The Son speaks: ”There were two sisters, Martha and Mary, whose brother I raised from the dead. After his resurrection, he served me more than before. His sisters, too, though they had been my servants and zealous in attending to me before their brother's resurrection, showed themselves much more solicitous and devoted afterward. I have treated you in a similar way spiritually. Thus, I raised your brother, that is, your soul that - fetid after being dead for four days - had separated itself from me by breaking my commandments, by base desire and delight in the sweetness of the world and of sins.
There were, however, four reasons that moved me to raise Lazarus. The first was that he had been my friend while he lived. The second was the love of his sisters. The third was that Mary's humility had earned such a reward when she washed my feet. She deserved to be gladdened and honored to the extent to which she had lowered herself for my sake in the sight of the guests. The fourth reason was to manifest the glory of my human nature. These four reasons do not, however, apply to you, since you love the world more than they did. Therefore, my mercy toward you is greater than my mercy toward those sisters. It is clearly all the greater inasmuch as spiritual death is more dangerous than bodily death, and the resurrection of the soul is more glorious than bodily resurrection.
Hence, since my mercy excels your deeds, welcome me, as those sisters did, into the home of your minds with most fervent charity, loving nothing as me, having total trust in me, each day humbling yourselves along with Mary by weeping for your sins, unashamed to live humble among the proud, chaste among the unchaste, showing to others outwardly how much you love me inwardly. Furthermore, like those sisters, you ought to be of one heart and one mind, strong in scorning the world and quick in praising God. If you do so, then I will raise your brother - your soul - for you and protect it from being killed by the Jews.
What would it have profited Lazarus to rise from a present death, unless, by living more virtuously in the present life, he might rise up more glorious to a second and lasting life? Who are the Jews who sought to kill Lazarus if not those who become indignant because you lead better lives than theirs, who have learned to speak loftily but to do little, who, seeking the approval of others, scorn the deeds of their predecessors with all the greater scorn the less they themselves deign to understand the higher truths?
There are many such people. They know how to discourse on the virtues but not how to observe them by leading virtuous lives. Their souls are therefore in danger, because their words are many but their deeds are not to be seen. Did my preachers act in this manner? By no means! They certainly did not admonish sinners with lofty words but with few and charitable words, and they were ready to give their own souls for the souls of sinners. Through their charity, others obtained charity, for the teacher's zeal forms the mind of the listener more than mere words do. Many preachers nowadays say abstruse things about me, but no fruit comes of it, because wood is not set on fire by merely blowing on it but only with the aid of sparks of fire.
I shall guard and protect you from these Jews so that you will not leave me because of what they do or say. Yet, I shall not protect you in such a way that you escape every suffering but that you may not succumb due to lack of patient endurance. Stick to your resolution, and I shall set your will on fire with my charity.”
The Virgin's words to the bride concerning how she should not be upset about the knight who was declared to be dead and shown to her as though dead.
A certain knight who was alive was declared to be dead. In a spiritual vision he was also shown to the bride to be as though he were dead and begging for help. Because this lady was upset by his death, the Mother of mercy said to her: ”Daughter, you will find out in time whether or not the knight is dead, but we still want to strive so that he may live a better life.”
Christ's words to his bride; John the Baptist's words of praise to Christ, and the devout prayers he pours forth in Christ's presence on behalf of Christians and especially for a certain knight. Through John's prayers, the knight, with his own hands and with the helping hands of the glorious Virgin and of Peter and Paul, is armed and decorated with spiritual weapons, that is, with the virtues. Also, what each of these bodily weapons signifies, and about praying well.
The Son of God was speaking to his bride, saying: ”You set it down today that it is better to forestall than to be forestalled. Indeed, I forestalled you with my sweet grace so that the devil would not gain control of your soul.”
John the Baptist suddenly appeared and said: ”Blessed are you, God! You preexist all things. There has never been another god together with you or besides you nor will there ever be any after you, for you are and were one God forever. You are the truth promised by the prophets. While yet unborn I rejoiced in you. I recognized you more fully when I pointed you out. You are our joy and our glory, our longing and our delight. The sight of you fills us with an indescribable pleasure, which none knows but the one who has tasted of it. You are our only love. It is no wonder that we love you, for you are love itself, and you love not only those who love you but, being the creator of all, you are even charitable to those who scorn to know you. Now then, my Lord, because we are rich through you and in you, we ask you to give of our spiritual riches to those who lack riches so that more people may partake of our good fortune, just as we rejoice not in our own merits but in you.”
Christ answers: ”You are indeed an uppermost limb alongside and next to the head. Yet the neck is closer and more excellent. As I am the head of all, so my Mother is like the neck, and then come the angels. You and my apostles are like the joints of the backbone, for you not only love me, but you also honor me by helping those who love me. What I said therefore remains firm: The works that I do, you shall also do, and your will is my will. As the head of the body does not move without its limbs, so too in your spiritual connection and union with me it is not one thing to wish and another to be able to do, but rather you have every ability to do what each one of you wishes. Therefore, your request shall be fulfilled.”
After these words were spoken, John brought a certain knight who was almost half-dead into their midst and said: ”Here, Lord, here is a man who has consecrated his knighthood to you. He is trying to struggle but is not strong enough, for he is unarmed and weak. I am bound to help him for a twofold reason, both because of his parents' merits and because of the love he feels toward my honor. Therefore, for your own glory, give him a knight's attire to keep the shame of his nakedness from being seen.”
The Lord answered: ”Give him what you like and fit him out as you please!” Then John said: ”Come, my son, and receive from me the first garment of your knighthood. Once you have it, you will more easily be able to receive and bear the rest of your knightly gear. It is fitting for a knight to have a soft and smooth tunic close to his skin. The bodily tunic is soft and smooth, and likewise your spiritual tunic must be to keep God dear to your soul and delightful to your affections.
Delight in God comes from two things: the consideration of his kindnesses, and the remembrance of the sins you have committed. I had both of them as a boy. You see, I considered what a grace God had prepared for me while I was not yet born, and what a blessing he had given me after my birth. I sighed to consider how I might worthily repay my God. I considered, too, the instability of the world, and so I ran off to the desert where my Lord Jesus became so sweet for me that the thought of all the world's pleasures wearied me and the mere desire for them became a burden. Come, then, and put on this tunic, for the rest will be given to you in due time.”
Then Blessed Peter the Apostle appeared and said: ”John gave you a tunic, but I, who fell low but got up like a man, shall procure for you a coat of mail, that is, divine charity. Just as chain mail consists of many iron rings, so too charity protects a man against enemy missiles and makes him more even-tempered in enduring the evils that threaten, more agile in honoring God and more fervent in divine works, invincible in adversity, calm in hope, steadfast in the tasks he undertakes. This chain mail should shine like gold and be as strong as steel and iron, for everyone who has charity should be as malleable as gold in the endurance of adversity as well as shining in wisdom and discernment so as not to exchange heresy for sound faith nor doubt for certain truth.
The mail must be as strong as iron. Just as iron subdues all, so too a man of charity must be eager to humble all those who stand in the way of faith and good morals without yielding because of abusive language. He must not bend due to friendships nor grow lukewarm for the sake of his own material comforts. He must not hide for the sake of bodily ease, nor be afraid of dying, for no one can take someone's life away without God's permission. Now, though chain mail consists of many rings, nevertheless the chain mail of charity is woven of two principal rings. The first ring of charity is the knowledge of God and the frequent consideration of divine kindnesses and precepts.
This makes a man recognize how he should behave toward God, toward his neighbor, and toward the world. The second ring is the curbing of one's selfish will for God's sake. Everyone with a perfect and whole love of God keeps nothing of his own will for himself if it goes against God. Here, my son, God gives you this coat of mail, which I have won for you as was anticipated by God's grace.”
Blessed Paul then appeared and said: ”O, my son, Peter, the chief pastor of the sheep, gave you a coat of mail. Of love for God, I shall give you that cuirass that is love for your neighbor, a willingness to die freely for your neighbor's salvation with the help of God's grace. Just as many plates are combined in a cuirass and bound together with nails, so too there are many virtues that come together in the love for one's neighbor. Everyone who loves his neighbor is bound to feel sorrow, first of all, because not all of those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ repay God with love in return. He should feel sorrow, in the second place, because the Holy Church, God's bride, is not in the most commendable condition. Third, because there are very few who remember God's sufferings with anguish and love. Fourth, he should be on his guard so that his neighbor may not be corrupted by any bad example of his own. Fifth, he should give his possessions to his neighbor cheerfully and pray to God for him that he may advance and become perfect in every goodness.
The nails that hold the plates together are godly words. When a charitable man sees his neighbor in trouble, he should comfort him with words of charity; he should defend him when unjustly attacked; he should visit the sick, ransom hostages, and not be ashamed of the poor. He should ever love the truth, put nothing ahead of the love of God, and never swerve from the way of justice. I myself was outfitted with this cuirass, for I was weak with the weak, unashamed to speak the truth in the sight of kings and princes, and ready to die for the salvation of my neighbor.”
Then the Mother of God appeared and said to the knight: ”My son, what do you still need?” And he said: ”I have no helmet for my head.” The Mother of mercy then said to the guardian angel of his soul: ”How did your guardianship benefit his soul and what do you have to present to our Lord?” The angel answered: ”I do have something to present, but it is not much. Sometimes he gave alms and sometimes said prayers. Sometimes, too, he denied his own will for God's sake, sincerely asking God to make the world become distasteful to him and God dear to him above all things.”
The Mother answered: ”It is good that you have something to bring. We will then do what a skillful goldsmith does when he is about to make some grand object out of gold. If he needs gold and does not have it, he turns for help to friends who have it. His friends who have gold help him to complete his work. If a person is making an object of clay, who will give him any gold? It is not fitting to mix gold with clay. Therefore, all the saints, rich in gold, will together with me earn a helmet for you to have. This helmet is the intention of pleasing God alone. As a helmet protects the head from arrows and blows, so too a good intention directed toward God alone protects the soul so that the temptations of the devil do not prevail against it, and it introduces God into the soul.
The good knight George had this intention, as did Maurice and many others, including the thief who hung on the cross. Without it, no one can lay a good foundation or come to his reward. The helmet should have two openings in front of the eyes to allow one to see in advance anything approaching. These openings are discernment concerning things to be done and caution concerning things to be omitted, for, without discernment and forethought, many things that seem good at the start turn out to be bad in the end.”
The Mother asked the knight again: ”What do you still need, my son?” And he answered: ”My hands are naked and have no armor.” The Mother said: ”I will help you so that your hands will not be naked. Just as you have two bodily hands, you likewise have two spiritual ones. The right hand with which the sword is held symbolizes the work of justice. There should be five virtues like five fingers there. The first finger means that every just person must first be just to himself. This is done by guarding against anything in one's speech, action, or example that might offend one's neighbor so that one does not undo through one's own disorderly behavior what one teaches to others or justly reprehends in them. The second finger means not to carry out justice or the deeds of justice for the sake of human favor or worldly greed but for the love of God alone. The third means not to show unjust fear of anyone nor to dissemble anything out of friendship nor to swerve away from justice for anyone's sake, rich or poor, friend or foe.
The fourth means to be ready and willing to die for the sake of justice. The fifth means not only to do justice but also to love justice wisely. The result of this is that the sentence shows both mercy and justice, and the person who commits a lesser sin is corrected in one way, while the person who commits a greater is corrected in another way, and the person who sins from ignorance in one way, while the person who sins by design or malice in another way. Whoever has these five fingers should be careful not to sharpen his sword through impatience nor dull it through worldly pleasure nor drop it through imprudence or darken it through frivolity.
The left hand symbolizes godly prayer. This, too, has five fingers. The first is a firm belief in the articles of faith concerning the divine and human natures, putting it all into practice and believing all that the Holy Church, God's bride, professes. The second is the refusal to sin deliberately against God along with the desire to make reparation for all the sins you have committed through contrition and atonement. The third is to entreat God to turn the love of the flesh into a spiritual love. The fourth is living for nothing else in the world but to give glory to God and to reduce the amount of sin. The fifth is never to rely on your own strength in any way but ever to fear God and to await death at any hour. There, my son, these are the two hands you should have. With the right hand you must brandish the sword of justice against the transgressors of justice. With the left hand of prayer you must plead for God's help so that you never trust to your own righteousness nor become insolent toward God.”
Blessed Mary appeared again and said to the knight: ”What do you still need, my son?” He answered: ”Leg armor.” And she said: ”Listen to me, O knight who once belonged to the world but now is mine. God created everything in heaven and on earth, but worthiest and most beautiful among the lower creatures is the soul, similar to good will in her conceptions. Just as many branches shoot forth from a tree, so too every virtuous perfection shoots forth from the soul through spiritual exercise and activity. Therefore, in order to obtain spiritual leg armor, you must, by the grace of God, begin with good will.
A twofold consideration must support your will, like two legs standing on golden bases. The perfect soul's first leg is the following consideration: that you would refuse to sin even if no punishment were to follow. The second leg consists in doing good works with great patience and love of God, even in the face of your own damnation. The knees of the soul are the cheerfulness and fortitude of a good intention. As the knees curve and bend with the use of the legs, so too the soul's intention should bend and stop in obedience to reason according to the will of God.
It is written that spirit and flesh are opposed to each other. Thus, Paul also says: 'I do not do the good I want.' It is as if he said: 'I want to do good according to the soul but I am unable because of the weakness of the flesh. Yet, what happens when I am sometimes able to do them though not cheerfully?' Shall the Apostle be deprived of his wages because he had the will but not the ability, or because he did good things but not cheerfully? Certainly not!
Rather, his reward will be increased twofold: first because, with respect to the outer man, the action was difficult for him due to the flesh's resistance to the good; second because, with respect to the inner man, he did not always receive spiritual consolation. Accordingly, many secular people work in the world but receive no reward for it, because they act out of carnal motives. If their work was a command from God, they would not be as eager to do it. These two legs of the soul, then, the refusal to sin against God and the intention of doing good works, even should damnation follow, must be equipped with a double armor, namely, the discerning use of temporal goods and the discerning desire to seek heavenly ones. The discerning use of temporal goods means possessing them for the purpose of a moderate subsistence and not in excess. The discerning desire for heavenly goods means the intention of earning heaven through good works and exertion. The human creature has turned away from God through ingratitude and sloth and must therefore return to God by work and humility. So, my son, since you do not have these, let us turn to the holy martyrs and confessors who abounded in such riches and ask them to help you.”
Then the saints appeared and said: ”O, Blessed Lady, you bore the Lord of life and you are the Lady of all creation. What is there that you cannot do? You wish, and it is done. Your will is always our will. You are truly the Mother of love, for you attend to everyone with love.” The Mother appeared again and said to the knight: ”Son, we still lack the shield. A shield needs two things: on the one hand, strength, and, on the other, the emblem of the lord under whom one is serving as a soldier. The spiritual shield signifies the consideration of God's bitter passion. This should be on your left arm next to your heart so that as often as carnal pleasure entices your mind, you may recollect the bruises of Jesus Christ. Whenever the world's disdain and opposition sting and sadden your mind, you should recall the poverty and ignominy of Christ. Whenever honors or a long life in the flesh entice you, you should call to mind Christ's bitter suffering and death.
Such a shield should possess both the strength of perseverance in goodness and the breadth of love. The emblem on the shield should be of two colors, because nothing is seen more clearly at a distance than something composed of two bright colors. The colors decorating the shield of the consideration of the divine passion are, on the one hand, self-control over disorderly emotions and, on the other hand, purity and restraint with regard to the promptings of the flesh.
Indeed, heaven is lit up by these two colors, and the angels see them and exult with joy, saying: 'Behold the sign of purity and the token of our fellowship! We must help this knight.' The demons see the knight decorated with these tokens on his shield and exclaim: 'What shall we do, fellows? This knight is fearful to encounter and gloriously armed. At his sides are the weapons of virtue, behind him stands an army of angels, at his left he has a most watchful guardian, God himself, and all around him there are plenty of eyes attentive to our wickedness. We can do battle with him only to our shame, because we can in no way prevail.' How happy is that knight whom the angels honor and in fear of whom the demons tremble! But, my son, since you have not yet acquired this shield, let us ask the holy angels who shine in spiritual purity to help you.”
The Mother speaks again: ”My son, we still lack a sword. A sword needs two qualities: first, it should have sharp edges and, second, it must be thoroughly sharpened. The spiritual sword is trust in God in order to fight for justice. This trust should have two edges: upright justice in prosperity, as it were, on the right edge, and thanksgiving in adversity, as it were, on the left edge. Good Job had such a sword. When he was prosperous, he offered sacrifice for his children and was like a father to the poor, and his door stood open for the wayfarer. He did not walk in the way of vanity nor covet the goods of others but feared God as the One who sits on the waves of the sea. Then again, he gave thanks in adversity. When he lost his children, when he was upbraided by his wife and afflicted with horrible boils, he bore it all with patience, saying: 'The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Lord.' This sword should be kept thoroughly sharpened by crushing the assailants of justice as did Moses and David, by showing zeal for the law like Phinehas, by speaking firmly like Elias and John. O, how many people nowadays have a very dull sword! Even if they speak in word, they lift not a finger and pay no heed to God's glory in their quest for human favor. And so, because you have no such sword, let us ask the patriarchs and prophets who had such great trust in God, and a sword shall be given to us.”
The Mother appeared again and said to the knight: ”My son, you are still in need of something to cover your weapons and protect them from rust and damage from rain. This covering is charity, the readiness to die for God, and even - if it were possible - to be separated from God for the sake of the salvation of one's brethren. This kind of charity covers all sins, preserves the virtues, placates God's wrath, makes all things possible, frightens demons away, and is the joy of angels. This covering should be white on the inside and gleam like gold on the outside, for wherever the zeal of divine love is found neither the one kind of purity nor the other is neglected. The apostles were full of this charity. We must ask them to help you.”
The Mother appeared again and said: ”My son, you still have need of a horse and saddle. The spiritual signification of the horse is baptism. Just as a horse has its four legs and carries a man on the journey he must accomplish, so too baptism, as signified by the horse, carries a man in the sight of God and has four spiritual effects. The first effect is that the baptized are liberated from the devil and bound to the commandments and service of God. The second effect is that they are cleansed from original sin. The third is that they are made God's children and coheirs. The fourth is that heaven is opened to them.
Yet how many there are today who, having reached the age of reason, pull the reins on the horse of baptism and ride it off on a false path! The baptismal path is true and rightly followed when people are instructed and upheld in good moral habits before reaching the age of reason and when, upon reaching the age of reason and carefully considering what was promised at the baptismal font, they keep their faith and love of God intact. However, they ride away from the right path and rein the horse in when they prefer the world and the flesh to God.
The saddle of the horse or of baptism is the effect of the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, which gave baptism its efficacy. What is water if not an element? As soon as God's blood was poured out, God's word and the power of God's outpoured blood entered into the element. Thus, by the word of God, the water of baptism became the means of reconciliation between humankind and God, the gate of mercy, the expulsion of demons, the way to heaven, and the forgiveness of sins. So those who would boast of the power of baptism should first consider how the effect of baptism was instituted through bitter pain. When their mind swells up with pride against God, let them consider how bitter their redemption was, how many times they have broken their baptismal vows, and what they deserve for their relapses into sin.
In order to sit firmly in the saddle of the baptismal effect, two stirrups are needed, that is, two considerations in prayer. First one should pray in such a way: 'Lord God almighty, blessed are you who have created and redeemed me. Although I am worthy of damnation, you showed tolerance for my sins and brought me back to repentance. Lord, in the presence of your majesty, I admit that I have uselessly and culpably wasted all that you have given me for my salvation. I have wasted the time given for penance on vanities, lent my body to excesses, and used up the grace of baptism through pride. I loved it all more than you, my creator and redeemer, my nourisher and protector. And so, I beg for your mercy, for I am wretched in myself. Because I did not acknowledge your kind patience toward me or fear your terrible equity, I gave no thought as to how I should requite you for your innumerable good gifts. Rather, day by day I sought to provoke you with my wickedness. Therefore, I have only one thing to say to you: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy!'
The second prayer is like this: 'Lord God almighty, I know that everything I have comes from you and that I am nothing without you and can do nothing without you other than what I myself have accomplished, which is nothing but sin. Humbly, therefore, I implore your pity. Do not deal with me according to my sins but according to your great mercy. Send your Holy Spirit to enlighten my heart and confirm me in the way of your commandments so that I may be able to persevere in that which I have come to know through your inspiration and never be separated from you by any temptations.' Therefore, my son, since you lack this, let us ask those who fixed God's passion in their hearts with greater sorrow to share their charity with you.”
When this was said, a horse suddenly appeared equipped with gilt ornaments. And the Mother said: ”The horse's ornaments symbolize the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given in baptism. No matter whether it is administered by a good or a bad minister, baptism takes away the ancestral offense, increases grace, pardons every sin, gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge, angels as guardians, and heaven as an inheritance. See, my son, these are the trappings of a spiritual knight. A knight who wears them will receive the ineffable wages with which he can purchase perpetual joy, most peaceful honor, eternal plenty and everlasting life.”
The knight was Sir Karl, St. Bridget's son.
The bride's words of prayer and praise to Christ and the Virgin. The Virgin's consoling reply to the daughter, showing her that God in his righteous decision often lets his power become more manifest through the lies of the devil. And about how tribulations lead to spiritual benefits.