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The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage

Jan van Ruysbroeck

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Jan van Ruysbroeck was a Flemish mystic. He led a life of asuterity, eventually founding a congregation in Groenendaal. His writings were widely circulated in his lifetime and he influenced an entire generation of Christian mystics. He was beatified on December 1st, 1908, by Pope St. Pius X. The writings here include The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, The Sparkling Stone, and, The Book of Supreme Truth.

This book has 256 pages in the PDF version. This edition was originally published in 1916.

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Excerpt from 'The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage'

Since the time of Adam, Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, has said to all men, and He says so still, inwardly according to His Divinity: Behold. And this beholding is needful. Now mark this well: that for anyone who wishes to see, either in a bodily or a ghostly manner, three things are necessary.

The first thing is that, if a man will see bodily and outwardly, he must have the outward light of heaven, or some other material light, to illuminate the medium, that is, the air, through which he will see. The second thing is, that he must permit the things which he wishes to see to be reflected in his eyes. And the third thing is that the organs, the eyes, must be sound and flawless, so that gross bodily things can be subtly reflected in them. If a man lack any of these three things his bodily sight is wanting. Of this sight, however, we shall say nothing more; but we shall speak of a ghostly and supernatural sight, in which all our bliss abides.

For all who wish to see in a ghostly and supernatural manner three things also are needful. The first is the light of Divine grace; the second is a free turning of the will to God, the third is a conscience clean from any mortal sin.

Now mark this: God being a common good, and His boundless love being common to all, He gives His grace in two ways: prevenient grace, and the grace by which one merits eternal life. Prevenient grace is common to all men, Pagan and Jew, good and evil. By reason of His common love, which God has towards all men, He has caused His name and the redemption of human nature to be preached and revealed to the uttermost parts of the earth. Whosoever wishes to turn to Him can turn to Him. All the sacraments, baptism and every other sacrament are made ready for all men who wish to receive them according to the needs of each; for God wishes to save all men and to lose not one. At the day of Judgment, no one shall be able to complain that, had he wished to be converted, but little was done for him. Thus God is a common light and a common splendour enlightening heaven and earth, and every man, each according to his need and worth. 

But although, even as God is common to all, the sun shines upon all trees, yet many a tree remains without fruits, and many a tree brings forth wild fruits of little use to men. And for this reason such trees are pruned, and shoots of fruitful trees are grafted into them, so that they may bear good fruits, savoury and useful to man.

The light of Divine grace is a fruit-bearing shoot, coming forth from the living paradise of the eternal kingdom; and no deed can bring refreshment or profit to man if it be not born of this shoot. This shoot of Divine grace, which makes man pleasing to God, and through which he merits eternal life, is offered to all men. But it is not grafted into all, because some will not cut away the wild branches of their trees; that is, unbelief, and a perverse and disobedient will opposed to the commandments of God.

But if this shoot of God's grace is to be grafted into our souls, there must be of necessity three things: the prevenient grace of God, the conversion of one's own free will, and the purification of conscience. The prevenient grace touches all men, God bestowing it upon all men. But not all men give on their part the conversion of the will and the purification of conscience; and that is why so many lack the grace of God, through which they should merit eternal life.

The prevenient grace of God touches a man from without and from within. From without through sickness; or through the loss of external goods, of kinsmen, and of friends; or through public disgrace. Or he may be stirred by a sermon, or by the examples of the saints or of good men, their words, or their deeds; so that he learns to recognize himself as he is. This is how God touches a man from without.

Sometimes a man is touched also from within, through remembering the sorrows and the sufferings of our Lord, and the good which God has bestowed upon him and upon all other men; or by considering his sins, the shortness of life, the fear of death and the fear of hell, the eternal torments of hell and the eternal joy of heaven, and how God has spared him in his sins and has awaited his conversion. Or he may ponder the marvellous works of God in heaven and in earth, and in all creatures. Such are the workings of the prevenient grace of God, stirring men from without and from within, in many ways. And besides this, man has a natural tendency towards God, because of the spark of the soul, and because of that highest reason, which always desires the good and hates the evil. In all these ways God touches all men, each one according to his need; so that at times a man is smitten, reproved, alarmed, and stands still within himself to consider himself. And all this is still prevenient grace, and not yet efficacious grace. Thus does prevenient grace prepare the soul for the reception of the other grace, through which eternal life is merited. For when the soul has thus got rid of evil willing and evil doing, it is perplexed and smitten with fear of what it should do, considering itself, its wicked works, and God. And from this there arise a natural repentance of its sins and a natural good-will. Such is the highest work of prevenient grace.

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