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exerpt from 
The Fire of Love
Richard Rolle

Translated by Clifton Wolters

(c) Clifton Wolters 1972, Penguin Books

No one attains supreme devotion quickly, or is refreshed by the sweetness of contemplation


It is obvious to those who are in love that no one attains the heights of devotion at once, or is ravished with contemplative sweetness.  In fact it is only very occasionally - and then only momentarily - that they are allowed to experience heavenly things; their progress to spiritual strength is a gradual one.  When they have attained the gravity of behaviour so necessary and have achieved a certain stability of mind - as much as changing circumstances permit - a certain perfection is acquired after great labour.  It is then that they can feel some joy in loving God.


Notwithstanding, it appears that all those who are mighty performers in virtue immediately and genuinely experience the warmth of uncreated or created charity, melt in the immense fire of love, and sing within their hearts the song of divine praise.  For this mystery is hidden from the many, the more sublime such a level is, the fewer - in this world - are those who find it.  Rarely in fact have we found a man who is so holy or even perfect in this earthly life endowed with love so great as to be raised up to contemplation to the level of jubilant song.  This would mean that he would receive within himself the sound that is sung in heaven, and that he would echo back the praises of God as it were in harmony, pouring forth sweet notes of music and composing spiritual songs as he offers his heavenly praises, and that he would truly experience in his heart the genuine fire of the love of God.  It would be surprising if anyone without such experience should claim the name of contemplative when the psalmist, speaking in character as the typical contemplative, exclaims, I will go into the house of the Lord, with the voice of praise and thanksgiving. [Ps. 42:4] The praise of course is the praise offered by the banqueter, one who is feeding on heavenly sweetness.


...Physically they may have sat in solitary state, but in mind they have companied with angels, and have yearned for their Beloved.  Now they sing most sweetly a prayer of love everlasting as they rejoice in Jesus:

O honeyed flame, sweeter than all sweet, delightful beyond all creation!

My God, my Love, surge over me, pierce me by your love, wound me with

     your beauty.

Surge over me, I say, who am longing for your comfort.

Reveal your healing medicine to your poor lover.

See, my one desire is for you; it is you my heart is seeking.

My soul pants for you; my whole being is athirst for you.

Yet you will not show yourself to me; you look away; you bar the door, shun me,

     pass me over;

You even laugh at my innocent sufferings.

And yet you snatch your lovers away from all earthly things.

You lift them above every desire for worldly matters.

You make them capable of loving you -

     and love you they do indeed.

So they offer you their praise in spiritual song

     which bursts out from that inner fire;

     they know in truth the sweetness of the dart of love.

Ah, eternal and most loveable of all joys,

     you raise us from the very depths,

     and entrance us with the sight of divine majesty so often!

Come into me, Beloved!

All ever I had I have given up for you;

     I have spurned all that was to be mine,

     that you might make your home in my heart,

     and I your comfort.

Do not forsake me now, smitten with such great longing,

     whose consuming desire is to be amongst those who love you.

Grant me to love you,

     to rest in you,

     that in your kingdom I may be worthy

     to appear before you world without end.