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On Cleaving To God
Chapter 9

How much the contemplation of God is to be preferred to all other exercises

   Now since all things other than God are the effect and work of the
   Creator himself, their having ability and being is a limited power and
   existence, and being as they are created out of nothing, they are
   circumscribed by the effects of their nothingness, while their tendency
   of themselves towards nothingness means that we receive our existence,
   preservation and activity moment by moment from the Creator himself,
   along with whatever other qualities created things may have, just as we
   receive their insufficiency to any action of themselves, both with
   regard to themselves and to others, in relation to him whose operation
   they are, they remain as a nothing before something which exists, and
   as something finite before what is infinite. For this reason let all
   our actual contemplation, life and activity take place in him alone,
   about him, for him and towards him who is able and capable to produce
   with a single nod of his will things infinitely more perfect than any
   that exist now. No contemplation and fruition of love, whether
   intellectual or affective, is more useful, more perfect and more
   satisfying than that which is of God himself, the Creator, our supreme
   and true Good, from whom, through whom and to whom are all things. He
   is infinitely satisfying both to himself and to all others, who
   contains within himself in absolute simplicity and from all eternity
   the perfection of all things, in whom there is nothing which is not
   himself, before whom and through whom remain the causes of all things
   impermanent, and in whom dwell the unchanging origins of all changing
   things, while even the eternal reasons of all temporal things, rational
   and irrational, abide in him. He brings everything to completion, and
   fills all things, in general and in particular, completely and
   essentially with himself. He is more intimately and more really present
   to everything by his being than each thing is to itself, for in him all
   things are united together, and live in him eternally. What is more, if
   someone, out of weakness or from lack of intellectual practice, is
   detained longer in the contemplation of created things, this supreme,
   true and fruitful contemplation may still be seen as possible for
   mortal man, so that there may take place an upward leap in all his
   contemplations and meditations, whether about created things or the
   Creator, and the appreciation of God the Creator himself, the One and
   Three, may surge up within so that he come to burn with the fire of
   divine love and the true life in himself and in others, in such a way
   as to make him deserving of the joy of eternal life. Even in this one
   should bear in mind the difference between the contemplation of
   faithful Catholics and that of pagan philosophers, for the
   contemplation of the philosophers is for the perfection of the
   contemplator himself, and consequently it is confined to the intellect
   and their aim in it is intellectual knowledge. But the contemplation of
   the Saints, and of Catholics, is for the love of him, that is of the
   God they are contemplating. As a result it is not confined in the final
   analysis to the intellect in knowledge, but crosses over into the will
   through love. That is why the Saints in their contemplation have the
   love of God as their principal aim, since it is more satisfying to know
   and possess even the Lord Jesus Christ spiritually through grace than
   physically or even really but without grace. Furthermore, while the
   soul is withdrawn from everything and is turned within, the eye of
   contemplation is opened and sets itself up a ladder by which it can
   pass to the contemplation of God. By this contemplation the soul is set
   on fire for eternal things by the heavenly and divine good things it
   experiences, and views all the things of time from a distance and as if
   they were nothing. Hence when we approach God by the way of negation,
   we first deny him everything that can be experienced by the body, the
   senses and the imagination, secondly even things experienceable by the
   intellect, and finally even being itself in so far as it is found in
   created things. This, so far as the nature of the way is concerned, is
   the best means of union with God, according to Dionysius. And this is
   the cloud in which God is said to dwell, which Moses entered, and
   through this came to the inaccessible light. Certainly, it is not the
   spiritual which comes first, but the natural, (1 Corinthians 15.46) so
   one must proceed by the usual order of things, from active work to the
   quiet of contemplation, and from moral virtues to spiritual and
   contemplative realities. Finally, my soul, why are you uselessly
   preoccupied with so many things, and always busy with them? Seek out
   and love the one supreme good, in which is all that is worth seeking,
   and that will be enough for you. Unhappy therefore is he who knows and
   possesses everything other than this, and does not know this. While if
   he knows everything as well as this, it is not from knowing them that
   he is better off but because of This. That is why John says, This is
   eternal life, to know Thee, etc. (John 17.3) and the prophet says, I
   will be satisfied when your glory becomes manifest. (Psalm 17.15)
     







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