How the inner man may become a pure and holy House of Prayer. Of the tradesfolk, that is the wicked thoughts and infirmities, which carry on their business in this temple, and which may, peradventure, be of great use and service to man. What Prayer and Meditation are; also, of the three things by which man can enter into the Inner Kingdom: true Faith, a right Confession of God, and inner fervent Prayer.
Domus mea, domus orationis vocabitur.
"My house shall be called the house of prayer."
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God has faithfully taught us here, what we must do that our hearts may be clean and pure houses of prayer; for man is really and truly a Holy Temple of God. But all traders must first be driven out of this Temple of God; that is all the fancies and imaginations which are not really of God; and also all delight in the creature and in our own will; therefore this temple must first be cleansed with tears of repentance and the Love of God, that it may be made clean and pure. For all temples are not made holy by being simply called the houses of God; but God only can make them holy. Therefore this Temple of God is a pure clean heart; and it is truly a Temple of God, where the Eternal God ever dwelleth in truth, when all that is unlike Him has been driven out and cast forth. Therefore I say unto you that God will not take up His abode in a temple which has not thus been cleared. Before a man has one pure thought of God in his heart, a thousand other thoughts enter in, about temporal things, which lead astray these pure thoughts of God and drive them away. It is in this sense that tradesfolk are referred to, and that we are told what they are. Therefore all men, who, of their own free will, live in pleasure, and in the gratification of the creature, and these traders. There is no doubt that the man, who desires that God Himself should dwell in him with His grace, and work His works in him, must especially, and of necessity, avoid all conformity to things that produce love, gratification and delight in the creature, and of which God is not the true Source. Therefore the man who says that ten chances of evil would not be more harmful than one; that is, that the secret love and friendship of ten men would be no more harmful to him than of one, would be saying a foolish thing; for it is easier to overcome and drive out one thing than ten. But there is one thing, especially, that ye ought to know; ten sins which a man looks upon as sins and confesses, are not so serious or so harmful to him as one single sin, of which he makes no account and does not look upon as sin, and in which he wickedly continues. Therefore man should always have a truly humble fear before God the Lord, on account of his unknown sins, and should humbly crave the mercy and goodness of God, and look upon himself as full of sin at all times; and then he will assuredly be helped by God's lovingkindness and grace. But the man who excuses himself, and goes on sinning deliberately, is in great danger of never coming to the Truth. Therefore guard yourselves from this as from eternal death; for the man who always thinks that all is right and well with him, is in a dangerous and terrible state. If ye were to ask the holiest man on earth if he had wept as much as he ought, he would say: "No, I have not wept a thousandth part of the tears that I ought to have wept. But I will now really begin to weep because of my sins and infirmities."
Now, when the inner temple of man has been cleansed, and the traders have been driven out, that is, when thou hast driven out all that belongs to the creature with all its delights, and which thou hast formerly possessed with comfort, joy and pleasure; and if thou art not ready of thy own free will to take all back again, nor to possess it with pleasure; then thou art standing firm in truth and righteousness, and the traders have been driven out of thy temple.
But when wicked traders come into thy temple again, drive them out at once. If they remain there for a time, against thy will and without thy permission, know, that it will not harm thee at all in the sight of God. For, if they stay there as long as they like, yet they will have to go out again, by the same door by which they entered. And, yet again, if they find any wickedness there, they will have to take it away with them, and purify this noble temple, if they entered it against man's will and without his permission. It cannot harm him, but it purifies, cleanses and prepares him for our Lord, like fine gold, which, the more it is heated by fire, the more precious and the purer it becomes. Thus it happens to the noble man in the reaction after his sufferings, his temptations and the assaults made upon him; for the impurer, the more wicked and the more terrible they are, the better will he be cleansed and purified. That which takes place in opposition to man's will can never cause sin unto death, but it prepares man for the great reward and enjoyment of eternal life. St Paul says: "For he that striveth is not crowned except he strive lawfully." He that endureth to the end shall be received with glory and honour. I say unto you, children, that anything done gainst my own free will, however wicked and impure it may be, cannot stain me, but will rather cleanse and purify me, and prepare me for our Lord and for especial grace. Therefore be of good courage, joyful, and not sad and gloomy, if, at times, wicked unclean thoughts befall you; however bad they may be, heed them not. For, if they come to you, in spite of your will and desire, let them go again. And if this happens especially in your prayers to God and communion with Him, leave them alone in the name of God, and bear these attacks and all this impurity right joyfully, humbly and resignedly as the Will of God. Know, children, that ye should bear all this humbly as the Will of God; for it may even happen that some things may be made known and revealed to you therein, which ye would never have known, had ye not passed along this way. But in this reaction and suffering man must not strive to help himself, either with words or deeds, but must rest only in God. He must bear all with a good heart, and must not trouble about it, either outwardly or inwardly. For, when it pleases our Heavenly Father, He can assuredly relieve thee and delight thee a thousandfold with Himself, after all these painful temptations. Therefore suffer cheerfully; do all things simply and in truth; and then, whatever comes, do not strive to help thyself. He who strives too much to help himself will assuredly lack help from God and from truth; for to the good man all things come from God without anything of his own, or a striving after his own salvation.
Now, dear children, if the inner mind of man is to be God's holy House of Prayer, devotion must form part of prayer. What is devotion? It is devotio, that is, se vovere Deo, that is, inner communion with God and a longing after Eternity. When thou thus unitest thyself with God, or praisest Him, thou art devout; that is that wherever thou art, or whatever thou doest, thou must set thy thoughts on God Whose works they are. For it is not very terrible if thou art not always rejoicing and enjoying sweet intercourse, (for this is only as God pleases), so long as thou still hast the essence of devotion. This communion of man with God; this is higher and of more importance than all other works.
Saint Hilary writes of three things by which man must enter into the Inner Kingdom. The first is true faith; the second is a right confession of God; and the third is devout and fervent prayer.
Now, what is the faith meant here? for all Christians are not faithful. In the same way that there are many dead men in the churchyard, there are many and very different kinds of men, who seemed to be men who had living faith, and who yet in truth did not die, and are not dead in God. Now what is a pure and living faith? It is nothing less than a living desire for God, which springs forth from within, to God the Lord and to all that is of faith. Thus, when a man sees or hears of anything that pertains to the holy faith, either of the Eternal Godhead or the noble Manhood of our Lord, or of the highly-exalted, noble and glorious Trinity of God, he will find within himself a true and living faith therein, which clearly points out to him what God is, and at the same time makes everything plainer to him that it could by any teachers. Such a man lives and moves in the Inner Kingdom, where life verily wells up from its own spring.
Now, unhappily, there are many men who cling, it is true, to the life of faith, but who may be troubled and may lose sight of it by a very small and insignificant cloud. It is just as though the light of the stars were a living and moving thing, which vanished away when a cloud passed over. Thus, in the same way, the cloud of sins may be very small and insignificant, which drives out of man the true light of faith, hiding it and depriving him of it. But, when a cloud of sins passes even over the chosen people of God (for all men are sinful), the Eternal and Divine Sun will force His way through to the lives of these men, so that they will speedily and immediately turn again to their original Source. Because they are rooted in the true garden of God they are quickly brought back; with good courage they force their way through all the things in which they cannot truly and clearly find God, and they always shun everything through which God could not find an entry into the very ground of their hearts. Therefore, however feebly and faintly man may cling to the life of faith, yet he will be preserved, if he be otherwise found faithful at the last, and would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; and, even though he were long delayed, yet he would be on the road to Eternal Life. Still, it is quite possible for such men to fall away into great and grievous sin, because they use ways and means of coming to themselves, that are very dangerous and unsafe; and therefore they are constantly dwelling in outward things, and become vain, empty, dry, cold, lukewarm, and so strange and unlike themselves, that they are much to be pitied in the sight of God. But living men, who truly live the life of truth, are conscious of this life within; they know the Inner Life and Truth of God, so that all that is divine which can befall these Friends of God, awakens this Inner Life, with earnest longings, and fervent Divine Love and delight, in the dearly loved Will of God. Now all this means simply, that these men are dwelling in the Inner Kingdom of God; they are partakers of the hidden Sweetness of God, which is concealed, and must be concealed, from all those who have never truly entered into this Inner Kingdom.
Therefore, the second thing is the true and right confession of God which is found in this Kingdom. It need not be sought afar; it is to be found in this Kingdom, and reveals itself there. This Light shines therein, and there man truly comes into the Inner Kingdom, through Jesus Christ, Who is the true and rightful Door of entrance, through which men must enter if they are to come to perfection. Thus the saying may truly be used of them: "The Kingdom of God is within you." Here that pure and real Truth is to be found, which is unknown to all men who do not rest on this foundation, and who do not keep themselves free and apart from all creatures in whom God is not all in all. Here they find with their understanding that of which St Dionysius wrote and spoke: "What is there that is above all reason, and all thought and all understanding? The finding of light in Light."
Now, dear children, the Masters in Paris read their big books diligently, and turn over the leaves; and all this is very good; but these other men read the true and living Book, wherein all things live. They turn over the Heaven and earth and read therein the surpassing wonders of God. They are before the holy, dear and exalted Angels of God in judgment; and therefore they first apprehend the highest Mission of the Holy and Exalted Trinity: How God the Father begat and is begetting His Son Jesus Christ throughout eternity; and how the Eternal Word, in God the Father, eternally reflects His Father's Heart; and how God the Holy Ghost proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son; and how the Holy Blessed Trinity pour Themselves forth on all Their chosen ones through time and eternity; and how again They enjoy in Themselves real and eternal blessedness. This is that blessedness of which Jesus Christ, the Son of God has said: "Now this is Eternal Life: that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." Children, this is the true Life in the Inner Temple of God; and it is the noble, pure and true prize which is set before all the elect Friends of God. There is the High-Priest in his holy blessed Temple, there is the true, pure Presence of God, in Whom all things live and move, and there all suffering is done away.
The man who truly experiences all this, knows well that there can be no doubt about it. All knowledge of it is quite unknown and concealed from the learned teachers of this world; but the chosen men of God have a full and clear knowledge and understanding of it. Therefore the man who learns most about it in this life, and who comes closest to this foundation, will be nearest to God in eternal life, and there will chiefly be found; while all such men will be the most blessed. The third thing mentioned by this holy man is devout prayer. This is the uplifting of the mind to God in eternal life, but in another sense. This prayer is the entrance into union of the created spirit with the uncreated Spirit of God, and is the result of a design formed by the Holy Godhead throughout eternity. These men are the true worshippers of God, who worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. This true worship is unceasingly demanded of all men by the Heavenly Father, as Jesus Christ said: "These are the true worshippers. They also receive that which they ask of the Heavenly Father, and they always find that which they seek and desire in their prayers, for their prayers are found and lost." The temple is lost here and the spirit, and all that of which we have been speaking. Now, how has all this been brought about? All has been poured forth into God and has become one spirit with God; as St Paul says: "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit." What that is and how it comes to pass, it is easier to experience than to describe. All that has been said of it is as poor and unlike it as the point of a needle is to the heavens above. That we may all follow after this in a life of humility, may God help us. Amen.