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The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, by Jan van Ruysbroeck, [1916], at





Of this inward demand and this invitation, and also because the creature lifts itself up and offers itself, and all that it can do, and yet can neither attain nor acquire the unityof these things spring a ghostly pain. When the inmost part of the heart and the source of life have been wounded by love, and one cannot obtain that which one desires above all things, but must ever abide where one does not wish to be: from these two things pain comes forth. Here Christ is risen to the zenith of the conscience, and He sends His Divine rays into the hungry desires and into the longings of the heart; and this splendour burns and dries up and consumes all the moisture, that is, the strength and the powers of nature. The desire of the open heart, and the shining of the Divine rays, cause a perpetual pain.

If, then, one cannot achieve God and yet cannot and will not do without Him, from these two things there arise in such men tumult and restlessness, both without and within. And so long as a man is thus agitated, no creature, neither in heaven nor on earth, can give him rest or help him. In this state there are sometimes spoken from within sublime and salutary words, and singular teachings and wisdom are given. In this inward tumult one is ready to suffer all that can be suffered, that one may obtain that which one loves. This fury of love is an inward impatience which will hardly use reason or follow it, if it cannot obtain that which it loves. This inward fury eats a man's heart and drinks his blood. Here the sensible heat of love is fiercer than at any other stage in man's whole life; and his bodily nature is secretly wounded and consumed without any outward work, and the fruits of the virtues ripen more quickly than in all the degrees which have been shown heretofore.

In the like season of the year, the visible sun enters the sign of Leo, that is, the Lion, who is fierce by nature, for he is the lord over all beasts. So likewise, when a man comes to this way, Christ, the bright Sun, stands in the sign of the Lion, for the rays of His heat are so fierce that the blood in the heart of the impatient man must boil. And when this fierce way prevails, it masters and subdues all other ways and works; for it wills to be wayless, that is, without manner. And in this tumult a man sometimes falls into a desire and restless longing to be freed from the prison of his body, so that he may at once be united with Him Whom he loves. And he opens his inward eyes and beholds the heavenly house full of glory and joy, and his Beloved crowned in the midst of it, flowing forth towards His saints in abounding bliss; whilst he must lack all this. And therefrom there often spring in such a man outward tears and great longings. He looks down and considers the place of exile in which he has been imprisoned, and from which he cannot escape; then tears of sadness and misery gush forth. These natural tears soothe and refresh the man's heart, and they are wholesome to the bodily nature, preserving its strength and powers and sustaining him through this state of tumult. All the manifold considerations and exercises according to ways or manner are helpful to the impatient man; that his strength may be preserved and that he may long endure in virtue.

Next: Chapter XXIV. Of Ecstacies and Divine Revelations