He protests against the reputation for holiness which is attributed to him, and promises to communicate the treatises which he has written.
I. Even if I should give myself to you entirely that would be too little a thing still in my eyes, to have recompensed towards you even the half of the kindly feeling which you express towards my humility. I congratulate myself, indeed, on the honour which you have done me; but my joy, I confess, is tempered by the thought that it is not anything I have accomplished, but only an opinion of my merit which has brought me this favour. I should be greatly ashamed to permit myself in vain complacency when I feel assured that what is loved or respected in me is not, indeed, what I am, but what I am thought to be; for when I am thus loved it is not then I that am loved, but something in me, I know not what, and which is not me, is loved in my stead. I say that I know not, but, to speak more truly, I know very well that it is nothing. For whatever is thought to exist, and does not, is nothing. The love and he who feels it is real enough, but the object of the love does not exist. That such should be capable of inspiring love is wonderful, but still more it is regrettable. It is from that we are able to feel whence and whither we go, what we have lost, what we find. By remaining united to Him, who is the real Being, and who is always happy, we also shall attain a continued and happy existence. By remaining united to Him, I said; that is, not only by knowledge, but by love. For certain of the sons of Adam when they had known God, glorified Him not as God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations (Rom. i.21). Rightly, then, were their foolish hearts darkened, because since they recognised the truth and despised it, they were justly punished for their fault by losing the power to recognise it. Alas! in thus adhering to the truth by the mind, but with the heart departing from it, and loving vanity in its place, man became himself a vain thing. And what is more vain than to love vanity, and what is more repugnant to justice than to despise the truth? What is more just than that the power to recognise the truth should be withdrawn from those who have despised it, and that those who did not glorify the truth when they recognised it should lose the power of boasting of the knowledge? Thus the love of vanity is the contempt of truth, and the contempt of truth the cause of our blindness. And because they did not like, he says, to retain God in their knowledge, He gave them over unto a reprobate mind (Rom. i.28).
2. From this blindness, then, it follows that we frequently love and approve that which is not for that which is; since while we are in this body we are wandering from Him who is the Fulness of Existence. And what is man, O God, except that Thou hast taken knowledge of Him? If the knowledge of God is the cause that man is anything, the want of this makes him nothing. But He who calls those things which are not as though they were, pitying those reduced in a manner to nothing, and not yet able to contemplate in its reality, and to embrace by love that hidden manna, concerning which the Apostle says: Your life is hidden with Christ in God (Cor. iii.3). But in the meantime He has given us to taste it by faith and to seek for by strong desire. By these two we are brought for the second time from not being, to begin to be that His (new) creature, which one day shall pass into a perfect man, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That, without doubt, shall take place, when righteousness shall be turned into judgment, that is, faith into knowledge, the righteousness which is of faith into the righteousness of full knowledge, and also the hope of this state of exile shall be changed into the fulness of love. For if faith and love begin during the exile, knowledge and love render perfect those in the Presence of God. For as faith leads to full knowledge, so hope leads to perfect love, and, as it is said, If ye will not believe ye shall not understand (Is. vii.9, acc. to lxx.), so it may equally be said with fitness, if you have not hoped, you will not perfectly love. Knowledge then is the fruit of faith, perfect charity of hope. In the meantime the just lives by faith (Hab. ii.4), but he is not happy except by knowledge; and he aspires towards God as the hart desires the water-brooks; but the blessed drinks with joy from the fountain of the Saviour, that is, he delights in the fulness of love.
3. Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, perhaps, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all saints the length and breadth, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God. And what are all these but Christ? He is eternity, because "this is life eternal to know Thee the true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (S. John xvii.3). He is Love, because He is God, and God is Love (1 S. John iv.16). He is both the Goodness of God and the Wisdom of God (I Cor. i.24), but when shall these things be? When shall we see Him as He is? For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creature was subjected unto vanity, not willingly (Rom. viii.19, 20). It is that vanity diffused through all which makes us desire to be praised even when we are blameable, and not to be willing to praise those whom we know to be worthy of it. But this too is vain, that we, in our ignorance, frequently praise what is not, and are silent about what is. What shall we say to this, but that the children of men are vain, the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, so that they deceive each other by vanity (Ps. lxi.9; lxx.). We praise falsely, and are foolishly pleased, so that they are vain who are praised, and they false who praise. Some flatter and are deceptive, others praise what they think deserving, and are deceived; others pride themselves in the commendations which are addressed to them, and are vain. The only wise man is he who says with the Apostle: I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be or that he heareth of me (2 Cor. xii.6).
4. For the present I have noted down these things too hastily (because of this in not so finished a way), rather than dictated them for you, perhaps also at greater length than I should, but to the best of my poor ability. But that my letter may finish at the point whence it began, I beg you not to be too credulous of uncertain rumour about me, which, as you know well, is accustomed to be wrong both in giving praise and in attaching blame. Be so kind, if you please, as to weigh your praises, and examine with care how far your friendship for me and your favour are well-founded, thus they will be the more acceptable from my friend as they are fitted to my humble merit. Thus when praise shall have proceeded from grave judgment, and not from the error of the vulgar, if it is more moderate it will be at the same time more easy to bear. I assure you that what attaches me (humble person as I am), to you is the zeal, industry, and sincerity with which you employ yourself, as they say, in the accomplishment of your charge in holy things. May it be always thus with you that this may be said of you always with truth. I send you the book which you desire to have in order to copy; as for the other treatises of mine which you wish that I should send, they are but few, and contain nothing which I should think worthy of your attention, yet because I should prefer that my want of intelligence should be blamed rather than my goodwill, and I would rather endanger my inexperience than my obedience in your sight, be so good as to let me know by the present messenger which of my treatises you wish that I should send you, so that I may ask for them again from those persons to whom they have been lent, and send them wherever you shall direct. That you may know what you wish for, I may say that I have written a little book on Humility, four Homilies on the Praises of the Virgin Mother (for the little book has this title), upon that passage of S. Luke where it is said the Angel Gabriel was sent (S. Luke i.26). Also an Apology dedicated to a certain friend of mine, in which I have treated of some of our observances, that is to say, those of Cîteaux, and those of Cluny. I have also written a few Letters to various persons, and finally, there are some of my discourses which the brethren who heard them have reproduced in their own words and keep them in their hands. Would that any of the simple productions of my humble powers might be of any service to you, but I do not dare to expect it.