In contemplation you learn to abandon and forget your own self, after the teaching of Christ in the Gospel, who said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Wait on the grace of the Lord and hear what he says: “ If any want to come after me let them abandon themselves.” Can you tell me any better way for us to abandon ourselves and the world than to refuse all thoughts of either?
To begin with you must forget all things except the blind awareness of your naked being. However, once this focus is established you must forget yourself entirely in exchange for a complete awareness of God’s being. That’s why I showed you at the start that God is your being. Because of your inexperience I thought it would be premature of me to expect you – all at once – to suddenly soar up to a spiritual awareness of God’s being, so I’ve been leading you there by degrees. You’ve been climbing up a step at a time. The first step was my advising you to gnaw on the simple blind awareness of your own being for a time, until your perseverance in this initial exercise gave you a familiarity with contemplative work, preparing you to reach the high awareness of God.
When through persistence in this exercise, you’ve gained experience and wisdom, you’ll undress yourself – strip – completely take off your self-awareness, to be clothed with the grace-filled awareness of God himself.
This is how a true lover behaves. Lovers strip themselves of anything theirs to gain the other. They won’t accept anything except the object of their affection, and not short-term but for all time. They want to be enveloped by the other forever in the full and final forgetting of self. This is the work of love that no one understands but the person who feels it. This is what our Lord is trying to teach us when he says, “If any want to come after me, let them abandon themselves.” It’s as if he is saying: “Strip yourself of your self if you really want to be clothed in me, the long and flowing robe of everlasting love.”
- Epistle of Privy Counsel