§§ 2, 3, 4, 5. Here is treated of smaller impatiences chiefly, scarce observable but by recollected livers.
§ 6. Patience to be exercised at all times, even in joy and prosperity.
§§ 7, 8, 9. We ought to aspire to an indifference.
§ 10. Patience towards God afflicting us is easier than towards man.
§§ 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. Seven degrees of patience.
§ 19. Examples of seemingly extravagant kinds of patience.
§ 20. Prayer the only efficacious instrument to get patience.
§ 21. All actions except prayer are in some degree defectuous.
1. The next passion to be mortified is anger, the which whosoever willingly suffers to arise and increase, or that deliberately yields to trouble of mind for any matter that concerns the body, health, fortunes, life, &c. -- yea, or pretended soul's good -- such an one really makes more esteem of them than of the solid good of his soul; for, as far as anger gets a mastery over him, so far he loses that dominion that his soul ought to have over all other things, and puts reason out of its throne. Hereupon our Saviour saith: In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras; that is, By patience ye shall keep the possession of your souls,' as implying that by impatience we lose that possession; and what greater loss can we have? Hence it is also that almost in all languages he that is in any great impatience is said to be out of himself.
2. Now the advices which I shall give for the repressing of impatience do not regard those great excesses of fury too common in the world -- though it is to be hoped unknown in an internal state -- but only those lesser inordinate passions of impatience and irresignation, or those smaller impetuosities of nature which may sometimes befall devout souls, by which the necessary peace of mind is disturbed, the habit of propriety increased, and the merit even of our best works of obligation diminished.
3. As we said that love (which is the root of all other passions and affections) is due only to and for God, so consequently all passions contrary to love, all aversions, impatiences, &c., are to be directed only against that which is directly contrary to God: the which no persons are, nor no actions or sufferings, which are not sinful. Therefore all such passions, against any persons whatsoever, or any accidents befalling us from any, are inordinate and sinful to the proportion and measure of the said passions.
4. Even the most solitary liver will not have reason to complain of want of occasions to exercise patience, for, besides the crosses happening by God's providence from without (against which all impatience is interpretatively impatience against God Himself), a soul aspiring to perfection must observe even the smallest motions passing in the heart, the which will be apt to rise even against the vilest creatures, as vermin, flies, &c. -- yea, inanimate things, as pens, ink, &c. There are also certain propensions in the will without any perceptible motion about the heart, so secret and subtle that they can hardly be expressed, the which perfect souls, by the light proceeding from prayer, do discern and contradict. None are wholly free from these inordinations; even the most quiet natures will find unequal inclinations which they ought to mortify.
5. Such is the difference, saith Cassian, between a perfect internal liver and one that is imperfect, as there is between a clear-sighted man and one that is purblind. A purblind man in a room sees only the grosser things, as chairs, tables, &c., but takes no notice of an infinite number of smaller matters, with their colours, distances, order, &c., all which are plainly distinguished by a clear-sighted man, who will observe many defects and inequalities invisible to others. So it is in regard of our inward defects. An imperfect soul only takes notice of grosser imperfections, and strives to amend them only, and that being done, conceives herself arrived to great perfection, when, alas, there yet remains a world of imperfections, only visible to eyes enlightened with supernatural grace (to be obtained only by pure internal prayer), the which will discover how strongly rooted and deeply fixed all passions are in the soul, and how souls deceive themselves who in prosperity do so wholly abandon themselves to joy, as if nothing could happen that could diminish it; and contrarily in sorrow; as we find examples in Suso, and the monk cured from a great inward affliction by St. Bernard, as likewise in David, who saith of himself: Ego dixi in excessu meo, &c.; that is, Being in an excess of mind through Divine consolation, I said, I shall never be moved.' But he found presently how he was mistaken, for it follows (Avertisti faciem tuam, &c.), Thou only didst turn thy face from me, and presently I became troubled.'
6. Therefore spiritual persons at all times must exercise patience, even in times of joy, by expecting a change thereof; which perhaps is to be desired, because the way to perfection is by a continual succession of mountings and descendings, to all which they must be indifferent, or rather they must think their more secure abode to be in valleys than on mountains.
7. All commotion of anger or aversion is according to the degree of self-love remaining, the which is never to be accounted subdued till we be in a perfect indifference to all creatures, actions, or sufferings, as considered in themselves. I say, as considered in themselves, for if such actions, sufferings, &c., be of obligation, we are not to be in such indifference, but are to be more affected to the obligation, for that is but to affect God, from whom all our obligations do proceed. Yet if a work of obligation be agreeable to our nature, we must take heed of tying our affections to it under that notion, the which we express by doing such works with more than usual diligence, haste, and impetuosity. In such case, therefore, imperfect souls ought to perform such a work as pausingly and mortifiedly as the work will well permit; and if it require haste, let them endeavour to do it with internal resignation and indifference, at least in the superior will. On the contrary, if it be a work from which their nature is averted, then the more cheerfully and speedily they perform it, the more perfectly do they behave themselves, so that such speed do not proceed from a desire of gaining favour, or to have it despatched quickly out of the way.
8. The profession of aspiring to perfection in a contemplative life requires, not only patience and indifference in such crosses as we cannot avoid, but also that we be not solicitous in seeking to avoid them, although lawful means were offered; on the contrary, to entertain and make much of them, in case the soul finds inward strength sufficient to entertain them.
9. A spiritual person living in perfect abstraction may rather have need and hath more leisure to exercise himself sometimes in supposed imagined difficulties devised by himself than one that lives a distracted life. Such an one, therefore, may judge of his impatience either by remembering some injury passed or feigning one present, and thereupon observing whether, or how far, anger is stirred in him.
10. Matters about which patience is exercised if they come from men, as hurts, injuries, persecutions, &c., are generally more bitter than those that come from God, though in themselves greater, as sickness, losses, &c.; because other men are but equal to us -- we know not their secret intentions, but are apt to suspect the worst -- therefore we take such things worse at their hands than we would at God's, who, besides that He is omnipotent and has the supreme dominion over us, we know that His goodness is infinite, so that we can assure ourselves that all His dealings towards us are meant for our good, though sometimes we do not see how they can contribute to it. And as for matters of affliction that through imprudence or any other defect we bring upon ourselves, we are less moved to impatience by them (though often to a secret shame), because that, besides that we are too apt to excuse and favour ourselves, we are secure that we mean well to ourselves.
11. We may conceive these following degrees to be in patience, all which must be ascended before we can attain to the perfection of this virtue.
12. The first degree is to have a serious desire of patience, and however in the superior will to endeavour to hold patience upon any provocation; and if this cannot be had at first, yet to procure it as soon as may be, at least before the sun pass, or in the next recollection; and, however, to restrain the tongue and outward members from expressing impatience, though perhaps as yet anger cannot be prevented from showing itself in sour looks. A person therefore that ordinarily cannot abstain from deliberate angry speeches, or, which is worse, from passionate actions (in which the deliberation is greater), has not as yet attained the lowest degree of patience.
13. The second is, to use all endeavours to guard the heart, not suffering the contradiction or cross to enter into it, or move passions in it, but to esteem the provocations as not worth the considering, or rather as a matter from which we may reap much good.
14. The third is, to use the mildest words and friendliest looks we can to the person provoking us, and not only to desire but endeavour also to procure his good, and to lay obligations upon him.
15. The fourth is, to imitate the prophet David, who said (Improperium expectavit cor meum et miseriam), My soul expected scornful upbraiding and affliction.' This degree does not oblige us to seek voluntary mortifications, but only not to be solicitous to avoid them. And God oft inspires into His servants a desire that occasions of exercising their patience may be afforded them, yea, and sometimes to seek them, as St. Syncletica begged of St. Athanasius to assign unto her a cross ill-natured person to be attended on by her, the which being granted her, she came to attain this virtue in great perfection, suffering all her froward insupportable humours with facility and joy.
16. The fifth degree is showed in bearing with resignation and peace internal crosses, aridities, &c., which are far more grievous than external ones, especially that great desolation sent by God for the purifying of perfect souls, of which we shall speak in the following treatise.
17. Sixthly, a great addition is made to the grievousness of these internal crosses, and consequently to patience in bearing them, when they are accompanied with external afflictions also. This was our Lord's case on the cross, when to the intolerable torments of His body was added internal desolation.
18. The seventh and supreme degree of patience is to suffer all these things, not only with quietness, but joy. This is a degree more than human, being a supernatural gift of God, by which, not only the superior will without any repugnance doth receive and embrace things most contrary to nature, but the sensuality makes no opposition neither, though they should come suddenly and without preparation. Now I know not whether ever any mere creature (except our Blessed Lady) hath ever arrived to so high a degree of perfection in this life as to become wholly impassible.
19. St. John Climacus mentions two examples of two holy persons that seem somewhat extravagant. The first is of one that having received an injury, and being not at all moved with it, yet desiring to conceal his patience, made great complaints to his brethren, expressing a counterfeit great commotion of passion. The other was of a very humble soul that abhorred ambition, yet pretended an impatient desire and pursuit after offices and great irresignation when they were refused. But (saith our author) we must take heed lest, by imitating such practices, we come much rather to deceive our own souls than the devil or others.
20. All other means whatsoever used for the procuring of patience without pure internal prayer, will produce little better than a philosophical mortification mixed with secret undiscovered interests of nature. But by prayer joined with exercise of patience out of it the very soul will be rectified, and in time come to such an established peacefulness that nothing will be able to disturb it; no, scarce the persons themselves, if they had a mind to it. This amendment will be imperceptible, as progress in such prayer is; but after some convenient space of time there will be a certain general sense and feeling of it, and this ere we be aware. And the way that perfect souls take for the perfecting of themselves in this virtue, is not so much by a direct purposed exercise and combat against special defects or passions, as by a universal transcending of all created things, by means of an elevation of spirit and drowning it in God.
21. Hereupon a holy hermit in Cassian seems to account all our actions whatsoever, except only the actual exercise of contemplation, to be defectuous. His reason I suppose to be, because only during the time that a soul is in actual contemplation she is in God, perfectly united in spirit to Him, and consequently entirely separated from corrupt nature and sin. Whereas out of contemplation she is, at least in some measure, depressed in nature, and painted with the images of creatures which cannot but leave some small stains in the soul.