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The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, by Jan van Ruysbroeck, [1916], at





Now mark this with diligence: a threefold unity is found in all men by nature, and also in all good men according to a supernatural manner.

The first and highest unity of man is in God; for all creatures depend upon this unity for their being, their life, and their preservation; and if they be separated in this wise from God, they fall into the nothingness and become nought. This unity is in us essentially, by nature, whether we be good or evil. And without our own working it makes us neither holy nor blessed. This unity we possess within us and yet above us, as the ground and the preserver of our being and of our life.

The second unity or union is also in us by nature. It is the unity of our higher powers; forasmuch as these spring naturally as active powers from the unity of the mind or of the spirit. This is that same unity which depends upon God; but with this difference, that here it is active and there essential. Nevertheless, the spirit is wholly and perfectly understood according to the fulness of its substance, in each unity. This unity we possess within us, above our senses; and from it there proceed memory, understanding, and will, and all the powers of ghostly action. In this unity, the soul is called "spirit."

The third unity which is in us by nature is the source of all the bodily powers, in the unity of the heart; origin and beginning of the bodily life. This unity the soul possesses in the body and in the quickening centre of the heart, and therefrom flow forth all bodily activities, and the five senses. And therein the soul is called "soul"; for it is the forming principle of the body, and quickens this carcase; that is, gives it life and keeps it therein.

These three unities abide in man by nature as one life and one kingdom. In the lowest we are sensible and animal; in the middle we are rational and spiritual; and in the highest we are kept according to our essence. And thus are all men by nature.

Now these three unities, as one kingdom and one eternal dwelling-place, are adorned and inhabited in a supernatural way by the moral virtues through charity and the active life. And they are still more gloriously adorned and more excellently perfected by inward exercises united with a spiritual life. But they are most gloriously and blessedly adorned by a supernatural and contemplative life.

The lowest unity, being of the body, is supernaturally adorned and perfected through outward works and moral perfection, according to the way of Christ and His saints: and through bearing the cross with Christ, and through subordinating nature discreetly according to its powers to the commandments of Holy Church and to the doctrines of the saints.

The second unity, being in the spirit and wholly spiritual, is supernaturally adorned and perfected through the three divine virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity; and through the inflow of the grace and the gifts of God; and through a good-will to follow the examples of Christ and Holy Christendom in all virtues.

The third and highest unity is above the comprehension of our reason, and yet essentially within us. We possess it in a supernatural way when in all our works of virtue we have in mind the praise and glory of God, and above all aims, above ourselves, and above all things would rest only in Him. This is that unity wherefrom we have come forth as creatures, and wherein, according to our being, we are at home. And by means of the virtues here named, these three unities are adorned in the active life.

Now we will show how these three unities are more highly adorned and more nobly fostered through an inward exercise joined to the active life. Whenever a man, because of his charity and his upright intention, lifts himself up with all his works and with his whole life toward the glory and the praise of God, ever seeking to rest in God above all things: then, in humble patience and self-surrender, yet with a sure trust, he will await new riches and new gifts, but without anxiety as to whether it be God's good pleasure to give or not to give.

In this way one prepares and makes oneself ready to enter on the inward and God-desiring life. And, when the vessel is made ready, then the noble vintage is poured into it. And there is no vessel more noble than the loving soul, neither a vintage more wholesome than the grace of God. So a man should devote all his acts and all life to God, with a simple and upright intention directed to God; and should rest, above intentions, and above himself, and above all things in that most high unity, in which God and the loving spirit are united without intermediary.

Next: Chapter III. Of the Inflow of the Grace of God into Our Spirit