How Many Think They are Holy and are Deceived
[Extracted from Love's Gradatory, by Blessed John Ruysbroeck, R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1914.]
How Many Think They are Holy and are Deceived
ONE meets many persons full of self-complacency, imagining they lead a holy life and are great before God, yet who deceive themselves in many ways; for those who are neither detached from self-will, nor mortified in their natural life, can have no experience in the life of Grace, nor be tested before the Divine Majesty. They may be endowed with intelligence and of a subtile reason, but self-complacency and seeking to please men are a turning away from God, and at the same time the principle root of all sin. Such men strive to be above others, above everyone, if possible. They will never submit sincerely to another, but desire, on the contrary, that all give way before what appears to them to be right. They are disagreeable, full of self, and will always prove their case against those who disagree with them. They are easily put out, discontented, irascible, susceptible, bad, hard and haughty, in word, act, and manner; it is impossible to live in peace with them—indeed, they have no peace in themselves, since they think only of spying upon and passing judgment on everyone except themselves.
Always full of suspicions and malicious thoughts, with nothing but displeasure, interior spite and rancour for those who do not please them, they are ceaselessly tortured and restless, believing they know and do better than all the world. Full of zeal to instruct others, to teach, correct, reprove, they will not endure to be taught or reproved by anyone, since they believe they are the wisest of all. Tyrannical and contemptuous towards inferiors and equals when they do not receive what they consider their due, they are, besides, quarrelsome and imperious, often scoffing with bitter harshness, for they are without the unction of the Spirit. They willingly put themselves forward among honest folk, believing they are authorized to speak before any, so wise are they in their own eyes. Beneath a humble exterior they hide Pride and cover Hate by the appearance of Justice; they show great affability and respect to those who flatter and give way to them; they cannot show too much solicitude, attention, and care for their own concerns, rejoicing or mourning, as is the way of the world, according as good or ill overtakes their temporal interests. Praise or blame them to the face, and you soon see of what sort they are, having neither care nor anxiety but for what touches them: sickness, death, hell, purgatory, the judgments of God and His justice; entirely preoccupied with themselves, with the fear and dread of all that can happen to them, loving self as they do in such an inordinate way, instead of for God and in God. Consequently they are restless and constrained, confused before the Face of God, full of solicitude and fear for worldly interests, under the feet of unbelievers for fear that life and riches be taken from them, that their goods be stolen or confiscated, or that they are not paid. They dread to become poor, miserable, despised, old and ill, without consolation, comforts, and friends; such inordinate and foolish cares nourish a state of avarice, and lead sometimes to actual madness.
Even in the sacerdotal Orders and the Religious state persons of this kind are to be met with, still full of self-will and absolutely immortified; always dreading that a Superior or Prelate should interfere with their way of living, or disturb them without sufficient consideration, as they know well that they could not endure such a thing. All sorts of imaginations run in their heads about those whom they believe to be hostile; such as: "If such a one became my Superior, how could I ever submit to and obey him? He dislikes me, he would oppress and despise me in every way, and all his friends would take his part against me." These sort of anxieties sour the blood, cause irritation and murmuring: "It is quite impossible—I should lose my senses, or have to leave the Cloister."
Such are the silly fears, immoderate prudence and foresight, coming from a depth of Pride. Should they become Superior, they would surely oppress and despise all who opposed their opinion, or did not yield to their good pleasure, for they fancy they govern and order things far better and more wisely than any other. Frequently they criticize interiorly their Superiors and others set over them, and do the same in word to any disposed to listen. Praise of others is painful to them, for they imagine they are therefore less esteemed, nor will they admit of superiority in others who know and profess less than they do. Such, in fact, are those who esteem themselves wiser and more prudent than any about them, while they are really inapt and incapable of attaining true Holiness.
Let each prove himself, examining his mind and natural inclinations, to see if there is nothing found in him that should be eliminated and overcome in order to acquire true Holiness. To die to sin is to live to God, to be emptied of self and detached from all that pleases or displeases, leads to the Kingdom of God; heart and desire must close to things of earth to open to God and things eternal, if we desire to taste and see that the Lord is sweet.
If we would God discern,
The world we must despise,
His love and hate must learn,
See all things with His eyes.
And we must self forgo
If God we would attain,
His grace must in us grow
And ease us from all pain.
So shall we sing His praise
And be at one with Him,
In peace our voices raise
In the celestial hymn,
That with quadruple harmony
And all mellifluous melody,
In Heaven resounds eternally.