Without Looking for Reward
By Saint Angela of Foligno (1248-1309) - Foligno, Republic of Perugia
In the service of God we should not always be thinking of the spiritual consolations therein to be found. Can it be supposed that when Mary, the mother of Jesus, beheld her beloved Son upon the Cross, crying aloud and dying, that she asked sweetness or consolation of Him in that hour? Assuredly not; she accepted the anguish, bitterness, and pain, and such anguish should be likewise in our souls. It is a sign of little love, yea, of great presumption, if the soul should desire to feel in this world aught of Christ save pain. Wherefore doth God doubtless take greater pleasure in the service of the poor, who serve Him faithfully without reward or benefit whatsoever, than in that of the rich, who every day receive great rewards. And those who serve Him for the sake of reaping spiritual benefits, whose souls are fat and full of spiritual sweetness which they derive from the service of God, who run unto Him and serve Him for love's sake, these have not as great merit as have those who run unto God and serve Him likewise for love's sake, but without any consolation whatsoever, indeed, rather with pain.
Thus, methinketh, doth the divine light which proceedeth from the life of Christ instruct me concerning the way whereby I may through suffering reach God and be in God, namely, by that way whereon walked Jesus Christ our Head. By that way must go hand and arm and foot
and all the other members; and thus through worldly poverty will the soul at last attain unto eternal riches; through scorn and shame will it attain unto supreme honour and glory, and through a little penance (performed with grief and pain) will it come to possess the greatest blessing with the greatest joy and consolation.
Nevertheless, the soul is bound to adore God for Himself. For He is worthy of being infinitely loved and served by all creatures with the utmost reverence, because of His great and surpassing goodness, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Glory, therefore, unto the omnipotent God, whom it hath pleased to call us into being and create us in His own likeness, we ourselves being nothing. To Him, the all-merciful, be honour, power, and glory, for it hath pleased Him to redeem and exalt us, we who were miserable, wicked, lost, and damned because of the sufferings, pain, contempt, and poverty which His Son did endure.
Glory also unto the most merciful and pitiful God, whose mercy and goodness was so unfailing that He did give His kingdom unto miserable, unworthy sinners, in order that man might without fail attain unto it.
Praise and glory, likewise, unto our most sweet God, who of His pity did give us His kingdom, and make us to gain the fellowship and enjoyment of Himself through tribulation, pain, contempt, and poverty. If we were able to purchase His kingdom with wealth, with gold, silver, and precious stones, with luxury, knowledge, and power, the kingdom of heaven could not be gained by all, inasmuch as we are not all alike and do not all possess these things. But it hath pleased Him to grant that His kingdom may be gained with things all persons may possess at all times and of which we may easily have an abundance. For there is no person whatsoever who cannot be poor for love of Christ, and who cannot work and do penance at least in his heart, and endure contempt. Certain is it that no man can pass through this life with out encountering some of these things, which, if he beareth them patiently and cheerfully for Christ's sake, will make him worthy of the kingdom of God.
Blessed be God, moreover, in that He hath not set the long and heavy endurance of these things as the price wherewith His kingdom may be gained, but only the span of this life; so that the eternal kingdom may verily be bought with a moment of time. And surely, even though we had to wait thousands of years and long centuries for the love of God and such a kingdom, even though they were years most grievous and bitter, yet should we nevertheless accept them with boundless joy
and longing, with hands clasped in deepest gratitude! How much more, therefore, should we rejoice for that the merciful God hath ordained and permitted that the aforesaid things need be endured only for the brief space of this our mortal life!
Blessed be God, who by His own word hath promised unto us these gifts and blessings, appearing visibly unto us in His own person to give us assurance thereof, and confirming them by His example. Wherefore there remaineth no manner of doubt that with the brief labours, afflictions, and penances of this short life we may gain His kingdom; for He hath directly promised it unto us, and what is more, hath confirmed the promise by His own example. He desired tribulation, and not otherwise than through the endurance of supreme suffering and contempt did He wish to obtain possession of that kingdom which was truly His by inheritance.
Come ye, oh my children, hasten unto the Cross of Christ, take upon yourselves this pain, contempt, and poverty, and enter with all your might into the Passion of Christ, who so loved us that for our sakes, oh ye children of God, was He willing to suffer a most bitter and ignominious death; and He did this only that He might thereby redeem us and furnish unto us an example of
how we should bear hard things for love of Him. Doubtless the perfection and the true sign of sonship is to love God and one's neighbour. And inasmuch as this holy Man of Sorrows did so faithfully and purely love us that He had no pity upon Himself, but wholly gave Himself up to suffering for love of us, so doth He desire that His lawful sons should likewise do, according as they are able.
Ye must know then, oh ye children of God, that this Man of Sorrows doth continually bid me help and comfort you. Ye must be faithful unto Him who was faithful unto you, and in faithful love must ye be united with your neighbour, for he who is faithful unto God will also be faithful unto his neighbour. How greatly, purely, and faithfully this holy Man of Sorrows hath loved us hath
been made clearly evident by His life, teaching, and death. But because of our unbelief we perceive not that for our sake He was born poor and despised, neither do we reflect earnestly and continuously as we should upon His grievous death, His hard life, and His sweet and most true teaching. And because we do not entirely comprehend these aforesaid divine and salutary things, we are not dead either unto the world or unto sin, albeit He Himself died in poverty, humility, and contempt. Who is there in these days who will repay the sweet faith shown unto us by the Son of God with even a little faith and constancy? Verily, we do thrust these things behind us as though they had never been.
NotA bene: This text is taken from Chapter 17 of The Book of Divine Consolation of the Blessed Angela of Foligno, translated from the Italian by Mary G. Steegmann (London: Chatto and Windus, 1909).