Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Great Power of Love - Walter Hilton

The English mystic, Walter Hilton, who died in 1396, seems to have studied theology and canon law, and after that to have lived for a time as a hermit. Very little is known about him, except that he became an Augustinian canon at Thurgarton Priory in Nottinghamshire where he eventually died. He was a popular teacher of the Faith during the Middle Ages. The Scale of Perfection is the best known of his writings.  One of its themes is our purification and sanctification as part of growing into union with God. Hilton also affirms that an active life 'in the world' can be mixed with real contemplation, that anyone can draw closer to God if they only allow themselves to be drawn by his love.

The following passage was suggested by the Gospel at this morning's Mass (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48 on loving our enemies).

When love acts in the soul it does so wisely and gently, for it has great power to kill anger and envy, and all the passions of wrath and melancholy, and it brings into the soul the virtues of patience, gentleness, peaceableness, and friendliness to one's neighbour.

People guided only by their own reason find it very hard to be patient, peaceful, sweet-tempered and charitable to their neighbours when they treat them badly and wrong them. But true lovers of Jesus have no great difficulty in enduring all this, because love fights for them and kills such movements of wrath and melancholy with amazing ease.

Through the spiritual sight of Jesus it makes the souls of such people so much at ease and so peaceful, so ready to endure and so conformed to God, that if they are despised and disregarded by others, or suffer injustice or injury, shame or ill-treatment, they pay no attention. 

They are not greatly disturbed by these things and will not allow themselves to be, for then they would lose the comfort they feel in their souls, and that they are unwilling to do. They can more easily forget all the wrong that is done them than others can forgive it even when asked for forgiveness. They would rather forget than forgive, for that seems easier to them.

And it is love that does all this, for love opens the eye of the soul to the sight of Jesus, and confirms it in the pleasure and contentment of the love that comes from that sight. It comforts the soul so much that it is quite indifferent to what others do against it. The greatest harm that could befall such people would be to lose the spiritual sight of Jesus, and they would therefore suffer all other injuries than that one alone.

When true lovers of Jesus suffer harm from their neighbours, they are so strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit and are made so truly humble, so patient, and so peaceable, that they retain their humility no matter what harm or injury is inflicted on them.

They do not despise their neighbours or judge them, but they pray for them in their hearts, and feel more pity and compassion for them than for others who never harmed them, and in fact they love them better, and more fervently desire their salvation, because they see that they will have so much spiritual profit from their neighbours' deeds, though this was never their intention.

But this love and this humility, which are beyond human nature, come only from the Holy Spirit to those whom he makes true lovers of Jesus.

The Scale of Perfection II, 3, chapter 8 (modernised as per the blog of Fr Aidan Kimel). 


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