After a biography of Blessed John Ruysbroeck we come to the heart of the books itself. THIS book touches the culminating point of the trilogy formed by the three treatises addressed by the author to the same person. Certain indications prove this to have been Margaret of Meerbeke, Precentor in the Convent of the Poor Clares at Brussels. The manuscripts do not contain any precise affirmation on this point, it is true, but the title of chapter xii., "Of Celestial Melodies," seems to allude to the charge filled by the Religious in her Convent. Besides, the whole of the treatise sufficiently shows that the writer is address ing one person in particular, and the counsels that he gives her, although applicable to any soul aspiring to perfection, belong more particularly to the Religious state. The form and name of the book is by no means new in mystical literature. The mysterious ladder which appeared to Jacob, flying from the anger of his brother Esau, has often served to illustrate the way to be travelled by the soul from earth to Heaven. This illustration is found in use from times of primitive Christianity-witness the Acts of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity. St. Benedict makes use of it in his Rule where he speaks of twelve degrees of Humility, and St. John Climacus at a later date develops the same thought in his book entitled the Ladder of Holiness. But it was, perhaps, principally from St. Bonaventura that Blessed John Ruysbroeck borrowed the idea of spiritual steps. His object, like that of the Seraphic Doctor, is to raise a ladder of Sanctity, of which the seven rungs, or degrees, lead up to God, and to a love so elevated as to be called transformation and quietude. At such a height Divine Love resembles Eternity, and it is sometimes difficult to decide if Blessed John Ruysbroeck is speaking of Eternity, or ifhe is still among things of time. The different halting- places from which the soul climbs to these extreme heights are those of Goodwill, Voluntary Poverty, Purity, Humility, and Nobility of Virtue. At this Fifth step Blessed John Ruysbroeck stops, and in the next seven chapters studies the different ways of exercising this love, with the aid of the Angelic Hierarchy, attentively lending their help thereto. He explains two ways that lead to God, adding warnings against the illusions of a false Mysticism, and finally describes the Four Modes of Celestial Song. The Sixth step is called by the author the" Return to the Primitive Purity of the Intellect." One of the thoughts recurring most frequently in BlessedJohn Ruysbroeck's writings is that the Soul is never wholly created, but that as the Son of God is spiritually conceived and brought forth at every instant, so, too, the Soul is created each moment, without ceasing to be in can tact with its Origin, ceaselessly receiving of His Essence, and formed by Him to' the uncreated image and example, ever in the Eternal Mind, of each one of us. Perfection and Beatitude consist in returning absolutely to this uncreated Ideal; not by a confusion of our created Being with the Divinity, nor by a transformation of Essence, which would partake of the errors of Pantheism. It is not a question of abdicating our created Being and transforming it essentially into the uncreated and Superessential, in which, in the Divine Mind, we have been from all Eternity, for this would lead to Quietism by Pantheism; but, what is quite another matter, it means a return and transformation by Knowledge and by Love of all our Being to that Ideal which God has of us.
Blessed John Ruysbroeck, Brother Hermenegild TOSF Mother St. Jerome, Paperback Lrg edition, ISBN 10: 1497535212, ISBN 13: 9781497535213