A short but formidable Lenten meditation on the "sweet gifts of God" - poverty suffering and contempt - by Saint Angela of Foligno. “For these three things were with Him in all places, at all times, and in all His deeds, and likewise with His mother, that is to say, they did bear the utmost poverty, suffering, and contempt.”
OF THE MOST SWEET GIFTS OF GOD, POVERTY, CONTEMPT, AND SUFFERING; AND OF OTHER PERFECTIONS.
THESE are the sweet gifts of God, and whosoever does fully obtain them may know himself to be perfected and consummated in the most sweet God, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to be perfected in him through transformation. And the more perfect man is in these things, the more wholly will he be transformed in Jesus Christ.
The first is the love of poverty, whereby the soul puts away from itself the love of every creature; for it desires not the possession of any save of the Lord Jesus Christ, it trusts not in the help of any creature whatsoever in this life; and thus does love of Him not only reign alone in the heart, but is also shown forth in the works.
The second is the desire to be despised, scorned, and hated of every creature, and the wish that every creature should esteem the soul worthy of disgrace, so that none should have compassion on it. It should desire likewise to be cherished in the heart of none save of God alone, and by Him alone to be held in good repute.
The third is the desire to feel all the sufferings, burdens, and griefs borne by the heart and body of the most sweet Jesus Christ and His tender mother, and that all creatures should inflict upon the soul those same unending woes. And if it feels not able to desire these three things, it may know itself to be very far removed from the likeness of Christ. For these three things were with Him in all places, at all times, and in all His deeds, and likewise with His mother, that is to say, they did bear the utmost poverty, suffering, and contempt.
The fourth is that each person should deem himself unworthy of so much good; that he should know that he could never have these things of his own self; and the more abundantly he has them, the more must he deem himself to lack them, for whoso thinks to possess the thing beloved does thereby lose the Beloved Himself. Wherefore must we never deem ourselves to have attained unto it, but must ever consider that we are beginning anew, that we have as yet achieved nothing and have obtained none of these things.
The fifth is, that the soul should strive constantly to reflect how these things were always in the Lord Jesus Christ, ever imploring God with fervent prayers that He would clothe its heart anew and give it these companions, and asking naught else; that it should find all its joy in this life in the perfect transformation of all these things and strive ever to rise unto the thought of how the heart of the most sweet Jesus was full thereof, yea, running over and infinitely more full than He did show forth in His body.
The sixth is, that it must flee as though from a pestilence from all who hinder it from attaining unto these things, whether it be a carnal or spiritual person, and all the things of this world which it holds to be unlike or contrary unto that good thing must it hold in horror and flee from them as from a serpent.
The seventh is, that it pronounce no judgment upon any other creature whatsoever, nor seek to judge others, as saith the Gospel, it must esteem itself more vile than all others (howsoever evil they may be), and unworthy of the grace of God. It must know, moreover, that whosoever strives to possess these three things in this present life and mortal struggle will possess God in fullness here after.
Thus is the soul wholly united with God by transformation. God doth give us of His transformation in this life in order that we may share His humility, poverty, and pain. For the soul should desire no other consolations in this life, not even spiritual ones, save perchance for the healing of its infirmity. But it should desire only the perfect crucifixion of Christ, the Poor, the Suffering, and Despised.
Taken from Chapter 38 of The Book of Divine Consolation, by St. Angela of Foligno.
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