Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Seven Ways of Divine Love

By Beatrice of Nazareth (1200 - 1268), a Catholic nun and the "mother" of Flemish mysticism.

The first way is a fierce longing engendered by Love. Before the Soul can overcome every resistance to it, this yearning must develop gradually so that it rules the heart fully, Then She can work in strength and intelligence, with the courage to grow in Love. The good Soul who wants to follow Love faithfully forever is pulled by Her need to live in the image of Her creator, in purity, freedom and nobility. The Soul must guard this need fervently.

In this way, the Soul's aim is to reach this state of purity and freedom: this is Her only desire. She wants to pass Her whole life in this way, rising higher in Love, until she achieves the end to which God has called Her. So, She desires knowledge, She questions and She prays. She directs every thought to how She can reach a state of equality with Love. Her only aim is to live in that purity and nobility of Love.

She regularly considers the stage She has reached and the condition She must reach in order to achieve this aim. She examines what She has, and what is lacking in order to fulfil her desire. With her whole intent and with growing desire, She directs her intelligence to put aside anything, which can hinder Her progress in love. Equally She draws towards her everything that can bring her to love. Her heart never rests, never ceases searching, questing and learning.

When the Soul is placed in this situation, She knows that she must work hard, but that eventually her loyalty will be rewarded. At the end of Her work, God will inform Her that from that moment onwards, She can put aside her past, and serve Love forever, with free consciousness, with pure spirit and with clarity of mind.

A way that desires such great purity and nobility, can only originate from Love: not out of fear. Fear causes suffering. Others may do something, or to refrain from it, out of fear: fear of anger, fear of judgement, fear of disaster or fear of eternal revenge. Love, on the other hand, lives and works only to attain purity, excellence and nobility. These are all integral to Love's own being. If a Soul truly dedicates herself to Love, Love will teach Her to live in the same way.

The Soul is given a second way of love. Sometimes she serves the Lord for nothing, only from love, without reason or reward, even of mercy or bliss. A noble Lady may serve her Lord out of great love, without seeking reward, simply taking pleasure in being allowed to serve Him. In the same way, the Soul may simply desire to be loyal, to serve Love with love, without measure, beyond thought of measure, exceeding every human idea and reason.

This Soul may be burning with bright desire. She may find that her labours are simple and her misfortunes easy to bear: she may be happy even in melancholy. With her whole being she may desire to give great pleasure. Then she will find pleasure in being able to give pleasure to the Lord, to have Love use her, to aid and to honour Love.

The third way of Love is a way of pain and misery. The good Soul may come to this way if She wants to react fully to Love, to follow Love with reverence, service, honour and worship. Sometimes this happens suddenly and violently within the Soul. Then She feels She must perform every act with her whole being, even if doing so brings suffering. She must bear everything without stinting, without sparing herself, in Love's work. She gives every service, always ready to work and to suffer pain, yet still She remains unsatisfied with each achievement. Above everything, her greatest pain is that despite Her work She cannot do enough for Love and thus so much of Love is kept from Her.

She understands fully that the work is superhuman and that it exceeds her power. Alone, she must do what all human beings from the earth cannot: more than all the spirits of the kingdom of heaven could achieve. All the beings above and below, and countless many more, could not serve Love sufficiently, love and honour Love herself with sufficient dignity. To do so is unachievable by any being.

Yet no matter how much the Soul feels that she is failing in her work, this does not lessen her need to succeed with all Her heart and desire. Still She is not satisfied. She understands that Her desire is beyond human accomplishment, beyond every thought, yet still She cannot moderate this need or overcome it. She finds no rest.

She does everything possible. She thanks and praises Love, she toils and labours hard for Love and She gives herself over completely to Love. Even that gives her no peace.

She experiences great grief because She must want what She cannot have and so she remains miserable and dissatisfied. The grief is a living death and in dying She experiences the great pain of hell. Her whole life becomes a merciless hell because She has within Her a fear of her need, a need which She can neither satisfy nor silence.

She must live with that pain until the moment when the Lord grants Her respite. She will then be placed in another way of Love, which will build on the knowledge she has gained. But, once again, she will be asked to work in the new way she has been given by the Lord.

The fourth way of love is sometimes given in great delight, and sometimes in great pains. Love may be pleasantly awakened in the soul and may lift it up with great happiness, so that Love moves in the heart, without any human aid. Then, the heart is touched tenderly by Love and fills with a great desire to join with Love. So strongly is the heart seized by love, so completely dominated by love and surrounded by Love, that the Soul is completely conquered by Love.

The Soul feels a strong bond with God, a spiritual clearness and a rapturous salvation. She feels splendid freedom and a delightful sweetness. She experiences the superior power of strong Love and fills completely with great joy. She feels that all her senses have been unified in the grip of love. Her will has become Love: She plunges so deeply into the abyss of love that She Herself actually becomes Love.

The beauty of Love absorbs her. The power of Love completely consumes her. Love's great sweetness drops Her into nothingness and she is fully absorbed into Love's vastness.

Then, Love's majesty has enfolded Her and its purity has let Her reach the highest development. The sublime forces of Love have drawn Her up and made her one, so that She must be completely of Love - she has no option but to live with Love.

She experiences for herself this vast abundance of salvation. She is entirely consumed with total fullness of heart and She loses Her mind completely in Love. Her heart melts completely, She cannot feel Her body and she is totally powerless. She is so far overtaken by Love that she hardly can control herself, often losing control over her limbs or senses.

Then, like a barrel full to the brim, if She is suddenly stirred up, she will overflow and flood immediately. She will be completely overcome by the fullness of Her heart, so that she has no choice but to lose herself completely.

Alternatively, love can be awakened powerfully, arising with overpowering recklessness and great passion. This is the fifth way of love. It is as if She wanted to break the heart of the Soul by brute force, tear the Soul out and lose Herself in the purging fire of Love. She is driven to bring about the great tasks of the work of Love or to manifest the different orders of Love.

She wants to rest in the sweet embraces of Love, in the wonderful calm and deep satisfaction of what She has received from Him. Her heart and her senses truly desire and yearn for that satisfaction. Although She may appear calm, She is in a state where Her mind has such power, Her heart such wisdom and Her body such strength, that she feels everything within her and outside her is hectic.

She feels great melancholy and is tense with Her expectations of Love. She is much troubled with desire and has obvious misery, which springs from deep dissatisfaction. She experiences the deep anguish of the soul caused without reason by the outflowing of Love itself. This may be because She demands so much of the light of Love itself, or because the absence of Love is causing the dissatisfaction.

Throughout all this, Love becomes so great that Her soul expands so that She feels that Her heart is being painfully wounded over and over again. These wounds are received daily and are made ever more painful by new emotional pains and miseries. It is as if Her heart burns so furiously that her veins seem to her to burst. Her blood is heated, Her marrow melts within her, Her legs weaken and her chest burns red. Then Her throat dries up, as if Her face and limbs were part of Her internal heat, within the primal rage of Love. Then She feels a piercing arrow in her heart and throat, approaching the brain as if She would lose her senses.

She feels the passion of Love raging within, like a devouring fire, drawing everything inside it and consuming whatever it can destroy. Without respite and without sparing Her anything, She takes and consumes everything. This passion is painful; it weakens Her heart and takes away all Her strength.

But in fact, this actually strengthens her soul. Her love is exquisite and her mind is remains floating upon it. For Love overcomes fear to such an extent that the Soul requires this help in order to achieve complete unity with Her.

Sometimes the Soul feels that her misery will overcome Her and tear Her apart from unity with Love. But the bond of Love grips her tightly and the excesses of Love overwhelm her. She can no longer be moderate in anything or explain her state rationally. She cannot exercise restraint or hold Herself back in any way.

The more She is given from above, the more She questions and the more is revealed to Her, the greater is her desire to approach the light of truth and purity. She cannot hold in check Her need of the splendour and pleasure of Love. She is forever aroused and ever more excited: nothing satisfies her or grants her respite. She is given health only by what heals her most and cures her wounds.

When the bride of our Lord has made progress and has achieved this greater salvation, She experiences a sixth way of love, closely connected and with higher knowledge. She feels that Love has totally defeated Her resistance, that She has overcome all shortcomings and gained Her true power. Since there is no more resistance, She has mastered Herself. She knows her heart is safe: she can use it in peace and she has freedom to do anything.

Now, all things seem simple, easy to accomplish or to leave alone as She sees fit. She can allow Herself to do anything and bring light to it, because all things are manifest with the dignity of love. Then Her practice of Love is pleasant. She experiences the power of the Divinity within Her, a pure clarity, a sweetness of spirit and the freedom that She desires. She has true wisdom and a calm acceptance of God.

So She is like a housewife who has cared well for her house. She has furnished it smartly and who has put it in good order. She has protected it wisely and guarded it intelligently, working towards a plan. She has the strength and wisdom within Her and without, to perform acts or to refrain from them according to her own will.

It is the same with the Soul. Love rules her completely and works powerfully within her. It remains within her, performing tasks or leaving them alone, both within and without, all according to Her will. As a fish swims the length and breadth of the sea and rests in its depths, as a bird flies through the air, so She feels her mind completely unrestrained in the height, width and depth of Love.

This superior power of Love has guided the soul and has accompanied, guarded and protected it. Love has given the Soul Her intellect, wisdom and the gentle strength. Yet until the Soul has reached greater heights and has become completely free of herself, Love hides the dark passion to come. It is be revealed until Love rules the Soul more strongly.

But then, Love frees the Soul completely, making Her so strong that She perceives neither human nor devil, nor angel nor saint, not even God Himself, in her acts, in her work or her rest.

She realises that Love has awakened fully within Her, working strongly in Her body and driving her every act. She can also see that Love is not to be found in the Sweat of the heavy labour of those Love dominates.

But all who desire union with Love must seek Her with reverence. They must desire Her enough to persevere in following Her path and overcoming the obstacles. No one can succeed in the path by avoiding the hard work and the inconveniences along the way. Those who seek union with Love must consider every small thing to be important until Love finally rules within them. At that moment, Love becomes supreme, making everything simple and all labour easy. Love pays all debts and makes every effort pure and pleasing.

Now there is freedom from conscience, clarity and harmony of heart, purity of morals, dignity of the soul, transcendence of the mind and principle of eternal life. The Soul already lives as an angel on earth, and after that follows eternal life that God in His goodness gives us all.

The blessed soul still has a more sublime way of love, a seventh way, which gives her much to do within. She is being raised above the human measure of love, above senses and reason, higher than everything of which our heart is capable on its own. She is raised up into the eternity of Love simply by the Love of eternity itself. She becomes one with the invulnerable wisdom of the silent heights. She plunges into the deep abyss of the Deity, who is everything in everything that exists, indestructible, above everything, everlasting, almighty, all-embracing, and who is the supreme force within everything that exists.

Now She is so profoundly immersed in Love, and so strongly driven by Her desire, that her heart is powerfully moved and is restless within Her. Her soul pours out and dissolves in Love: Her mind is fervently coupled with a deep longing. Each of Her senses recognises that She may live forever in the pleasure of Love. Still She must persevere: She must hone Her desire to a fine edge and use all of Her heart to make this request of God.

Her desire must still remain strong, for even now, Love offers Her no respite. This is not a quiet life! Love encourages Her and demoralises Her, tormenting Her without warning and further testing Her. She brings death and gives life; She gives health and then once again wounds. She brings madness and then restores sanity and wisdom.

This is how Love lifts the Soul to a higher state of consciousness. This is the way in which the soul progresses spiritually, ascending from worldliness to the timeless eternity of Love. The Soul transcends human forms of love: Her desire to live in a higher form lifts her above the limits of Her own nature.

Her being and Her will are in the sweet company of the highest spirits, who are all overflowing with love and who are fully aware that they are in the possession and the pleasure of their Love. This fulfils her love of and longing for the certain truth, the untainted clarity, the majesty and luxurious beauty. She yearns to remain forever among the spirits and blazing seraphs. She finds a wonderful resting-place and joyful dwelling in the sublime Deity and Trinity.

She looks for Him into His majesty. She follows Him there and sees Him with both Her heart and mind. She fully knows Him, and loves and desires Him so much, that She holds saints and human beings, angels and creatures in no esteem whatever, other than the same Love of Him through which she loves everything. She has united in Love with Him alone, above and below, embracing all the rest.

With all the yearning her heart can encompass and with the whole power of her mind, she longs only to see Him, to possess Him and to enjoy Him.

So the earth becomes a great misery for her. It is a prison of great distress, which She disdains. Earthly life becomes a burden, and the things of earth no longer satisfy or content her. She suffers greatly because she is so distant from Love that she feels that she is a stranger.

She cannot forget Her misery or stifle Her yearning. This longing torments Her unceasingly and She cannot forget Her misery. Her desire cannot be stilled, Her longing harasses her miserably and plagues Her with great anguish. Therefore, the whole of Her life is a yearning to be freed from this misery and dissolved from this body. Then, like the apostles, She says with a heavy heart,

"Cupio dissolvi et esse sum Christo" ("I long to be dissolved and to be united with Christ.")

She says this, not because She is melancholy today, nor out of fear of future pain and grief. She says it not out of sadness for today or out of pain for future grief, but only because of her great eagerness, in holy and eternal Love, to go to the landscape of eternity, dreaming within the true glory of pleasure.

Her yearning for this is very great, and so Her situation is unbearably grave and harsh. The pain inflicted by her yearning is infinite. She must live in hope, but it is precisely this that makes her yearn and dream.

Oh, holy desire of Love, how strong is your influence of the loving Soul! It is a heavenly passion, a sharp torture, a long sorrow, a treacherous death, and a life of dying!

She still cannot reach the height She yearns for, and below that She is granted no period of rest or respite. She can no longer bear to think of Him because she yearns so and lacking union with Him is torture because of that yearning. So, she lives in utter misery. She cannot be consoled, because she does not want to be consoled, just as the prophet says:

"Reunite consular anima mead"   (My soul does not want to be consoled)

So she rejects every consolation given by God or by any of His creatures. This gives Her the pleasure of a strengthened Love: her yearning is renewed and driven to ever-greater heights. Her one longing is to devote herself to Love, to enjoy Love and to bear her parting from Love without pleasure. Thus She remains unfulfilled and unsatisfied, despite all the gifts bestowed upon Her, because She is still parted from Her Love. This is a dismal life, because She does not want to be consoled if she has not acquired that for which She longs.

Love has guided Her forcefully and taught Her and led Her in the way of Love. She has followed that way faithfully, overcoming great hardship and lack of spiritual succour. She has yearned impatiently, restlessly wounded with grief and woe, searching and questioning. She has won possession of her desire and lost it, grown in certainty and become once again uncertain. She has had solace and great longing, fear and worries, dreaming and corruption, faith and loss of faith. She is prepared for anything in joy or sorrow. She must belong to love, dead or alive. And so She suffers in Her heart. And in her earnest heart she suffers.

Love demands that She be worthy of kingdom of heaven. If great misery tests the Soul on earth, then Her final refuge is in the true glory of heaven, because that is exactly where the work of Love lies. She longs for union with Love, and She pursues that great union in which she can love the most. So, she wants to follow Love, experience and enjoy Love always, and this cannot happen in this earthly misery.

To follow Love She must go to Her own country, where She has founded her house and in which she rests with Love and longing! There she is received with Love by Love, all impediments having been removed! There, She will at last see what she has so compassionately loved, and there She will possess for eternity the One she has served so loyally. With Love in her Soul, She will enjoy the One she has so often embraced with Love.

There, She will enter happily. As St Augustine says,
"Qui in Te intrat in gaudium Domini sui..."
"O Lord, who enters in You, he enters in the joy of his Lord..."

There, fear has no place. For there, She will possess Love in the finest way within the best of all.

There, the soul is with her Groom and entirely becomes one spirit with Him, in inseparable fidelity and mutual love, forever. The compassionate Soul, which, wanted to do everything for Him shall enjoy Him in eternal glory, where She will at last devote herself wholly to praise and Love. May God bring us all to that.


Translated by Wim van den Dungen

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