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On Seven Ways of Holy Love

©  Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, 2016.


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Folio 35r of the Brussel Codex (N°3067-73)
Sixth Way - Littera Rotunda, ca.1350 CE.


On Seven Ways of Holy Love

By Beatrix of Nazareth (1200 - 1268).

Translated by Wim van den Dungen from Medieval Dutch to Modern Dutch (1993).
Translated by Wim van den Dungen from Medieval & Modern Dutch to English (1997 - 2016)


Seven ways of love come out of the highest and work back to the highest.

The first is a desire actively flowing out of love. Long has it to rule (in) the heart before dispelling every resistance thoroughly, and it cannot but work with strength and intelligence, courageously growing in all of this.

This first way is a desire most certainly stemming from love, for the good soul wanting to follow faithfully and to love enduringly, is being drawn on by the craving of this desire –most strongly to be loved and guarded–  to exist in the purity, freedom and nobility in which she is made by her Creator, after His image and to His resemblance.

Her whole life she desires to stay in this way (of love), and to work on it and to grow in it and to rise to an ever higher excellence in love and in a more profound knowledge of God. This until the completion for which she is equipped and is called on by God.

Eventually, this is her aim, and thus she becomes fully engaged. This is her asking, her desire to know and her prayer to God. These are her thoughts about how she may reach this and receive nearness to the sameness with love, in the full glory of the virtues, and in the complete purity of the steady nobility of love.

This soul often seriously examines what she only is, and what she should be, what she has, and what her desire nevertheless lacks. In earnest, and with an always increasing desire, and with all the intelligence she has, she exerts herself to guard against and to shun what may hinder and prevent her in this work. And never her heart rests or subsides from searching, demanding, learning, taking to heart and mastering everything helping her and bringing her to love.

This is the top concern for the soul placed in this situation, working and drudging in it, until, because of her seriousness and loyalty, she obtains from God to serve love from now on forever, without impediments from the past, with a free conscience, pure spirit and clear mind.

For certain, such manner of desire, of such great purity and nobility, flows out of love and not out of fear. For fear makes one suffer, makes one act or not act, and this out of dread for the anger of our Lord, the judgement of the righteous judge, eternal revenge or transitory calamity.

But in how she works, love only strives for purity, excellence, and the highest nobility, all part of her own being. This kind of activity she teaches to those who dedicate themselves to her.

The other way of love

From time to time, the soul has another way of love.

Then she serves the Lord for nothing, only with love, without any why whatsoever and without any reward of mercy or bliss.

And exactly as a noble lady serves her lord out of great love and without reward, for whom it is enough to be allowed to serve while he permits her to serve, in the same way, she desires to serve love with love, without measure and beyond measure and surpassing every human understanding and reason, in the total servitude of loyalty.

In this manner, she is so burning in her desire, so prepared to serve, so light in hard work, so gentle in misfortune, so joyful in sadness ; and with all she’s got, she desires to satisfy him.

So she finds pleasure in finding something to do and to endure in the service of love and to honor love.

 The third way of love

Sometimes the good soul has another way of love, bringing much pain and misery. It boils down to the fact she desires to answer love fully, to follow her in all homage, and in all service, obedience and subservience to love.

From time to time, this desire is brought about violently in the soul, and then she has the firm intention to do all her work with strong desire, to accomplish all virtues, to permit and to bear everything, to advance without sparing herself in all her work and to satisfy love without measure. In this condition, she is prepared to every service, ready and fearless to labor and to suffer pain ; even so, she remains unsatisfied in all she does.

But above all, in relation to her great desire, it is the heaviest pain for her not to be able to satisfy love sufficiently, and that in love so much is being kept from her.

She knows very well this is superhuman work and beyond all her power, for what she desires –impossible and beyond the essence of every creature– is that she alone would like to do as much as all human beings on earth, and as much as all spirits of the kingdom of heaven and as much as all creatures above and below and countless many more, to serve love, to love her, and to honor her according to her dignity. And no matter how much she is failing in her work, she still wants to realize this with all her dedication and with strong desire. But all of this does not satisfy her.

She knows very well this desire is only to be fulfilled far beyond her power and above human reason and above every understanding ; yet she cannot moderate this desire, or master it, or calm it down.

She does everything she can : she thanks and praises love, she works and toils for love, she sighing desires love, she gives herself totally to love. And all of this does not grant her peace.

It is for her a hard pain she has to desire what she cannot obtain and so she has to stay in the misery of her heart and remain in her dissatisfaction.

Thus it is for her as if she dies while living, and dying feels the heavy pain of hell. Her whole life is hellish and merciless and displeasure because of the horror of the terrifying desire she cannot satisfy, or bring to silence or calm down.

In this heavy pain she must remain until the moment our Lord consoles her and places her in another way of love and desire, in an ever more profound knowledge of Him. Then she has to work according to what is being given to her by our Lord.

The fourth way of love

Our Lord is used to give us yet another way of love, at times in great bliss, then again in great woe. Of this we shall speak now.

Sometimes it happens love is sweetly being awakened in the soul and happily rises, and moves in the heart, without any help of human effort.

And thus the heart is being tenderly touched by love, and, full of strong desire, is being pulled inside love, and so wholeheartedly seized by love, so strongly dominated by love, so lovely embraced by love, that she is completely conquered by love.

In this she experiences a great proximity to God, a spiritual clearness, a wonderful bliss, a noble freedom, a delightful sweetness, a great superior power of strong love, and an abundant fullness of great joy.

Then she experiences that all her senses are one in the grip of love and that her will has become love, and that she is so deeply plunged and gulped down in the abyss of love, that she herself has become fully love.

The beauty of love has eaten her. The power of love has consumed her. The sweetness of love has

plunged her into nothingness. The greatness of love has absorbed her. The nobility of love has embraced her. The purity of love has allowed her to reach the highest development. The sublimity of love has pulled her up and has unified her in such a way, she has to be completely of love, and no longer can live than with love.

When she experiences herself in this way, in this abundance of bliss, and in this complete and great fullness of heart, then her mind completely sinks in love, her body escapes her, her heart melts away and all her power is undone.

To such an extend is she conquered by love, that she can hardly control herself, and that often she has no power anymore over her limbs and senses.

And like a barrel full to the brim immediately overflows and floods when one stirs in it, she is suddenly being greatly touched and completely conquered by the great fullness of her heart.

All of this in a way that she, many a time, in spite of herself, has to break out.

At the same time it also happens, as fifth way of love, that love is being strongly awakened, and rises tempestuously with great turbulence and with great passion, as if she wanted to break the heart of the soul by force, and pull the soul out and above herself in the practice of and the failing in love.

She is also strongly being moved to bring about the great tasks of the work of love or to realize the different directives of love.

Or she desires to rest in the sweet embraces of love, in the desirable beatitude and in the satisfaction of what she has from Him. Her heart and her senses seriously look for it and ardently desire it.

In this state, she is so powerful of mind, very re-solute of heart and strong of body, so fast in working and busy inside and outside, that it seems to her as if all she is works and acts, even if she is so very calm on the outside.

In addition, she feels a strong sadness inside, a great tensed expectation regarding love, many shifts in desire, and varied misery of deep dissatisfaction. Or she experiences the anguish of the soul by the great feeling of love itself, without any why whatsoever, or because she is extremely demanding in regard to the desire for love, or because she is dissatisfied about the absence of the pleasure of love.

In this, love –burning so strongly and so furiously in the heart– becomes so immoderate and breaks out in the soul in such a way, that it seems to her that her heart is repeatedly being painfully wounded, and that these wounds are being daily renewed and being made more painful by even more aching misery and new emotional woes. It seems to her as if her veins break open, her blood is being heated, her marrow atrophies, her legs weaken, her chest scorches, and her throat dries up, so that her face and all her limbs take part in the heat inside  and participate in this primal rage of love. Then she feels an arrow going through her heart towards her throat, and on to the brain, as if she would lose her senses.

And like a devouring fire drawing everything towards itself and consuming what it can destroy, thus she feels love ardently raging in her, without saving her and without measure, taking and consuming all. Because of this she is being heavily hurt, her heart weakened very much and all her strength nullified.

Her soul is strengthened, her love cherished and her mind kept in suspense. For love is so elevated above intelligence, that by her own power the soul cannot acquire love’s highest bliss.

At times she wants, without disturbing the unity with love, to break away from all the misery of the soul. But the alliance with love has her so strongly in its grip and she is so completely overcome by the excess of love, she no longer can hold reasonable measure anymore, render account for in a rational way, with moderation restrain herself, or wisely remain herself.

The more she is being given from above, the more she asks, and the more she is being told, the more the longing grows to come closer, on the basis of desire, to the light of truth, to purity, nobility and the bliss of love.

Endlessly and more and more she is being provoked and pestered and nothing contents or satisfies her.

What heals her most and cures her wounds, only that gives her health.

The sixth love

 When the bride of our Lord has made progress and has climbed up to greater robustness, she experiences yet another way of love, more profoundly joined and with higher knowledge.

She feels love has conquered all her inner resistance, and that she has restored all shortcomings and has brought her to govern her senses. Without resistance she has completely mastered herself, and so she knows her heart is safe, she may use it in peace and freely do her best.

In this state, all things seem small to her, easy to do or not to do, lightly to accept and to bear, in accord with the dignity of love. Then she is pleased to practice love. Then also she experiences a Divine interiority, a clear purity, a spiritual sweetness, a desirable freedom, a discerning wisdom and a calm accessibility of God.

Then she is like a housewife who has well taken care of her house. Who has furnished it in a clever way and who has put it nicely in order. Who protects it wisely, who guards it cleverly, and who works according to plan. She brings in and out and she acts or not, all according to her will.

Likewise with this soul : love rules enormously in her, works powerfully, rests in her, acts or abstains from action, internally and externally, and all of this according to her will.

Just like a fish that swims in the wideness of the flood, and rests in the depth, or a bird that flies in the space and height of the sky, so does she feel her mind go about unrestrained in the depth, space and height of love.

This superior power of love has drawn the soul and has accompanied, guarded and protected it. She has given her the intellect and the wisdom, the sweetness and the strength of love. Yet, she has hidden her power for the soul until she has climbed up to greater highness and has become completely free of herself, and until love rules in her with more strength.

Then love makes her so strong and so free she does not consider human or foe, angel or saint, not even God Himself in her doings, her work or her rest.

She knows very well that love is in her, fully awake and as strongly working in the rest of the body as in the abundance of work. She knows very well and becomes aware love is not the drudging and sweating of those in whom she reigns. But all who want to come to love, have to look for her with awe, have to follow her loyally and have to practice her with strong desire. They do not succeed if they save themselves the trouble of much labor and effort and of undergoing inconveniences. And they have to highly esteem all small things until the moment they are ready for love to rule inside.

Then love powerfully cultivates the work of love, makes all things small, softens all hard work, makes every effort sweet, and pays all debts.

This is freedom of conscience, sweetness of heart, goodness of virtue, nobility of soul, sublimity of mind and principle of eternal life.

Already on earth the soul lives like an angel, and after that (life) follows eternal life, that God in His goodness may grant to all of us.

<Amen>

 The seventh way of love

Furthermore, the blessed soul has a more sublime way of love, giving her a lot to do inside, i.e. she is being pulled in love above human nature, above human senses and reason, and above all the workings of her heart.

Only with eternal love is she pulled into the eternity of love, into the incomprehensible wisdom and the silent highness, into the deep abyss of the Deity, who is everything in all what exists, elusive, elevated above all things, imperishable, almighty, all-encompassing, and who powerfully execute everything.

In love she is so profoundly sunk and by her desire she is so strongly pulled, that her heart is intensely moved and restless inside. Thus her soul flows out and melts of love, and her mind is ardently bound to strong longing. All her senses set themselves to the fact she may live in the pleasure of love.

With urgency she desires this from God and with her whole heart she requests this of God. This she must desire a lot, for love does not let her calm down or recuperate. Love elevates her and pulls her down, puts her suddenly to the test and again torments her. She brings death and gives life, she
makes healthy and hurts again. She makes her foolish and then again wise.

Thus she lifts her up to a higher being. Thus she has spiritually climbed up above time, in the eternity of love, which is without time. Above the human forms of love and above her own nature she is lifted up by the desire to live above.

There is her being and her will, her desire and love, in the certain truth, the pure clarity, the noble highness, the beatic beauty and the sweet company of the highest spirits who all flow in abundant love, and who exist in clear knowledge, in the possession and pleasure of their love.

Then she desires to stay there among the spirits and most among the blazing seraphs. In the sublime Deity and in the Trinity she finds her lovely resting-place and her joyful house.

She seeks Him out in His majesty. She follows Him there and sees Him with her heart and her mind. She knows Him and loves Him and desires Him so much, that she cannot respect saints, human beings, angels or creatures, unless with the same love by which she loves everything through Him. Him alone she has chosen in love, above all things, under all things and in all things, so that with the full desire of her heart, and with the whole strength of her mind, she longs to see, possess and enjoy Him.

Thus the earth is a great misery to her, and a tough prison and a heavy agony. She disdains the world. The earth has become a burden to her and what belongs to the earth cannot satisfy or content her. It is a great pain to her that she has to be so distant and seem so strange.

Her misery she cannot forget, her desire cannot be stilled, her longing harasses her miserably, and by this she is exceedingly and without mercy tormented and tortured.

Thus she lives in a great longing and in a strong desire to be freed from this misery and to be dissolved from this body.

Then she says with a sad heart, like the apostles : ‘Cupio dissolvi et esse sum Christo’, i.e. ‘I long to be dissolved and to be united with Christ’. In the same way, her desire is strong and her restlessness painful to be freed and live with Christ.

Not out of sadness for the present or out of pain for future grief, but only out of holy and eternal love she eagerly, yearningly and full of longing desires to go to the land of eternity, in the glory of delight.

This longing is great and strong in her, and her existence is heavy and tough, and the pain she suffers out of desire is inexpressibly great.

Nevertheless, she has to live in hope, and it is precisely this which makes her ache and languish.

O holy desire of love, how strong is your power in the loving soul ! It is a heavenly passion, a sharp torture, a long sorrow, a murdering death, a dying life !

Up there she still cannot come and here below she has neither rest or duration. Because of longing, she cannot bear the thought of Him anymore, and to lack Him is, because of her desire, a torture. Thus she has to live with great discomfort.

So she cannot and does not want to be consoled, like the prophet says : ‘Renuit consolare animam meam’, i.e. ‘My soul does not want to be consoled’.

Accordingly she rejects every consolation by God Himself or by His creatures. For the pleasure this can give her, lends love new strength, pulls her to a higher mode of being and renews her longing to devote herself to love, to enjoy love and to bear her exile without any pleasure.

Thus, despite all gifts, she remains unsatiated and unsatisfied because she still has to miss the presence of her love. This is a very hard life, because she does not want to be consoled if she has not acquired what she so restlessly seeks.

Love has dragged her on, has led her and taught her to go her own way. This she has followed faithfully, often with a lot of trouble and effort, in great spiritual powerlessness, with strong desire, with a lot of impatience, in great unrest, in weal and woe, with much grief, in seeking and begging, in lacking and possessing, in growing and failing certainty, in imitation and longing, in worries and fear, in languishing and rotting, in great faith and a lot of unfaithfulness. In joy and sorrow she is ready for all things. Dead or alive she wants to belong to love. And in the intimacy of her heart she suffers.

Because of love she wants to deserve that land. If here she is tested with every kind of misery, then her refuge is in glory. For the work of love precisely lies in that she desires the nearby creature, and pursues that nearness the most in which she can love the most. So she always wants to follow love, experience love and enjoy love, and in this misery this cannot happen to her.

Thus she wants to go to her own land, where she has established her house and in which she rests with love and with desire ! All hindrances taken away, she is lovely received by love ! There at last she will behold what she has so tenderly loved, and shall possess for eternity Him she has so loyally served. With happiness she shall enjoy Him who, with love in her soul, she has so often embraced.

There, happy of heart, she shall enter as Saint Augustine says : ‘Qui in Te intrat in gaudium Domini sui ...’, i.e. ‘O Lord, who enters in You, he enters in the joy of his Lord ...’. Fear has no place there. For there she shall possess Him the best way in the very best. There, the soul is united with her Bridegroom and wholly becomes one spirit with Him, in inseparable loyalty and mutual love forever.

The soul that, in times of mercy, wanted to do everything for Him shall enjoy Him in eternal glory, where one shall do nothing else but praise and love. May God bring us all to that.

Amen.


                 


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