John of Ruysbroeck
OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE
BOOK I THE ACTIVE LIFE
OUT of the same source wherein
meekness takes its rise [Chapter
XVI] springs kindliness, for none can be kind save the meek man.
This kindness makes a man show a
friendly face, and give a cordial response, and do compassionate deeds, to
those who are quarrelsome, when he hopes that they will come to know
themselves and mend their ways.
By gentleness and kindness,
charity is kept quick and fruitful in man, for a heart full of kindness is
like a lamp full of precious oil; for the oil of mercy enlightens the erring
sinner with good example, and with words and works of comfort it anoints and
heals those whose hearts are wounded or grieved or perplexed. And it is a
fire and a light for those who dwell in the virtues, in the fire of charity;
and neither jealousy nor envy can perturb it.
OUT of kindliness springs
compassion, which is a fellow-feeling with all men; for none can share the
griefs of all, save him who is kind.
Compassion is an inward movement
of the heart, stirred by pity for the bodily and ghostly griefs of all men.
This compassion makes a man suffer with Christ in His passion; for he who is
compassionate marks the wherefore of His pains and the way of His
resignation; of His love, His wounds, His tenderness; of His grief and His
nobleness; of the disgrace, the misery, and the shame He endured; of the way
in which He was despised; of His crown; of the nails; of His
mercifulness; of His destruction and dying in patience. These manifold and
unheard-of sorrows of Christ, our Saviour and our Bridegroom, move all
kindly men to pity and compassion with Christ.
Compassion makes a man look into
himself, and recognize his faults, his feebleness in virtues and in the
worship of God, his lukewarmness, his laziness, his many failings, the time
he has wasted and his present imperfection in moral and other virtues; all
this makes a man feel true pity and compassion for himself. Further,
compassion marks the errors and disorders of our fellow-creatures, how
little they care for their God and their eternal blessedness, their,
ingratitude for all the good things which God has done for them, and the
pains He suffered for their sake; how they are strangers to virtue,
unskilled and unpractised in it, but skilful and cunning in every
wickedness; how attentive they are to the loss and gain of earthly goods,
how careless and reckless they are of God, of eternal things, and their
eternal bliss. When he marks this, a good man is moved to compassion for
the salvation of all men.
Such a man will also regard with
pity the bodily needs of his neighbours, and the manifold sufferings of
human nature; seeing men hungry, thirsty, cold, naked, sick, poor, and
abject; the manifold oppressions of the poor, the grief caused by loss of
kinsmen, friends, goods, honour, peace; all the countless sorrows which
befall the nature of man. These things move the just to compassion, so that
they share the sorrows of all. But their greatest pain springs from this:
that men are so impatient of this suffering, that they lose their reward,
and may often earn hell for themselves. Such is the work of compassion and
This work of compassion and of
common neighbourly love overcomes and casts out the third mortal sin, that
is hatred or Envy. For compassion is a wound in the heart, whence flows a
common love to all mankind and which cannot be healed so long as any
suffering lives in man; for God has ordained grief and sorrow of heart
before all the virtues. And this is why Christ says: BLESSED ARE THEY THAT
MOURN: FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED. And that shall come to pass when they
reap in joy that which now, through compassion and pity, they sow in tears.