Richard Rolle

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Part of "The English Mystics"

Conference 2: Richard Rolle

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#set-the-english-mystics

#preached-retreat

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So, today our topic is the wonderful, I think very exciting, English mystic Richard Rowe.
He isn't that known, but he should be, and he represents quite a wonderful complement,
I think, to the author of The Cloud and to Walter Hilton, because if they are rather
dry and prose and focused, he is wild and poetic, passionate, the poet, and we, I think,
very much need that in spirituality also.
Ours is a time of the psychological, the psychiatric, psychodynamic, et cetera, it's a rediscovery
of the importance of deep affect, the dangers of just superficial emotion, certainly, but
to realize that we're also deep, deep emotion-feeling, that's really what love is also.
And he liberates that, and he lets it explode into the area of spirituality, so we can call
him a charismatic of the earliest 14th century.
He precedes the author of The Cloud and Walter Hilton, and he prepares the way for them in
so many ways, so they are very different from him.
He's sometimes called the father of English prose.
Eric Bacow is an English teacher, and I think this should delight us.
English is, I think, the mother tongue of all of us, and we love to communicate with
one another, and also with our God, in this first tongue we learned at our mother's knee.
Well, I think it's extremely exciting to go back to the very first texts of the English
language, and to find their texts of mysticism, of lyrical hymns of praise of Jesus and of
the Holy Spirit, et cetera.
This is wonderful, so to recover this, and that the critical editions are out of the
Middle English, of Richard Rohl, of The Cloud, of Walter Hilton, to struggle with these texts.
With some effort, we can read them, and that's a delightful adventure.
We have them in the volumes available in the updated Modern English, and several of the
things Richard Rohl wrote, he wrote in Latin, because he was an Oxford graduate, perhaps
also of the Sorbonne.
He knew he could be very Latinate and scholarly, but he intentionally chose to write his key
texts in English, to make them available to all God's people, and as we'll see, one
of his basic themes is that he's writing not for the great scholars and academicians.
He's writing for the people, because the people love Jesus, and Jesus loves the people.
So just the use of the vernacular is a first kind of rendering very available to the people,
a popularizing, in the very best sense, of mysticism and spirituality.
He's the first writer in English to whom the name of mystic can be reasonably given also.
We have other early, early texts, but they're not, he is obviously specifically focused
on spirituality and mysticism.
We have Chaucer, but Chaucer is a full half-century after him, and he's the first to translate
the Psalter into English.
He anticipates Martin Luther by two and a half centuries, so had the Roman Catholic Church
kind of seen what he was up to, maybe we could have avoided a lot of grief, but he is a pioneer
in that way.
He's the most prolific writer of the English mystics, so if you want a certain body of
writing to keep you busy, go to him.
Merton writes of him simply that he's a delightful mystic that echoes the Easter church, and
I think that's wonderful.
He has his very depressed and very angry moments, he's in touch with a full range of feeling.
He's almost more Italian than English.
I see our Italian-American back there, so we have to...
But this is good, to get in touch with affect, emotion, feeling in our prayer life.
As such, he has these incredible experiences of the feeling of heat and fire, the hearing
of music.
He has this music whirling around him, and it's the gift of the heavens, the manifestation
of God to him, precisely through music of our musician's presence should enjoy him.
To commune with God is to be bathed in music.
Fire, heat, music, precisely for this reason, he's criticized by some theologians and mysticists
in saying he's just a little too emotional, a little too sensual.
He's obviously not arrived at the greater heights of contemplative prayer that are characterized
by this kind of just ineffable silence, an absence of affect.
His defenders say this is absolute nonsense.
You can't take a pre-established model of what is higher and what is lower in mysticism,
and according to that, say he's lower, and the author of The Cloud is higher, and John
of the Cross is highest.
We have this wonderful rainbow range of mystics that the good Lord has given us.
Why don't we appreciate them all?
So Thomas Merton was one of the early, very emphatic defenders of Richard Rowe.
We shouldn't just set aside Richard Rowe as someone who didn't get beyond junior high
school in the contemplative way.
So Merton's essay, again, in Mystics and Zen Masters on the English mystics, he starts,
as we do, with an introduction and a section on Richard Rowe, a section on Walter Hilton,
a section on The Cloud, and then a section on Julian of Norwich, but he's just slugging
all the way there against the detractors of Richard Rowe, and this has set a precedent,
and now at least the latest scholars I've read are all on the side of Richard Rowe.
A real resource for us is this series, The Classics of Western Spirituality, published
by Paulist Press.
They publish good critical editions of these people, plus a very substantial introduction.
Here's a 50-page introduction to Richard Rowe by a marvelous English scholar, and all the
way through Rosamund Allen, I'm sorry, Valerie Lagorio, and all the way through it's this
defense of Richard Rowe, and one of the main points is that what characterizes him, this
sense, for instance, of light, of being bathed in the divine uncircumscribed light, this
is pure Eastern Church, this is pure Hesychast language, which is precisely contemporary with
Richard Rowe, and they had fax machines back then, or something, we would have suspected
that Gregory Polymus was faxing off his writings to Richard Rowe and vice versa.
It's amazing how in certain ages there's just this synchronicity, this con-naturality of
spirituality East and West between people who have not ever been able to meet.
So Merton points out that ecumenically he's an important bridge with the Eastern Church.
If you're against him, you can't really understand Eastern Orthodox mysticism.
If you love him, he's an easy way into Eastern Orthodox mysticism.
And then again, in the West, he's a wonderful ecumenical resource in the dialogue between
the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, because the Anglican Communion,
of course, claims the whole medieval heritage, as we do, so these are the great teachers
of spirituality for the two sister churches, as Pope Paul VI called them.
So as we do spirituality, it's for me, it's for my inner life, but it also has implications
for the whole church.
Our Vatican, too, says that ecumenism happens at the deepest level in what they call spiritual
ecumenism.
At this level, the walls that we have built don't reach up that high, so we're reconciled
in these kind of wonderful texts.
So he is a man of wide reading, and also learning in the tradition, as well as the more recent
authorities on the spiritual life he knows.
This is from Knowles, who is the great Benedictine, who is the most severe critic of him in terms
of being quite an advanced mystic.
Knowles acknowledges he's a wonderful mystic for the first stages, but criticizes whether
he's way up there.
But again, he has a whole range of writings.
He has his Latin writings, especially The Fire of Love and The Mending of Life.
These have been translated in a wonderful edition by Image, with also a splendid introduction
by Del Mastro, another wonderful medieval scholar who knows very well this tradition.
This is a good, well, 30-page introduction also.
Then his English writings, wonderfully, are in this edition from this series, The Classics
of Western Spirituality.
So these two volumes give you the substance of his writings.
Then there's all kinds of other secondary sources on him.
If you just stick with Merton and the introduction here and the introduction here, you're quite
on your way.
But now there are doctorates out on him and all the rest.
So one can just pick the volume itself and read.
That's what he hopes will happen.
And one can be wonderfully nourished in that way, and also stimulated and challenged.
He also disagrees with some sections.
There are some definite problems with him.
The beginning of his career, he has some texts that are terribly misogynist, terribly put-downs
to women.
But towards the end, he was chaplain to a convent of nuns, and he came to revere women
as vessels of Christian spirituality and mysticism, and really criticized priests who didn't minister
to women in a proper and serious way.
So he also has some texts against the Jews, anti-Semitic stuff, but not as bad as many
of the texts of that time.
He also sometimes flips into a kind of a passionate dualism of the spirit against the body.
But then he's one of the most central of them all.
So he's got a shadow side, but that's characteristic of such a person.
It's basically, the basic theme, I would think you could say, is the fire of love.
First of all, love of God, love of Jesus, love of the Holy Spirit, and then love of friends.
So it basically sums up our Lord's two commands.
We want to get to the heart of the matter in our spirituality.
We want to remain centered on what is the center.
And the center is God, who is love.
If we stay on this path, we can't go wrong.
This is the straight and narrow path, and the difficult way also that our Lord indicates
in his two commandments that sum up all the law and the prophets.
And that's just what Richard Rowe is into.
He's into it with a passion and a fire and a zest that we won't find in The Author of
the Cloud.
The Author of the Cloud insists absolutely on the primacy of love, but it's quite a more
sublimated, quiet, serene love.
But this is a kind of wild, Mediterranean kind of love.
Many scholars of mysticism say there are two basic currents of mysticism.
There's the mysticism of knowing at the highest level.
And there you have things like Pseudo-Dionysius' writings, if you want to go way back.
And you have St. Thomas Aquinas, Eckhart.
But then there's this passionate current of loving, and he's certainly one of its voices.
And then, again, the less passionate current of loving, however, always.
And that finds emphatic voices, we'll see, in also Walter Hilton and also The Cloud.
But he's not writing for the scholars, the theologians, the philosophers.
He's writing for the lovers of Jesus.
Throughout this presentation, I'll just be reading little passages from him.
I think this is a good way to get into the mystics, not just that I talk about him, but
that we get in and have at least a little savoring of the wonderful food that he offers
us.
Therefore, I offer this book for consideration not by philosophers, not by the worldly wise,
not by great theologians in snarled and infinite questionings, but by the unsophisticated and
the untaught who are trying to love God rather than know many things.
For he is known in doing and in loving, not in arguing.
We'll hear almost a direct echo of this in the author of The Cloud and in Walter Hilton,
the primacy of love over knowing.
We can't ultimately know God.
This is very solid theology.
There's no human category, idea, definition that encompass God, that can get anywhere near
God.
In fact, we have to go the way of negation, saying whatever we affirm of God, and that's
a proper way, God is father, God is truth, God is light.
But then you immediately have to go the negative way and say God is so unlike any father we've
ever known, that you could also say God is not father.
God is so unlike any light we've ever known, you can say God is not light.
So unlike any piddling truth we know, you can say God is not truth in our sense, though
it is more correct theologically to say God is truth than to say God is falsehood or something
like that.
So first you affirm the highest possible human perfections of God, truth, beauty, love.
But then you immediately have to, beyond that, say, but God is totally like any of our human
perfections as we know them.
So you have to go the way of negation.
That's the way of an Eckhart, the way of John of the Cross, the way of paradox, etc.
So, but, with all these limits of knowing, love can pierce the cloud, love can go right
into the heart of the Godhead.
So we can grasp and possess God, not by our brain, not by knowing, but by loving.
And he, who went again to Oxford, though he dropped out early, he knows all these things
and it's also very, very connatural to him.
I guess we jumped over his life, didn't we?
So let's go back to his life.
Not a great deal is known about him.
He was born around 1290 in Yorkshire, northern England.
He studied at Oxford with some success under a great scholar there, but he didn't finish.
He dropped out.
Apparently he just got sick of it all.
There's some suggestion he might have studied for some period at the Sorbonne.
That's not clear.
But anyway, he would often live as a hermit and was sponsored by a squire.
And then he popped around from place to place.
So he's got this reputation as a bit unstable from his enemies.
Finally, he settled in to be the spiritual director of a community of Cistercian nuns
at Hample, though he was, it seems, a layman, never ordained.
He's very critical of a class of priests who don't do their duty.
And then he died about 1349, very possibly, as we saw last time, of the Black Death, of
the plague.
His nuns so revered him, they immediately honored him as saint.
Now, the situation was so chaotic in England at that time, there couldn't be the contacts
with Rome or even with Canterbury, so he's never been officially canonized.
But for the good Cistercian nuns out there, he is saint.
So he writes for the person who wants to love Jesus.
And this is, for all of us, insofar as simply we're human beings, because as we mentioned
yesterday, we've been built for God and nothing else.
So nothing else can satisfy us.
So really, if we're ever going to be happy in this life, we've got to just bite the bullet
and settle down and be mystics, to put it that way, to accept our contemplative side.
Nothing less than God can fill the human soul, which has a capacity for God alone.
And thus the lovers of earthly things will never be satisfied.
Rest for lovers of God, therefore, is when the heart is fixed in the love of God through
desire and meditation, and loving and burning, it contemplates him with singing, since this
quiet which seizes the soul is most delightful during the while that the sweet sound in which
it delights descends from heaven, and the spirit is snatched up into the singing of
the delights of eternal love in a supremely lyrical hymn flowing with joy.
So this is a wonderful characteristic passage from Richard.
All this emphasis on singing, but he just noted it's quiet, it's silent, it's hesychia, it's stillness.
So it's not as if he hears music out there beyond the windows or something.
The medieval mystics speak of the spiritual senses, just as God gave us this range of five
physical senses to appreciate the physical world out there of color and smell and feel
and taste and hearing.
So the greater realities, God gives us these inner senses, say the mystics, of a spiritual
taste and see that the Lord is good.
Scripture uses this, our God is sweeter than honey to the taste kind of thing.
So he is filled with God in a way that he can only express as music, as harmonies, as sound.
So our music should be sacramental, should be an outer and visible expression of this
inner vibration and harmony and music that we get from God.
So God, only God, but then he immediately goes on to say, but we need friends too.
I can get along with God, but with a little help from my friends also.
I agree with the Beatles there.
And he praises the gift of friendship.
He means friendship with men and also with women.
And this will help us on our way, because the spiritual journey isn't easy, it can get very
lonely out there.
But this is true friendship, the consolation of loving people, the consolation of spirits,
the relief of anxiety, the expulsion of worldly sorrow, the reformation of sinners, the
augmentation of sanctity, the diminution of wickedness, the multiplication of merits.
Therefore, holy friendship ought not to be spurned.
It has the medicine for every misery.
For it is from God that among the calamities of this exile, we may be restored by the
counsel and helps of our friends.
So this is a wonderful recovery of this great value of spiritual friendship.
This is echoing of the great St.
Ehret of Rivaux, whom Richard Rohl knew.
Ehret wrote this wonderful tract on Christian friendship.
And this goes right back through the fathers into Jesus, who said in his last decisive
hour, I call you no longer servants, but friends.
This is his paschal gift to us, making us friends of him and friends one of another.
So to live this, also in the spiritual life, also in the mystical life, doesn't mean cutting
that off, but living it.
Even when friends are separated physically from one another, friendship has the power
to keep going.
But in human affection, when there is true friendship, it would not be fitting that
distance of bodies creates a separation of souls.
Rather, the indissoluble bond of cemented friendship more strongly relieves the desolation
of physical distance.
And the friend judges himself as living with his friend when he sees the constancy of indissoluble
wills.
Thus, indeed, is true friendship when the friend holds himself towards his friend as
toward himself, when the friend is another self and he loves him for his own sake, not
for the useful thing that he hopes he will receive from him.
This is just classic medieval and early Christian theology of friendship, of authentic Christian
love.
In our own time, the great popular theologian C.S. Lewis, he has a wonderful book on the
four loves, and there's pure love of God, but a love that he particularly reveres is
the love of friendship.
He says, this will be the love of heaven.
We won't have precisely spousal love there.
We won't have precisely a maternal, well, we will maternally love our children, etc.,
but what will unite us with all of humanity up there is friendship love.
Well, an early, strong insistence on the importance of friendship is we find in the writings of
Richard Rohl.
Interesting, he says, it's not easy to come by good friends in these bad times.
We saw yesterday how bad those times were in England.
And we can say something of the same today.
He critiques the society as being too individualistic, everyone just thinking of themselves.
Well, this is characteristic of our own time, just a kind of rampant individualism.
Also in the spiritual life, this can be a danger in a place like this, if I come here
to be a hermit, you know, well, I'm basically thinking of me for me, but no, it's a hermit
that therefore loves the deeper all of humanity, and in a special way, because we're flesh
and blood, certain friends, but it ain't easy finding them.
Moreover, I do not know by what misfortune it now occurs that with difficulty and rarely
is a faithful friend to be found.
All seek those things that are theirs.
No one has a friend of whom he says, he is to me another self, where they sink down to
their own uses and delights.
They do not blush even to perpetrate fraud on their very friends.
So a very sad thing, he just spits it all out there.
He doesn't kind of pretend that it's all rosier.
But he pleads with Christ, come on, Christ, this is rough stuff.
Give me a friend.
Oh, Jesus, when I burn in you with jubilation and the burning glow of love continually pours
itself out so that, O most loving one, I would embrace you fully, I am separated from that
for which I pant most delightfully.
In addition, anxieties occur, and a vast solitude shuts off the way and does not allow the swellings
of lovers to be built into oneness here.
But O, that you might show me a comrade on the pilgrimage, so that my lassitude might
be gladdened by his exhortations.
So he's praying for a good friend.
I find this very touching myself.
Sometimes, you know, mystics are so mystical, they're of no earthly good, as some would
say.
They just don't need anyone, and they're kind of stoical, and they've got God only.
But this Richard role becomes the more fully human as he becomes more a lover of Christ.
Then he says he does indeed have friends.
He has a friend, and this is a great consolation to him.
In the meantime, exulting in your hymns, may I be carried away sweetly with the companion
whom you have given me, and may we gather together in words of sincerity without controversies.
Truly feasting in the pleasantness of love, we might by turns reveal the most loving songs,
until led forth from this external penitentiary, we might be introduced into the interior dwelling
place, at the same time receiving a seat among the heaven dwellers who loved Christ
in the same manner and measure.
So then he stresses also friendship with women.
It's difficult, it's tricky, but it's very possible, and it's extremely rewarding.
He has his wild, again, ups and downs, moments of full ecstatic joy, moments of deep depression.
Always he's calling out to Jesus.
That's the constant in his life.
There's a wonderful later English poet, George Herbert, who says, why do you stretch me thus,
Jesus?
Sometimes I'm up in heaven, sometimes I'm down in the depths of hell, but wherever I
am, you are there.
Well, this is also Richard Rohl, who in whatever emotional state he's in, he turns to Christ.
The psychologists say we're so out of touch with our emotions.
Well, he was very in touch with his, but the answer at any point is Jesus, his beloved.
Oh my love, oh my honey, oh my harp, oh my psalter and my canticle all the day.
When will you heal my grief, oh root of my heart, when will you come to me so that you
may raise me up with you, looking upward for you, for you see that I am wounded vitally
by your super brilliant beauty, and my lassitude does not release me, on the contrary, it rises
greater and greater in its growth, and present penalties press me and fight me so that I
hasten to you from whom I alone find my comfort.
So he's not just, oh, it's all swell, and he's not a seven on the enneagram, he's a four.
And I think this is very exciting for those who are in touch with their emotional ups
and downs.
He's again a very professional theologian.
So he knows that God is just absolute mystery.
And as mystic, he rejoices in this.
Sometimes we think of it, as the bumper sticker says, of life is a mystery that we have to
solve, a kind of an Agatha Christie mystery novel, and if we look for the clues, we can
come up with the four or five solutions to it.
Well, the mystics and the best theologians say, no, it's just this totally ineffable
mystery that's absolutely beyond us.
We can't comprehend God, we'll never comprehend God, and this is our joy.
So we can go deeper and deeper into humility and just have the celebration of little children.
And that's mysticism, not coming up with definitions and trying to get in control of
who is this God guy and how do I know that I possess God kind of thing.
So God is mystery.
If you wish to know for yourself saying, what is God?
I say that you will never find a solution for this question.
I have not known.
Angels are ignorant of it.
Archangels have not heard.
In what way, therefore, do you want to know what is unknowable and unteachable?
Certainly God, although he may be omnipotent, is not able to teach you what he is.
If indeed you knew what God is, you would be wise as God,
a thing which neither you nor any other creature is able to be.
So God is so ineffable.
God can't teach us who God is.
It's a kind of a paradox, but he likes to play with these paradoxes.
The fourth canon of the Eucharist now says in the preface that God,
O you who dwell in inapproachable light, will never get to the bottom of the mystery.
This shouldn't depress us.
We're cut off from God.
It should delight us that it'll be just an infinity of growth into the
wonderful ongoing mystery of who God is.
But who we have is Jesus, our lover, our beloved friend, our bridegroom.
And this is our consolation.
And so we go by the way of Christ.
The humanity of Christ is the bridge we can enjoy.
O good Jesus, may you grant me that I may experience you,
who now may be experienced but not seen.
Pour yourself into the inmost recesses of my soul.
Come into my heart and fill it with your most brightly shining sweetness.
Wonderful mixture of metaphor there.
Brightly shining sweetness.
So he goes from one of the interior senses to another there.
Inebriate my spirit with the burning wine of your sweetest love.
There again he flips back, burning wine.
So that forgetting all evils and all limited sights, illusions and images,
I may exult embracing you alone and may rejoice in God, my Jesus.
So this is his answer to the ineffable God.
It's Jesus whom he can embrace.
He wants Jesus alone.
But he's already said he also needs his friends and the consolations.
So it's this rhapsodic love.
This is the tradition of the troubadour.
And it's all the way through the mystical tradition.
Then it's preceded by Francis.
And there's a real Franciscan quality here.
And it's also in Bernard, this passionate love of Jesus.
Now how can a man love Jesus?
They weren't involved with kind of gender role fixations as we are.
But someone clearly hetero like a Bernard who flees the world
because he's got all these women around him.
Jesus becomes his bridegroom.
And so also in this very passionate way with Richard Roll.
And it's rhapsodic and it's spousal, really.
Certainly the person who loves much is great.
And he who loves less is the lesser.
Because we are evaluated before the face of God
according to the greatness of love which we have in us.
So this is his criterion.
There's almost an echo of this of St. John of the Cross
just about two centuries later.
That in the evening of our lives, we are measured by love.
That's the criterion of what it's all about.
It's love that gets us through all the trials of the spiritual life
and of this world.
And remember again, that century was just a tangle of problems
and obstacles and disasters.
Therefore, they ought to labor at acquiring, possessing,
and retaining love with all their strength
and all their energies.
So that in the day of temptation,
they will be able to stand against their enemies.
And when they have been tested,
they may receive the crown of life.
So this is our strong shield and our safeguard.
It's love.
Love gets us there.
It gets us into Christian mysticism.
We were asking yesterday, what is this mysticism business?
It's, and we said, simply the full unfolding of baptism,
which is to say it's simply the unfolding of Christian love.
Love inevitably comes into an experiential communion
with the other.
And we claim not to the experience.
We claim to the other.
Our joy is the bridegroom, not our own inebriated.
There are those who are in love with love, as they say.
I remember my younger roommate at Fordham.
He just wanted to fall romantically in love.
And he acknowledged he wanted the experience of love,
but he hadn't found the lover.
But once he found the lover, he didn't worry.
He ended up marrying this fabulously wealthy gal.
He came from a very poor family.
So once you can let go of clinging to the gift
and just go beyond the gift to the lover,
then you get it all back with a great super abundance.
In truth, love makes mortals perfect.
And lovers alone are allowed to ascend fully
to the height of the contemplative life.
So that's the way we reach fulfillment,
simply as Christians, through loving.
But then he's not afraid to get very sensual
and almost erotic in his description
of what this love is all about.
His basic text is the canticle of canticles
of the Old Testament,
which scholars say was basically a love poem,
but was put into the Old Testament
as this parable of how God loves us,
how we are to love God.
And then the Christian mystics take it up
with great enthusiasm,
beginning right at the very beginning,
the origin in Gregory of Nyssa,
right into Bernard.
And so what Richard Rowe is,
in this tradition, doing,
is basically commenting on the canticle of canticles.
And then the whole Carmelite school,
John of the Cross,
his writings are simply a canticle
of a rewording of the canticle
of the Song of Songs,
as Teresa, et cetera, into our own time.
So this is the solid
of mystical contemplative literature.
For there is nothing more joyful
than to sing Jesus,
nothing more delightful
than to listen to him.
When I experience the embraces
and kisses of my sweetest one,
I abound, as it were,
with indescribable delights.
My love, whom true lovers place
before all others in love,
of his immense goodness alone,
on account of this,
delightfully sung in the,
on account of this,
is delightfully sung
in the following verse of the canticle.
We shall rejoice in you,
remembering your breasts above thine,
your breasts.
Here he's telling of Jesus, a male,
but it all kind of mixes together
in this androgynous fulfillment,
really, of human love.
The message of Jesus
in the scriptures
is that marriage
and human passion of love
is sacramental.
That is, it's an outer, invisible sign
of what it's like
to be united truly with Christ.
So Christ refers to himself
as bridegroom,
and that's the fulfillment.
So we shouldn't be afraid
of this language
because this language was made
for the mystical life.
The soul truly separated
from all the vices of the worldly
and alienated from the poisonous
smoothness of the flesh.
He's really sublimating here.
Given over on the contrary
to heavenly desires
and snatched up by them,
rejoicing in marvelous enjoyment
because it already experiences
in a certain manner
the joy of valued love.
Love makes me bold to call upon him
who I'm loved,
who comforting and filling me
kisses me with the kisses of his mouth.
So this is Richard Rowe.
It's not everyone's cup of tea.
Some people say,
good heavens,
how very inappropriate, you know.
And the author of The Cloud
is very different.
There's nothing of this in that
and nothing of really
that kind of thing in Walter Hilton,
but it will come up
in someone like Bernard
or someone like John,
Cross, Teresa.
The women mystics really flourish
with this kind of thing.
Prayer.
You can talk about love.
You can talk about prayer.
They're just the same thing for him.
They kind of merge.
Love becomes prayer.
If by prayer we simply mean
communing with God,
cleaving to God.
That's all it is.
For when we pray truly,
then we do not think about anything,
but our whole will is directed
toward the highest things
and our soul is set ablaze
with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
For the intention in our heart
by means of burning love
also sets our very prayer ablaze
and from our mouth
it is consumed by fire
in the sight of God
in an odor of sweetness
so that to pray is great delight.
For when inevitable sweetness
is found in prayer,
the prayer itself is transformed
into a song of rejoicing.
So here we've got burning
and sweetness and song
and prayer is simply love at the end.
And do you want to be
protected against temptations?
Well, pray.
That is love.
There's all these wonderful passages.
It's better than meditation.
That is, it's better than
discursive reflection about who God is.
Just cleave to God.
We don't know who God is.
We can begin in this faltering way
that God is patient
and compassionate father
and God is faithful,
bulwark, etc.
But at the end,
just embrace Jesus as lover.
That's so much better.
Frequent prayer also through psalmody.
He translated the psalms.
He loves the psalms
because the psalms,
like his poetry,
are filled with every kind of
passionate feeling
and affect and emotion.
Prayer leads to contemplation
and nothing is more useful
for the Christian life
than contemplation.
This is a great question
that contemplators have all the time.
Am I wasting time?
Shouldn't I be out there
converting great masses of people?
Shouldn't I be performing miracles
and healing, etc.?
The theme that comes up again and again is
if you're in yourself
loving God in the fullness of love,
you're doing more good than all of that.
This is very explicit in John of the Cross.
We'll see it's very explicit
in the cloud
and it's very emphatic here also with him.
Therefore, nothing is more useful,
nothing more delightful
than the grace of contemplation,
which raises us up from the depths.
What is grace except the beginning of glory?
And what is the perfection of glory
except perfect consummation?
So he's got a solid theology here.
In heaven, there won't be preachings
and revival meetings.
There won't be prophecies.
There won't be stigmatic experiences
and visionaries and all these things
we can really get into as so exciting.
What's the latest prophecy about this or that?
He doesn't care.
He's got Jesus, the bridegroom.
And in heaven, we won't care.
What we'll have in heaven
is Jesus, the bridegroom.
So the contemplative life
is this eschatological.
It is eternity brought into the present.
Now we'll see with Julian of Norwich
there can be also use of visions, etc.
But insofar as they immediately draw us
into this communion of love of God
for love of God for God.
So it's very passionate stuff.
And we could go on and on
with many more texts.
One of the real treasures
that he delivers into
the English tradition of mysticism,
and again, he's right at the beginning
if you're considering
writing in the vernacular.
And one of the big treasures, again,
is the Jesus prayer,
is the name of Jesus,
which he just launches in the West.
And this is very mysterious also.
Again, here's St. Gregory Palamas
launching the Jesus prayer in the East
in this very same century.
What's happening?
Again, they're not in communication,
but they're just something in the spirit
that causes us to explode
off there on Mount Athos.
And that causes the very same thing
to explode up in Yorkshire.
So Richard writes,
ponder the name of Jesus in your heart,
night and day,
as your special and dear treasure.
Love it more than life,
rooted in your mind.
So this could, again,
be a text out of any of the Hesychasts.
Just let this name of Jesus
be rooted in your heart.
This is centering prayer.
This is the prayer of the heart.
And so as Merton writes,
he's a wonderful ecumenical resource
to understand Eastern spirituality.
To understand,
if you want to go farther into the East,
the Hindu, the Buddhist,
they have the mantra,
which is the repetition of a holy word
over and over again
to go into the depths
of union with God.
Vatican II has called us to be ecumenical.
First of all,
with our own Christian brothers and sisters.
But quite beyond that,
since the Holy Spirit is not constricted,
even to the Christian churches,
in Hinduism, in Buddhism.
And there we find
all these astonishing echoes
because of the Spirit of the living God.
The Spirit of Christ is there also.
But also in this tool
of a simple word or phrase
repeated quietly over and over
in the moment of prayer
when we sit and are with God.
And also in the little pauses of the day
and the little delays.
I might be driving down the highway
and suddenly I'm in a traffic jam.
Well, I can just be furious for 20 minutes
or I can start just quietly
praying the Jesus prayer.
And then that disaster situation
turns out to be a real opportunity of grace.
We're in the first phases
before going to sleep
or in waiting in line in the market
or whatever.
In the quiet period in our liturgy,
we try to cushion
all the words of liturgy with silence.
Well, it's a silence.
We can go into the deeper silence
also by a quiet praying of the Jesus prayer.
This, what is this all about?
Several of us have.
This is the Jesus prayer people rosary
which you can wear around your wrist or whatever.
It's to use this real treasure
to get deeper and deeper into God.
And it's a real resource.
And again, Richard Rove delivers it to us
way back there at the very beginning
of the 14th century.
So it's a wonderful gift.
So to sum up, for him, love is everything.
And that is particularly love of Jesus.
Friend, Jesus bridegroom.
But there's also space for friendship love
which complements this.
There's this awareness of God is total mystery.
And there's this real resources
opening to the spirit.
I didn't have time to read about the Holy Spirit
and his passionate love of the Holy Spirit.
And it all gets focused
just in this little name of Jesus,
which allows us to love our neighbor
who is a friend in Jesus,
allows us to love the bridegroom.
Amen.
Amen.