John Ruusbroec: Zaccheus (1) Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

A man who lives this life in its perfection, as it has here been shown, and who is offering up his whole life, and all his works, to the worship and praise of God, and who wills and loves God above all things, is often stirred by a desire to see, to know, and to prove what, in Himself, this Bridegroom Christ is;

Who for man’s sake became man and laboured in love unto death, and delivered us from sin and the devil, and has given us Himself and His grace, and left us His sacraments, and has promised us His kingdom and Himself as an eternal wage;

Who also gives us all that is needful for the body, and inward consolation and sweetness, and innumerable gifts of all kinds, according to the needs of each.

When a man beholds all this, he feels an unmeasured impulse to see Christ his Bridegroom, and to know Him as He is in Himself. Though he knows Him in His works, this does not seem to him enough.

Then he must do as the publican Zaccheus did, who longed to see Jesus, who He was. He must run before the crowd, that is the multiplicity of creatures; for these make us so little and so low that we cannot see God.

And he must climb up into the tree of faith, which grows from above downwards, for its roots are in the Godhead. This tree has twelve branches, which are the twelve articles of faith.

The lower speak of the Divine Humanity, and of those things which belong to our salvation of soul and of body.

The upper part of the tree tells of the Godhead, of the Trinity of Persons, and of the Unity of the Nature of God.

And the man must cling to that unity, in the highest part of the tree; for there it is that Jesus must pass with all His gifts.

John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1,26.

John Ruusbroec: Generosity of Heart Friday, Oct 30 2009 

Generosity is a liberal flowing forth of the heart which has been touched by charity and pity.

When a man considers with compassion the sufferings and the sorrows of Christ, springs generosity from there; which makes him offer to Christ, for His pains and for His love, praise and thanks, worship and adoration, with a joyful and humble surrender of body and soul, in time and in eternity.

If a man considers himself with compassion, and has pity on himself, and thinks upon the good which God has done to him, and his own failings: then he must pour himself forth into the generosity of God, taking refuge in His faithfulness and His mercy, turning to Him with trust and with a perfect and free intention to serve Him for evermore.

And the generous man who sees the errors and disorders of others, and their unrighteousness, beseeches and prays God, with ardent faith, that He will let His divine gifts flow forth, that He will show His generosity to all men, and they may know Him and turn to the Truth.

The generous man also marks with compassion the bodily needs of all men, and he serves, and he gives, and he lends, and he consoles everyone, according to the needs of each, in so far as he is able, with prudent discretion.

Because of this generosity men are wont to practise the seven works of mercy; the rich do them by their alms and because of their riches, the poor by their good-will and by their hearty desire to do as the rich if they could. And thus the virtue of generosity is made perfect.

By generosity of heart all other virtues are increased, and all the powers of the soul are adorned; for the generous man is always blithe in spirit and untroubled of heart, and he flows forth with desire and in his works of virtue, to all men in common.

Whosoever is generous, and loves not earthly goods however poor he be, he is like God: for all that he has in himself, and all that he feels, flow forth and are given away. And in this way he has cast out the fourth mortal sin, which is covetousness or avarice.

Of all such Christ says: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy in that day when they shall hear these words: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you – because of your mercy – from the foundation of the world.

John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1,19.

John Ruusbroec: Christ in the Valley of Humility Monday, Oct 19 2009 

Now understand this: when the sun sends its beams and its radiance into a deep valley between two high mountains, and, standing in the zenith, can yet shine upon the bottom and ground of the valley, then three things happen: the valley becomes full of light by reflection from the mountains, and it receives more heat, and becomes more fruitful, than the plain and level country.

And so likewise, when a good man takes his stand upon his own littleness, in the most lowly part of himself, and confesses and knows that he has nothing, and is nothing, and can nothing, of himself, neither stand still nor go on, and when he sees how often he fails in virtues and good works: then he confesses his poverty and his helplessness, then he makes a valley of humility.

And when he is thus humble, and needy, and knows his own need; he lays his distress, and complains of it, before the bounty and the mercy of God. And so he marks the sublimity of God and his own lowliness; and thus he becomes a deep valley.

And Christ is a Sun of righteousness and also of mercy, Who stands in the highest part of the firmament, that is, on the right hand of the Father, and from thence He shines into the bottom of the humble heart; for Christ is always moved by helplessness, whenever a man complains of it and lays it before Him with humility.

Then there arise two mountains, that is, two desires; one to serve God and praise Him with reverence, the other to attain noble virtues. Those two mountains are higher than the heavens, for these longings touch God without intermediary, and crave His ungrudging generosity. And then that generosity cannot withhold itself, it must flow forth; for then the soul is made ready to receive, and to hold, more gifts.

These are the wherefore, and the way of the new coming with new virtues. Then, this valley, the humble heart, receives three things: it becomes more radiant and enlightened by grace, it becomes more ardent in charity, and it becomes more fruitful in perfect virtues and in good works.

John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, Book 1,6

John Ruusbroec: Compassion Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

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 of pity.

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.


John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1,18

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