Inventa una preciosa margarita, abiit et vendidit universa quae habuit, et emit eam.
"And when he had found one pearl of great price, he went his way and sold all that he had and bought it."
She found a costly pearl, and therefore forsook everything, and parted with all her goods that she might buy it. We may understand by this that the virgin of God has forsaken all things for the sake of her purity, which she prizes like a precious stone, and that she has preserved that only. Secondly, the virgin of Christ has found the Sufferings of Christ, and has copied them, withdrawing from all earthly pleasures, to thank Him for this suffering.
The simplest way in which we can serve God consists of two things. The first is the ordinary discipline of the Holy Church, and a life spent in subjection, in poverty, in purity and in other good practices, such as were undertaken by the holy and gifted dwellers in monasteries. This is a safe and good thing to do, in order to subdue the outer man, and to turn to virtue.
The second point is, that we should exercise ourselves in imitating the Sufferings of our Lord; endeavouring once every day to consider them fully, and, as far as possible, to compare, in all points, our lives with His, noticing, especially, all that God sends us, to which we must submit, following after God. If we watch carefully, we shall find that God, in His great and loving mercy, will unceasingly send us so much trouble, that we shall not be able to exalt ourselves, or make ourselves equal with God. We must meditate on all this suffering, learning and working with all our hearts, and in all our work, striving to do all things to the glory of God. We must also strive to gain such control over our senses, that, in a short time, the love of the world will be quite extinguished in us. Thus the suffering of Christ may well be compared to the precious stone or pearl, which a virgin of Christ preserves, that she may adorn herself therewith. She must meditate every day on the Sufferings of Christ, from the Last Supper to the Resurrection, and she must buy that pearl with all that she has and can gather together, in all her works, her thankfulness and longings. Herewith we ought to be able easily to overcome all the evil inclinations of our nature and our evil thoughts; herewith we ought soon to arrive at a heartfelt acknowledgement of our own weakness and infirmities, and to attain to deep humility; and thus go on to an inner, perfect sympathy with our Lord, and all men, in true love. He who does not turn to this, can never really learn to know himself, but he will probably remain outside, content with outward observances. Even though he forced himself onwards through outward things and work, yet all cannot sweeten him within unless he earnestly repents.
Good fruits proceed from these pearls of the Sufferings of Christ, when men are enabled by grace to offer themselves to God in all their sufferings, and to trust God in simplicity and not in wicked cunning. God ordains all and bears the burden Himself, and thus men learn true resignation, and God is able to help them in their infirmity. Thus God begins to draw man by His love from the love of the creature, and they begin to learn discrimination in all their actions, to trust God in all things, and to understand that they must not think anything of themselves, nor trust to self, nor rest in anything, but only in the Grace of God. Therefore they believe fully that they will not be deceived; but he who trusts in himself will be deceived. Now this results in yet more grace; and such men begin to distinguish between Divine Grace and emotional feelings; for notice how many a man leads a seemingly good life, and is outwardly humble and simple, and who yet thinks much of himself in his heart.
Good virgins keep, both outwardly and inwardly, and with all their might, all the ordinary, good and regular ordinances of the Holy Church and the Holy Scripture. They commune with their own hearts, and cleave to God, to Whom they may best pour out all their wants, and not to man. When they thus turn away from man, they will have to suffer much oppression and shame from him; and yet they will hold their peace in all their difficulties, laying all before God and not before man, accustoming themselves to meditate constantly on the Sufferings and Life of Christ. God gives them strength through the Sufferings of Christ, so that they dare to stand alone, although they are despised for it, and they dare to carry on their own meditations. But this they do in fear and trembling before God, because it is counted wrong and foolish by man. But God bears witness to their consciences, and that makes them very thankful, so that they rejoice out of love to God. The Enemy cannot easily ensnare such people by means of sorrow, because they have constant communion, and hope for nothing from the light of nature, human wisdom, or things that seem good. They do not depend only upon sweet communion and fervour; just as though all must be well with them, and they must be united with God, because things do go well with them. Those who imagine thus are the most deceived by the Devil; but they must leave all to God, discipline themselves and examine themselves, both outwardly and inwardly, and flee to God with all their might without any delay. Though the body must sometimes rest outwardly from discipline, the heart ceases not to give God thanks, to honour Him, and to resist all that is inconsistent with the needs of the body. These people pray that God will forgive them their sins, because they displease Him, and not in order to escape the pains of hell, or to attain to everlasting life. They pray that God will do what He wills with them and as He wills, till they come to their End, and that here and hereafter God may be glorified in them. They pray that they may not displease God by their sins, but that He will forgive them; that they may not be prevented from receiving grace, so that they may learn to continue in virtue. They pray for remission of sins, not for remission of pain; that they leave to God. Mark, this it is to which man comes, if he exercises himself in the Sufferings of Christ for this object, and if he perseveres to the end.
Alas! how few men attain to this; and all because of their superficiality, so that they do not turn simply to God in their hearts. Therefore one man is very unlike another in this life; and this arises solely from this reason, that the one cannot be content without external work and internal discipline, while the other is quite content with external work: this pearl is not therefore given alike to all. Thus it comes to pass that men cannot understand one another; and at times they cause each other pain; but when it is understood that it was done in ignorance, man should bear patiently with them, while their blindness must also be borne patiently. By such goodhearted men God desires to teach many other people, and to call them into the right way, as they have well known in their hearts. For they who did not give up self, before they entered in, or they who have not truly entered in, are likely to fall into many errors, before they are aware of it; for they easily find that which appeals to nature and which pleases their senses; and thus they make no spiritual progress. If God suffers this carnal service, still He is not pleased with it; for all the great fruitfulness, of which we have already spoken, is checked in them, and in all those who might have been helped by them, if they had taken the first course, and had cast off their carnal desires and had then looked into their own hearts. But now they have remained in this carnal service, which yields but little; but it would indeed be well if those men were to turn, to submit, to the best of their power, to the blessed Will of God, and thus to glorify God, and to be of use to those people with whom God is angry, and who have brought many people into sin.
Now, as I have already shown, this pearl may, perchance, become very fruitful, which was found first in sweetness, in confession, in love and all kinds of discipline. But then man will have to come down again from sweetness to bitterness, in resignation and suffering out of love, and thus to die to self. The freer man is from self-pleasing, the freer he will be from the snares of the Devil, from the temptations and misery of these times, from hell and purgatory; neither will he be likely to fall again into sin, unless he turns again with all his heart and soul thereto; and that is not likely to happen. As the first state of fervour demands deeds of virtue, done in sweetness, so this grade demands deeds of virtue, done in hard labour, with gnawings of conscience and severe discipline; which must all be borne in simple faith and trust in God, that He will not forsake him, either now or hereafter. It it seems to him as though God would forsake him, he must stand firm in hope, and trust in God in all that He may see fit to do with him, in time and in eternity. See what comes of meditating on the Sufferings of God. These men bear the pain of suffering according to their power; and it is to such an end that the man comes, who first simply turns with all his thoughts to the Sufferings and Life of Christ, so that at last he will even come to choose bitterness. God grant that we also may find this precious pearl, and that it may bring us to all the goodness of God. Amen.