Letter to the Brothers
of Monte Dei


Engl. tr. Berkeley, The Golden Epistle of William of St. Thierry. Cist. Fathers Series 12, Cistercian Publ., Kalamazoo, MI 1980, pp. 92-105. Guillelmus de Sancto Theodorico c. 1085 – 1148 Epistula ad fratres de Monte Dei - s. 12 p.C. SChr 223 (J.M. Déchanet, 1975), p. 131-385





LECTIO DIVINA (§120-124)







§ 120. [A]t fixed hours time should be given to certain definite reading. For haphazard reading, constantly varied and as if lighted on by chance does not edify but makes the mind unstable; taken into the memory lightly, it goes out from it even more lightly. But you should concentrate on certain authors and let your mind grow used to them.

Deinde etiam certis horis certae lectioni uacandum est.   Fortuita enim et uaria lectio et quasi casu reperta non aedificat sed reddit animum instabilem et leuiter admissa leuius recedit a memoria.  Sed certis ingeniis immorandum est et assuefaciendus est animus.



§ 121. The Scriptures need to be read and understood in the same spirit in which they were written. You will never enter into Paul’s meaning until by constant application to reading him and by giving yourself to meditation you have imbibed his spirit. You will never understand David until by experience you have made the very sentiments of the psalms your own. And that applies to all Scripture. There is the same gulf between attentive study and mere reading as there is between friendship and acquaintance with a passing guest, between boon companionship and chance meeting.

Quo enim spiritu scripturae factae sunt eo spiritu legi desiderant ipso etiam et intelligendae sunt.  Numquam ingredieris in sensum pauli donec usu bonae intentionis in lectione eius et studio assiduae meditationis spiritum eius imbiberis.  Numquam intelliges dauid donec ipsa experientia ipsos psalmorum affectus indueris. Sic que de reliquis.  Et in omni scriptura tantum distat studium a lectione quantum amicitia ab hospitio socialis affectio a fortuita salutatione.



§ 122. Some part of your daily reading should also each day be committed to memory, taken as it were into the stomach, to be more carefully digested and brought up again for frequent rumination; something in keeping with your vocation and helpful to concentration, something that will take hold of the mind and save it from distraction.

Sed et de cotidiana lectione aliquid cotidie in uentrem memoriae demittendum est quod fidelius digeratur et sursum reuocatum crebrius ruminetur quod proposito conueniat quod intentioni proficiat quod detineat animum ut aliena cogitare non libeat.



§ 123. The reading should also stimulate the feelings and give rise to prayer, which should interrupt your reading: an interruption which should not so much hamper the reading as restore to it a mind ever more purified for understanding.

Hauriendus est de lectionis serie affectus et formanda oratio quae lectionem interrumpat nec tam impediat interrumpendo quam puriorem continuo animum ad intelligentiam lectionis restituat.



§ 124. For reading serves the purpose of the intention with which it is done. If the reader truly seeks God in his reading, everything that he reads tends to promote that end, making the mind surrender in the course of the reading and bring all that is understood into Christ’s service.

Intentioni enim seruit lectio.  Si uere in lectione deum quaerit qui legit omnia quae legit cooperantur ei in hoc ipsum et captiuat sensus legentis et in seruitutem redigit omnem lectionis intellectum in obsequium christi.













250. And then, insofar as it is possible for man, worthy thoughts are entertained of God, if indeed the word “thought” (cogitatio) is correct where there is no impelling principle (cogit) nor anything impelled (cogitur), but only awareness of God’s abundant sweetness leading to exultation, (Ps 144:7) jubilation and a true experience of the Lord in goodness on the part of the man who has sought him in this simplicity of heart.3

Et tunc de deo bene cogitatur secundum humanum modum si tamen cogitatio dicenda est ubi nil cogit nil cogitur sed tantummodo in memoria abundantiae suauitatis dei exsultatur et iubilatur et uere sentitur de domino in bonitate ab eo qui in hac simplicitate cordis quaesiuit illum.



251. But this way of thinking about God does not lie at the disposal of the thinker. It is a gift of grace, bestowed by the Holy Spirit who breathes where he chooses, when he chooses, (Jn 3:8) how he chooses and upon whom he chooses. Sed modus hic cogitandi de deo non est in arbitrio cogitantis sed in gratia donantis scilicet cum spiritus sanctus qui ubi uult spirat quando uult et quomodo uult et quibus uult in hoc aspirat.
Man’s part is continually to prepare his heart by ridding his will of foreign attachments, his reason or intellect of anxieties, his memory of idle or absorbing, sometimes even of necessary business, Sed hominis est iugiter praeparare cor uoluntatem expediendo ab affectionibus alienis rationem uel intellectum a sollicitudinibus memoriam ab otiosis uel negotiosis nonnumquam et a necessariis occupationibus

so that in the Lord’s good time and when he sees fit, at the sound of the Holy Spirit’s breathing the elements which constitute thought may be free at once to come together and do their work, each contributing its share to the outcome of joy for the soul.

 ut in die bona domini et in hora beneplaciti eius cum audierit uocem spiritus spirantis ea quae cogitationem faciunt continuo libere concurrant sibi et cooperentur in bonum et quasi symbolum faciant in gaudium cogitantis uoluntas exhibendo

The will displays pure affection for the joy which the Lord gives, the memory yields faithful material, the intellect affords the sweetness of experience.  in gaudium domini puram affectionem memoria materiam fidelem intellectus experientiae suauitatem.



[XV] 252. A will that is neglected gives rise to thoughts that are idle and unworthy of God; a will that is corrupted yields thoughts that are perverse and alienated from God; a rightly ordered will leads to thoughts that are necessary for the living of this life; a dutiful will engenders thoughts which are rich in the fruits of the Spirit and bring enjoyment of God. “Now the fruits of the Spirit,” the Apostle tells us, “are charity, joy, peace, patience, forbearance, goodness, kindness, meekness, faith, modesty, chastity, con­tinence.” (Gal 5:22f)

Sic ergo uoluntas neglecta facit cogitationes otiosas et indignas deo corrupta peruersas quae separant a deo recta necessarias ad usum uitae huius pia efficaces ad fructus spiritus et ad fruendum deo.  Fructus autem spiritus sunt sicut apostolus dicit: caritas gaudium pax patientia longanimitas bonitas benignitas mansuetudo fides modestia continentia castitas.



253. In every kind of thought all that occurs to the mind con­forms to the intention of the will through the intervention of God’s mercy and judgment, so that the just man is made still more just and the man who is defiled becomes still more defiled. (Gal 22:11)

Et in omni genere cogitationis omnia quaecumque cogitanti occurrunt conformantur intentioni uoluntatis agente in eis misericordia et iudicio dei ut iustus iustificetur adhuc et qui in sordibus est sordescat adhuc.



254. Therefore the man who desires to love the Lord or already loves him should always question his spirit and examine his conscience as to the object and motive of his basic desire; ask, too, what else the spirit wills or hates and what inordinate desires the flesh entertains in opposition to it. (Gal 5:17)

Ideo homini deum amare uolenti uel iam amanti suus semper consulendus est animus examinanda conscientia quid sit quod in totum uult et propter quod uult quicquid aliud uult spiritus uel odit quicquid contra illud caro concupiscit.



255. For the desires which make their way in as if from outside and then disappear and those which brush against the soul in passing, so that at one moment it feels desire and at the next moment feels none, are not to be counted among the objects of volition but only among idle thoughts. They may even go as far as to cause the mind some pleasure, but none the less it quickly shakes itself free of them if it is its own master.8

Incidentes enim quasi extrinsecus et decedentes et praeteruolitantes uoluntates quibus modo uult modo non uult nequaquam inter uoluntates sed paene inter otiosas deputandae sunt cogitationes. Nam etsi aliquando fiunt usque ad delectationem animi cito tamen se inde excutit animus compos sui.



256. As to the basic desire, first of all the object of desire should be considered, then the extent to which it is desired and the way in which it is desired. If a man’s basic desire is for God he should examine how much and in what way he desires God, whether to the point of despising self and everything which either exists or can exist, and this not only in accordance with the reason’s judgment but also following the mind’s inclination, so that the will is now something more than will: love, dilection, charity and unity of spirit.

Quod autem in totum uult primo considerandum est quid illud sit quod sic uelit deinde quantum uelit et quomodo uelit.. Si quod in totum uult deus est discutiendum ei est deum quantum et quomodo uelit utrum usque in contemptum sui ipsius omnium que quae sunt uel esse possunt et hoc non tantum ex iudicio rationis sed etiam ex affectu mentis ut iam uoluntas plus quam uoluntas sit ut amor sit ut dilectio sit ut sit caritas sit unitas spiritus.



257. For such is the way in which God is to be loved. “Love” is a strong inclination of the will toward God, “dilection” is a clinging to him or a union with him; “charity” is the enjoyment of him.10 But “unity of spirit” with God for the man who has his heart raised on high is the term of the will’s progress toward God. No longer does it merely desire what God desires, not only does it love him, but it is perfect in its love, so that it can will only what God wills.11

Sic enim diligendus est deus.  Magna enim uoluntas ad deum amor est dilectio adhaesio siue coniunctio caritas fruitio.  Vnitas uero spiritus cum deo homini sursum cor habenti proficientis in deum uoluntatis est perfectio cum iam non solummodo uult quod deus uult sed sic est non tantum affectus sed in affectu perfectus ut non possit uelle nisi quod deus uult.



258. Now to will what God wills is already to be like God, to be able to will only what God wills is already to be what God is; for him to will and to be are the same thing. Therefore it is well said that we shall see him fully as he is when we are like him, (1Jn 3:2) that is when we are what he is. Velle autem quod uult deus hoc iam deo similem esse est non posse uelle nisi quod uult deus hoc est iam esse quod deus est cui uelle et esse id ipsum est.  Vnde bene dicitur quia tunc plene uidebimus eum sicuti est cum similes ei erimus hoc est erimus quod ille est. 
For those who have been enabled to become sons of God Quibus enim potestas data est filios dei fieri
(Jn 1:12) have been enabled to become data est potestas

not indeed God,

 non quidem ut sint deus

but what God is:

   sed sint tamen quod deus est

holy, and in the future, fully happy as God is.

sint sancti futuri plene beati

   And the source of their present holiness and their future happiness is none other than God himself who is at once their holiness and their happiness.

  quod deus nec aliunde hic sanctus nec ibi futuri beati quam ex deo qui eorum et sanctitas et beatitudo est.



[XVI] 259. Resemblance to God is the whole of man’s perfection. To refuse to be perfect is to be at fault. Therefore the will must always be fostered with this perfection in view and love made ready. The will must be prevented from dissipating itself on foreign objects, love preserved from defilement. Et haec est omnis eorum perfectio similitudo dei.  Perfectum autem nolle esse delinquere est.  Et ideo huic perfectioni nutrienda est semper uoluntas amor praeparandus uoluntas cohibenda ne in aliena dissipetur amor seruandus ne inquinetur. 
For to this end alone were we created and do we live, Propter hoc enim solum et creati sumus et uiuimus

to be like God;

ut deo similes simus. 

 for we were created in his image. (Gen 1:26)

  Ad imaginem enim dei creati sumus.



260. There is however a likeness to God which is lost only with life itself, left to every man by the Creator of all men as evidence of a better and more sublime likeness that has been lost. It is possessed regardless of acceptance or refusal, alike by the man who is capable of conceiving it and by the man who is so stupid that he cannot conceive it. It consists in the fact that, as God is everywhere, and is present with the whole of his being in his creation, so every living soul is in like manner present in its body.15 And as God is never unlike himself, and without any unlikeness carries out dissimilar operations in his creation, so, although man’s soul vivifies the whole of the body with one and the same life, in the bodily senses and in the thoughts of the heart without any unlikeness it is constantly carrying out dissimilar operations. As far as merit is concerned this likeness to God in man is of no importance with God, since it derives from nature, not from will or effort.

Est autem similitudo quaedam dei quam nemo uiuens nisi cum uita exuit quam omni homini in testimonium amissae melioris et dignioris similitudinis creator omnium hominum reliquit quam habet et uolens et nolens et qui eam cogitare potest et qui tam hebes est ut eam cogitare non possit scilicet quod sicut ubique est deus et ubique totus est in creatura sua sic et in corpore suo omnis uiuens anima.  Et sicut semper sibi indissimilis deus indissimiliter dissimilia in creatura operatur sic anima hominis quamuis totum corpus uiuificans indissimili uita in sensibus tamen corporis et in cogitationibus cordis indissimiliter operatur assidue dissimilia.  Haec similitudo dei in homine quantum ad meritum eius nullius apud deum est momenti cum naturae non uoluntatis eius sit uel laboris.



261. But there is another likeness, one closer to God, inasmuch as it is freely willed. It consists in the virtues and inspires the soul as it were to imitate the greatness of Supreme Good by the greatness of its virtue and his unchangeable eternity by its unwearying per­severance in good.

Sed est alia magis deo propinqua in quantum uoluntaria quae in uirtutibus consistit in qua animus uirtutis magnitudine summi boni quasi imitari gestit magnitudinem et perseuerante in bono constantia aeternitatis eius incommutabilitatem.



262. In addition to this there is yet another likeness, of which something has been said already.16 It is so close in its resemblance that it is styled not merely a likeness but unity of spirit. It makes man one with God, one spirit, not only with the unity which comes of willing the same thing but with a greater fullness of virtue, as has been said: the inability to will anything else.

Super hanc autem alia adhuc est similitudo dei haec de qua iam aliquanta dicta sunt in tantum proprie propria ut non iam similitudo sed unitas spiritus nominetur cum fit homo unum cum deo unus spiritus non tantum unitate idem uolendi sed expressiore quadam ueritate uirtutis sicut iam dictum est aliud uelle non ualendi.



263. It is called unity of spirit not only because the Holy Spirit brings it about or inclines a man’s spirit to it, but because it is the Holy Spirit himself, the God who is Charity. He who is the Love of Father and Son, their Unity, Sweetness, Good, Kiss, Embrace and whatever else they can have in common in that supreme unity of truth and truth of unity, becomes for man in regard to God in the manner appropriate to him what he is for the Son in regard to the Father or for the Father in regard to the Son through unity of substance.

Dicitur autem haec unitas spiritus non tantum quia efficit eam uel afficit ei spiritum hominis spiritus sanctus sed quia ipsa ipse est spiritus sanctus deus caritas cum qui est amor patris et filii et unitas et suauitas et bonum et osculum et amplexus et quicquid commune potest esse amborum in summa illa unitate ueritatis et in ueritate unitatis hoc idem homini suo modo fit ad deum quod consubstantiali unitate filio est ad patrem uel patri  ad filium

The soul in its happiness finds itself standing midway in the Embrace and the Kiss of Father and Son. cum in amplexu et osculo patris et filii mediam
In a manner which exceeds description and thought, the man of God is found worthy quodammodo se inuenit beata conscientia cum modo ineffabili incogitabili fieri meretur homo dei

to become not God

but what God is,

non deus

sed tamen quod est deus:

that is to say man becomes through grace

what God is by nature.

homo ex gratia

 quod deus ex natura.



[XVII] 264. That is why in his list of spiritual exercises the Apostle prudently inserted the Holy Spirit. He says: “In chastity, in knowledge, in forbearance, in graciousness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned charity, in the word of truth, in the power of God.” (2 Cor 6:6f) See how he put the Holy Spirit in the midst of the good virtues, like the heart in the middle of the body, doing and ordering everything, imparting life to everything.

Vnde in cathalogo spiritualium exercitiorum apostolus prudenter interserit spiritum sanctum dicens: in castitate in scientia in longanimitate in suauitate in spiritu sancto in caritate non ficta in uerbo ueritatis in uirtute dei.  Vide enim quomodo tamquam omnia facientem ordinantem uiuificantem in medio bonarum uirtutum sicut cor in medio corporis constituit spiritum sanctum.



265. For he is the almighty Artificer who creates man’s good will in regard to God, inclines God to be merciful to man, shapes man’s desire, gives strength, ensures the prosperity of undertakings, conducts all things powerfully and disposes everything sweetly. (Wis 8:1)

Ipse est enim omnipotens artifex creans hominis ad deum bonam uoluntatem dei ad hominem faciens propitiationem formans affectionem dans uirtutem prosperans operationem agens omnia fortiter et disponens omnia suauiter.



266. He it is who gives life to man’s spirit and holds it together, just as it gives life to its body and holds it together. Men may teach how to seek God and angels how to adore him, but he alone teaches how to find him, possess him and enjoy him. He himself is the anxious quest of the man who truly seeks, he is the devotion of the man who adores in spirit and truth, he is the wisdom of the man who finds, the love of him who possesses, the gladness of him who enjoys.

Ipse uiuificat spiritum hominis et continet in unum sicut ille uiuificat et in unum continet corpus suum.  Homines doceant deum quaerere angeli adorare.  Solus ipse est qui docet inuenire habere et frui. Ipse tamen est et sollicitudo bene quaerentis et pietas in spiritu et ueritate adorantis et sapientia inuenientis et amor habentis et gaudium fruentis.



267. Yet whatever he bestows here on his faithful of the vision and the knowledge of God is but as in a mirror and a riddle, (I Cor 13:12) as far removed from the vision and the knowledge that is to be in the future as faith is from truth or time from eternity. This is true even when what we read in the book of Job happens : “He hides the light in his hands and commands it to mount on high, then he tells his beloved that it belongs to him and that he can ascend to it.” (Job 36:32f. lxx )

Quicquid tamen de uisione et cognitione dei hic fidelibus impertit speculum est et aenigma tantum distans a futura uisione et cognitione quantum a ueritate distat fides uel tempus ab aeternitate etiam cum aliquando fit quod in libro iob legitur: qui abscondit lucem in manibus et praecipit ei ut sursum adueniat et adnuntiat dilecto suo de ea quod possessio eius sit et ad eam possit ascendere.



[XVIII] 268. For the man who is chosen and loved by God is sometimes shown a certain light of God’s countenance, just as light that is enclosed in a man’s hands appears and is hidden at the will of him who holds it. This is in order that what he is allowed to glimpse for a passing moment may set the soul on fire with longing for full possession of eternal light, the inheritance of full vision of God.

Electo enim et dilecto dei aliquando lumen quoddam uultus dei ostenditur sicut lumen clausum in manibus quod patet et latet ad arbitrium tenentis ut per hoc quod quasi in transcursu uel transpuncto uidere permittitur exardescat animus ad plenam possessionem luminis aeterni et haereditatem plenae uisionis dei.



269. To make him realize to some extent what he lacks, (Ps 38:5) grace sometimes as if in passing touches the affections of the lover and takes him out of himself, drawing him into the light of true reality, out of the tumult of affairs into the joys of silence, and to the slight extent of which he is capable, showing him for a moment, for an instant, ultimate reality as it is in itself. (1Jn3:2) Sometimes it even trans­forms the man into a resemblance of ultimate reality, granting him to be, to the slight extent of which he is capable, such as it is.

Cui ut innotescat aliquatenus id quod ei deest nonnumquam quasi pertransiens gratia perstringit sensum amantis et eripit ipsum sibi et rapit in diem qui est a tumultu rerum ad gaudia silentii et pro modulo suo ad momentum ad punctum idipsum ostendens ei uidendum sicuti est interim etiam et ipsum efficit in idipsum ut sit et ipse pro modulo suo sicut illud est.



270. Then when he has learned the difference between the clean and the unclean (Ezek 44:23) he is restored to himself and sent back to cleanse his heart for vision, to fit his spirit for likeness, so that if at some future date he should again be admitted to it he may be the more pure for seeing and able to remain for a longer time in the enjoyment of it.

Vbi cum didicerit quid intersit inter mundum et immundum redditur sibi et remittitur ad mundandum cor ad uisionem ad aptandum animum ad similitudinem ut si aliquando rursum admittatur sit purior ad uidendum adhuc et stabilior ad fruendum.



271. For the limits of human imperfection are never better realized than in the light of God’s countenance, (Ps 4:7) in the mirror which is the vision of God. Then in the light of true reality man sees more and more what he lacks and continually corrects by means of likeness whatever sins he has committed through unlikeness, drawing near by means of likeness to him from whom he has been separated by unlikeness. And so clearer vision is always accompanied by a clearer likeness.

Nusquam enim se melius deprehendit modus humanae imperfectionis quam in lumine uultus dei in speculo diuinae uisionis.   Vbi in die qui est plus et plus uidens quid sibi deest emendat in dies similitudine quicquid deliquit dissimilitudine similitudine ei appropinquans a quo longe factus est per dissimilitudinem.   Et sic expressiorem uisionem expressior semper similitudo comitatur.



272. It is impossible indeed for the supreme Good to be seen and not loved, or not to be loved to the full extent to which vision of it has been granted. So eventually love arrives at some likeness of that love which made God like to man by accepting the humiliation of our human lot in order that man might be made like to God by receiving the glorification of communion in the divine life. Then indeed it is sweet for man to be abased together with supreme Majesty, to become poor together with the Son of God,26 to be conformed to divine Wisdom, to make his own the mind which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Phil 2:5)

Impossibile quippe est uideri summum bonum et non amari necnon tantum amari quantum datum fuerit uideri quousque amor proficiat in aliquam similitudinem amoris illius qui deum similem fecit homini per humiliationem humanae conditionis ut hominem similem deo constituat per glorificationem diuinae participationis.   Et tunc dulce est homini cohumiliari summae maiestati compauperari filio dei diuinae sapientiae conformari hoc sentienti in se ipso quod et in christo ihesu domino nostro.



[XIX] 273. For here there is wisdom with devotion, love with fear, exultation with trembling, (Ps 2:11) when God is thought of and understood as brought down unto death, the death of the Cross, (Phil 2:8) to the end that man might be exalted to the likeness of the godhead. From here there flows the rushing stream that gladdens God’s city, (Ps 45:5) the remembrance of his abounding sweetriess (Ps 344:7) in the under­standing and consideration of the benefits he has conferred on us.

Hic enim est sapientia cum pietate amor cum timore exultatio cum tremore cum cogitatur et intelligitur deus humiliatus usque ad mortem mortem autem crucis ut hominem exaltet usque ad similitudinem diuinitatis.  Hinc emanat fluminis impetus laetificans ciuitatem dei memoria habundantiae suauitatis eius in intelligendis et cogitandis circa nos bonis eius.



274. In this regard man is easily led to love God by thinking about or contemplating what is worthy of love in him, which of itself shines upon the affections of the contemplative: his power and strength and glory and majesty and goodness and beatitude. But what especially carries man away in his spiritual love into the object of his love is that God in himself is whatever there is lovable in him; he is in the whole of himself what he is, if one can speak of a whole where there is no part.

In quo cum ad deum amandum facile hominem adducant pensata uel contemplata eius amabilia per seipsa in affectu contemplantis elucentia potentia eius uirtus eius gloria maiestas bonitas beatitudo hoc potissimum amantem spiritualiter rapit in amabilem quod ipse in semetipso est quicquid in eo amabile est qui est totum quod est si tamen totum est ubi pars non est.



275. In his love of this good the devout man who has been so affected centers himself upon it in such a way as not to be distracted from it until he becomes one or one spirit with him. Once arrived at this point he is separated and kept at a distance only by the veil of this mortality from the Holy of Holies and from that supreme beatitude of highest heaven. Yet since he already enjoys it in his soul through his faith and hope in him whom he loves, he is able to bear what is left of this life also with a more ready patience.

Cui bono amore ipsius boni sic se intendit pius affectus ut non se inde reuocet donec unum uel unus cum eo spiritus fuerit effectus.  Quod cum in eo fuerit perfectum iam solo mortalitatis huius uelo diuiditur ac differtur a sanctis sanctorum a summa illa beatitudine supercaelestium.  Qua tamen cum iam in fide et spe eius quem amat fruitur in conscientia etiam quod superest uitae huius tolerabiliori sustinet patientia.



XX. 276. This is the goal for which the solitary strives, this is the end he has in view, this is his reward, the rest that comes after his labors, the consolation for his pains; and this is the perfection and the true wisdom of man. It embraces within itself and contains all the virtues, and they are not borrowed from another source but as it were naturally implanted in it, so that it resembles God who is himself whatever he is. Just as God is what he is, so the disposition of the good will in regard to the good of virtue is so firmly estab­lished in the good mind 32 and impressed on it that in its ardent clinging to unchangeable Good it seems utterly unable to change from what it is.

Et hoc est destinatum solitarii certaminis hic finis hoc praemium requies laborum simul et consolatio dolorum.  Et ipsa est perfectio et uera hominis sapientia: omnes amplectens in se et continens uirtutes non aliunde mutuatas sed uelut naturaliter insitas sibi ad similitudinem illam dei qua est ipse quicquid est cum sicut deus est id quod est sic circa bonum uirtutis habitus bonae uoluntatis in bonam mentem sic consolidatus et affectus est ut ex ardentissima boni incommutabilis adhaesione nullatenus iam uideatur posse mutari ab eo quod est.



277. For when that “taking up by the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, our King,” (Ps 88:19) befalls the man of God, the wise and devout soul, with grace to enlighten and assist it, in the contemplation of supreme Good gazes also upon the laws of unchangeable Truth to the extent that it is found worthy to attain to them by means of the understanding that comes of love. From this it forms for itself a way of life which is heavenly and a model of holiness. For it gazes upon supreme Truth and everything which derives truth from it, upon supreme Good and everything which derives goodness from it, upon supreme Eternity and everything which derives from it. It models itself upon that Truth, that Charity and that Eternity while directing its life here below. It does not fly above those eternal realities in its judgment but gazes up at them in desire or clings to them by love, while it accepts the realities of this created world to adapt and conform itself to them, not without using its judgment to discriminate, its power of reasoning to examine and its mind to appreciate.

Cum enim fit circa hominem dei assumptio illa domini et sancti israel regis nostri sapiens et pius animus per illuminantem et adiuuantem gratiam in contemplatione summi boni speculatur etiam regulas incommutabilis ueritatis in quantum ad eas pertingere meretur intellectu amoris et exinde format sibi modum conuersationis cuiusdam caelestis et formam sanctitatis.  Speculatur enim summam ueritatem et quae ex ea uera sunt summum bonum et quae ex eo bona sunt summam aeternitatem et quae ex ea sunt. Illi ueritati illi caritati illi aeternitati se conformans in istis se ordinans illis non superuolitans iudicando sed suspiciens desiderando uel inhaerens amando ista suscipiens et eis se coaptans et conformans non sine discretionis iudicio non sine examine ratiocinationis et iudicio rationis.



278. This process gives rise to holy virtues, the image of God is formed anew in man, and that divine life is set in order from which the Apostle complains that certain men have become estranged. (Eph 4:18) Virtue also takes on its true vigor, those two elements which constitute the perfection of the contemplative and the active life, 35 concerning which, according to the ancient translators, we read in Job : “Behold piety is wisdom, while to abstain from evil is knowledge.” (Job 28:28 lxx)

Ex quo concipiuntur et oriuntur uirtutes sanctae imago dei reformatur in homine et uita illa dei ordinatur a qua homines quosdam alienatos esse conqueritur apostolus et colligitur robur uirtutis duo illa in quibus contemplatiuae uitae perfectio constat et actiuae de quibus iuxta antiquos interpretes legitur in iob: ecce pietas est sapientia abstinere uero a malis scientia est.



279. For wisdom is indeed piety, that is, the worship of God, the love by which we yearn to see him. and, seeing him in a mirror obscurely, (I Cor 13:12) believe and hope in him and advance even to see him as he reveals himself.

Sapientia enim pietas est hoc est cultus dei amor quo eum uidere desideramus et uidentes in speculo et in aenigmate credimus et speramus et etiam in hoc proficimus ut eum uideamus in manifestatione.



280. But to abstain from evil is the knowledge of temporal matters with which our life here below is concerned. In their regard we abstain from evil to the extent to which we pursue good.

Abstinere uero a malis scientia temporalium est in quibus sumus in quibus in tantum abstinemus a malis in quantum ad bona studemus.



[XXI] 281. This knowledge, this abstinence involve in the first place the practice of all the virtues and then the study of all the arts which govern this life which we are living. The former of these, the practice of the virtues, seems to be concerned rather with higher things, as displaying the power of higher wisdom and exhaling its fragrance. The latter, which is concerned with bodily exercises, sinks miserably into the vanity of this world if it is not held back by the bonds of religious faith.

Ad hanc scientiam ad hanc abstinentiam spectare inueniuntur primo omnium uirtutum exercitia deinde etiam omnis artium uitae huius in qua uersamur disciplina.  Quorum alterum id est studium uirtutum respicere potius uidetur ad superiora quasi superioris sapientiae praeferentia uirtutem et redolentia suauitatem.  Alterum quod circa corporalia fit exercitia nisi fidei religione religetur misere defluit in inferiorum uanitatem.



282. In regard to these, since knowledge is something which is grasped either by the reason or by the bodily senses and committed to the memory, upon mature consideration it appears that only what is perceived by the senses can properly speaking be attributed to knowledge. As for what the reason conceives of itself in such matters, it is already on the borderland between knowledge and wisdom.

In quibus cum scientia sit res siue ratione siue sensibus corporis comprehensa et memoriae commendata si bene res perpenditur id proprie quod apprehendimus sensibus omnino scientiae deputandum est quod uero per semetipsam ratio in huiusmodi apprehendit hoc iam est in quo se sibi scientia atque sapientia conterminant.



283. For whatever is learned from another source, that is, through the bodily senses, is taken into the mind as something foreign, coming from without. But what enters the mind of its own accord, whether through the mere exercise of the reason or by a natural understanding of the unchangeable laws of unchangeable Truth, which sometimes enables the most wicked of men to form a judgment that is wholly right, this is in the reason in such a way as to be identified with the reason. It is not given to it by any process of teaching, so as to be knowledge, but rather is understood to be present naturally either when someone else points this out or when the reason adverts to it itself.

Quicquid enim aliunde discitur scilicet per sensus corporis quasi alienum et aduentitium menti ingeritur.  Quod uero sponte uenit in mentem siue ex ipsa ui rationis siue ex incommutabilium legum incommutabilis ueritatis naturali intelligentia ex qua etiam impiissimi homines nonnumquam rectissime iudicare inueniuntur hoc sic ipsi inest rationi ut hoc ipsum ipsa ratio sit nec tam commendatur ei per doctrinam aliquam ut scientia sit quam uel alio commonente uel ipsa commemorante hoc ipsum sibi inesse naturaliter intelligit.



284. The outstanding example of this is when the knowledge of God is revealed to a man, (Rom 1:19) even a godless man, by a natural manifestation on God’s part. Then there is the case of a natural inclination to the virtues, of which a pagan poet was able to say that “The good hate sin for love of virtue.” (Horace, Letters, 1:16) Again there are all the distinctions made among the objects of the reason by the processes of investigation and reasoning.

In quo hoc potissimum est cum quod notum est dei deo naturaliter reuelante manifestum fit homini etiam impio deinde affectus uirtutum naturalis de quo licuit dicere ethnicum poetam: quia oderunt peccare boni uirtutis amore deinde per inquisitionem ratiocinationum quaelibet discretio rationabilium.



285. The lowest type of knowledge and that which tends downwards is animal experience of sensible objects coming in through the five bodily senses. This is especially so when the lust of the flesh or of the eyes or the pride of this life (i Jn 2:56) are involved.

Infima uero pars est scientiae et deorsum uergens sensibilium animalis experientia quae fit per quinque corporis sensus praesertim quando concupiscentiae carnis militant siue oculorum siue superbiae uitae huius.



[XXII] 286. And so when reason in conformity with wisdom forms a conscience and draws up a rule of life, in the lower kinds of knowledge it avails itself of nature’s services and resources, in reasonings and the things of the reason it follows the rule it has laid down, in the acquisition of virtues it obeys its conscience. Thus making progress by means of lower things, finding assistance in higher things, continuing on its way toward what is right it .brings into play the judgment of reason, the assent of the will, the inclination of the mind and external activity and so hastens to arrive at liberty and unity of spirit, in order that, as has already been said often, the man of faith may become one spirit with God. (i Cor 6:17)

Cum ergo ratio sapientiae conformata format sibi conscientiam et ordinat uitam: in inferioribus scientiae aptat sibi seruitutem et sufficientiam naturae in ratiocinationibus et rationabilibus ordinem uitae in obtentu uirtutum formam conscientiae.  Sic que ab inferioribus promota a superioribus adiuta pergens in id quod rectum est et iudicio rationis et assensu uoluntatis et mentis affectu et operis effectu erumpere festinat in libertatem spiritus et unitatem: ut sicut iam saepe dictum est fidelis homo unus spiritus efficiatur cum deo.



287. Now this is the life of God of which we spoke a little while before,” not so much an advance in reason as an attachment of the affections to perfection in wisdom. For the fact that a man relishes these things makes him wise 43 and it is because he has become one spirit with God that he is spiritual. And this is the perfection of man in this life.

Et ipsa iam est de qua paulo ante diximus uita dei quae non tam est rationis profectus quam iam in sapientia perfectionis affectus.  Haec enim quia sapiunt sapienti sapiens est quia factus est unus spiritus cum deo spiritualis est.  Et haec in hac uita hominis perfectio est.



[XXIII] 288. Hitherto solitary or alone, now he becomes one and his bodily solitude is changed into unity of spirit. Our Lord’s prayer for his disciples, summing up the whole of perfection, is fulfilled in him: “Father, my will is that as I and you are one, so they too may be one in us.” (Jn 17:21)

Jam enim qui hactenus fuit solitarius uel solus efficitur unus et solitudo ei corporis uertitur in unitatem mentis et impletur in eo quod dominus pro discipulis in clausula omnis perfectionis orauit dicens: pater uolo ut sicut ego et tu unum sumus ita et ipsi in nobis unum sint.



289. For insofar as this unity of man with God or likeness to God draws near to God, it brings into conformity with itself what is inferior to it, and with that what is lower still; so that the spirit, the soul and the body are duly set in order and established in their proper places, rightly appreciated and even thought about in accordance with their several characteristics. So man begins to know himself perfectly, advance through self-knowledge and ascend to the knowledge of God. 45

Haec enim unitas hominis cum deo uel similitudo ad deum in quantum propinquat deo in tantum inferius suum conformat sibi infimum illi ut spiritus et anima et corpus suo modo ordinata suis locis disposita suis meritis aestimata suis etiam proprietatibus cogitentur ut incipiat homo perfecte nosse seipsum et per cognitionem sui proficiendo ascendere ad cognoscendum deum.



290. When the man who is making progress first begins to fix his desire and aspirations on this object he must be on his guard as he ponders on that likeness against the error of unlikeness, that is to say when he compares spiritual things with spiritual and divine things with divine, he must not think of them otherwise than they are in reality.46

Quo cum primum exsurgere et aspirare incipit proficientis affectus in cogitatione huius similitudinis plurimum cauendus est error dissimilitudinis scilicet ut spiritualibus spiritualia et diuinis diuina comparando non aliter de eis cogitetur quam quod res habet.



291. Therefore when the spirit thinks of its likeness to God let it first mold its thought so as wholly to avoid conceiving of itself in terms of a body. Where God is concerned not only must it avoid thinking of him as of a body, as if he were in a place, but also as if he could be represented as a spirit and so changeable. For spiritual things are as different from corporeal things both in quality and in nature as they are remote from all confinement to place. The divine nature, however, transcends both corporeal and spiritual things to the same extent that it is free from all restrictions of time and place and knows nothing of change, remaining changeless and eternal in the beatitude of its own unchangeableness and eternity.

Cogitans ergo animus similitudinem sui et dei primo in hoc formet et aptet cogitationem suam ut omnino fugiat secundum corpus cogitare se ipsum deum uero non solum non secundum corpus sicut locale sed neque secundum spiritum sicut mutabile.  Quae enim spiritualia sunt tantum diuersa sunt a corporum qualitate et natura quantum ab omni locali circumscriptione remota.  Quae uero diuina sunt tantum superaeminent omnia et corporalia et spiritualia quantum ab omni loci uel temporis lege uel mutabilitatis suspicione aliena in suae incommutabilitatis et aeternitatis beatitudine incommutabilia manent et aeterna.



292. Just as the spirit has perception of corporeal things through the bodily senses, so it knows things pertaining to the reason or the spirit only through itself But the things of God (Mt 22:21) it can seek or expect to understand only by God’s gift. Indeed it is lawful and possible for man possessed of reason to think and enquire sometimes of some things which concern God, such as the sweetness of his goodness, the power of his strength and other like matters. But what he is in himself, his essence, can only be grasped by thought at all insofar as the perception of enlightened love reaches out to it.

In quibus sicut quae corporalia sunt discernit animus per corporis sensum sic quae rationabilia sunt uel spiritualia discernere non potest nisi per semetipsum quae uero sunt dei nonnisi a deo quaerat uel expectet intellectum.  Et quidem de nonnullis quae ad deum spectant fas est et possibile homini rationem habenti aliquando cogitare et disquirere sicut de dulcedine bonitatis eius de potentia uirtutis et aliis huiusmodi ipsum uero idipsum quod est id quod est cogitari omnino non potest nisi quantum ad hoc sensu illuminati amoris attingi potest.



[XXIV] 293. Yet God is to be attained by faith and, to the extent that the Holy Spirit helps our weakness, (Rom 8:26) by thought as Eternal Life living and bestowing life; the Unchangeable and immutably making all changeable things; the Intelligent and creating all understanding and every intellectual being; Wisdom that is the source of all wisdom; fixed Truth that stands fast without any swerving, the Source of all truth and containing from eternity the principles of all things that exist in time.

Credendus tamen est deus et in quantum spiritus sanctus adiuuerit infirmitatem nostram cogitandus quaedam uita aeterna uiuens et uiuificans immutabilis mutabilia omnia immutabiliter faciens intelligens et creans omnem et intellectum et intelligentem sapientia faciens omnem sapientem ueritas fixa stans indeclinabilis ex qua uera sunt omnia quae uera sunt in qua sunt aeternaliter rationes rerum omnium euntium temporaliter.



294. His life itself is his essence, his very nature. He is his own life by which he lives, and it is divinity, eternity, greatness, goodness and strength existing and subsisting in itself, transcending all place in the power of a nature not bounded by place, by its eternity rising above all time that can be conceived by reason or imagination. It exists in a manner that is far more true and excellent than can be grasped by any kind of perception. Yet humble and enlightened love attains to a more certain perception of it than any effort of the reason to grasp it by thought, and it is always better than it is thought to be. Yet it is better thought than spoken of. (Aug., De Trin., 7:4)

Cui que uita ipsa essentia est ipsa natura et uita uiuens ipse sibi est quae est ipsa diuinitas aeternitas magnitudo bonitas et uirtus in semetipsa exsistens et subsistens excedens omnem locum uirtute naturae illocalis aeternitate uero omne tempus quod uel ratione uel opinione comprehendi potest quae longe uerius est et excellentius quam quolibet sentiendi genere sentiatur certius tamen sensu humilis et illuminati amoris quam quolibet cogitatu rationis attingitur et semper melius est quam cogitatur melius tamen cogitatur quam dicitur.



295. It is the supreme Essence, from which all being comes forth. It is the supreme Substance, not confined within the predicaments we formulate but the subsistent causal Principle of all things.50 In it our being does not die, our understanding makes no mistake, our love meets with no offence. It is always sought in order that it may be found with greater pleasure and is found with utmost pleasure in order that it may be sought the more diligently. (Aug., De Trin., 15:2)

Ipsa est summa essentia a quo omne esse proficiscitur ipsa est summa substantia non subiecta praedicamentis uocum sed rerum omnium subsistens causale principium.  In quo esse nostrum non moritur intellectus non errat amor non offenditur qui semper quaeritur ut dulcius inueniatur dulcissime inuenitur ut diligentius quaeratur.



[XXV] 296. Since this ineffable reality can be seen only in an ineffable way, the man who would see it must cleanse his heart, for it cannot be seen or apprehended by means of any bodily likeness in sleep, any bodily form in waking hours, any investigation of the mind, but only by humble love from a clean heart. (Mt 5:8)

Hoc ergo ineffabile cum nonnisi ineffabiliter uideatur qui uult uidere cor mundet quia nulla corporis similitudine dormienti nulla corporea specie uigilanti nulla rationis indagine nisi mundo corde humiliter amantis uideri potest uel apprehendi.



297. For this is the face of God which no one can see and live in the world. (Ex 33:20) This is the Beauty for the contemplation of which everyone sighs who would love the Lord his God with his whole heart and his whole soul and his whole mind and his whole strength. (Mk 12:30) Neither does he cease to arouse his neighbor to the same if he loves him as himself. (Mk 12:31)

Haec est enim facies dei quam nemo potest uidere et uiuere mundo haec est enim species cui contemplandae suspirat omnis qui affectat diligere dominum deum suum in toto corde suo et in tota anima sua et in omni mente sua et in omnibus uiribus suis.  Ad quod etiam non desinit excitare proximum suum si diligit eum sicut se ipsum.



298. When eventually he is admitted to this vision he sees without any doubt in the light of truth the grace which forestalls him. When he is thrown back on himself he understands in his blindness that his uncleanness is out of keeping with its purity. And if he loves he takes pleasure in weeping, neither is it without much groaning that he is forced to return to himself.56

Ad quod cum aliquando admittitur in ipso lumine ueritatis indubitanter uidet praeuenientem gratiam cum inde repellitur in ipsa caecitate sua intelligit puritati eius non conuenire immunditiam suam et si amat flere dulce habet et non sine gemitu multo cogitur redire in conscientiam suam.



299. We are wholly unequal to the task of conceiving this reality, but he whom we love forgives us, he of whom we confess we can neither speak nor think worthily. And yet we are stimulated and drawn on by his love or the love of his love to speak and to think of him.

Ad quod cogitandum omnino impares sumus sed ignoscit quem amamus et de quo digne nos non posse uel dicere uel cogitare confitemur et tamen ut dicamus ut cogitemus amore eius uel amore amoris eius prouocamur et trahimur.



300. It is for one who entertains such thoughts to abase himself in everything and to glorify in himself the Lord his God, to become of no worth in his own eyes as he contemplates God, to subject himself to every human being for the love of his Creator, to offer up his body as a holy victim, living, pleasing to God, the worship due from him as a rational creature. (Rom 12:1) But before everything he should not think highly of himself, beyond his just estimation but have a sober esteem of himself, according to the measure of faith which God has apportioned to him (Rom 12:3) He should not entrust his treasures to men’s mouths but conceal them in his cell and hide them away in his conscience, so as to have this inscription always in the forefront of his conscience and on the front of his cell: “My secret is my own, my secret is my own.” (Is 24:16)

Cogitantis ergo est in omnibus humiliare seipsum et glorificare in seipso dominum deum suum in contemplatione dei uilescere sibi in amore creatoris subiectum esse omni humanae creaturae exhibere corpus suum hostiam sanctam uiuentem deo placentem rationabile obsequium suum.  Prae omnibus autem non plus sapere quam oportet sapere sed sapere ad sobrietatem et secundum datam a deo mensuram fidei bona sua non ponere in ore hominum sed celare in cella et recondere in conscientia ut hunc quasi titulum et in fronte conscientiae et in fronte cellae semper habeat: secretum meum mihi secretum meum mihi.





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