Jan van Ruusbroec – Gentleness as a Virture

John of Ruysbroeck
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Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381), Canon Regular
The Seven Degrees on the Ladder of Spiritual Love, chapter 4

“Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me.”

      Through humility, we live with God and God lives with us in true peace. That is where the living foundation of all holiness is to be found. It can be compared to a spring, whence four rivers of virtue and of eternal life flow forth (cf. Gen 2:10)… The first river, which flows forth from truly humble ground, is obedience; … The ear becomes humbly attentive so as to hear the words of truth and of life coming from the Wisdom of God, whereas the hands are always ready to do its most cherished will… Christ, the Wisdom of God, became poor so as to make us rich, he became a servant in order to let us reign, he died finally to give us life… So that we might know how to follow and serve him, he tells us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

In fact, gentleness is the second river of virtues, which flows forth from the ground of humility. “Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land,” (Mt 5:5) that is to say, their soul and their body, in peace. For the Spirit of the Lord rests on the gentle and humble person; and when our spirit is thus lifted up and united with God’s Spirit, we carry Christ’s yoke, which is pleasant and gentle, and we carry a light burden… From this intimate gentleness, a third river flows forth; it consists in living patiently. The Lord visits us in tribulation and suffering. If we receive these emissaries with a joyful heart, he himself will come, for he said through his prophet: “I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him.” ) Ps 91:15 …

The fourth and last river flowing from a humble life is that the person abandons his own will and every search for his personal benefit. This river has its source in suffering that is patiently endured. The humble person … gives up his own will and spontaneously abandons himself into the hands of God. Thus he becomes one single will and one single freedom with the divine will… And that is the very depth of humility … The will of God, which is freedom itself, removes from us the spirit of fear and makes us free, liberated and empty of ourselves… Then God gives us the Spirit of his chosen, who makes us cry out with the Son: “Abba, that is, Father” (Rom 8:15).

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