Chapter XLI The pilgrim is directed to the invisible church
New bridle and eyeglasses
“In the meantime, for your strengthening and fuller understanding of that consolation to which I have called you, I send you among my other servants who have previously abandoned the world and have surrendered themselves to me, so that you may observe their conduct.” —
“Where do they dwell, my Lord?” I inquired,
“where shall I seek them?” He answered:
“They live scattered among the others in the world, but the world knows them not. In order that you may distinguish them and that you may be secure against the wiles of the world while you remain in it until I recall you out of it, and in place of the glasses and the bridle which you wore formerly, I place upon you my own yoke, (which is obedience to me) so that you may ever after follow none but myself. Besides, I add these glasses through which you will be able to discern still more clearly the futilities of the world, in case you should look at them, as well as the consolation of my elect.” (The rim of the glasses was the Word of God, and lenses were the Holy Spirit.)
“Go now,” he continued,
“and return to the place that you by-passed previously, there you will see things which you would not have perceived at the time without the aid of these gifts of mine.”
The true Christians in the midst of the pretending ones and wherein they differ
2 I recalled where I had passed by the place spoken of and arising, hastened back to it with such eagerness that I did not even notice the turmoil of the world about me. Thereupon I entered the temple called Christianity, and espying in the innermost part of the chor a curtain or a screen, I went directly toward it, not even glancing at the quarreling sects along the sides. It was then for the first time that I realized what that corner was: namely, that it was called praxis christianismi, the truth of Christianity. The curtain which separated it from the rest was twofold: the outward, which could be seen from the outside, called contemptus mundi, the contempt of the world, was darker in color; the other, inner curtains was resplendent, and was called amor Christi, the love of Christ; these two curtains, I observed, separated and divided this place from the rest; but the inner was not visible from the outside. Anyone who entered through the curtain at once became different from other people, being full of bliss, joy, and peace.
There are few Christians, and wherefore?
3 While standing outside and looking about, I saw an astounding and puzzling phenomenon: that although many thousands of people were constantly passing by the place, they did not enter it; whether they did not see it or simply ignored it because of its outward unprepossessing appearance, I do not know. I saw many learned in the Scriptures, priests and bishops, as well as many others who had pretentions to sanctify, pass by and some of then even as much as peep in, but they did not enter: which made me pity them. Some of them, approaching closer, noticed a ray of light through a crevice or perceived a sweet fragrance issuing thence, which attracted them, so that they began to search for the entrance. But even among these, who began to look for the door, some turning back, were struck by the dazzling flash of the world and went away.
Necessity of rebirth
4 But I perceived the real reason why so few entered when I approached the door of the partition: for a most rigorous examination was held there. All those wishing to enter were required to surrender all their possessions, and even their eyes, ears, mind and heart; for, they said, he who aspires to be wise in God’s sight must become simple in his own; and he who wishes to know God must forget all else; and he who desires to possess God must give up everything else. Hence, those who were unwilling to abandon their wealth of their learning, contending that such things were aids to heaven, remained outside and did not enter. Those who were allowed to enter, had to submit, I noticed, to a search not only of their clothing for the least bit of vanity that might be concealed there, but also (a thing unusual elsewhere) had their inner parts, the head and the heart, examined in order that nothing unclean might defile the dwelling place of God. Although this could not be done without a certain amount of pain, yet the wound was healed so skillfully by a heavenly medicine that the operation rendered the patient’s life more abundant, rather than poorer. For in place of the blood which had been spilled during the piercing and cutting operation, a kind of fire was kindled in the man’s limbs which transformed him so thoroughly that he himself marvelled at the change and his willingness hither to carry such useless burdens as the world calls wisdom, glory, pleasure, and wealth (for they indeed are nothing but burdens). I beheld there the lame leap, the stutters speak eloquently, the simple shame of philosophers, and those who possessed nothing claim the possession of all things.
The church is the world upside down
5 Having observed these preliminaries at the door, I passed within the enclosure and (at first all things in general, and then more particularly) examined some of the elect. I was filled with unspeakable joy, for I saw everything just the opposite to the conditions in the world. For in the latter I had seen blindness and darkness everythwere, here nothing but dazzling light; in the world fraud, here truth; the world had been full of disorder; here existed nothing but the most excellent order; in the world, bustle, here peace; there worry and anxiety, here joy; in the world want, here abundance; there slavery and subjection, here liberty; in the world everything toilsome and laborious, here all was easy, there the most lamentable accidents everywhere, here perfect safety. All this I desire to discuss a little more fully.