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Richard of St. Victor

From The Twelve Patriarchs

Translated by Grover A. Zinn

(c) 1979 by the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in the State of New York

Paulist Press

How joyful and sweet it is to have the grace of contemplation habitually

Certainly Benjamin freely lingers in such churches [for more, see the previous chapter] and is wonderfully delighted. When he is no longer able to contain himself because of joy he is led above himself and by ecstasy of mind is raised to the summit.  Unless our Benjamin rests delightfully in the contemplation of inner things, without doubt it would not have been written of him by Moses: "Benjamin, the most beloved of the Lord, shall live in him fearlessly, shall dwell the whole day as if in a bridal chamber, and shall rest in his arms" (Deut. 33:12).  What do you think is the reason that Benjamin lingers all day in the bridal chamber, that he rests there unceasingly so much that he does not wish to go out even for an hour?  We know this, that the bridegroom and the bride are accustomed to remain together in the bridal chamber, yielding in love, holding each other in mutual embraces, and cherishing with alternating love.  Therefore whoever that one beloved of our Benjamin may be, unless I am mistaken she flourishes with the privilege of wonderful beauty and singular form.  Her intimate company he is never able to dislike and from her embraces he will not wish to be absent for an hour.  But if now we come to know the voice of this Benjamin, we cannot doubt at all that his beloved is of so much beauty: "I said to wisdom, you are my sister, and I called prudence my friend" (Prov. 7:4).  Do you wish to hear how he cannot dislike the beauty of his beloved whom he calls sister and friend on account of a spotless and most burning love? "Entering into my dwelling, I shall rest with her.  For association with her has no bitterness, her company has no tediousness but rather joy and delight, and in her friendship there is good pleasure" (Wisd. 8:16, 18).  Let each person say what he feels.  I find no other reason that would keep him held so fast within that he is not able to go out even for a short time.  However, I know one thing, that whoever is inflamed with longing for such a friend, the more intimately he knows her, the greater he loves; and the more frequently he enjoys her embraces, the more vehemently he burns with longing for her.  Indeed her regular company certainly is accustomed not to diminish but to increase desire and to kindle more sharply the flame of love.  Therefore it is no wonder that Benjamin himself, who enjoys the sweetness of such a bride, dwells the whole day as if in a bridal chamber and, resting within her arms, is delighted continually by her love.  How often do you think he experiences ecstasy of mind; how often, being snatched up in ecstasy, is he led above himself when after being stunned by the greatness of her beauty he is suspended in admiration of it?  Without doubt what is written of him is fulfilled: "Benjamin a youth in ecstasy of mind."

It certainly should be noted how the testimonies of Scripture come together.  For what the Prophet expresses by the death of Rachel, the Evangelist designates by the falling down of the disciples, and the Psalmist expresses in Benjamin by ecstasy of mind.