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dress, but with much of the beautiful simplicity of the original, is elegantly expanded by Father Neuveville, in his Morale de l'Evangile, 4 vols. 8vo.; by Father Gonnelieu, in his Pratique de la vie Intérieure, 1 vol. 8vo.; L'Exercise de la vie Intérieure, 1 vot. 8vo. and the translation, into French, of the Imitation of Christ, I vol. 8vo.; by Father Lombez, in his Traité sur la Paix Intérieure, 1 vol. 12mo.; and in La vraie et solide Piété de St. Francis de Sales, 1 vol. 8vo.
Mystical devotion never prevailed much in England.
The Scale of Perfection of Hylton, a Carthusian monk, merits attentive perusal. The Sancta Sophia of Father Baker, a Benedictine monk, in the abridgment given of it by Father Cressey, of the same order, and Philotheus's Pilgrimage to Perfection, in a practice of ten days solitude, Bruges 1668, were once popular among English Roman Catholics. The Sancta Sophia was severely animadverted upon by Dr. Stillingfleet, in his Idolatry, practised by the church of Rome; Cressey replied to it, by his Answer to Part of Dr. Stilling fleet's Book, entitled Idolatry practised by the church of Rome ; and his Fanaticism, fanatically imputed to the Catholic church by Dr. Stilling fleet. In answer to this work, Lord Chancellor Clarendon published a vindication of Dr. Stillingfleet, entitled Animadversions on Mr. Cressey's book, entitled Fanaticism fanatically imputed, &c. Mr. Cressey answered by An epistle apologetical of s. C. a person of honour, touching his vindication of Dr. Stilling fleet. To this, Dr. Stillingfleet replied, by his Answer to Mr. Cressey's èpistle apologetical, &c. All these controversial works are ably written, and deserve an attentive perusal: not so much, however, for their mystic lore, as for the important facts and observations which they communicate, respecting the grounds on which the penal laws, in the English code, against the Roman Catholics, can be best attacked or defended.
VII.-MYSTICISM, AS IT IS FOUND IN THE WRITINGS OF THE
MOST APPROVED ROMAN CATHOLIC AUTHORS.
At an early period of Christianity, three states of the Just were noticed by her writers : at a later period, they were distinguished into the Purgative, the Illuminative, and the Contemplative or Unitive. The first, which took its appellation from Aristotle's purgation of the passions, is supposed to comprehend those who have made their first advances in a spiritual life ; who assiduously bewail their sins, are careful to avoid relapsing into them, endeavour to destroy their bad habits, and to extinguish their passions; who fast, watch, and pray, and are blessed with a contrite and humble heart. The second is supposed to include those who divest themselves of earthly affections, study to ac
VOL. I. PART II.
quire purity of heart, and a constant habit of virtue, the true light of the soul ;-who assiduously meditate on the life and doctrines of Christ, and inflame themselves by it to the imita, tion of his virtues. Those are supposed to be arrived at the third state whose souls, thus illuminated, are dead to the world, are united to God, and enjoy his holy peace. Even in the first stage of a spiritual life, the comfort which the soul experiences exceeds the joys of this world. With . Bourdalouë, (Sur la choir mutuel de Dieu et de l'ame religieuse,) the soul exclaims, “I have chosen God, and God has chosen me; this reflection is my support and strength; it will enable me to surmount every difficulty, to resist every temptation, to rise above every chagrin and disgust.” From the moment in which this choice is made, the soul, according to the same eloquent preacher, (in his sermon for the feast of St. Mary Magdalen) “ begins to enjoy a sweet tranquillity: conscience begins to experience the interior joy of pious hope and confidence in the mercies of God, and to feel the holy onction' of grace. In the midst of her penitential austerities, she comforts and strengthens herself by the thought, that she is making some satisfaction and atonement to God for her sins, that she is purifying her heart, and disposing it to receive the communications of heaven.” This com fort and sensation of happiness must necessarily increase in. proportion as the soul is illuminated, as the charms of virtue are unveiled to her, and her interior is filled with God. “Who can express,” says Bourdalouë, “the secret delight which God bestows on a heart thus purified ! how he delights her! what holy sentiments and transports he excites in her!” But when she lives for God alone, then, in the language of the spiritualists, God communicates himself to her, and her happiness, as far as happiness is attainable in this life, is complete. Here begins the contemplative or unitive state. . .
What in this state of union passes between God and the soul, the most eminent spiritualists acknowledge their inability to describe. All of them admit that the language and images by which they attempt to represent it, though they should be the best that industry and eloquence can supply, must fall short of what they wish to express. Still, for the edification and instruction of the faithful, of those particularly who may think themselves called to it, they attempt to describe it as far as language allows.
They inform us, that, though it sometimes pleases Almighty God to elevate a soul at once to the sublimest contemplation, he generally leads her to it by the degrees we have mentioned. For each of them the soul disposes herself, by prayer, penance, and submission to the divine will :: the fear and love of God enter into each of them; and each has its vicissitudes of spi
ritual joy and spiritual trial. The passage into each requires i exertion and perseverance, and none of them can be attained
without "holy violence.”. To obtain a contrite and humble i heart, the foundation of all virtue, requires many an arduous : effort, many a painful sacrifice. As the soul advances in virtue,
her combats continue, temptations to vanity, to gratifications
of sense, and dissipation of thought, press on her, and appear i to multiply ;-she flies from them to the “ foot of the cross ;" is the more she takes of it upon her, the more she has to support
of its weight: but she perseveres, and begins to taste how sweet the Almighty is to those who truly seek him. Still much imperfection hangs upon her, and self-love enters too much into her best actions. Self-love itself she finally subdues, and this leads her to the happy state of union with the Almighty, which, according to the writers of whom we are speaking, forms the just man's last and happiest state in this life. But, for the passage into it, the most heroic exertions and sacrifices are necessary; the soul must completely die to the world and herself, and obtain a complete victory over all that draws, or has even a remote tendency to draw her from God. Persecution, from the world at large, from those who are most dear to her, repeated mortifications, and bitter external and internal trials of every kind, are the means which God generally uses to effect her final
perfection ; but by far the severest trial, with which he visits í her, is the “spiritual night,” as it is termed by those writers, * through which he generally makes her pass. In that state, she -i is assailed by the strongest : temptations; she often seems to:
herself to be on the brink of yielding to them; and, sometimes, fears she has yielded : the most blasphemous thoughts, the most irregular ideas, crowd her mind ; she feels, or rather apprehends she feels, a complacency in them ;. God seems to her to abandon her, she no longer beholds in him her Father, her Redeemer, the shepherd who leads her to the green pasture, or the living water ;-she views him armed with terrors, conceives herself an object of his wrath, and, in indescribable anguish, fears it will be her everlasting lot. Still she perseveres, and in the midst of this agonizing suffering, she is invariably patient, invariably humble, invariably resigned, and, even when she seems to herself to sink under the harrowing impression of her being an eternal object of divine wrath, and fears all is lost, (her last and heaviest trial,) she habitually trusts herself to his mercy, and abandons herself to his holy will. Then, she is nailed to the sacred cross : she dies to the world, to herself, to all that is not God, and her sacrifice is complete. . ,
But, as these writers assure us, in the midst of this severe visitation, God is ever near her, and enriches her with the most pure and exalted virtues. She acquires an habitual conformity
to his holy will, a perfect indifference to all actions and objects, except as they please or displease him: on him alone she is occupied, with him alone she is filled, she leaves him for himself; and the divine transformation, so beautifully described by St. Paul, when he exclaims, Gal. xi. 2, “It is not I that live, it is Christ that liveth in me,” then ensues.
Such are the spiritual favours, which in this hour of desolation, while she herself is not only unconscious of them, but, actually fears herself to be an object of wrath,—this humble, and afficted soul is said to receive from the unbounded mercy of God; and such, they inform us, are the exalted gifts with which her perseverance is crowned.
Often she continues, for years, in a state of trial; and the spiritualists, who describe it, speak of it as exceeding every species of corporeal pain. But her hour of reward at length arrives : and God, then, showers on her an abundance of those sacred favours which, the same writers tell us, no one can adequately describe, and those alone conceive who have had some experience of them. Wonderfully her intellect is enlightened on divine subjects, her will animated by divine love, her memory radiated by the recollection of the divine mercies. Her appetites are so governed by the holy spirit, as to become subservient to her religious perfection; her very corporeal existence partakes of the holy jubilation of her soul, and rejoiceth with her in God her Saviour. She beholds not intuitively, as they are beholden by the angels and the saints, but in a divine light, the adorable essence, the sacred mysteries of the Trinity and the incarnation, the unspeakable perfections of God, and the wisdom and justice of his ways with man. He admits her to habitual and intimate communications with him. .“ Frequent," says the author of the Imitation of Christ, (lib. 2. c. 1.) " are the visits of God to such a soul, sweet his conversation with her, grateful the consolations, unspeakable the peace he brings to her, wonderful the familiarity which he vouchsafes her." Her joy is pure and passeth understanding : surrounded by the light and power of divine love, she lives and feels and moyes in God alone.
It is particularly in her prayer that she experiences those favors. Generally speaking, the incipient, in a spiritual life, begins with vocal prayer, and, at first, contents himself with attentively reading those forms of prayer which books supply. “ These,” Bossuet observes, Instruction sur les Etats d'Oraison (lib. 5. sect. 21.) “rather inform the understanding than enter into the heart : but such prayers have abundant use; they resemble the bark of a tree that covers and invigorates the sap which circulates under it; they are like the snow which is spread over corn, and enriches the lands from which the corn
draws its nourishment.” Insensibly, he rises to meditation. At first, he avails himself of some collection of published meditations, dwells on what he reads, amplifies it in his mind, and excites his heart to follow and expand the sentiment which it produces. By degrees, he trusts to himself, and his reflections and sentiments are his own; but, for a long time, his understanding and imagination are more engaged by them than his heart, and the whole is a work of exertion. In the course of time, devotion becomes habitual to him, and motives of love, of admiration, of humility, of humble hope and chastened fear, gently, but irresistibly, fill his heart; and the soul with little exertion of the intellectual faculty, of which she herself is sensible, receives and returns the purest, noblest, and most exalted sentiments of divine love.
At times, she is favored with what ascetics term the prayer of contemplation; or, supernatural or passive prayer. All Christian prayer, they observe, is grounded in faith, nurtured by hope, and perfected by charity; and is, therefore, the fruit of supernatural grace : but, in the prayer of contemplation, the inAux of the Holy Ghost excites the soul to divine love so powerfully, that external objects lose their natural operation on her: a kind of suspension of her faculties comes upon her, and she receives, passively and without any effort, on her side, of which she herself is sensible, the impressions which her contemplation of the deity, of his adorable perfection, and of his boundless love, makes in her: it is, in this sense, that the prayer of contemplation, particularly, is said to be passive.
Like the other stages of prayer, it has its degrees. In all of them the soul is rather passive than active; and, without any sensible exertion, receives an holy quiet and repose from the divine visitation. Exalted by his mercy to a pure and undisturbed contemplation of God, she beholds him infinite in his perfections: all goodness, all wisdom, all power. Abandoning herself to his will, and humbly confident in his mercy, she remains before him in silent adoration and love, without fear or desire, and indifferent to all that is not God, or the will of God. The highest degrees of this sublime prayer are called, by the writers on this subject, the prayer of quiet and the prayer of union. In the former, the intellect is more employed than in the latter. The prayer of union is the most sublime degree of prayer to be attained in this life, and in describing it, ordinary language, which the mystical writers have long found inadequate for the expression of their ideas, absolutely deserts him, and metaphor and allusion are his only support. The soul, as he describes it, then enters the cloud with Moses ; or, as Cardinal Bona expresses it, she is conducted into the vast solitude of the Divinity, and sees, and hears, and feels unutterable