Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Book of the Three Dwelling-Places, Chapter 4

Book of the Three Dwelling-Places
By Saint Patrick

Chapter Four.
To depart from the broad way to the narrow path. The happiness of the Blessed, their knowledge, the condition of their love. Of the ineffable sweetness of the vision of God.


Therefore, it is braver to resist fleshly desires, and it is better to fight against the deceitful enticements of this world, and to be vigilant against the countless suggestions of Satan. For broad is the way of all those with a fondness for living, and this is the way which leads to death (Matthew 7:13). And truly, the desire of the whole heart is the narrow way that leads to life, which should be longed for and followed. This narrow way is the way of abstinence, and chastity, and humility, and all morality; Christ has set out this way before us, by this way he travelled to his kingdom. Let us also follow in his footsteps, until we arrive after him, into the royal city which he rules. Whatever man has said about this city is like a drop of the ocean, or like a spark in a fireplace. Anyone can see that the just shine forth from this city like the sun (Matthew 13:43), as the Lord said.

In that place, there will be the highest peace, the greatest ease, no work, no sadness, no poverty, and no old age, no death, and no night at all, no desire for food and no burning thirst; but the food and drink of all will be the vision of Christ and the holy Trinity, and the contemplation of that Divinity by the pure eye of the heart, and, let me say it, the perpetual reading of the Book of Life, that is, of eternal truth and highest wisdom, and the Word of God, which is the vision of Jesus Christ. Whereas now, He is hidden from us, there He will be shown most clearly; there, many other things will be made clear: the reason why this man is an elect, and that man is a reprobate; why this man is assumed into the kingdom and that man is reduced to slavery; why one child died in the womb, another in infancy, another in youth and another in old age; why one man is poor and another is rich; why a child born out of adultery is baptized, if another child, born from a legitimate marriage, dies before baptism; why he who starts his life well would ever end his life badly; and why he who starts life badly often finishes well. All these things, and many other things like them, will be made plain and apparent in the Book of Life.

In that city, the reward of a single person becomes the reward of all; and the reward of all, through charity, will become the reward of one. There, every good thing will be open to all. There, all people will know each other's thoughts. There, no proud man will be superior, and no envious man will be inferior. For how can someone be envious of anyone, when he esteems everyone else just as much as he esteems himself? Such a man would be jealous of no one. In Heaven, no one will desire to be better or superior than he already is, for it would be improper for the citizens of heaven to be in any way different from the way they already are. They are how they are, because they deserved to become that way. Therefore, the person who is in heaven will not desire to be something other than what he is, but instead, he will desire to be what he deserves to be; that is to say, he will be excellent, not only by himself alone, but also in the universal body of the Heavenly Church. For in a body, if any part is set higher or lower than where it is by nature, the body becomes monstrous and hideous; doubtless, in the same way, if anyone in the kingdom of God is placed higher than where morality and the will of the all-powerful creator demand he should be placed, it creates hideousness, not only on himself, but on the whole congregation. Further, he who is the least in Heaven, without a doubt, will have greater glory than he who owns the entire Earth, even if he could live forever. For it is very cheap and worthless is to take delight in simple things, to be delighted both by visible and physical things, in comparison to taking delight in and rejoicing in God himself. For such is the beauty of justice, such is the joy of eternal life (which is unchanging truth and wisdom), that even if we were not allowed to remain in Heaven for more than one day, we would scorn a life on Earth, a life full of delights and countless years, and we would scorn in having continual bodily goods and favors. For not with false or with little love was it written: One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 83:11).

Nothing is to be compared to the delight and rejoicing that is born from invisible and incorporeal things, and from the society of the angels and all the just, and from the sound knowledge and contemplation of that divine nature, and the face-to-face vision from God himself. God, whose beauty the angels admire, by whose power the dead are lifted up, whose wisdom is not to be numbered (Psalm 146:5), whose kingdom knows no end, whose glory cannot be told; whose light obscures the sun so much that, in comparison to Him, the sun has no light; whose sweetness so transcends honey that, being compared with Him, honey tastes like the bitterest wormwood. If all those imprisoned in the jail of Hell saw God's face, they would feel no punishment, no grief, and no sadness; if his presence, with the holy ones, appeared in Hell, it would immediately be converted into a pleasant paradise.

God, without whose approval, not even a leaf falls from a tree; whose eyes penetrate the fiery depth of hell; whose ears hear the silent voice of the heart, that is, the thoughts of the heart; whose eyes hear as well as see, and whose ears see as well as hear, because they are not physical body parts, but they are the highest knowledge and certain thought. God, whose delights satisfy the hungry without any distaste: the blessed are found with God's delights, but they still always long for them; God's delights create hunger and thirst without pain, and they always satisfy the burning desire. Seeing God's wonderful secrets, they are always new and marvelous, creating amazement in their discerners, no more than when they start to be seen than after a thousand years, or after a thousand times a thousand years. And with the angels who have been accustomed to see them even from the beginning of the world, they still admire them today no less than they did on the first day; otherwise, the knowledge of the angels seeing God just now would seem cheap, compared to the hearts of the angels who have constantly been seeing God. God, whose knowledge of past and future things, is not in the past and in the future, but is in the present.

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1) There are three different variations of one sentence in this chapter.

1. Ibi omnium bonum omnibus patebit.
2. Ibi omnium bonorum copia omnibus patebit.
3. Ibi omne bonum omnibus patebit.

In English, the three variations mean this:

1. There, all the good will be open to all.
2. There, the abundance of all good things will be open to all.
3. There, every good thing will be open to all.

Sentence #1 is generally agreed to be the correct one, but in the translation, I used sentence #3, because it sounds more natural to English speakers.

2) One sentence near the end of the first paragraph--"For it is very cheap and worthless is to take delight in simple things, in comparison to taking delight in and rejoicing in God himself..."--is taken, almost word-for-word, from St. Augustine's 44th sermon. Some manuscripts do not have this sentence.

3) The final sentence, in Latin, is "Cujus cognitionis præterita et futura, (non præterita et futura, sed) præsentia sunt." Some manuscripts omit the five words in parenthesis. In English, this is equal to "God, whose knowledge of past and future things, (is not in the past and in the future, but) is in the present."

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