13 November 2010

A Loving Immersion into God

Today in Italy for the Carthusian Order is the feast of the Dedication of the Monastery Church of Serra San Bruno. At Matins the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10) was proclaimed followed by a reflection from the fourteenth-century mystic, John Ruusbroec. Here is that reflection:

Usually one who has attained perfection of life and offers his entire life and all his activities to the praise and glory of God, directing his mind to God and loving Him above all things, will often be moved by the desire to see, to know, and to experience Who this Bridegroom is, this Christ Who for his sake became a human Being and laboured in love unto death, Who has forgiven him his sins and driven away the devil, Who has given him Himself and His grace and left him His sacraments, and Who has promised him His Kingdom and Himself as his eternal reward, and given bodily sustenance, interior consolation and sweetness, and countless other gifts according to each person’s need. When such a person considers all this, he is moved by an extremely strong desire to see and to know Christ his Bridegroom as He is in himself, for although he knows Christ in His works, this is not enough. He must therefore do as the publican Zacchaeus did when he desired to see Jesus as He was (cf. Saint Luke 19:1-10).

He must run ahead of the crowd, that is, all the multiplicity of the created order, since this makes a person short of stature, and so, unable to see God. He must then climb the tree of faith, which grows downward from above, since its roots are in the Godhead. This tree has twelve branches, which are the twelve articles of the Creed. The lowest of these speak of God’s Humanity and of those things which concern the salvation of our body and soul. The highest branches of this tree speak of the Godhead – of the Trinity of Persons and of the unity of the divine nature. A person must cling to this unity in the highest part of the tree, for it is there that Christ is to pass by with all His gifts. Here comes Jesus, Who sees this person and speaks to him in the light of glory, saying that according to His Divinity He is Infinite, incomprehensible inaccessible, and fathomless, transcending all created light and every finite concept.

This is the highest knowledge of God that a person can acquire in the active life, namely, that he acknowledge in the light of faith that God is incomprehensible and unknowable. In this light Christ says to this person’s desire, ‘Come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today’ (Saint Luke 19:5). This quick descent is nothing other than a desirous and loving immersion into the abyss of the Godhead, where no understanding which requires created light can reach. But where understanding remains without, desire and love enter within. When the soul thus inclines towards God with love and intent above all that it understands, then it abides in God and God in it.

When a soul ascends with desire above the multiplicity of the created order, above the activity of the senses and above all natural light, then it meets Christ in the light of faith; it becomes enlightened and confesses that God is unknowable and incomprehensible. When the soul inclines with desire toward this incomprehensible God, then it meets Christ and is filled with His gifts. When it loves and is at rest above all gifts, above itself, and above all creatures, then it abides in God and God in it. If you possess righteousness in charity, if you have laid down humility as a foundation, and built upon it a dwelling, namely, the virtues which here have been described, and if you have met Christ through faith and through directing your mind and your love to Him, then you abide in God and God in you.