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

CHAPTER XII. Two lives there are that Christian men live.à

Two lives there are that Christian men live. One is called Active life, for it is more in bodily work. Another, contemplative life, for it is in more ghostly sweetness. Active life is greatly outward, and in more travail and in more peril, because of the temptations that are in the world. Contemplative life is largely inward, therefore it is more enduring and more certain, restfuller, more delectable, lovelier and more rewarding. For, it has joy in GOD'S love, and savour in the life that lasts aye, in this present time, if it be rightly led. And that feeling of joy in the love of JESUS passes all other merits in earth. For it is so hard to come to, because of the frailty of our flesh, and the many temptations that we are beset with, which hinder us night and day: all other things that come are light in regard thereof; for that may no man deserve, but only it is given of GOD'S goodness to them who verily give themselves to contemplation and to quiet for Christ's love. To men and women who betake themselves to active life, two things befall. One: to appoint their household in fear and in the love of GOD, and to find them in necessaries, and themselves keep GOD'S commandments entirely. Doing to their neighbours as they will that they do to them. Another is that they do, so far as they can, the seven works of mercy. The which are: to feed the hungry: to give the thirsty a drink; to clothe the naked: to harbour them that have no housing: to visit the sick, to comfort them that are in prison; to bury dead men.

All that can and who have property, they may not be quit with one or two of these; but it behoves them to do them all, if they will on Dooms-Day have the benison that JESUS shall give to all who do them. Or else they may dread the malison that all men have who will not do them, when they had goods to do them with.

Contemplative life has two parts: a lower and a higher. The lower part is meditation of holy writing, that is GOD'S word, and in other good thoughts and sweet that men have of the grace of GOD, about the love of JESUS Christ, and also in praising GOD in psalms and hymns and in prayers. The higher part of contemplation is beholding and yearning after the things of heaven, and joy in the Holy Ghost: that men have oft, although it be so that they be not praying with the mouth, but only thinking of GOD, and of the beauty of angels, and of holy souls. Then may I say that contemplation is a wonderful joy of GOD'S love; the which joy is praising GOD, that cannot be told; and that wonderful praising is in the soul: and for abundance of joy and sweetness, it ascends into the mouth; so that the heart and the tongue agree in one, and body and soul joy, living in GOD. A man or woman that is appointed to contemplative life, first GOD inspires them to forsake this world, and all the vanity and covetousness and vile lust thereof. Afterwards He leads them by their lone and speaks to their heart, and as the prophet says |He gives them to suck of the sweetness of the beginning of love|: and then He sets them in the will to give themselves wholly to prayers and meditations and tears. Afterwards, when they have suffered many temptations, and when the foul annoyances of thoughts that are idle, and of vanities which will encumber those who cannot destroy them, are passing away, He makes them gather up their heart to them and fasten it only in Him, and opens to the eye of their souls the gates of heaven: and then the fire of love verily lies in their heart, and burns therein, and makes it clean from all earthly filth, and afterwards they are contemplative men, and ravished in love. For contemplation is a sight; and they see into Heaven with their ghostly eye. But thou shalt wit that no man has perfect sight of heaven, whilst they are living bodily here. But as soon as they die, they are brought before GOD, and see Him face to face, and eye to eye, and dwell with Him without end. For Him they sought, and Him they coveted, and Him they loved, with all their might.

Lo, Margaret, I have told thee shortly the Form of Living, and how thou mayst come to perfection, and to love Him whom thou hast taken thee to. If it do thee good and profit to thee, thank GOD, and pray for me. The grace of JESUS Christ be with thee, and keep thee. Amen.

Here endeth |The Form of Perfect Living.|

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