The First Step To Contemplation

When the soul has arrived at true life, and all her actions are referred to the glory of God, she feels herself suddenly stirred by a desire to see what her Spouse is like, asking who and what is he who has become man for her sake?  He who has died to save her, and has given himself to her?  This Jesus, who on leaving the Earth has left her his sacraments and promised her his Kingdom; this Jesus, ever ready to provide for the needs of the body and the consolation of the soul, what is he like?  And the soul, full of questions, feels the desire of seeing her Spouse increase within her; the longing to know what he is like, what he is in himself; for the knowledge, such as it is, which she gathers from creatures does not content her.

Then the soul does like Zaccheus the publican, who wanted to see; she goes on in front, far from the crowd, from the multitude of creatures, which keep us low, and prevent the getting sight of Christ.  She mounts the tree of faith which has its root in God, and spreads into twelve branches.  [The twelve articles of the creed.]  The lower extend towards the humanity of Jesus, and the world’s salvation; the upper tell of the Divinity, the Trinity, the Unity. – The soul mounts like Zaccheus to the top of the tree; for Christ is going to pass by with all his gifts.  Reaching the summit she sees the Son of Man; but the light says to her, “Behold the Divinity, infinite, incomprehensible, inaccessible; and all created light stops short.  This is the abyss! – and the soul reaches the highest knowledge of God which can be procured here below; viz., ignorance and the confession that she understands not.

But in the midst of the light, in the midst of the desire, Christ speaks, saying: Come down quickly; today I must take up my abode in thy house.

This rapid descent which God requires of us is simply an immersion in the abyss of the Divinity, incomprehensible to the intellect; but where the intellect stops short, love advances and goes in.

When the soul, having gone beyond the understanding stoops and leaps down, she dwells in God, and Jesus Christ in her; when having gone down into the depths inaccessible to created things, she walks in the light of faith, she goes forth to meet Jesus, and, bathed in his splendor, she sees how impossible it is for her to understand.

Whensoever desire plunges us in the incomprehensible God we go to meet Christ, who fills us with his gifts; and when above his gifts, above ourselves and all creatures, we repose in him, we dwell in God and God in us.

This is how Jesus and the soul meet at the highest point of the active life.

(John Ruysbroeck)

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