The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, by Jan van Ruysbroeck, , at sacred-texts.com
When a man through the grace of God is able to behold, and his conscience is clean, and he has considered the three comings of Christ our Bridegroom, and when he has gone out with the virtues: then there ensues the meeting with the Bridegroom, and that is the fourth point and the last. In this meeting lies all our bliss, the beginning and end of all virtue; and without this meeting no virtue has ever been fulfilled.
Whosoever wishes to meet Christ as his beloved Bridegroom, and to possess in Him, and with Him, eternal life; he must now, in time, go out to meet Christ at three points or in three ways. The first point is that he shall have God in mind in all things through which we earn eternal life. The second point is that there shall be nothing that he means or loves more than God or even so much as God. And the third point is that he shall with great zeal seek to rest in God, above all creatures and above all God's gifts, above all the works of virtue and above all feelings that God may infuse into soul and body.
Now grasp this well: whosoever means God must have God present in his mind under some godly attribute; and thereby he should mean only Him Who is the Lord of heaven and earth and all creatures, Who died for him, and Who can, and will, give him eternal bliss. In whatever way or under whatever name we represent God to ourselves, if it be as the Lord over all creatures, that is always right. If we conceive one of the Divine Persons, and in Him the being and the might of the Divine Nature, that is right. If we set God before us as Maintainer, Redeemer, Creator, Ruler; as Bliss, Power, Wisdom, Truth, Goodness, and all this as within the abysmal properties of the Divine Nature, that is right.
Though the names which we give to God are many, the most high Nature of God is a Simplicity which cannot be named by any creature. But because of His incomprehensible nobility and sublimity, which we cannot rightly name nor wholly express, we give Him all these names. This is the way and the manner of apprehension in which we should have God present in our mind; for, to mean God, this is to see God in ghostly wise. And to this intention charity and love also belong; for to know God and to be without charity has no savour, neither does it help or further us. That is why a man should always in all his works stretch towards God with love; Whom, above all things, he aims at and loves. And this is going out to meet God by intention and by love.
If a sinner would turn from his sins with full and true repentance, he must go out to meet God in contrition and of his own free-will, and with an upright purpose and intention to serve Him thenceforward and never to sin any more. Then, in this meeting, he shall receive through the mercy of God a sure hope of eternal bliss and the remission of his sins; and he shall further receive the foundation of all virtue: namely, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and a good-will toward all other virtues.
If this man wishes to go forward in the light of faith, and lay hold of all the works of Christ, and all His suffering; all the things He promised us and did to us and will do to us until the Day of Doom and in eternity; if that man wishes to lay hold of these that they may avail to his salvation: then he should go out to meet Christ once more, and should have Him ever in his sight, with praise and thankfulness and with a worthy acknowledgment of all His gifts, and all that He has done, and will do, in eternity. Then his faith will be strengthened; and he will be more often, and more ardently impelled towards all virtues.
If, then, he wishes to go forward in the works of virtue, he must also go out to meet Christ with self-renunciation, neither seeking himself, nor pursuing things alien from God; but let him be wise and discreet in all that he does, having in mind in all things God alone, and God's praise and glory, and let him continue therein even unto death. Thereby his reason is enlightened, and his charity is increased, and he grows in piety and in the aptitude for all virtues.
We should have God in mind in all our good works; in evil works we cannot do this. We should not have in mind two ends; that is to say, we should mean God alone and nothing else. All other ends should be subordinate to God, not opposed to God; they should be, in their order, a help and a furtherance, that we may the better come to God. And then we are in the right way.
We should also rather seek our rest upon Him and in Him Whom we mean and love, than in any of the messengers He sends; that is to say, His gifts. The soul should also rest in God above all the jewels and all the gifts which it may send back to God by its own messengers. The messengers of the soul are intention, love, and desire: these carry all good deeds and all virtues up to God. But above all these things, above all multiplicity, the soul should rest in its Beloved. In this way and in this wise we should go out to meet Christ with an upright intention during all our lives, and in all our works, and in all our virtues; so that we may also meet Him in the light of glory at the hour of death.
This method and this way, of which you have now heard, is called the Active Life. It is needful for all men; and these, at least, should not live contrary to virtue, even though they may not possess all the virtues in this perfection. For, to live contrary to virtue is to live in sin; for Christ says: He that is not with Me is against Me. Whosoever is not humble, he is proud; and whosoever is proud and not humble does not belong to God. And thus it is with all the sins and all the virtues; either a man has the virtue and lives in grace, or else he has its opposite and lives in sin. Let each man try himself, and live according to that which has here been shown.