THE CHAPTERS OF BOOK TWO
On the inner life
‘The Kingdom of God is among you,’1 says our Lord. ‘Return to Me with all your heart.’2 Reject this sad world ‘and you will find rest for your souls’.3 Learn to turn from worldly things and devote yourself to spiritual things, and you will see the Kingdom of God come within you. For the Kingdom of God is ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.4 These things are not granted to wicked people. Christ will come to you5 and will offer you His consolations, if you prepare a place for Him in your heart. All true glory and beauty lies within6 and He likes to dwell there. He frequently visits those with an inner life and offers sweet conversation, consoling grace, considerable peace, and friendship which will exceed all expectation.
So come faithful soul, and prepare your heart for your divine spouse that He may be willing to come and dwell with you.7 For He says, ‘Those who love Me will keep My Word; and My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them.’8 So welcome Christ and forbid entry to others.9 When Christ is with you, you are very rich, and He will take care of you in every way, so that you will not need to depend on others. People are erratic and will let you down; but Christ stands for ever10 and is a resolute companion to the end.
Never put your complete trust and reliance in frail and mortal people, however helpful and valuable they may be to you. Nor, if sometimes others oppose and contradict you, should you feel very sorry for yourself. Those who support you today may oppose you tomorrow; for people are as changeable as the weather. Put your complete trust in the Lord,11 direct your reverence and love to Him alone. He will defend you and will establish all things for the best. Here you have no lasting city12 and everywhere you are a stranger and an alien.13 You will never have peace unless you are inwardly united with Christ.
What do you seek here, since this is not your final resting place? So remember that all things in this world are passing away and that your true home is in heaven.14 All things are transient, and you are passing with them. Take care that you do not cling to them, in case you become trapped and perish with them. Let all your thoughts be with the Most High and focus your humble praying on Christ without ceasing.15 If it is hard to contemplate high and heavenly things, take rest in the Passion of Christ, and love to hide in His sacred wounds.16 For if you devoutly seek the stigmata of Jesus17 and the precious marks of His Passion, you will find great strength in your troubles. And, if you are despised, you will not be bothered, because you will have little interest in the words of your detractors.
Christ our Lord was despised by many, and in His hour of need was abandoned to the insults of His enemies by His followers and friends. Christ was willing to suffer and to be despised.18 So why do you complain? Christ had enemies and slanderers; do you expect everyone to be your friends and benefactors? How will your patience be rewarded if you are not willing to endure suffering? If you wish to reign with Christ, you will have to suffer with Christ and for Christ.19
If you had entered fully into the mind of Christ and tasted something of His burning love, you would care nothing for your own success or failure. For the love of Jesus causes us to regard ourselves very humbly. The honest inward lovers of Jesus and the truth are free from disorderly feelings and can easily turn to God. They rise above themselves and rest happily in God.
How very wise are those who realize the true value of things, and not as they are said or reputed to be. For our knowledge comes from God20 and not from man. Those who walk by inner insight, and are not unduly influenced by outward things, need no special time or place for prayer. Those with an inner life easily find recollection, since they are never totally involved in outward affairs. So our outward occupations and necessary tasks do not distract us, and we adapt ourselves to whatever crops up. Those with a well-ordered and focused inner life are not disturbed by the strange and perverse ways of others. For we are only hindered and distracted by such things if we allow them to dominate us.
If you had a well-disciplined inner life and a pure heart all things would turn to your benefit and advantage.21 But because we are not fully dead to ourselves, nor detached from all worldly things, we are often confused and offended. Nothing defiles and entraps us more than a selfish love of material things. If you rejected all outward comfort you would be able to contemplate heavenly things and experience greater inner happiness.
On humble submission to God
Do not be greatly concerned about who is for you or who is against you, but prepare and work to have God on your side in all that you do.1 Keep a good conscience, and God will mightily defend you; for whoever enjoys the protection of God cannot be harmed by human malice. If you learn to suffer in silence, you will be sure of receiving God’s comfort.2 God knows the times and the means to save you, so put your complete trust in Him. God is strong to help you3 and to free you from all disturbances. It is salutary for us that others know and can reveal our faults, for it will keep us humble.
When we humbly admit our failings, we can quickly appease anger and be reconciled with anyone we have offended. God protects and liberates humble people. He loves and consoles them. He bends down and gives great grace to the humble.4 He lifts them from depression to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble. He calls them and draws them to Himself. Even in the middle of trouble, humble people remain wholly at peace. They trust in God and not in worldly things. You cannot think that you have made any spiritual progress unless you consider yourself the least of all.
On being good and peaceful
Firstly, be at peace with yourself and then you will be able to offer peace to others. Peaceful people do more good than learned ones. An impulsive person may even turn good into evil and readily listens to evil; but those who are good and peaceable turn everything to good. Those who are really at peace do not think evil of anyone; but those who are discontented and restless are tormented by many suspicions. Having no peace in themselves, they will not allow others any peace. They frequently say what they should not say, and fail to do what they ought to do. They are aware of their neighbours’ duties, but indifferent to their own. So first look after your own affairs; then you may properly be concerned for your neighbours.
You easily excuse and explain your own activities, but you will not accept the explanations of others. It would be better to accuse yourself and to excuse your neighbours. If you want others to bear your burdens, you must put up with theirs.1 Realize how far you are from the love and humility which expresses no anger or indignation except to yourself. It is no great thing to keep company with the good and the gentle, for this is naturally pleasing to us all. All of us enjoy living in peace and prefer those who are like-minded. But living peacefully among rough, obstinate and ill-disciplined people and those who disagree with us is a great grace and a highly commendable human virtue.
There are some who can remain at peace with themselves and with everyone else.2 There are some who have no peace with themselves, nor allow others to be at peace. There are others who are at peace with themselves and try to lead others into peace. Our peace in this present life should not depend on absence of adversity but on humble acceptance. Those who accept suffering will enjoy peace. Such a person is a conqueror of the self, a ruler of the world, a friend of Christ and an inheritor of heaven.3
On purity of mind and simplicity of purpose
There are two wings that lift us up above earthly things. They are simplicity and purity. Simplicity inspires our motivation and purity inspires our devotion. Simplicity reaches after God; purity discovers and enjoys Him. You will not find any obstacle to good deeds if you are inwardly free from uncontrolled desires. If you are free from uncontrolled desires and seek only the will of God and the good of your neighbour, you will enjoy inner freedom. If your heart is right, everything in the world will be a mirror reflecting eternity and a book of holy instruction. For there is nothing created, however small and insignificant, that is not a reflection of the goodness of God.
If you were inwardly good and pure, you would see and understand all things clearly and easily. A pure heart permeates both heaven and hell. We judge outward things in accordance with our inner nature. It is the pure in heart who will possess any joy that there is in this world.1 The evil heart is most likely to experience all sorts of trouble or distress.2 In the same way as iron plunged into the furnace loses its rust and becomes bright and shiny, so those who turn totally to God lose their sloth and become transformed into new creatures.3
When someone begins to grow lazy and lukewarm in spirit, even the slightest piece of work seems frightening and they welcome any outward comfort. But when we overcome ourselves and move boldly towards God, then we will dismiss as nothing our endeavours, which we previously found very burdensome.
It is not possible to trust in ourselves, because we often lack grace and common sense. Through carelessness we can easily lose the few insights we have. We often do not realize how blind we are. We often commit evil and we make it worse by excusing ourselves. Sometimes we are stirred by emotion and mistake it for devotion. We condemn small faults in others, but we overlook worse faults in ourselves.1 We are too quick to resent and feel what we suffer from others, but we fail to consider how much others suffer from us. Those who consider their own faults openly and honestly will find no reason to judge others harshly.
The spiritual person puts the care of the soul above everything else,2 and those who carefully look after their own affairs are prepared to be silent about other people. You will never become spiritual and devout unless you concentrate on your own soul and stop criticizing others. If you concentrate totally on God and your soul you will be less affected by external events.3 Where are you when you fail to look after yourself? And what have you gained if you have neglected your soul and become preoccupied by many matters?4 If you desire real peace and union with God, concentrate on yourself and put everything else aside.
Keep free from the snares of the world and you will make good progress; but if you put great value on worldly matters, this will become a real obstacle. Let nothing noble, pleasant or desirable replace whatever comes from God and serving God alone. Regard all creaturely concerns as empty comfort. The soul that loves God considers anything other than God as worthless. God alone is eternal and infinitely great, and He fills all things.5 He alone is the real comfort of the soul and the joy of the heart.
On the satisfaction of a clear conscience
The glory of a good person is revealed in a good conscience.1 Keep a quiet conscience and you will always be happy. A quiet conscience will tolerate a lot and remain joyful in all troubles,2 but an evil conscience is always fearful and uneasy.You will be at ease if your heart does not reproach you, and you are happy only when you have done right. Wicked people never know real happiness, nor do they enjoy inward peace, for ‘There is no peace for the wicked’, says the Lord.3 Although they say, ‘We are at peace; no evil can happen to us, and no one will dare to harm us’, God’s anger will rise up suddenly. Then all their works will come to nothing and their plans will perish.
Those who truly love God do not find it hard to glory in suffering, for in this way they rejoice in the glory of the Cross of our Lord.4 The splendour that is given to us and received by humanity is short-lived and sorrow is always its companion. The praise of good people lies in their own conscience, not in the praise of others. For the joy of the Saints comes from God and is in God, and their joy is in the truth.5 Whoever wants true and lasting glory cares nothing for the splendours of the world. Whoever desires worldly splendour, and does not actually despise it, reveals that they have little love for the glory of heaven. Great tranquillity of the heart belongs to those who are indifferent to both praise and blame.
Those who have a clear conscience can be easily content and at peace. Receiving public acclamation does not make you holy, and you are none the worse for being blamed. You are just as you are, and you cannot be considered any greater than you are in the sight of God. If you know your interior self, you will not mind what other people say about you. For, while the world considers the outward appearance, God only looks into our hearts. Others may see your actions but God knows your motives. The sign of the humble soul is always to be doing good and to think little of oneself. It is a sign of great purity and inward faith to desire no human consolation.
When people seek no outside witness for support, this is a demonstration that their whole trust is in God. ‘For’, as St Paul says, ‘it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.’6 To live inwardly for God and not to be bound by worldly affections is the proper state of the devout person.
On loving Jesus above everything
Blessed are those who understand what it is to love Jesus and despise oneself for His sake. You must surrender all other love in order to love Him, for Jesus demands our love above everything else. It is a vain deception to love all created things. Loving Jesus is more faithful and enduring. Those who cling to worldly things will fall when they fail. But those who cling to Jesus will stand firm for ever. So love Him and keep Him as your friend. When everyone else deserts you, He will not abandon you, nor permit you to perish in the end. Finally, whether you want it or not, you will be parted from all living things.
Cling to Jesus in life and in death and commit yourself to His faithfulness. When everyone else fails you, He alone can help you. The characteristic of your Beloved is that He will not share His love for you with another. He wants your heart for Himself alone, and to reign there as a king on His throne. If it were possible for you to empty your heart of all creatures, Jesus would enjoy living with you.1 The trust you put in people other than Jesus is almost completely wasted. Do not trust or lean on a reed swaying in the wind,2 for ‘All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.’3
If you only look at someone’s outward appearance, you will often be deceived. For if you seek comfort or gain from others, you will frequently be disappointed. If you seek Jesus in everything you will undoubtedly find Jesus. And if you seek yourself, you will certainly find yourself, and that will be your loss. Anyone who does not seek Jesus causes greater self-harm than the entire world and all enemies could ever do.
On having Jesus as an intimate friend
When Jesus is with us, all is well and nothing seems difficult; but when Jesus is absent, everything is hard. When Jesus does not speak to our hearts, all other consolation is empty, but if Jesus speaks even a single word, we are greatly comforted. Did not Mary Magdalene rise at once from the place where she wept when Martha said, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you’?1 What a happy moment when Jesus calls us from our weeping to the joy of the spirit! How dry and hard of heart you are without Jesus. How stupid and pointless if you desire anything other than Jesus. It is a greater injury to you than losing the whole world.
What could the world offer you without Jesus? It is actually hell to be without Jesus. To be with Jesus is to know the sweetness of heaven. If Jesus is with you, no enemy can harm you. Whoever finds Jesus finds rich treasure and good above every good. Anyone who loses Jesus loses too much, more than the whole world. Those who live without Jesus are real paupers and those who stand in Jesus’ favour are like millionaires.
It is a great art to know how to converse with Jesus. It is great wisdom to know how to hold on to Jesus. If you are humble and at peace, Jesus will abide with you. If you turn aside to worldly things, you will soon cause Jesus to leave you and you will lose His favour. If you send Him away and lose Him, with whom can you take refuge and whom may you seek to be your friend? Without a friend it is not possible to live happily. If Jesus is not your best friend you will be very sad and lonely, so it is foolish to trust or rejoice in anyone else. It is better to be at enmity with the whole world than to offend Jesus. So, of all your dear friends, ensure that Jesus is loved first, and above all others.
Love everyone for Jesus’ sake, but love Jesus for His own sake. Jesus Christ alone is to be loved with a special love, for He alone is the best and most faithful of friends. In Him and for His sake, love both friend and enemy, and pray to Him for all of them, in order that everyone may know and love Him. Do not desire to become the object of special praise or love, for that is due to God alone; for no one is like Him. Do not desire that the total love of anyone should be given just to you and do not give your heart to anyone; rather let Jesus abide in you2 and in every good person.
Inwardly be pure and free, unentangled with any created thing. If you wish to be free, offer a pure and spotless heart to Jesus and see how gracious the Lord is.3 You will only achieve this if His grace calls and guides you. Once you have thrown aside and forgotten everything else, you can be united with Him alone. When the grace of God comes to us, we are strong in everything; but when it departs we are left poor and weak and we feel abandoned to punishment and sorrow. When this happens to you, do not despair or be discouraged. Accept God’s will calmly, bearing all that comes to you for the glory of Christ. For after winter comes summer and fair weather comes after a storm.4
On lacking all comfort
When we enjoy the comfort of God it is not difficult to despise human comforts. It is a great thing to be able to reject all consolation, human or divine, and willingly to suffer desolation of the heart for God’s sake and not to seek anything for yourself or any personal merit. Is it any proof of virtue that you are filled with joy and devotion when God sends His grace? Surely everyone longs for this, for those who are carried by God’s grace can travel easily. It is no surprise, when Almighty God carries us along, that we do not feel weary, and we are led by the greatest of all leaders.1
We enjoy much comfort and it is only with difficulty that our self-love is removed. Think how the holy martyr Laurence, with the priest he served,2 triumphed over the world because he despised all that seemed enjoyable. Through the love of Christ he allowed God’s high priest Sixtus, whom he greatly loved, to be taken from him. So, through the love of his Creator, he conquered his love for humanity and preferred the will of God to all human comfort. So you must learn to surrender even your closest and best friend for the love of God. And do not grieve when a friend leaves you, for in the end we will all be parted from each other.
To learn how to master ourselves and direct all our love to God fully, we have to struggle for a long, hard time. When we rely on ourselves, we easily come to rely on human consolation as well. But the true lover of Christ and the keen seeker after holiness does not fall back on these things or look for pleasurable sensations. They prefer to endure hard work and great tribulations for Christ’s sake.
When God bestows spiritual consolation accept it with a grateful heart; but remember that it comes as a free gift from God and not because you deserve it. Do not be proud, or over-joyful, or stupid or presumptuous. It is better to accept the gift humbly and to be more careful and wise in all that you do. For this hour will pass and temptation will follow it. When consolation is withdrawn, do not immediately despair. But wait for the will of heaven, humbly and patiently, for God is able to restore to you an even richer consolation than before. Those who know the ways of God will not find this new or strange, for the great Saints and Prophets of old often experienced such changes.
When grace was with him David exclaimed, ‘I said in my prosperity “I shall never be moved.” ’3 But when grace was taken away and he described his experience, he added, ‘You hid Your face; I was dismayed.’4 Yet in his trouble he does not despair; he prays to the Lord more earnestly: ‘To You, O Lord, I will cry, and to the Lord I will make supplication.’5 At last he received the answer to his prayer and declared, ‘The Lord has heard, and been gracious to me! The Lord has become my helper!’6 But in what way? ‘You have turned my mourning into dancing,’ he said; ‘You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.’7 ‘If this is the experience of great Saints, it is not for us, poor and frail as we are, to despair if we are sometimes devout and sometimes lukewarm. The Spirit comes and goes as He sees fit; and so Job says, ‘You visit them every morning, test them every moment.’8
Then in what can I place my hope or trust except in the great mercy of God alone, and in the hope of His heavenly grace?9 For if I can enjoy human company, or devout Religious or faithful friends; whether holy books, excellent treatises, or delightful singing and hymns – all these are of little help or comfort when I am without grace and left in a poor state. When this happens the best remedy is patience and submission to the will of God.
I have never found anyone, be it a Religious or a devout person, who has not sometimes experienced a withdrawal of grace or felt a loss of devotion. And no Saint has ever lived, however entranced and enlightened, who did not suffer temptation sooner or later. For those who have never suffered some trials for God’s sake are not worthy of the heavenly contemplation. In fact, the temptation that comes first is usually a sign of comfort to follow. For heavenly comfort is promised to those who have been tried and tempted. ‘To everyone who is courageous I will give permission to eat from the tree of life,’ says God.10
Divine consolation is granted that we may be stronger to endure adversity, and temptation follows so that we may not be proud of our virtue. The Devil never sleeps,11 nor has the flesh died.12 So never stop preparing yourself for the battle against unrelenting enemies who are ready to ambush you on every side.
On gratitude for God’s grace
You were born to work, so why do you look for rest? Commit yourself to suffering rather than comfort and to carrying the Cross rather than happiness. What worldly person would not rather gladly receive spiritual comfort and joy, if they were sure of keeping it? For spiritual consolation exceeds all earthly delights and joys of the flesh. All worldly pleasures are either futile or shameful; only spiritual joys are pleasant and delightful, for they are born of virtue and God infuses them into the pure of heart.1 But no one may enjoy these divine consolations because they want to, for temptation is never far away.
Excessive self-confidence and a false sense of freedom are great obstacles to heavenly visitations. God is generous in giving us the grace of comfort, but we do badly by not returning everything to God in grateful thanks. The reason why God’s graces cannot flow freely in us is that we are ungrateful to the giver and do not return them to their fount and source. God will always give grace to those who are grateful, but what He gives to the humble is withheld from the proud.
I do not want any consolation that would deny me penitence, nor do I aspire to any contemplation which might make me proud. All that is high is not holy, nor is all that is pleasant good. Every desire is not pure, nor is all that we value pleasing to God. I would prefer gladly to accept the sort of grace which makes me increasingly humble and devout, and the more willing to renounce myself. For those who are taught by the gift of grace and reproved by its removal will not attribute any good to themselves, but will acknowledge real poverty and a lack of virtue. ‘Give to God the things that are God’s.’2 Attribute to yourself whatever is yours. So then give thanks to God for His grace and realize that the guilt and penalty of sin belong only to you.
Always put yourself in the lowest place3 and you will be awarded the highest; for the highest cannot stand without the lowest. The Saints stand the highest in God’s sight and are lowest in their own eyes. The more glorious they are, the more humble is their spirit.
Filled with truth and heavenly glory, they have no desire for heavenly glory. Rooted and grounded in God, they cannot be proud. They ascribe all goodness to God. They do not look for glory from each other but only the glory which comes from God.4 Their desire and longing is that God will be praised above all things in their lives, and in the lives of all His Saints.
Be grateful for the smallest blessing, and you will deserve to receive greater. The smallest gifts are to be valued the same as the greatest, and simple grace as a special favour. If you recall the dignity of Him who gives, you will not consider any gift to be small or mean; for nothing that is given by the Most High God can be without value. Even if He gives us punishment and pain, we should accept them gladly, for everything He allows to happen to us is always for our salvation. Whoever wants to retain the favour of God must be thankful for God’s grace, and be patient when it is taken away. Let us pray for its return; let us be wise and humble for fear of losing it.
On the lack of lovers of the Cross
Jesus has many who love His Kingdom of Heaven, but few who will carry His Cross.1 He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feasts, but few His fasting. Many want to rejoice with Him, but few will stay by Him. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few will drink the cup of His suffering. Many admire His miracles, but few follow Him to the ignominy of the Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no hardship touches them. Many praise and bless Him as long as they are receiving comfort from Him. But if Jesus withdraws Himself from them, they fall into complaining and great dejection.
Those who love Jesus for His own sake and not for the sake of selfish comfort will praise Him in every trial and anguish of heart, no less than in great joy. And they would praise Him and give Him thanks, even if He never offered them any comfort.
How powerful is the pure love of Jesus, which is free from self-love and self-interest. Those who are seeking comfort like capitalists betray themselves as being lovers of themselves, rather than of Christ. They are always thinking about personal gain and satisfaction. Where is the person who is willing to serve God without any rewards?2
There are not many who are so spiritual that they can be totally stripped of self-love. Who can point to someone who is utterly poor in spirit and detached from the world? ‘His rare worth exceeds all on earth.’3 If someone gives away all their possessions, it is nothing. If someone undergoes severe penance, it is very little. If someone attains great knowledge, it is only a small step. If someone has great virtue and the most ardent devotion, much is still lacking and especially the ‘one thing necessary’.4 What is that? That we leave ourselves and everything else and totally deny ourselves, and retain no trace of self-love. And when we have done all that we ought to do, let us feel that we have done nothing.
Let us not consider important what others regard as important, but let us honestly confess that we are unprofitable servants. For these are the words of Truth Himself: ‘When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves”.’5 Then we may be called poor and naked in spirit, and say with the Prophet, ‘I am lonely and afflicted.’6 Yet no one is richer, more powerful or more free than someone who has left self and everything else behind, to sit in the lowest place.7
On the royal road of the Holy Cross
‘If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.’1 This saying of Jesus seems hard, but how much harder it will be to hear the severe words, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire’!2 For those who now freely hear and obey the message of the Cross3 will not be frightened to hear the sentence of eternal damnation. When our Lord comes as Judge, the sign of the Cross will appear in the heavens.4 Then all the servants of the Cross, who during their lives conformed themselves to the Crucified,5 will stand with confidence before Christ their Judge.
Why then are you afraid to take up the Cross, which is the road to the Kingdom?
In the Cross is salvation
In the Cross is life
In the Cross is protection against our enemies
In the Cross you are immersed in heavenly sweetness
In the Cross is strength of mind
In the Cross is joy in the spirit
In the Cross is the fullness of virtue
In the Cross is perfect holiness
There is neither salvation of the soul nor hope of eternal life except in the Cross. Take up the Cross, therefore, and follow Jesus,6 and go forward to eternal life.7 Christ has gone before you, bearing His Cross.8 He died for you on the Cross so that you might also carry your cross and desire to die on the Cross with Him. For if you die with Him, you will also live with Him,9 and if you share His sufferings, you will also share His glory.
See how everything rests in the Cross and everything depends on dying. There is no other way to life and to real inner peace except the way of the Cross and daily self-denial. Walk where you will, seek what you will; you will find no better way above, nor safer way below, than the road of the Holy Cross. If you arrange and order all things to your own ideas and desires, you will still have to endure suffering, whether you want to or not. Thus you will always find the Cross. For you will either find physical pain, or suffer mental and spiritual trauma.
Sometimes God will withdraw from you, at other times you will be disturbed by your neighbour; and, even more, you will often be a pain to yourself. Nor will any remedy or consolation bring you relief, but you must put up with it as long as God wishes. For God wants you to experience tribulations without comfort so that you can fully surrender yourself to Him, and grow more humble through suffering. Those who suffer like Christ will feel in their hearts the Passion of Christ. The Cross stands ready and waiting for you everywhere.10 You can’t escape from it, wherever you go you take yourself with you and always find yourself. Look upwards or downwards, inwards or outwards and you will find the Cross everywhere. So, if you wish to attain inner peace and win the eternal crown, you must be patient in all things.
If you willingly carry the Cross, it will carry you and take you to your desired end, where pain shall be no more;11 but it will not happen in this life. If you resent carrying the Cross, you will make it a burden and it will weigh you down heavily, but you must carry it. If you throw away one cross, you will without doubt find another, probably much heavier one.
Do you think you can avoid what every mortal being cannot escape? Which of the Saints lived without the Cross or trials? Even our Lord Jesus Christ was never without sorrow and pain as long as He lived. ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things,’ He said, ‘and then enter into His glory?’12 Why then do you seek any other road than this Royal Road of the Holy Cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom; and do you look for rest and selfish pleasure?
You will be greatly mistaken, if you seek anything except to endure trials, for all this mortal life is full of trouble,13 and everywhere marked with crosses. The further we advance in the spiritual life, the heavier and more frequently will we find crosses. For our ever-deepening love of God makes more bitter the sorrows of this life in exile.
Yet those who suffer in many ways do not lack solace and comfort, for they learn the great benefit to be gained from carrying the Cross. For while we carry it with goodwill, the whole weight is changed by the hope of God’s consolation. The more the body is subdued by affliction, the more the soul is strengthened by interior grace. Sometimes we are greatly comforted by the desire to suffer adversity for the love of conforming to the Cross of Christ, so that we would not wish to be without pain and grief.14 For we know that the more we can suffer for His sake the more pleasing we will be to God. This desire does not spring from our own strength but from the grace of Christ, which can and does achieve great things in frail humanity. So the things which nature fears and avoids, we can meet boldly and love through a fervent spirit.
We are not naturally inclined to carry the Cross, to love the Cross, to chastise and control our bodies;15 to refuse honours, to accept insults with goodwill, to despise ourselves and welcome ridicule, to tolerate adversity and loss and to have no desire for prosperity in this world.
If you trust in your own strength, you will not be able to achieve any of these things. But if you trust in the Lord, you will be given heavenly strength, and the world and the flesh will be under your control. Nor will you fear your enemy the Devil if you are armed with faith and marked with the Cross of Christ.16
Therefore, as good and faithful servants of Christ, decide bravely to carry the Cross of your Lord, who was crucified for love of you. Prepare to endure many trials and obstacles in this vale of tears, for it will be your lot wherever you are. You will encounter them wherever you hide yourself. It is bound to be like this, nor is there any remedy or means of escape from ills and pains. You have to endure them. If you wish to be His friend and to share everything with Him, lovingly drink the cup of the Lord.17 Let God offer the consolations that He wishes. But prepare yourself to endure trials, seeing them as the greatest of all comforts, for ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us’,18 even if you were the only one to endure them all.
All will be well with you when you have come to that state where tribulation seems sweet and acceptable to you for Christ’s sake, for you will have found heaven on earth. But as long as suffering is a pain to you and you try to escape from it, it will not be well for you, for the troubles you try to escape will follow you everywhere.
If you prepare yourself, as you must, to suffer and die, everything will be better for you and you will find peace. Even if, like St Paul, you were ‘caught up into paradise’,19 you would not be safe from experiencing further adversity. For Jesus says, ‘I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.’20 So be prepared to suffer, if you wish to love Jesus and serve Him for ever.
If only you were worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus! What great and enduring a glory would be yours. How great would be the joy of the Saints of God! How pleased your friends would be. For we all approve of patience, but few are willing to suffer. As many people suffer such severe things for worldly reasons, it is only right that you should be prepared to suffer a little for Christ.
Remember that you must live a dying life. The more completely we die to self, the more we begin to live to God.21 No one is fit to understand heavenly things unless we are willing to endure hardships for Christ’s sake. Nothing is more acceptable to God and nothing is more salutary for you than to suffer gladly for Christ’s sake. And if you have the choice, choose to suffer hardships for Christ’s sake rather than be fortified by much compassion. For, in this way, you will resemble Christ and all His Saints. For our worth and spiritual progress does not consist in enjoying such sweetness and consolation, but rather in bearing heavy burdens and troubles.
If there had been a better way for the salvation of humanity other than suffering, Christ would have revealed it in His Word and His life. But He clearly urges both His own disciples and all who wish to follow Him to carry the Cross, saying, ‘If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.’22 So when we have read and considered all things our resolve must be that ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God.’23