking, hard fighting, forbearing of fleshly lusts, prayers, alms-deed, and other things that we do with devotion and likings in GOD, it behoves that so they be done with a glad heart, and with a freedom of spirit. Devotion is a worthy affection that GOD sends to the heart to gladden it with: but unworthy is he to have this gift, that will make no dwelling-place in his heart for it. We seek with our belief what is above us, but it savours us not, for we are so full of earth that we have lost our taste. Why do so many men feel the stirrings that the fiend forges, and suffer his enemy so often to overthrow him? I see nothing that does this, save lack of grace. Among all other (things) I trow we grieve GOD most, because we will not labour to win this grace of GOD: and GOD promises His grace to all that will to receive, if that their vessel be clean and empty to receive it in. But S. Bernard says: |The heart that is loaded with covetousness of the world, it can have neither devotion nor liking in GOD; for soothfastness and vanity, a lasting and a failing thing, a ghostly thing and a bodily cannot be brought together at any time.| So worthy a thing is the comfort of GOD that it will not rest in a breast where other comfort is. So delicious is the liking in Him, that with no other liking can it accord. Whoso yearns after other comfort to glad himself with, witnesses against himself that he withstands GOD'S grace: unless it be honest comfort betimes that he may thereby glad his nature with, and better serve GOD. After thou hast spent thy time in prayers, and holy thoughts and good works, in GOD'S holy dread, prepare thyself for food to strengthen thy nature which would else fail. And to this intent shall every Christian man clothe and feed his body; that it may the better serve his Lord, in whatsoever he does. In the morning, thou shalt go to thy meat, with soberness and measure; care for thy self in thy meat-time; and after meat, make thou praising to thy Lord that He has fed thee, and also before meat, and for all the good deeds that He has done to thee. First, or ever thou goest to meat, thou shalt mourn as holy Job did, who thus says, |Before I eat I sigh,| because my nature is made weak and feeble for Adam's sin; and every day needs bodily meat to uphold the nature that else would fail in a little time. And, as it tells in the life of the holy Fathers; Isidore that holy man, when he ate, he wept sore and said, |I am ashamed of myself for I live by beastly meat as other beasts do that have no reason by nature; and I, GOD'S reasonable creature, made like to Himself, that should have dwelt in Paradise, and there have been fed with heavenly food.| When thou findest delight or savour in meat and drink, think on the heavenly Saints whom all likings pass by, and we be never satisfied till we feel thereof. Men of religion hear lessons of holy men's lives at their meat, so that as the body is fed with bodily food, so the soul be fed with holy words. Man's body is as a burning furnace, and specially in the young; and delicious and hot meats and drinks make that fire to burn hotter: therefore says S. John: -- |Plenty in time of youth is double fire.| Therefore all that kindles sin in the flesh is to be fled from. The wise man says, |If thou wilt abate the flame, abate the brands.| And S. John; |Flesh-meat and wine are kindling of fleshly stirrings.| And S. Austin; |the flesh is as a wild colt, which is to be tamed with bridle and hunger.| And Solomon; |Rod and burden fall to the ass,| that betokens our flesh. Wisely should a man consider the meat that comes before him, and take of them in such measure that they grieve him not, but that through them, he may serve GOD better. Therefore S. John bids: -- |Ever when thou eatest, ever hunger thou, that after meat thou mayst read and pray and serve GOD better.|
Holy men who have been before us enjoyed strong sharp meat, more to abate hunger than for pleasure. Some lived by grass, some by roots, some by spices and herbs and fruit that the earth bore; and in whatso they ate they destroyed all taste that might stir them to pleasure. Also, S. Germanus mixed ashes with his bread, that he should feel no pleasure in his meat-time. Other sauce than hunger, they took none. S. Gregory says: |bread made of bran and water, with cold or other simple pottage is good food to the well-taught stomach, with sauce of GOD'S love if he have it therewith: without this sauce, no sustenance has savour that man enjoys.| Some eat no meat before the night; some only every other day; some fast three days together. Machari fasted all the Lenten-tide, save Sundays, and ate naught but raw leaves. Some take no heed when they eat, nor what they eat, flesh or fish: all tasted alike to them, so that afterwards, they wist not what they ate. Some, when they were set down to meat, and meat was brought before them, they forgot to eat, for so they spent the day and the night in holy speech, that they thought of naught else, till the undern-tide of the second day, so that the brethren came to them and asked why they could not eat: and then, for the first time, thought they of meat, and they ate then as they thought good, in GOD'S holy fear. When thou art set to thy meat, make before thee a cross on the board with five crumbs to stir thee up to think on Him who died for thee on the Cross; and think, here lies His head that was crowned with thorns, there His hands, there His feet that were nailed full fast; there was His sweet side that was opened with the spear, from which came both blood and water to heal my dirty wounds. When thou hast so done if thou canst, take part of thy bread and of thy fish, and lay it by itself, and say thus quietly in thine heart, |Lord, what wilt Thou give me for this pittance I make to Thee? how many tears, how many love-yearnings and longings after Thee? how many comforts of the Holy Ghost, how many stirrings to good things, how many lookings towards me with Thy lovely eyes? Lord, wilt Thou for this meat that the poor hungry man shall have for Thy sake, give me the love of Thee?| When thou hast eaten what thou thinkest good, thank thy Lord that He hath fed thee. After meat, be thou worthy, and keep thee from much speech and idle games, and hold thy wits inward in fear of GOD. Seemly it is to man, and pleasing to GOD, that his bearing be more honourable and temperate after meat than before: that no taking of excess be seen in him, that the flesh may serve the soul better in reading, praying and other ghostly works, that may help to good things. Then Even-song say, with the devotion that GOD sends thee, in Church or Oratory, or wheresoever thou mayst say it best, away from the noise and throng of the world. After, if thou needest, go sup: and short be thy supper time: so in measure take thou meat and drink that it be no burden nor grievance to thy nature, nor hindrance to serve thy Lord; or in time of rest reave from thee thy sleep; or the fiend defile thee with foul temptations in thy sleep, as he often does him who goes to bed with a full stomach. Every man eat, as S. John says, |according as he is strong or old, or according as his body is greater or less, or whole or sick; take what is needful for sustenance of nature, and not as pleasure asks.| After supper, go to the Church or other place, where thou mayst be most at rest, and say thy Compline, for in this time as S. Ambrose saith, |birds in their language praise their Lord, and thank Him after their kind, for the goods He has sent them.| Call thou then on thy GOD and say Converte nos DEUS salutaris noster, as if he said, |Lord, I have been this day hindered by the world, that has greatly hindered me from serving Thee; through temptation of the fiend and of my flesh oft this day have I done amiss; therefore, my Lord, turn me now from the world, and from all that may hinder me from praising Thee with a pure heart and with all my wits, so that they be intent on Thee to work Thy will,| And then, say forth thy Compline, and after, other prayers with the devotion that GOD sends thee. And after, before thou goest to bed, hold a chapter with thine heart, and ask it in what things it is better than it was. Hast thou shriven thee of that sin that thou didst then and there? of the words that thou spakest there? of that evil will that was in thee then? of that wrong that thou didst and saidst there to him? of that handling? of that blame? of that foul thought? of that thing left undone that thou should'st have done? art thou willing to leave off such vices? What temptations withstood'st thou this day? in what art thou meeker than thou wast? in what more chaste, more sober, more patient, more temperate, more loving thy GOD in thy brother, or more liking in GOD hast thou than thou hadst? Hast left that sin that thou, through habit, fallest into so oft? and other many vices that thou hast done and pleased the fiend with: and grieved thy good GOD, and hast barred thyself against the grace that should help thee. And then, with a repenting of those sins that bite thy conscience, knock on thy breast and say a Pater noster with Ave Maria, on thy knees, and soon in the morning shrive thee of those sins. And if thou doest thus, I hope the fiend shall be afeared to tempt thee, for thou art under GOD'S ward, whilst thou bearest thee thus. After this reckoning, where-through thy soul is raised to a blessed hope to the Father of mercy, and thy flesh waxes heavy, go to thy rest: for if thou hinderest thy flesh of its necessity, and work it beyond its might, faintly will it help thee, or hinder thee withal. And or ever thou goest to rest commit thyself and thy friends into GOD'S hands, who for us was nailed to the tree, and beseech Him, for His mercy, that He guard thee from all perils of body and soul, and arm thee with the token of the cross; for where the fiend sees this mark soon he flies. Of this mark, it is written in the life of S. Edmund: that as he went one time alone, a child appeared to him who was wonderfully fair, and said, |Hail, my friend, whom I love in GOD.| S. Edmund was surprised at this greeting, and the child said to him, |knowest thou me not?| And S. Edmund said to the child, |How should I know thee? I never saw thee before.| And the child said to him, |When thou didst learn in school, I sat ever by thy side; and ever since I have been with thee, wheresoever thou hast dwelt; for so my Lord has fastened me to thee, that I might never part from thee, such is my Lord's will. But behold on my forehead, and read what thou seest there.| He looked as he told him, and with heavenly letters, these four words, he saw there written, JESUS Nazarenus Rex iudeorum. Then said the child, |This is my Lord's name, thou seest thus written. This name I will that thou have in mind, and print it in thy soul, and cross thy front with this name; before thou goest to sleep; and from harassings of the fiend, it shall protect thee that night, and from sudden death, and all who thus by night cross themselves therewith.| And when he had spoken these words, he vanished away. Carry some holy thoughts to bed with thee, and say thy prayers, till sleep fall on thee. To have soft sleep and sweet, a sovereign help is measure and soberness in meat and drink: with recollection of GOD'S law and Holy Writ; as GOD says through the prophet, |Keep My law and My counsel, and if thou sleepest thou shalt not be afraid; if thou dost rest thy sleep shall be sweet.| And ever, as thou wakenest, lift thine heart to GOD, with some holy thought, and rise and pray to thy Lord that He grant release from pains to the dead, and grace to the living, and life without end. If temptation of lust stir thee in bed, think that thy good Lord hung on the Rood for thee; think on His five wounds that streamed down of blood: think that His bed was the hard knotty tree, and instead of a pillow He had a crown of thorns. And say then, with sore sighing, till thy desire cool, |My dear-worthy Lord hanged on the Rood for me; and I lie in this soft bed, and welter me in sin, like a foul swine that loves but filth.| Rise then quickly, and hold thee with prayers, love-sighings and tears. Of three points beware. The first, that the devotions thou hast through grace stirring, be not known of others: hide them, so far as thou mayest with will and deed for fear of vain glory. The second, that thou thinkest not it is in thy power to have such devotions and stirrings when thou wilt: but only through GOD'S grace when He will send them. The third, that thou thinkest not over-well of thyself for such stirrings; nor thinkest thou art therefore dear to GOD; nor deem another more unworthy who does not as thou dost; but when thou hast done all well, think soothly by thyself, and grant it in words; |It is nothing worth I do, Lord: for I am but a useless thrall.| If thou wilt lose no reward, deem none other, but hold thyself most unworthy; for if thou fastest or prayest more than another, perchance another surpasses thee in meekness, and patience and loving. Therefore think of what thou lackest, and not only of what thou hast. Nevertheless, GOD wills that thou should'st think on those graces and goods He has done for thee, to stir thee up to know thyself indebted to Him for them, and serve Him and love Him the more; or if thou beest in grief to glad thee with. Sometimes, it falls out that in GOD'S doom, one is better whom men deem evil than some that men deem good. Many are worthy without and unclean within. Some worldly and dissolute, and GOD'S private friends within. And some, in man's sight bear themselves like angels; and in GOD'S sight, they stink as sinful wretches. And some seem sinful to men's doom, and are full dear to GOD Almighty, for their inward bearing is heavenly in GOD'S bright sight. Therefore, judge we none other save ourselves. And pray we for ourselves and all others to JESUS Christ, Mary's Son, Who for us was nailed on the Rood, that whoso is bound in deadly sin, He loose them; and they who are in good life, that He grant them end therein.
Two messengers are come to thee to bring thee tidings. The one is called Fear, who comes from hell to warn thee of thy danger: the other is called Hope that comes from Heaven to tell thee of bliss thou shalt have if thou doest well. Fear says he saw so many betortured in hell, that if all the wits of men were in one, he could not tell them: of gluttons, unchaste, robbers, thieves, rich men with their servants who harmed the poor: judges who would not give judgment except for reward: treasurers who by subtilty maintained injustice: deemsters who condemned loyal men and delivered stark thieves; workmen who worked dishonestly and took full hire; tillers of the soil who tilled badly; prelates, with the care of men's souls, who neither punished nor taught them; of all sorts of men who have wrongly wrought; then I saw that every one bought it bitterly. For there I saw want of all good, and plenty of pain and sorrow; as hot fire burning ever, brimstone stinking: grisly devils like dragons gaping ever; hunger and thirst for ever lasting, adders and toads gnawing on the sinful. Such sorrow and yelling and gnashing of teeth, I heard there, that nearly, for fear, I lost my wits. Such mirkness there was, that I could grip it; and so bitter was the smoke that it made the woe-ful wretches shed glowing tears; and bitterly I heard them ban the day when they were born. Now, they long to die, and cannot. Death, which, sometime they hated, were liefer to them now than all the good of this world. And therefore I warn thee that thou amend thee of thy sins with shrift and penance, and have a steadfast will to leave them for ever: a seat I saw made for thee in hell of burning fire, where devils should pain thee ever unendingly.
That other messenger, who is called Hope says he is come from Heaven to tell thee of that untellable great joy that rules GOD'S friends; |to tell thereof as it is may no earthly man speak though his tongue were of steel. For there is a gracious fellowship of all GOD'S friends, orders of angels, and of holy saints, and Almighty GOD above, Who gladdens them all. Of all goodness, I saw plenty; beauty and riches that last for ever; honour and power that never shall fail; wisdom and love and everlasting joy. Then I heard melody and song of bright angels. So worthy is that joy and so great withal, that whoso might taste of it a blessed drop, he should be so ravished in liking of GOD, and such yearning he should have to win thither, that all joys of the world were pain to him. With so great a love he should be overtaken in yearning to win to that bliss, that by a hundred times it should more stir him to love virtue and flee sin than any fear he might have of the pain of hell. And I tell thee for sooth, if thou wilt leave sin, and do GOD'S bidding, and love Him as thou oughtest, a rich and a fair seat GOD has made for thee wherein thou shalt dwell with Him unendingly.