|Autumn 1986 Vol. 38 Supplement|
Mystical Writers: Blessed Henry Suso & John of Sterngassen, 7
SUSO: THE STRUGGLES OF A BEGINNER
The Servitor’s first beginning occurred during his eighteenth year. Although he had
already worn the religious habit for five years, he was still restless in the depths of his
nature, and as long as God’s grace preserved him from falling into the grosser forms of
sin which would bring him into clashes with authority, he was satisfied. The voice of
conscience kept reminding him that this easy-going life was unworthy of his vocation,
but he was unable to break with careless habits until one day God converted him very
suddenly. His companions were surprised at the sudden shift in his behavior and
exchanged many jokes at his expense, but no one knew what powerful motive had
made him give up his former lukewarm habits. In reality he had experienced a heavenly
vision; God had taken possession of his heart.
This heavenly vision was followed by a horde of temptations by which the devil tried to
mislead the Servitor. The lures used by the devil were the following:
Grace strongly urged him to leap over all stone walls between himself and God. The
tempter opposed this inspiration with a tricky line of reasoning: “Think twice and stay
on the safe side; it is east to begin such a rigorous life, but to persevere in it is beyond
The voice of conscience reminded him that God’s grace is all-powerful, but the Father
of Lies suggested that here there was no question of God’s might but of his own palsied
will. This sophism the Servitor overcame by recalling Christ’s clear-cut promise to help
anyone who calls on his name. The sense of victory following this struggle was quickly
shattered by another virulent thought clothed in friendly garb: “It is perfectly all right to
mend your ways, but do it sensibly. Begin with easy penances so that your health will
not be impaired; eat and drink whatever your body requires; take care of yourself. The
best penance is to avoid sin. just keep the rule and do not march out of step by acting
differently from your companions. Remember that singularity easily scandalizes pious
people. just have a good intention, and everything you do will be meritorious.
Ordinarily, good people get to heaven, so why should it be necessary for you to live
such a penitential life?”
Eternal Wisdom quashed this insidious argument with the following reasoning: “It is as
impossible to begin a life of piety with half measures as it is to catch a slippery eel. He
who draws up a plan of subduing his pampered, obstinate body with delicate treatment
lacks common sense. The idea of serving God without renouncing worldly comforts is
self-contradictory and in opposition to the gospel teaching. Therefore, if you cease
your mortifications, logically you must also give up hope of becoming a saint.”
The Servitor’s soul was agitated for quite some time by these alternating seasons of
good cheer and depression. When these black moods fell on him and he felt he could
not face all the hardships that a complete turning away from tepidity brought in its
train, he tried to escape from the importunities of his conscience by slipping away in
search of his fellow students. But his hopes were always quickly dashed because his
friends’ frivolous talk seemed inane to him, while his spirituality was dull and heavy to
them. Thus, when he appeared among them they used to tease him, hoping that friendly
banter might restore him to normality.
“What are these fixed ideas you have fallen into?” asked one.
“The ordinary way is the safest,” a second added.
“These novelties will bring you to a bad end,” said a third.
The Servitor looked from one to the other in dumb misery. It was evident that he
would find no help here, so he slipped away murmuring to himself: “Help me, dear
God! Solitude is the only safe place for me because when I am alone no one says things
to upset me.”
Perhaps the iron that entered deepest into his soul was the fact that he had no
experienced spiritual director in whom to confide. Thus he went wearily about his
duties, forcing his frustrated spirit to go against the grain until suddenly one day a
beautiful thing happened to him: he fell in love. (1)
JESUS, THE NAME MOST LOVABLE
One time the Servitor of Eternal Wisdom went on a pilgrimage from the upland to Our
Lady’s Shrine in Aix-la-Chapelle. After his return Our Lady appeared to a devout
person (2) and told her: “See, my Son’s Servitor has zealously broadcast the lovable
name of Jesus as did the apostles in time past; because he is animated with the same
apostolic zeal to stir up in all chilly hearts the smoldering fire of devotion to the Holy
Name of Jesus, he will share after death the eternal reward now possessed by those
The devout person looked at Our Lady and saw in her hand a lovely candle, encircled
with the name of Jesus, burning so brightly that it lighted the whole world. Our Lady
spoke: “Behold, this burning candle signifies the name of Jesus, the true light of all
hearts which are pregnant with the Christ-spirit, honor his name, and carry it about with
them. And my son has made special choice of the Servitor to be the evangelist of his
name by enkindling this devotion in the hearts of many people and so assuring their
Having repeatedly observed her spiritual father’s intense devotion and confidence in the
Holy Name of Jesus, which he had engraved on his heart, the above-mentioned person,
fired with a like fervor, embroidered the name of Jesus (IHS) with red silk on a small
piece of cloth and wore it as a love-token. She also made many more of these love-tokens, and asked the Servitor to touch them to his heart and distribute them among his
spiritual children. It was revealed to her that whosoever wore one of these sacramentals
and daily recited a Pater Noster in honor of the Holy Name would enjoy God’s special
friendship during life and die in his favor. (3)
HE BRANDS THE NAME OF JESUS ON HIS HEART
The Servitor’s soul luxuriated in the seedtime of spiritual consolation. His soul was
fired with such an intense flame of divine love that he forever had to seek fresh fuel to
feed the flame. One day this blaze became almost unbearable, so he went to his cell to
be alone. As he knelt in contemplation, the desire of his soul to have some sign that he
might bear on his body as a reminder of the interchange of love between himself and his
heart’s beloved became so intense that he cried out: “Oh, sweet Lord! If only I could
devise some love-token which would be an everlasting badge of love between thee and
me, an authentic document that I am all thine and that thou art the only beloved of my
heart, written in letters which my fickleness can never erase.”
In his burst of fervor he pushed back his scapular, bared his bosom, took a sharp stylus,
and called on God to help him saying: “Almighty God, give me strength this day to
carry out my desire, for thou must be chiseled into the core of my heart.”
Then stabbing the stylus backwards and forwards, in and out of the flesh, he engraved
the name of Jesus (IHS) over his heart. Blood gushed out of the jagged wounds and
saturated his clothing. The bliss he experienced in having a visible pledge of oneness
with his truelove made the very pain seem like a sweet delight.
When he had finished this bloody act he went in this wounded condition to the church,
and, kneeling before the crucifix which hung above the pulpit, he made a further
request of God: “Oh Lord, my sole delight, behold how eagerly my heart craves to be
united with thee. I myself cannot imprint thee more deeply on my heart, but I beg thee
to complete the work and carve thy sacred name deep down into my inmost soul, so
that we will never again be separated.”
His prayer was answered, for when the wounds that he had made were healed the
sacred name still remained above his heart in letters the width of a stylus and the length
of the joint of his little finger. He bore this keepsake upon his heart until his death to
pulsate rapturously with every heartbeat. And when the hard blows of life were at the
point of taking his breath away he breathed spiritually by looking at this loveproof.
Sometimes his emotions would break forth in such expressions as: “Dear Jesus, I have
written your name on my heart as earthly lovers display the name of their betrothed on
One night he went to his cell after Matins to continue his prayer. Resting his head on
the Book of the Ancient Fathers, he became absorbed in contemplation and it seemed
to him that the sun was trying to escape from the prison of his heart. He tore open his
tunic and saw that his breast was flooded with radiance and surmounted with a gold
cross imbedded with precious, glistening stones. Quickly grabbing his cape, he threw it
over his heart in an attempt to hide this mystical brilliance from the gaze of the
mundane, but he might just as well have tried to catch the wind in a net. (4)
THE ADVANCED SCHOOL OF HOLINESS
It happened once that he was seated in his cell after Matins reflecting on spiritual
matters. As he pondered the wonders of Eternal Wisdom, his senses were stilled in
ecstacy and it seemed to him that a princely young man drew near and spoke to him:
“You have spent enough time in the elementary school and are ready to take up higher
studies. Follow me; I will conduct you to the spiritual graduate school where you will
be instructed how to bend your stiff neck to the divine yoke. This will establish your
soul in holy peace and bring your devout beginning to a blessed end.”
The Servitor jumped happily to his feet and it seemed to him that the young man led
him by the hand through an unfamiliar countryside. After walking across a meadow
they entered a schoolhouse and were received with open arms by the students. When
the headmaster heard the uproar being made over this would-be disciple, he said in true
professional style, “Before accepting him as a pupil, I must question him personally.”
After a short interview the headmaster announced to the student body: “This
undergraduate has within him the seed of a first-rate scholar. But whether the seed will
sprout or lie fallow depends on himself; if he is willing to be pulverized by the constant
friction of hard work and stringent rules, luscious fruit will result from the seed of his
The Servitor, not understanding the meaning of these words, turned to the young man
who had acted as his guide and questioned him: “Dear companion, tell me more about
this graduate school and the higher studies one pursues there.”
“The science learned in the advanced school of holiness,” said the young man, “is
nothing else than a complete, perfect resignation of oneself, so that a man’s will is so
evenly balanced that the scale turns neither to the right nor left when God places on it
joy or suffering, directly or through creatures. Man must strive earnestly to remain as
steadfast in this total renunciation of self as is possible to human weakness, and to look
only at God’s honor and glory, imitating in this Christ’s continual hunger for his
heavenly Father’s glory.”
This explanation satisfied the Servitor. Hence, he resolved to put it in practice, cost
what may, and to submit to all the school’s regulations. The young man instructed him
further: “This science requires a single-hearted idleness; here, the less one does to the
eye, the more one accomplishes as a matter of fact.” He was referring to those activities
in which a man gravitates around himself instead of seeking God’s honor.
After a few minutes the Servitor returned to himself and sat for a long time pondering
on these truths which are but a reiteration of Christ’s own doctrine. His musing found
expression in self-reproach: “Look into the secret depths of your soul and you will see
that, notwithstanding all your exterior penances, pride and self-love still rise in rebellion
when you have to put up with a contradiction from others. You are like a scared rabbit
hiding in a bush and trembling every time a leaf rustles in the breeze. This is how things
stand with you: you shrink from sufferings which are not of your own seeking; the sight
of uncongenial people makes you grow pale; you fly from humiliation, rejoice in praise,
and avoid blame. Strike the iron while it is hot and enroll in the advanced school of
His heart sought relief in God’s mercy: “Dear Lord, I can no longer find excuse in
ignorance. Will I ever arrive at true resignation? Help me.” (5)
THE INTERIOR LIFE: A MUST
Make your whole life a prayer and do not agitate your spirit by useless words or
Make sure that reason takes the lead in your actions because untold evil results from
undirected natural impetuosity.
Do not recreate according to caprice but according to truth.
God does not want to deprive us of enjoyment; he wants to give us the totality of
Deepest submission is the fertile seed of highest resurrection.
He who would live a truly interior life must empty his soul of all multiplicity and
resolutely tear himself away from whatever is not divine.
Where nature is allowed to run rampant, there unhappiness, suffering, and darkening of
the intellect work havoc.
If anyone loves another person because of his attractive face or pleasing personality it is
accident loving accident; that is unsuitable. But it is possible for a man to sublimate this
If you want to be of service to all creatures, turn away from them.
Some matters are beyond man’s comprehension; if he is holily indifferent these very
matters will comprehend him.
Guard yourself against any outburst which would be at variance with the ideal.
The ability to abstain from things gives a person more power than to possess these
One disorder opens the door for another.
See to it that nature is denied, and that the outer man is in agreement with the inner.
Man’s outer and inner progress depends on his faithfulness to the spiritual part of his
Truth triumphs as the senses are defeated.
The practice of interior prayer helps a person to execute temporal affairs successfully.
The reason certain people stumble so frequently into the mudhole of sin is that, not
realizing their spiritual blindness, they are not sufficiently on guard against dangerous
Be not too concerned about pleasing people, because it often happens that where there
is most effort to please, there least pleasure is given. A humble, recollected demeanor is
your best guarantee of pleasing others. He whose actions are at variance with his
disposition makes himself incongruous.
The person who remains recollected in the midst of exterior occupations will find that
his recollection becomes deeper, purer, and more vital than if he had remained in selfish
A self-abandoned person is never unhappy.
Sin is the cause of all human pain and sadness. Evict sin, and misery will also be
A self-abandoned person must be deformed from creatures, informed with Christ, and
transformed into the Godhead.
Four things clamor for the attention of anyone who has resolved to live a truly
contemplative life. First of all, he should take pains to harness his senses because God
is a spirit. Secondly, he should examine his conscience to see if he has set up some
obstacle. Thirdly, let him see if he is in any way preferring his own will to God’s.
Fourthly, remembering that he is merely an instrument of God who dwells within him,
let him study the divine blueprints of his spiritual edifice.
A person’s union with God in holy love parallels his detachment from self and all
If you want to climb the mountain of contemplation, then throw aside your personal
plans for holiness and be indifferent whether God, either directly or by means of
creatures, coddles you or irritates you.
Do not waste time on anything that is not God.
Minding one’s own affairs is a very meritorious practice.
Unnecessary interest in worldly matters robs a man of prayerfulness. Do not entangle
yourself in them and if they clamor for your attention run away from them into your
castle of contemplation.
A self-abandoned person is as indifferent about whatever concerns him as if he knew
nothing about himself, because God’s good pleasure is his sole ruling-concern.
Pay close attention to your exterior conduct and control your animal instincts so that
the outer man will be in harmony with the inner.
Remain firm and be not contented, but put up a good fight until in the midst of this
world’s changeableness you are as unchangeable as is possible to human weakness. (6)
HOW ONE SHOULD LIVE INTERIORLY
The Servitor: Lord, there are many kinds of exercises, many different modes of life;
customs and habits are numerous and varied. Lord, there are countless books and
doctrines. Eternal Wisdom, synthesize these doctrines for me in such a way that I will
understand the essential truths which I must know and practice in my spiritual life.
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: The truest, the most necessary, the swiftest doctrine which
you can find in any book, which will instruct you in few words concerning all truth, and
lead you to the summit of a pure life, is this:
1. Keep yourself detached from all men.
2. Keep yourself disengaged from all images introduced from outside.
3. Free yourself from everything which could bring disturbance, attachment, and
4. Elevate your mind constantly to a secret divine contemplation in which you keep me
as a fixed object before your eyes, and from which they never wander.
And as regards other exercises, such as poverty, fasting, vigils, and other
mortifications, direct them to this end and practice them only to the extent that they
lead you thereto. Behold, in this way you will arrive at the summit of perfection which
not one man among a thousand reaches, because, practicing their mortifications for
other motives, they go astray for many years.
The Servitor: Lord, who can live perseveringly and uninterruptedly in your divine
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: It is impossible for anyone while still on earth. You are
told about it so that you will know where you are bound, after what you should aspire,
and in what direction you should set your mind and heart. And when you can no longer
visualize this goal, you will feel as if you were deprived of your eternal salvation. Then
you should immediately return to it so that you may again possess it and watch over
yourself, because whenever you are deprived of it you resemble a boatman whose oars
have slipped out of his hands in the rough waves and who does not know where he is
going. But if you are unable to abide permanently in this state, the number of your
returns and assiduous avoidance of falls will bring you to a permanent state as far as is
Listen, listen, my child, to the faithful instruction of your faithful Father. Pay close
attention to it, imprint it deep in your heart! Bear in mind who it is that teaches you
this, and that he means all he says. If you desire never again to become tepid, then
never lose sight of it. No matter where you may sit, stand, or walk, consider that I am
there and exhorting you: “My child, conduct yourself spiritually, purely, modestly, and
nobly.” Behold, then you will soon understand my words, even those which up till then
The Servitor: Ah, Eternal Wisdom, may you be eternally praised. My Lord and my
most faithful friend, even though of my own accord I would hesitate to do so, you
force me to do so by your amiable words and loving doctrine. Lord, I should and will
devote all my energies to this end . (7)
WHY GOD PERMITS HIS FRIENDS TO FARE SO BADLY
The Servitor: Lord, there is another matter which my mind cannot solve. May I discuss
it with you? Ah, tender Lord, permit me to debate with you as holy Jeremias did.
Gentle Lord, do not be irritated, but listen patiently to me. Lord, this is what they
[men] say: Although your love and friendship are very intimate and agreeable, you
occasionally make them seem extremely bitter and disagreeable because of the way you
treat your friends. You send them sufferings within and without and make them the
laughingstock of the whole world. The first thing a person who desires your friendship
must do is to prepare himself resolutely for immolation. Trusting in your goodness,
Lord, I ask you to tell me how this treatment benefits your friends or why you expect
them to put up with such treatment. Or do you not want me to know these things?
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: I love my friends as my Father loves me. My treatment of
them is the same today as in ages past, from the world’s beginning until this very
The Servitor: Lord, this is just what occasions the caustic remark that your harsh
treatment of your friends is the reason you have so few. Lord, that also explains why
many forsake you and — my heart is wrung with anguish and steeped in tears — why all
relapse into the habits they had abandoned for your sake. My Lord, what answer have
you to these objections?
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: Only men who are weak in faith, poor in works, tepid in
life, and undisciplined in spirit raise these objections. But you, beloved, lift your spirit
above the grime of temporal enjoyment. Unlock your inner senses, open your spiritual
eyes and consider carefully what you are, where you are, and where you belong. Then
you will understand that my treatment of my friends is supremely an inspiration of love.
According to your natural being you are a mirror of the Godhead, an image of the
Trinity, and a type of eternity. You are boundless in your desires as I, in my eternal
uncreatedness, am the boundless Good; and as a tiny raindrop falling into the ocean
adds but little to its vast depth, so all that the world can offer is ineffective for the
fulfillment of your desires.
You are living in a vale of sorrows wherein every joy has its gloom, every smile its tear,
every pleasure its pain, and wherein no heart ever acquired unalloyed happiness. And
all this is because it [the world] cheats and lies, promises much and fulfills little; it is
brief, inconstant, and changeable. As I shall tell you further on, the way of the world is:
Today there is no sorrow
So sip the cup of pleasure,
But grief shall fill the heart tomorrow. (8)
THE IMMEASURABLE VALUE OF CONTEMPLATING CHRIST’S PASSION
The Servitor: Truly, Lord, no mind can comprehend the infinite good hidden in the
leisurely and loving contemplation of your passion. Yes, indeed, the way of your
passion is a safe path winding over the hill of truth, up to the highest summit of
What happiness for you, brilliant star in the heavenly constellation, Paul, to have been
raised so very high and led so very deep into the obscure secrecy of the naked
Godhead, where you heard those profound words that defy human utterance, and
where your heart was pierced so thrillingly with the sweetness of Christ’s lovable
passion that you exclaimed: “For I determined not to know anything among you,
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Blessed also among all masters be you, irresistible St. Bernard, whose soul was so
completely illuminated with the pure rays from the Eternal Word that your love-laden
tongue, pouring out the dew from your heart’s fullness, announced the sufferings of his
humanity: “The blossoming branch of myrrh of my beloved Lord’s bitter passion I have
tenderly clasped between my breasts and pressed deep into my heart. Unlike the
spouse, I do not seek the noonday resting place of him whom I embrace in the depths
of my heart. I do not ask where he eats whom I embrace in the depths of my heart. I do
not ask where he eats at midday, he whom my soul gazes at so lovingly on the cross.
The former is higher, but my choice is sweeter and more in readiness. From the lovable
passion, the only source of justification, I draw full compensation for my lack of merit.
This contemplation I call Eternal Wisdom, the fullness of all knowledge, the plenitude
of all happiness, and the complete satisfaction of all reward. It moderates me in success
and sustains me in adversity; it keeps me in equal balance between the world’s joys and
sorrows, and securely protects me against all evil. Many times I have received
therefrom a draught of his bitterness, and occasionally a draught of divine consolation
and spiritual sweetness.”
Therefore, amiable master, St. Bernard, it is fitting that your tongue overflowed with
sweetness, because your heart was completely sweetened by his sweet passion.
Eternal Wisdom, this is my conviction: whoever craves immense reward and eternal
salvation, sublime knowledge and profound wisdom, equality in joy and sorrow, full
security from all evil, and a draught of your bitter passion and extraordinary sweetness,
must constantly hold you, Jesus Crucified, before the eyes of his heart.
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: You do not yet fully know the great blessing contained
herein. Behold, the assiduous contemplation of, my lovable passion transforms an
uneducated man into a highly learned master. It is indeed a vivifying book, containing
all knowledge; truly blessed is the man who studies it without interruption. He will
acquire wisdom and grace, consolation and sweetness, freedom from faults, and my
continual presence. I will give you an example.
It happened many years ago that a young preaching monk [Suso] underwent a siege of
inordinate sadness, which at times depressed him so deeply that no one who has not
experienced a similar trial can understand it. Sitting in his cell one day after the morning
collation, so overcome by this inordinate sadness that he could neither study, nor pray,
nor do any good work, it seemed to him that, being unfit for any other spiritual work
for God’s glory, he could just as well stay sitting there with his hands in his lap. As he
sat there in this dark mood, he seemed to bear this thought spoken to him in a spiritual
manner: “Why are you sitting here? Arise, plunge into my sufferings and you will
overcome your own sufferings!” He jumped to his feet, convinced that these words had
been hurled at him from heaven, and meditated so assiduously on Christ’s sufferings
that he forgot about his own and never again felt them.
The Servitor: Ah, my amiable Wisdom, discerner of all hearts, you know that I ardently
desire your painful passion to pierce my heart more than any other heart, so that it
should cause a flood of bitter tears to flow from my eyes, day and night. Alas, my soul
is grieved because my heart is not thus pierced and I cannot contemplate your passion
in a way worthy of you, tender, beloved one. Therefore, teach me what to do.
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: Do not contemplate my passion hurriedly and
perfunctorily, whenever you have a few minutes to spare; but do so leisurely, with
burning love and plaintive thoughtfulness, because otherwise your heart will experience
no more devotion than the mouth derives sweetness from unchewed licorice. If you
cannot contemplate my bitter passion in tearful anguish then do so in heartfelt
cheerfulness, because of the exhilarating blessings you derive from my agony. If,
however, you can neither weep nor rejoice, reflect in aridity of heart to my glory. In
this way you will have no less merit than if you overflowed with tears and sweetness,
because you are acting from love of virtue without any self-seeking.
And in order that your courage and confidence may always grow stronger, listen
My justice permits no injustice in all nature, no matter how small or great it is, to go
unpunished and unexpiated. What then will become of a great sinner who has perhaps
committed hundreds of mortal sins, and who according to Scripture is bound either to
perform seven years’ atonement for every mortal sin or to complete the neglected
penance in purgatory’s fiery furnace? Behold, my innocent blood and worthy passion
will quickly punish and satisfy for all these sins. If the soul seizes this treasure of my
acquired merit it can quickly erase a thousand year’s guilt and temporal penance and
enter eternal joy without any purgatory at all.
The Servitor: Ah, my gentle Eternal Wisdom, deign to teach me how to seize this
Answer of Eternal Wisdom: This is how it is done:
1. A man must often and seriously consider, with a contrite heart, the greatness and
multitude of his grievous misdeeds by which he offended his heavenly Father so
2. This consideration must convince him that his own works of expiation are
unavailing, because in comparison to his sins they are a drop of water to the deep
3. Then he should joyfully ponder that every drop of my precious blood, shed with
divine prodigality, was sufficient atonement for the sins of a thousand worlds, but every
man benefits by this atonement in exact proportion to his imitation of me in my
4. After this, a man should reflect and deliberate, very humbly and very suppliantly, the
smallness of his own expiation in comparison with the greatness of mine.
To summarize, be assured that all the masters of numbers and magnitudes
(arithmeticians and geometricians) are unable to compute the immeasurable excellence
which is hidden in the assiduous contemplation of my passion.
The Servitor: Ah, tender Lord, say no more about this I have digressed too far-and
unlock to me yet more of the hidden treasure of your lovable passion. (9)
A PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION
Ah, you are the living fruit, the sweet bud, the delicious pomegranate of the flowery
paternal heart. You are the sweet grape of Cyprus in the vineyard of Engaddi. Who will
grant me to receive you today so worthily that you will be delighted to come to me, to
remain with me, and never to be separated from me? Ah, boundless Good, you who fill
the kingdoms of heaven and earth, incline graciously towards me and despise not your
poor creature! Lord, if I am not worthy of you, at least I am in need of you. Ah, gentle
Lord, are you not he who with a single word created heaven and earth? Lord, with a
single word you can heal my sick soul. Alas, gentle Lord, deal with me according to
your infinite mercy, not according to my deserts. You are truly the innocent Paschal
Lamb which is offered today for the sins of all men. Ah, sweet savory Bread of Heaven,
having all delightful flavor according to the desire of every heart, grant that the dry
mouth of my soul may find delight in you today. Feed me and give me to drink.
Strengthen and adorn me, and unite yourself intimately with me. Ah, Eternal Wisdom,
enter so powerfully into my soul that you will drive out all my foes, melt away all my
faults, and forgive all my sins. Enlighten my understanding with the light of your true
faith; inflame my will with your delightful love; illumine my memory with your
gladsome presence; and give virtue and perfection to all my faculties. Guard me at the
moment of death, so that I may enjoy you face to face in everlasting bliss. Amen. (10)
STERNGASSEN: CONFORMITY TO GOD
Few people understand what is meant by conformity to God, because few conform to
him in actual life. How can he whose heart is distracted about many things comprehend
unity? How can he who delights in temporal matters understand eternal truths? How
can he who grovels in impure thoughts appreciate the beauty of a pure heart? External
renunciation of possessions is not sufficient. Every interior attachment to or delight in
worldly goods or pleasures must be repudiated.
Alas, if you realized the great harm you do to yourself by not being conformed to God,
you would keep strict guard over your interior, and soon experience the delights of the
eternal truths. Yes, you would soon know as much, and more, of these things than I do.
The reason I now seem to understand these things better than you do is not because I
have read more books. Science can teach us very little in these matters. My only
advantage is that I have tried earnestly to free myself of earthly trammels. It is as
impossible for God to unite himself intimately with a distracted heart as it is for him to
coexist with satan in a soul. Miracles occur in the soul which strips itself of attachment
to and delight in worldly matters. And then God takes complete charge of the soul.
Detachment from creatures leads me to divine intimacy and utmost perfection.
Purity engenders forgetfulness of creatures and invites God to dwell within me.
Purity makes me Godlike, propels me inward, and cleaves me from creatures. An
impure heart will never behold God. Knowledge teaches me to perceive created things,
but purity enables me to perceive God. Purity shuts God within me, enables me to experience his presence and to forget all else. Purity generates detachment and finds
contentment only in God. (12)
EXERCISES OF A DEVOUT PERSON
He should lock his external senses to all created things and close his inner perception to
all transitory concerns. He should direct his thoughts inward, and listen in silence to
what God will say to him. He should forget himself and fill his soul to overflowing with
divine ideas. He should contemplate the light in the light, await the light in the light,
become the light in the light. He should merely touch the earth with his body.
Possessing a beginning of eternity in time, he should be continually achieving higher
THE HUMBLE HEART
To be humble of heart means to acknowledge your defects and sins and to plead God’s
mercy: “Lord, I have sinned. Have mercy on me.” He who lives in this spirit will never
lose God. (14)
WHAT TO REQUEST OF GOD
Ask of God only what is best for you. He wants to give you what is best for you, not
what is dearest to you. So ask him to accomplish his will in you. (15)
1 Henry Suso, “Life,” The Exemplar (Dubuque, Iowa: The Priory Press, 1962), 1, 3 f.
2 The reference is to Suso’s spiritual daughter, Elsbeth Stagel, a Dominican nun in
3 Suso, op. cit., 1, 143.
4 Ibid., 1, 13 f.
5 Ibid., 1, 49 f.
6 Ibid., 1, 152-159.
7 Henry Suso, “Little Book of Eternal Wisdom,” The Exemplar, II , 92 f.
8 Ibid., II, 41 f.
9 Ibid., II, 58-61.
10 Ibid., II, 104 f.
11 W. Wackernagel, Altdeutsche Predigten und Gebete (Basel: 1876), pp. 163 ff.; A.
Rozumek-A. Dempf, Vom inwendigen Reichtum (Leipzig: 1937), p. 25.
12 F. Pfeiffer in Zeifschrift für deutsches Alterturn, VIII, p. 257; Rozumek-Dempf, op.
cit., p. 29.
13 F. Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 254; Rozurnek-Dempf, op. cit., p. 31.
14 F. Pfeiffer in Germania, III, 1858; Rozumek-Dempf, op. cit., pp. 31.
15 F. Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 238; Rozumek-Dempf, op. cit., p. 32.