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Preaching a Practical Spirituality – A Sermon by Johannes Tauler (14th Century, published in 1515/16)

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Our Lord spoke of this water in the New Testament in the gospels. “All those,” he said, “who are thirsty, they should come to me and drink, and from those who believe in me, the living water shall flow, and flow into eternal life.” (John 7: 37-38) And he said of this water to the [Samaritan] woman at the well: “Whoever drinks this water becomes thirsty again, but those who drink from the water that I give shall never be thirsty again, and if you ask for it, I will give it to you” (John 4: 13-14).

“O Lord,” she said, “give me this water, so that I no longer have to come here and fetch water.” And our Lord said: “Go first and bring your husband (which means knowledge of yourself) and confess thoroughly that you have been a cistern so long, that you have not drunk of the living water. And then you shall have it. And you have had five husbands (those are the five senses): you lived with them and used them as you wanted and made yourself unworthy of the living well with your sensual amusements, to which you clung: But turn away from there and return to Me, and I want to receive you.”

He also spoke through the same prophet Jeremiah in the fourth [actually, the fifth] chapter , and complained about you and spoke: “I made you into my chosen vineyard, and I waited for you to bring me the finest wine from Cyprus, from Engaddi,” and spoke of the great effort he had put into the vineyard: “I tilled the soil, and put a hedge around it and fenced it in and built a press and removed the stones (and though Jeremiah spoke here to the chosen people, God intended the message for all peoples until the end of the world), and you became too bitter for me. You yielded bitter wine, sour wine, and instead of fine wine and grapes you bore sour grapes and evil deeds, and thus I must arraign you at the Judgment. But if you only desire to return to me, I want to infuse you with the living water and true love.”

A master named Richard, a distinguished master of Scripture, spoke of this living water, [explaining] that this love has four degrees:

The first degree of love is “wounded love,” when the soul is wounded by the rays of God’s love, so that the living water may enter. And God is also wounded by this love. And our Lord said of love in the book of love [Song of Solomon]: “My sister, you have injured my heart with one of your eyes and with one hair of your neck.” A single eye, that is a diligent contemplation of the beliefs and the mind that is purely focused on God. And the single hair is the pure and unpolluted love. Thereby God is injured by the soul.

The other degree of true love, this master calls a captive love. It is written: “I should draw you with the bonds of Adam.”

The third love is a torturing love. The bride in the book of love [Song of Solomon] said of this love: “You daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him that I am tortured by love."

The fourth love is the consuming love. The prophet spoke it in the Psalm [119:81]: “Defecit – my soul is consumed and famished, Lord, in your salvation.”

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