CHAPTER II The ladder of humility, foreshadowed by that which Jacob saw in his vision. The refreshment provided by Christ -- humility, love, and contemplation -- of which love is the central course, as on Solomon's table. St. Benedict enumerates twelve degrees in this law by which the return to truth is made; so that as access to Christ is gained when the Ten Commandments and the two-fold circumcision (1) -- which together make up the number of twelve -- have been passed, truth may likewise be attained by passing through these twelve degrees. And what can be the significance of the fact that the Lord appeared leaning over that ladder which was shown to Jacob as a symbol of humility, but that the recognition of truth begins when the height of humility is reached? For then the Lord, whose eyes, as He is the embodiment of truth, could neither deceive nor be deceived, was looking down from the top of that ladder over the sons of men to discover whether there is anyone who understands or seeks after God. 1. There is patristic and scholastic authority for the expression gemina circumcisio.
And does He not seem to you to cry aloud from on high and to say to those who seek Him (for He knows who are His) Come over to me ye who desire me, and be filled with fruits, (1) and also, Come unto me ye who labour and are burdened and I will refresh you? (2) But what refreshments is this that Truth promises to those who attempt and gives to those who attain? Is it perchance love? Then this it is at which, as St. Benedict says, the monk who has passed through all the degrees of humility will ere long arrive. Truly love is delightful and pleasant food, supplying, as it does, rest to the weary, strength to the weak, and joy to the sorrowful. It in fact renders the yoke of truth easy and its burden light. Love is good food, (3) which, as the central dish on Solomon's dinner table, by the aroma of various virtues as by the fragrance of different condiments, refreshes those who are hungry and delights those who give the refreshment. (4) 1. Ecclus. xxiv. 26.
2. St. Matt. xi. 28.
3. The reference is to Cant. iii. 9, 10, which stands in the Vulgate Ferculum fecit sibi Rex Solomon de lignis Libani. . . media caritate constravit, propter filias Jerusalem, and is correctly rendered in the Douai version 'King Solomon made him a litter of the wood of Libanus the midst he covered with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem.' The word ferculum has, however, two senses, (1) a 'litter ', (2) a 'dinner tray.'
4. 'esurientes reficit, jocundat reficientes.' The sense of these words is somewhat obscure. We should have expected the passive refectos with the meaning 'refreshes those who are hungry, and pleases them as they are refreshed.' But the active participle does not admit such a rendering, and can refer only to those who give the refreshment.' For on it are set out peace, patience, kindness, forbearance, joy in the Holy Ghost; (1) and if there are any other products of truth or of wisdom, they too are there. Humility also has her dishes on the same tray, namely, the bread of affliction and the wine of remorse. These are the things which Truth offers in the first place to beginners, for to them it is said, Rise after ye have sat down, ye who eat the bread of sorrow. (2) There also contemplation has its solid food, made of the fat essence of the corn, and the wine that maketh glad the heart of man. To this food Truth invites those who have accomplished their course, saying: Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, my dearly-beloved. (3) The midst, saith he, he covered with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem (4) that is to say, for the sake of the immature souls which, while they are as yet unable to receive solid food, must meanwhile be fed with the milk of love instead of with bread, and with oil instead of with wine. 1. Rom. xiv. 17.
2. The reference is to Ps. cxxvii. 2.
3. Cant. v. 1. The same verse is quoted in the treatise De diligendo Deo, cap. xi, 31, 33. 'Hear the Bridegroom in the Canticle inviting to three stages of this progress. Eat, he saith, O friends and drink! yea be inebriated, O beloved. Those still labouring in the body, He summoned to food; those who, having laid down the body, are at rest; He inviteth to drink; those who resume .the body, He impels to inebriation; and these He calls beloved, as most full of love.'
4. Cant. III. 10. And love is rightly called the central course, because beginners are unable, through their timidity, to take advantage of its sweetness, while to those who have arrived at maturity it is an insufficient substitute for the deeper delight of full vision. The first still require to be cleansed, by a very bitter dose of fear, from the pestilent poison of fleshly lust, and have not yet discovered the sweetness of milk. The latter have already turned away from milk and are revelling in the delight derived from their entrance into glory. Those only in the middle who are on the journey have found some delicious little morsels of love, with which, owing to their weak digestion, they so far have to be content. So the first course is humility, purifying by its bitterness, the second is love, comforting by its sweetness, the third is full vision, secure in its strength. Alas for me, Lord God of righteousness how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy servant, how long wilt thou feed me with the bread of tears and give me tears for my drink? (1) Who will call me even so far as to that delightful company of love, where the righteous feast in the sight of God, (2) and revel in the fulness of their joy; where I need no longer speak in the bitterness of my heart, but may say to God 'condemn me not', if while I feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and of truth, I sing joyously in the paths of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord? Yet good also is the path of humility, for by it truth is sought, love is reached, and a share of the fruits of wisdom is obtained. As in a way Christ is the end of the law, so is He the perfection of humility, and the final apprehension of truth. Christ when He came brought grace. Truth gives grace to those to whom it has become known. But as it is by the humble that it is known, it is to them that it gives grace. 1. Ps. Ixxx (Vulg. Ixxix) 5.
2. Love is throughout this treatise, as in the latter part of that 'On loving God,' the rendering of caritas, whereas in the former part of that treatise St. Bernard uses the word amor.