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That by Virtue of this work a sinner truly turned and called to
contemplation cometh sooner to perfection than by any other work; and
by it soonest may get of God forgiveness of sins.

LOOK that no man think it presumption, that he that is the wretchedest
sinner of this life dare take upon him after the time be that he have
lawfully amended him, and after that he have felt him stirred to that
life that is called contemplative, by the assent of his counsel and his
conscience for to profer a meek stirring of love to his God, privily
pressing upon the cloud of unknowing betwixt him and his God. When our
Lord... called (Mary of Bethany) to contemplative life, .. it was
because she loved much.

Lo! here may men see what a privy pressing of love may purchase of our
Lord, before all other works that man may think. And yet I grant well,
that she had full much sorrow, and wept full sore for her sins, and
full much she was meeked in remembrance of her wretchedness. And so
should we do, that have been wretches and accustomed sinners; all our
lifetime make hideous and wonderful sorrow for our sins, and full much
be meeked in remembrance of our wretchedness.

...(Mary) hung up her love and her longing desire in this cloud
of unknowing, and learned her to love a thing the which she might not
see clearly in this life, by light of understanding in her reason, nor
yet verily feel in sweetness of love in her affection. Insomuch, that
she had ofttimes little special remembrance, whether that ever she had
been a sinner or none. Yea, and full ofttimes I hope that she was so
deeply disposed to the love of His Godhead that she had but right
little special beholding unto the beauty of His precious and His
blessed body, in the which He sat full lovely speaking and preaching
before her; nor yet to anything else, bodily or ghostly. That this be
sooth, it seemeth by the gospel.

Mary of Bethany was not
Mary Magdeline, and neither was
a whore.

Such mixing of Mary's was common in the fourteenth century,  This does not detract from the monk's point.  Whether it is the obscure sister of Martha and Lazarus, or elusive and controversial Magdeline, or a "common prostitute" no one can tell who might become a contemplative.  The words "led by grace" do not resonate for me, but the phrase: "the spirit blows where it will" does.  It is a mystery.

I felt what i took to be a religious calling when i was eleven.  It fifteen (ignorant of and in fear of the Roman Church) i read the Christian Mystics.  At 42, i read the Tao Te Ching and was blown away, my thoughts turned from mostly "material" to mostly "spiritual."  At sixty-nine i read The Cloud of Unknowing and thought it spoke to me, not as a member of religious community but, as a human being.  Now at age 81, if i still have energy and life when my responsibilities are fulfilled, i will try to go to a Taoist or Buddhist monastery to grow closer to the higher power and my real self through contemplation..  Why?  I cannot explain to myself why any of these things happen.



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