Thursday, December 19, 2013

From An Epistle on Prayer

By the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing
   [Middle English, 14th century]

O how wonderful and how high a thing it is, to speak of the love of God, of which no man may speak but by fleeting evocations, and surpassing the understanding of man! And so it is when I speak of the love for God with a chaste love for Himself, and not for His blessings.

I say that when a soul is touched affectively by a sensible presence of God as He is in Himself, and in a perfect soul illumined in its reason by the clear beam of everlasting light, the which is God, when such a soul sees and feels the loveliness of God in Himself, while having in such a time and moment lost all consideration for any good or any kindness that God has ever done to him in this life  in this moment it feels and sees no cause to love God, other than God Himself.

And though it may be said, according to common understanding, that the great good and the great kindness that God has shown to us in this life are high and worthy causes for loving God, yet in view of the peak of perfection (to which I here aim to draw you), a perfect lover of God finds no other cause to love God, other than God Himself; and by this I mean, that chaste love is to love God for Himself and not for His blessings.

Chaste love is when you ask of God neither relief from pain, nor increase in recompense, nor yet the sweetness of His love in this life, save in those times when you seek His sweetness in order to refresh your spiritual forces, so that they do not fail you on the way; but that you ask of God nothing but Himself, and neither concern yourself with whether you will be in pain or in bliss, that you may be with Him whom you love – this is chaste love, this is perfect love.

[my translation-paraphrase]

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