ContentsBook 1: The Book of Revelations...................................................... page 3-113
-The Life of Saint Bridget by Prior Peter and Master Peter............. page 114-141
-Prayers and Novenas....................................................................... page 142-172 St. Bridget's Revelations - Book 5 ”The Book of Questions”
Here begins the prologue to the fifth book of heavenly revelations which is called the Book of Questions.
Here begins the fifth book of Christ's heavenly revelations to blessed Birgitta of the kingdom of Sweden. It is deservedly entitled the Book of questions because it proceeds by means of questions to which Christ the Lord gives wonderful solutions. It was revealed to that same lady in a wonderful way, as she and her confessors often testified in their own words. For it once happened that on a certain day, she was riding horse and traveling to her castle at Vadstena in the company of many members of her household who were riding along with her. Then, as she was thus riding along the road, she began to raise her mind to God in prayer. And at once she was caught up in spirit and went, as it were, outside herself, alienated from the senses of her body and suspended in an ecstasy of mental contemplation. She saw then, in spirit, a ladder which was fixed in the earth and whose top touched the sky. And at its top, in the sky, she saw the Lord Jesus Christ seated on a wonderful throne like a judge judging. At his feet stood the Virgin Mary; and round about the throne, there was an infinite army of angels and a teeming multitude of saints. And, in the middle of that same ladder, the aforesaid Lady Birgitta saw a certain religious, known to her and at that time still alive in the body - a man of great erudition in the science of theology but full of guile and diabolic malice. Because of his extremely impatient and restless gestures, this man looked more like a devil than a humble religious. And then the said lady saw the thoughts and all the internal affections of the heart of that religious and how he manifested them with inordinate and restless gestures, by means of questions, to Christ the Judge seated on the throne - as follows below. And then the Lady Birgitta herself saw and heard in spirit how Christ the Judge, with most meek and dignified gestures, replied briefly to each question with great wisdom and how, at times, our Lady, the Virgin Mary, spoke some words to the same Lady Birgitta - as this book will show in greater detail below.
Moreover, after the lady had in her mind, in a single instant, the whole of this book by means of one and the same revelation and why she was now approaching the aforementioned castle, the members of her household grasped the bridle of her horse and began to shake her and, as it were, to awaken her from that rapture. And when she had returned to herself, she was exceedingly grieved by the fact that she was now deprived of such divine sweetness. This Book of Questions then remained fixed in her heart and her memory as effectively as if it had all been carved on a marble tablet.
But she herself immediately wrote it out in her own language; and he confessor translated it into the literary tongue, just as he had been accustomed to translate the other books of revelations.
I saw a throne in the sky, and on it sat the Lord Jesus Christ as Judge. Before his feet sat the Virgin Mary; and around the throne, there was an army of angels and an infinite multitude of saints. A religious, very learned in theology, stood on a high rung of a ladder which was fixed in the earth and whose summit touched the sky. His gestures were very impatient and restless, as if he were full of guile and malice. He questioned the Judge, saying:
First question. "O Judge, I ask you: You have given me a mouth. May I not say the things that please me?"
Second question. "You have given me eyes. May I not see with them those things that delight me?"
Third question. "You have given me ears. Why am I not to hear with them those things that please me?"
Fourth question. "You have given me hands. Why am I not to do with them what agrees with me?"
Fifth question. "You have given me feet. Why shall I not walk with them as I desire?"
Christ's response to the first question. The Judge, who sat on the throne and whose gestures were meek and very dignified, replied: "Friend, I gave you a mouth that you might speak rationally about things that are useful for your body and soul and about things that belong to my honor."
Response to the second question. "Second, I gave you eyes that you might see evils to be fled and healthful things to be kept."
Response to the third question. "Third, I gave you ears that you might hear those things that belong to truth and honesty."
Response to the fourth question. "Fourth, I gave you hands that with them you might do those things that are necessary for the body and not harmful to the soul."
Response to the fifth question. "Fifth, I gave you feet that you might draw back from love of the world and go to your soul's rest and love and to me, your Creator and Redeemer."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Christ, Judge, you voluntarily bore most bitter pain. Why my I, for that reason, not treat myself honorably and take pride in this world?"
Second question. "Item. You have given me temporal goods. Why then may I not possess those things that I crave?"
Third question. "Item. Why have you given me limbs for my body if I am not to move them and exercise them as I will?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why have you given law and justice if not for doing vengeance?"
Fifth question. "Item. You have permitted us to have rest and quiet. Why have you arranged for us to feel weariness and tribulation?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, man's pride is long tolerated out of my patience in order that my humility may be exalted and my virtue may be manifested. And because pride was not created by me but was invented by the devil, it therefore must be fled because it leads to hell. But humility must be practiced because it leads to heaven. And I, God, have taught it by my word and my example."
Response to the second question. "Item. I have given and entrusted temporal goods to man that man might have the use of them in a rational way and that he might exchange these created things for that which is uncreated - namely, for me, the Lord and Creator - by praising and honoring me for my good things and by not living in accord with the desire of the flesh."
Response to the third question. "Item. The body's limbs are given to man so that they may represent for the soul a similitude of the virtues and be for the soul, as it were, its instruments for duty and virtue."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. Justice and law have been instituted by me that they may be accomplished with supreme charity and compassion and that divine unity and concord may be strengthened among humans."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. I enabled man to have bodily rest and quiet in order to strengthen the weakness of the flesh and to make the soul gain power and strength. But because the flesh is sometimes imprudently insolent, one must cheerfully tolerate tribulations and all those things by which the flesh may be corrected."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why did you give us bodily senses if we are not to move and live according to the feelings of the flesh?"
Second question. "Item. Why have you given us things to nourish and sustain the flesh - namely, foods and other delights - if we are not to live to our own satisfaction according to our carnal appetites?"
Third question. "Item. Why have you given us free will if not to follow our own choice?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why have you given men and women sexual organs and the seed for intercourse if it may not be spilt according to the appetites of the flesh?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why have you given a heart and a will if not to like that which tastes sweeter and love that which is more delightful to enjoy?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, I gave man sense and intelligence that he might consider and imitate the ways of life, and flee the ways of death."
Response to the second question. "Item. I gave foods and the necessities of the flesh for the body's moderate sustenance and so that it might more vigorously execute the virtues of the soul and not be weakened by excessive consumption."
Response to the third question. "Item. I gave man free will for this reason: that he himself might abandon his own will because of me, his God, and that thereby, man might gain greater merit."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. I gave the seed for intercourse for this reason: that it might germinate in the proper way and in the proper place and that it might bear fruit for a just and rational cause."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. I gave man a heart so that he might enclose in it me, his God, who am everywhere and incomprehensible, and so that his delight might be in thinking of me."
The first revelation in the Book of Questions - made to Lady Birgitta by the Virgin Mary - in which Mary informs her about five virtues which she ought to have inside herself and five others outside.
The Mother speaks: "Daughter, you must have five inward things and five outward. First outwardly: a mouth clean of all detraction, ears closed to idle talk, modest eyes, hands busy with good works, and withdrawal from the world's way of life. Item. Inwardly, you must have five things: namely, fervent love for God, a wise longing for him, the distribution of your temporal goods with a just and right intention and in a rational way, humble flight from the world, and a long-suffering and patient expectation of my promises."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, why should I search for God's wisdom when I have the wisdom of the world?"
Second question. "Why should I mourn and weep when the world's joy and glory are mine in abundance?"
Third question. "Item. Tell me why or how I ought to rejoice in the afflictions of the flesh."
Fourth question. "Item. Why should I fear when I have the force of my own strength?
Fifth question. "Item. Why am I to obey others if my will is in my own control?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, everyone is wise toward the world is blind toward me, his God. And therefore, to acquire my divine wisdom, it is necessary that one seek after it with diligence and humility."
Response to the second question. "Item. Everyone who has the world's honors and its joy is driven by various cares and is involved in bitter things that lead to hell. Therefore, in order not to deviate from the way of heaven, it is necessary to be devoutly cautious, to weep, and to pray."
Response to the third question. "Item. It is very useful to rejoice amidst the affliction and infirmity of the flesh because my mercy draws near to one who has afflictions of the flesh; and through that mercy, such a person more easily approaches eternal life."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. Everyone who is strong gets his strength from me, and I am stronger than he. Therefore, one must everywhere fear that strength will be taken away."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. Whoever has free will in his own hands ought to fear and truly understand that nothing so easily leads to eternal punishment as one's own will without a leader. Therefore, one who relinquishes his own will to me, his God, and obeys me will have heaven without punishment."
First question. Again, the same religious appeared as before and said: "O Judge, why have you created worms which can harm and cannot profit?"
Second question. "Item. Why have you created ferocious beasts that also harm human beings?"
Third question. "Item. Why do you send infirmities and pains into bodies?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why do you suffer the iniquity of unjust judges who afflict their subjects and scourge them as if they were bought slaves?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why is man's body troubled even in the moment of death?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, I, God and Judge, created heaven and earth and all that is in them - but nothing without a reason and nothing without a similarity to spiritual things. For, just as the souls of the saints resemble the holy angels who have life and happiness, so the souls of the unjust resemble the demons who have everlasting death. Therefore, because you have asked why I created worms, I answer you that I created them to show the manifold power of my wisdom and goodness. For even though they can harm, nevertheless they do not harm except by my permission and because sin requires it in order that man, who scorns submission to his own superior, may groan over his ability to be troubled by this lowest of things and thus may know that he is nothing without me, whom even irrational things serve and at whose beckoning all things stand."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why I created ferocious beasts, I answer: All that I created was not only good, but even very good, and was created either for man's benefit and testing or for the good of the other creatures and so that man, being so much happier than all others, might serve me, his God, all the more humbly. Moreover, beasts do harm in temporal things for two reasons: first, for the recognition and reproof of wickedness so that the wicked may understand from their scourges that they must obey me, their superior. Second, beasts also harm the good in order to advance their virtue and to purge them. And because man, by sinning, has raised himself up against me, his God, therefore all things which had been subject to man have been raised up against him."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why infirmity comes to the body, I answer: This happens as a major warning and also because of the vices of incontinency and excess, in order that man may learn spiritual moderation and patience by bridling his flesh."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. Why is there toleration for unjust judges? This happens for the purging of others and because of my own patience. Just as gold is purged in the fire, even so, through the malice of the wicked, souls are purged and educated and drawn back from things that must not be done. Therefore, I patiently tolerate the wicked so that the ears of the devil's grain may be separated from the wheat of the good and so that out of my hidden and divine justice their desire may be fulfilled."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. Why does the body suffer punishment in death? It is just that man be punished in ways similar to the ways of his sinning. And because he sins through inordinate pleasure, it is right that he be stricken with a measure of bitterness and pain. Therefore, for some, death begins here - a death that will endure without end in hell. For others, death ends in purgatory; and then begins everlasting joy."
The second revelation in the Book of Questions, in which the Virgin Mary speaks to blessed Birgitta and says that one who desires to taste divine sweetness must first endure bitterness.
The Mother speaks: "Which of the saints had the sweetness of the Spirit without first experiencing bitterness? Therefore, one who craves sweetness must not flee away from things that are bitter."
First question. Again there appeared on the rung the same man as before, and he said: "O Judge, I ask you why one infant comes forth alive from its mother's womb and obtains baptism while another, after receiving a soul, dies within its mother's viscera?"
Second question. "Item. Why, for the just, do many things have an untoward outcome while, for the unjust, all things are as they wish?"
Third question. "Item. Why do plagues and famines come - and the inconveniences that afflict the body?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why does death come so unexpectedly that it can very rarely be foreseen?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why do you suffer men to go to war with deliberate wrath and envy and in a spirit of vengeance?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, you question not out of charity but only because I permit it. And that is why I answer you in a way that resembles words. You ask why one infant dies within its mother's viscera and another comes forth alive. The reason is this. All the strength of a child's body is taken from the seed of its father and mother; but if it is conceived without due strength because of some infirmity of the father or the mother, it quickly dies. As a result of the parents' neglect or lack of care - and also as a result of my divine justice - many things happen so that what was joined together quickly separates. Nevertheless, although the soul had no longer time to vivify the body, it will not therefore meet with a harsh punishment but rather with a mercy known to me. When the sun streams into a house, its rays alone are seen. Only those who gaze at the sky see the sun as it is in its beauty. So it is with the souls of such children. Because they lack baptism, they do not see my face. Nevertheless, they do draw nearer to mercy than to punishment - although not in the same way as my elect."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why untoward things befall the just, I answer: My justice is that every just man should obtain what he seeks. But no man is just who does not desire to suffer untoward things for the sake of obedience and the perfection of justice and who does not do good to his neighbor out of divine charity. My friends consider what I, their God and Redeemer, have done for them and what I have promised to them; and also they attentively see the wickedness in the world. Therefore, as a precaution, they more gladly seek - for my honor, for their own salvation, and for the avoidance of sin - the untoward things of the world rather than its prosperity. And therefore I permit tribulations to befall them.
If some of them suffer with too little patience, I do not permit this to happen without a reason; and I stand by them in their trouble. When a son, in his boyhood, is rebuked by a charitable mother, he does not know enough to thank her because he cannot weigh the cause for which he is being reproved; but when he has reached the age of discretion, he thanks his mother because through her instruction he has been drawn away from wrongdoing and has become accustomed to discipline and good behavior. I treat my elect in a similar way. Because they entrust their will to me and love me above all things, they have tribulations for a time. And although, at present, they may not fully understand my benefactions, nevertheless I am doing what is best for them in the future.
But because the impious do not care about justice and are not afraid to inflict injuries and because they seek the transitory things of the world and love earthly delights, therefore, out of my justice, they prosper for a time, free from scourges, lest they sin the more if they be touched by untoward things. However, not all the wicked are given what they desire - in order that they may know that it lies within my power to give gifts to whomever I will. For I grant good things even to the ungrateful and although they do not deserve them."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why plagues and famines come, I answer: It is written in the law that one who commits a theft must give back more than he took. Because the ungrateful accept my gifts and abuse them and do not pay me the honor that is my due from them, I therefore exact of their bodies more trouble in the present in order to spare their souls in the future. Sometimes, too, I spare the body and punish man in and through that which he loves so that he, who would not acknowledge me when he was happy, may recognize and understand me when he is troubled."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why death comes suddenly, I answer: If man knew the time of his death, he would serve me out of fear and faint with sorrow. Therefore, in order that man might serve me out of charity and that he might always be solicitous about himself and secure about me, the hour of his exit is uncertain - and deservedly so. For, when man deserted that which was certain and true, it was necessary and right that he be afflicted with uncertainty."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why I permit men to proceed to war while filled with wrath, I answer: Everyone who has the full intention of harming his neighbor is like the devil and is the devil's member and his instrument. I would be doing an injury to the devil if I deprived him of his servant without justice. Therefore, even as I use an instrument of my own for whatever pleases me, so it is justice that in one who would rather be the devil's member than mine the devil operates and does his own deeds either for the purgation of others or for the completion of his malice - but only as I permit and as sin demands."
First question. Again, the same religious appeared on his rung as before, and said: "O Judge, I ask you. Why are ugliness and beauty spoken of in the world?"
Second question. "Item. Why must I hate the world's beauty when I myself am beautiful and of noble descent?"
Third question. "Item. Why may I not extol myself above others although I am rich?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why may I not prefer myself to others although I am more honorable than they?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why may I not seek my own praise although I am good and praiseworthy?"
Sixth question. "Item. Why am I not to demand remuneration if I do convenient things for others?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, the ugliness and the beauty of this world are like bitterness and sweetness. The ugliness of the world - which is its contempt and its adversity - is a profitable sort of bitterness that heals the just. The world's beauty is its prosperity; and this is a flattering sort of sweetness, but false and seductive. Therefore he who flees the beauty of the world and spits out its sweetness will not come to the ugliness of hell or taste its bitterness, but will ascend to my joy. Therefore, in order to escape the ugliness of hell and to acquire the sweetness of heaven, it is necessary to go after the world's ugliness rather than its beauty. For even though all things were well created by me and are all very good, nevertheless one must beware especially of those things which can furnish an occasion for the loss of the souls of those who use my gifts irrationally."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why you must not glory in your descent, I answer that what you received from your father was worthless, putrid, and dirty; and that in your mother's womb you were as if dead and totally unclean. It was not in your power to be of born of noble or ignoble parents, but it was my pity and my goodness that brought you into this light. Therefore, you who call yourself noble, humble yourself under me, your God, who arranged for you to be born of nobles. Conform yourself to your neighbor; for he is of the same matter as you - although by my providence you have come from what is, in the eyes of the world, a lofty lineage and he from a lowly one. O you noble! Fear even more than he who is not noble, for the nobler and richer you are, the stricter will your accounting be and the greater your judgment because you have received more."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why you must not take pride in riches, I answer: The world's riches are yours only for your necessary nourishment and clothing. The world was made in order that man - having sustenance for his body - might return, by means of labor and humility, to me, his God, whom he disobediently despised and for whom, in his pride, he had no care. Moreover, if you say that temporal goods are yours, I tell you for very certain that you, as it were, violently usurp for yourself all those things that you have beyond your necessities.
For all temporal goods ought to be common and, out of charity, equal for those in need. But you superfluously usurp for yourself things that should be given to others out of compassion. And yet, it is reasonable that many people have much more than others; they own it rationally and they distribute it with discretion. Therefore, lest you be reproved more gravely at the judgment because you have received greater things than others, you are advised not to put yourself above others by boasting and by hoarding. For delightful as it is in this world to have more temporal things than others and to enjoy an abundance, at the judgment it will be a fearsome and exceedingly grave matter if one has managed even licit things unreasonably."
Response to the fourth and fifth questions. "Item. As to why one must not seek personal praise, I answer: No one is good of himself except me, God alone; and everyone who is good has received that goodness from me. If then you, who are nothing, seek your own praise and not the praise of me, to whom belongs every perfect gift, false is your praise and you do an injustice to me, your Creator. Since all the goods that you have are from me, you should give to me all praise. And since I, your God, bestow upon you all temporal things - strength and health, conscience and discretion to think of what is more beneficial to yourself, and time and life - it is I who should be honored for all these things that have been given to you, if you manage them well and reasonably. But if you manage them badly, the fault and the ingratitude are yours alone."
Response to the sixth question. "Item. As to why one must not seek a temporal reward for good deeds in the present, I answer you: If anyone does good to others with the intention of caring not for a recompense from man but only for such as I, God, choose to give him, such a person shall have much in return for little, the eternal in place of the temporal. But he who seeks something earthly in exchange for something temporal will have what he desires but will lose what is everlasting. Therefore, in order to obtain the eternal in exchange for what is transitory, it is better to seek recompense not from man but from me."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why do you permit it that gods are placed in temples and honored as yourself when your kingdom is nobler than any other?"
Second question. "Item. Why do you not cause your glory to be seen by humans in this life so that they may more fervently desire it?"
Third question. "Item. Since your saints and angels are more noble and more holy than all other creatures, why are they not seen by humans in this life?"
Fourth question. "Item. Since the pains of hell are incomparably horrible, why do you not cause them to be seen by humans in this life so that they may be fled?"
Fifth question. "Item. Since the demons are so incomparably deformed and horrible, why do they not appear to humans in a visible way? For then no one would follow them or consent to them."
Response to the first question. The Judge answered: "Friend, I am God, the Creator of all. I do not act less justly to the wicked than to the good; for I am justice itself. My justice decrees that entrance into heaven must be obtained through steadfast faith and rational hope and fervent charity. That which is more fervently loved by the heart is more frequently thought of and more diligently adored. Such is the case with the gods that are placed in temples although they are neither gods nor creators; for there is only one sole Creator - namely, I, God, the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the people and the owners of the temples love these gods more than they love me - their purpose being prosperity in this world and not life with me. Therefore, if I were to annihilate those things which humans love more than they love me and if I were to permit myself to be adored against their will, I would indeed do them an injustice by taking away their free will and desire. And so, because they do not have faith in me, and since they have in their hearts something more delightful than I, it is therefore reasonable for me to permit them to fashion externally what they love and long for in their minds. They love created things more than me, the Creator, whom they can know in a provable way from signs and deeds if only they would use their reason. Therefore, since they are blinded, cursed are their created works and cursed are their idols. They will be put to shame and judged for their foolishness because they are unwilling to understand how sweet am I, their God, who with fervent love created man and redeemed him."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to the reason why my glory is not seen, I answer: My glory cannot be spoken, and it cannot be compared to any other sweetness or goodness. Therefore, if my glory were to be seen as it is, then man's perishable body would weaken and fail as did the senses of those who saw my glory on the mountain. And also because of the soul's joy, the body would faint from its labor and would be incapable of physical activities. Therefore, because there is no entrance into heaven without the labor of charity, and so that faith may have its reward and the body may be capable of work, my glory is hidden for a time in order that, through desire and faith, it may be seen all the more fully and happily forever."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why the saints are not seen as they now exist, I answer: If my saints were seen openly and visibly spoke, they would be honored as I myself; and then too, faith would have no merit. Nor would the frailty of flesh be strong enough to see them. Moreover, my justice does not will that such brightness be seen by such frailty. Therefore, my saints are not heard or seen, as they now exist, in order that all honor may be shown to me and that man may know that no one is to be loved above me. However, if my saints do sometimes appear, they do so, not in that form of glory in which they truly exist, but in that form in which - by hiding the fullness of their virtue - they can be seen without disturbing a corporeal intelligence."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why the pains of hell are not seen, I answer: If hell's pains were visibly seen as they now exist, man would be totally frozen with fear and would seek heaven out of fear and not out of love. Since no one ought to seek heavenly joy out of fear of punishment but rather out of divine charity, these pains are therefore now hidden. Indeed, before the separation of soul and body, those who are good and holy cannot taste that ineffable joy as it is; nor can the wicked taste their punishments. But when the soul has been separated from the body, then they will feel and experience what they were unwilling to probe with their understanding when it was still possible."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why the demons do not appear visibly, I answer: If their horrible deformity were seen as it now exists, a soul seeing this would go out of its mind at the very sight; the whole body would begin to quiver like a trembling man's; drained by fear, the heart would die; and the feet would not be strong enough to support the other limbs. Therefore, in order that the soul may remain stable in its sense, that the heart may be vigilant in its love for me, and that the body may be capable of laboring in my service, the demons' deformity is hidden - and so that the demons' evil endeavor may be restrained."
The third revelation, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and gives her - in a similitude - instruction concerning a true physician who is a healer, a false physician who is a murderer, and a man who makes a guess. He says that if a man takes responsibility for sinners and gives them help or opportunity for sinning and if they then die in sin, God will exact an account of the death of those souls at his hand. But if he takes responsibility for them in order that they may cease from sinning and that they may be instructed by him in the virtues and if, through his teaching, they do amend, then he and they shall have a great reward from God.
The Son of God speaks: "When there is a sick man in the house, if a professional physician goes in to see him, the physician quickly considers, from outward signs, what sickness the man has. Therefore, if a physician who knows the sick man's illness gives him a remedy which results in death, he is denounced as a murderer and is not a true physician. If someone knows how to cure and practices medicine for the sake of worldly repayment, he will receive no recompense from me. But if someone practices medicine for love of me and for my honor, then I am obligated to give him recompense. If someone who is not a master of medicine believes, according to his own guesswork, that this or that is good for the sick man and gives him something with a kind intention, then he must not be declared a murderer if the sick man dies - but rather, a presumptuous fool. If, however, the sick man recovers as a result of the fool's medicine, then the fool must have the reward, not of a master, but of a guesser; for he gave the medicine, not out of knowledge, but only according to his own guesswork.
"Behold, I will tell you what these things mean. Those people known to you are spiritually sick and are inclined to pride and cupidity through following their own will. Therefore, if their friend - whom I compare to a physician - grants them help and advice which causes them to transgress through pride and ambition and to die spiritually, then I will indeed exact an account of their death at his hand. For, although they die of their own iniquity, nevertheless - because he has been the minister and the cause of their death - he shall not be immune from punishment. If, however, led by natural love, he coddles them and raises them up in the world for his own comfort and for worldly honor, he is not to hope for recompense from me. But if, like a good physician, he thinks of them wisely and says to himself: 'These people are sick and need medicine. Therefore, although to them my remedy may seem bitter, nevertheless - because it is healthful - I will give it to them in order that they may not die a hard death. Therefore, while restraining them, I shall give them food lest they faint from hunger; and I shall give them clothes that they may walk honestly in accord with their station; I shall keep them under my regimen that they may not become insolent; I shall also provide for their other needs in order that they may not be lifted up by pride or grow dissolute through presumption or have occasion to do harm to others.'
Such a physician as this will have a large recompense from me, for such admonishment is pleasing to me. However, if their friend - thinking to himself - says this: 'I will give them the necessities, but I do not know whether this is expedient for them or not. Nevertheless, I do not believe that I am displeasing God or hindering their health;' and if they then die - or rather, transgress - because of his gift, their friend will not be declared a murderer. Moreover, although the friend will not have a full recompense, nevertheless - to the extent that he loves their souls - his good will and kindly affection will relieve the sick and will cause them to grow toward that health that they would have more difficultly obtained without the cooperation of his charity. However, one piece of advice is necessary here. For according to a popular proverb, a harmful kind of animal cannot do injury if it is enclosed; and being enclosed and receiving the necessities, it becomes just as strong and fat as the animal that lives at large and on its own. Now, since these people are the kind whose heart and blood seek lofty things and whose will thirsts more the more it drinks, therefore their friend is not to give them any occasion to transgress; for they desire to inflame their appetites but lack the strength to extinguish them."
THE NINTH INTERROGATION
First question. When these things had been said, the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why do you seem so unfair in your gifts and graces that you preferred your mother Mary to every other creature and exalted her above the angels?
Second question. "Item. Why did you give the angels a spirit without flesh and the gift of being in heavenly joy, whereas to man you gave an earthen vessel and a spirit - and birth with wailing, life with labor, and death with sorrow?"
Third question. "Item. Why did you give man a rational intellect and senses, whereas to animals you did not give reason?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why did you give life to animals, but not to the other created things that lack senses?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why is there not such light at night as there is in the day?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, in my Godhead all that is going to exist or happen is foreseen and foreknown from the beginning as if it had already occurred. The fall of man was foreknown, and out of God's justice it was permitted; but it was not caused by God and did not have to happen because of God's foreknowledge. Foreknown too from eternity was man's liberation, which was to happen out of God's mercy. You now ask why I preferred my mother Mary to all others and loved her more than any other creature. It was because the special mark of virtues was found in her. When a fire is kindled and many logs surround it, the log most apt and efficient for combustion will be the quickest to catch the flame and burn. So it was with Mary. For when the fire of divine love - which in itself is changeless and eternal - began to kindle and appear and when the
Godhead willed to become incarnate, no creature was more apt and efficient for receiving this fire of love than the Virgin Mary; for no creature burned with such charity as she. And although her charity was revealed and shown at the end of time, it was nevertheless foreseen before the beginning of the world. And so, from eternity, it was predetermined in the Godhead that as no one was found comparable to her in charity, so too no one would be her equal in grace and blessing."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why I gave the angel a spirit without flesh, I answer: In the beginning and before time and the ages, I created spirits in order that of their own free choice they might live according to my will and thus rejoice in my goodness and glory. But some of them took pride in their goodness and did evil to themselves by using their free will in an inordinate way. And because there was nothing evil in nature and creation except the inordinacy of their individual wills, they therefore fell. But other spirits chose to take their stand in humility under me, their God; and therefore they merited eternal stability. For it is right and just that I, God, who am an uncreated spirit and the Creator and Lord of all, should also have in my service spirits more subtle and swift than other creatures. And because it was not fitting for me to have any diminishment in my hosts, I therefore created, in place of those who fell, another creature - namely, man - who, through his free choice and his good will, might merit the same dignity that the angels deserted. And so, if man had a soul and no flesh, he would not be able to merit so sublime a good nor even be able to labor. The body was joined to the soul for the attainment of eternal honor. Therefore, man's tribulations increase in order that he may experience his free will and his infirmities, to the end that he may not be proud. And so that he may desire the glory for which he was created and that he may undo the disobedience that he voluntarily committed, he has therefore been given, out of divine justice, a tearful entrance and a tearful exit and a life full of toils."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why animals do not have a rational intellect as man does, I answer you: Everything that has been created is for man's use or for his needs and sustenance or for his instruction and reproof or for his consolation and humiliation. But if brutes had intelligence as man does, they would certainly be a trouble to him, causing harm rather than profit. Therefore, in order that all things may be subject to man - for whom all things were made - and that all things might fear him, while he himself is to fear no one but me, his God, animals have not been given a rational intellect."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why insensate things have no life, I answer: Everything that lives is going to die, and every living thing moves unless it is impeded by some obstacle. If, therefore, insensate things had life, they would move against man rather than for him. And so, in order that everything might be for man's solace, higher beings - namely, the angels, with whom man shares reason and immortality of the soul - have been given to man for his protection; and lower beings, whether they are sensate or not, have been given to him for his use and sustenance and instruction and training."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why it is not always daylight, I will answer you by means of an example. Under every vehicle, i.e., a cart, there are wheels so that the burden placed upon it may be more easily moved; and the back wheels follow those in front. A similarity exists in spiritual matters. For the world is a great burden, burdening man with worries and troubles. And no wonder; for when man disdained the place of rest, it was right that he experienced a place of work. Therefore, in order that the burden of this world may be more easily borne by man, mercifully there comes a change and alternation of times - namely: day and night, summer and winter - for the sake of man's exercise and his rest. When contrary things come together - namely, the strong and the weak - it is reasonable to condescend to the weak so that it can exist beside the strong; otherwise the weak would be annihilated. So it also is with man. Even though, in the strength of his immortal soul, man could continue forever in contemplation and labor, nevertheless the strength of his weak body would fail. For this reason, light has been made so that man, who has a common bond with higher and lower beings, may be able to subsist by laboring in the day and remembering the sweetness of the everlasting light that he lost. Night has been made that he may rest his body with the will of coming to that place where there is neither night nor labor, but rather everlasting day and eternal glory."
The fourth revelation in the Book of Questions, wherein Christ most beautifully praises all the limbs of his Virgin Mother Mary - moralizing the said limbs in a spiritual way by comparing them to virtues - and he pronounces this same Virgin most worthy of her queenly crown.
The Son speaks: "I am a crowned king in my Godhead, without beginning and without end. A crown has neither beginning nor end, thus signifying my power which had no beginning and shall have no end. But I had still another crown in my keeping; and this crown is I myself, God. This crown was prepared for the one who had the greatest love for me; and you, my sweetest Mother, won it and drew it to yourself with your justice and your charity. For the angels and the other saints bear witness to the fact that in you there was a love for me more ardent than any other and a chastity more pure; and this pleased me more than all else. Truly, your head was like gleaming gold and your hair like the rays of the sun. For your most pure virginity - which in you is, as it were, the head of all your virtues - and your freedom from all illicit impulses pleased me and shone in my sight with all humility. Therefore, you are deservedly called a crowned queen over all that is created: "queen" because of your purity and "crowned" because of your excellent dignity. Your brow was of an incomparable whiteness - signifying the modesty of your conscience, in which resides the fullness of human knowledge and in which the sweetness of divine wisdom shines upon all. Your eyes were so lucid in my Father's sight that in them he gazed upon himself; for, in your spiritual vision and in your soul's intellect, the Father saw all your will - that you wanted nothing but him and desired nothing which did not please him. Your ears were most pure and were open like the fairest windows when Gabriel made my will known to you and when I, God, became flesh in you. Your cheeks were of the finest color - namely, white and ruddy - for the fame of your praiseworthy deeds and the beauty of your character daily burning within you pleased me.
At the beauty of your character, God my Father truly rejoiced; and he never turned his eyes away from you. And, out of your love, all have obtained love. Your mouth was like a lamp - burning within and shining without - because the words and affections of your soul burned inwardly with divine understanding and shone outwardly in the praise-worthy control of your bodily motions and in the lovely harmony of your virtues. Truly, dearest Mother, the word of your mouth drew, in a way, my Godhead into you; and the fervor of your godly sweetness never separated me from you; for your words are sweeter than the honey and the comb. Your neck is nobly erect and beautifully elevated because the righteousness of your soul is entirely directed upward to me and moves in accord with my will, and has never inclined to any wickedness of pride. For just as the neck curves with the head, so your every intention and operation bows to my will. Your breast was so full of all the sweetness of the virtues that there is no good in me that would not be in you; for you drew all good into yourself through the sweetness of your character when it pleased my divinity to enter into you and my humanity to dwell with you and drink the milk of your breasts.
Your arms were beautiful through your true obedience and your tolerance of labors. Your bodily hands touched my humanity and I rested in your arms with my divinity. Your womb was as perfectly clean as ivory and shone like a place built of exquisite stones; for your constancy of conscience and of faith never cooled and could not be spoiled by tribulation. Of this womb - i.e., of your faith - the walls were like the brightest gold; and on them was inscribed the fortitude of your virtues and your prudence and justice and temperance and your perfect perseverance; for all these virtues of yours were perfected by divine charity. Your feet were clean and washed and drenched, as it were, with fragrant herbs; for your soul's hope and affections were directed to me, your God, and were fragrant with good example for others to imitate. To me, this place of your womb - the spiritual as well as the corporeal - was so desirable and your soul was so pleasing that I did not disdain to come down to you from high heaven and tarry within you. No! This deed was my sweetest delight. Therefore, dearest Mother, that crown which I had in my keeping - that crown which is I myself, God, who was to take flesh - was not to be placed on anyone but you because you are truly a mother and a virgin."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Since you are most mighty, most beautiful, and most virtuous, why did you cloak your divinity - which shines incomparably brighter than the sun - in such sackcloth - namely, your humanity?"
Second question. "Item. How does your Godhead enclose all in itself and yet not be enclosed by anything? How does it contain all and yet not be contained by anything?"
Third question. "Item. Why did you will to lie so long a time in the Virgin's womb? Why did you not come forth as soon as you had been conceived?"
Fourth question. "Item. Since you can do all things and are everywhere present, why did you not immediately appear in the stature that you had when you reached your thirtieth year?"
Fifth question. "Item. Since you were not born of Abraham's seed through a father, why did you will to be circumcised?"
Sixth question. "Item. Since you were conceived and born without sin, why did you will to be baptized?"
Response to the first question. The Judge answered him: "Friend, I answer you with an example. There is a certain kind of grape whose wine is so strong that it comes forth from the grape without the touch of man. When the attentive owner sees the time of ripeness, he places a vessel down below. The wine is not waiting for the vessel, but the vessel for the wine. But if several vessels are placed below, the wine pours into the vessel that is nearest. This grape is my Godhead, which is so full of the wine of divine charity that all the choirs of angels are replenished with it, and of it, all existing things partake. But through disobedience, man made himself unworthy of that grape. Therefore, when at the time foreseen from eternity God my Father willed to display his charity, he sent his wine - i.e., me, his Son - into the vessel that stood nearest, expecting the advent of the wine, namely, into the womb of the Virgin, who had a love for me more fervent than that of any other creature. This Virgin so loved and desired me that there was no hour in which she did not seek me out of longing to become my handmaid. Therefore she received the choice wine; and this wine had three traits: first, strength, because I came forth without the touch of man; second, a most beautiful color because I, fair in beauty, came down from high heaven to fight; third, a most excellent sweetness, inebriating with its supreme blessing.
And so that wine - which is I myself - entered a virginal womb so that I, the invisible God, might be made visible and so that lost man might be liberated. I could quite well, indeed, have taken on another form; but it would not have been justice in God if form were not given for form and nature for nature, and if the manner of satisfaction did not accord with the manner of fault. Moreover, which of the wise could have believed or guessed that I, God almighty, would will so to humble myself that I would take on the sackcloth of humanity, except for the fact of my incomprehensible love, because of which I willed to live visibly with man? Because I saw that the Virgin burned with so fervent a love, my divine severity was conquered and my love was shown in order that man might be reconciled to me. Why do you marvel? I, God - who am love itself and who hate none of the things that I have made - arranged to give man not only my best gifts but also myself, as his price and his prize, so that all the proud and all the devils might be cast into confusion."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to how my Godhead encloses all things in itself, I answer: I, God, am spirit. I speak and it is done. I instruct and all things obey me. Truly, I am he who gives existence and life to all. Before I made the sky and the mountains and the earth, in myself I AM. I am above all and beyond all. I am within all; and all are in me; and, without me, there is nothing. And because my spirit breathes where it will; because it can do all things when it will; because it knows all things and is more swift and agile than all the spirits; because it has all strength and sees all things - present, past, and future - therefore my spirit, i.e., my Godhead, is deservedly incomprehensible even while it comprehends all."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why I lay so long a time in the Virgin's womb, I answer: I am the establisher of all nature; and for each nature I have arranged a due manner, time, and order of birth. Thus, if I, the establisher, had gone forth from the womb as soon as I was conceived, I would have acted against my arrangement of nature; and my assumption of humanity would have been fantastical and untrue. I willed to be as long a time in the womb as other children so that even I myself might comply with the arrangement of nature that I had made and ordained so well."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why, at the time of my nativity, I was not immediately as large as I was in my thirtieth year, I answer: If I had done this, all would have wondered and feared, following me out of fear - and because they saw miracles - rather than out of love. How then would the prophets' words have been fulfilled? They had foretold that as a child I would be placed in a manger among animals and be adored by kings and be offered in the temple and be persecuted by enemies. Therefore, to show that my humanity was real and that the prophets' words were fulfilled in me, my limbs grew through the intervals of time - but in fullness of wisdom I was as great at the beginning of my birth as at the end."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. To your questioning why I was circumcised, I answer: Although I was not of Abraham's lineage through a father, nevertheless I was of that lineage through my Mother, although without sin. Because I instituted the law in my divinity, I willed also to suffer the law in my humanity that my enemies might not slander me by saying that I had given precepts that I myself would not fulfill."
Response to the sixth question. "Item. As to why I willed to be baptized, I answer: Everyone who wills to establish or begin a new way must himself - as the establisher and beginner of that way - walk on it ahead of others. Now, to the ancient People, there was given a carnal way, namely, circumcision, as a sign of obedience and future purgation. In faithful persons who kept the law, it wrought some effect of the future grace and promise before there came that promised truth - namely, I, the Son of God. Because the law was only, as it were, a shadow, it had been determined in eternity that with the coming of truth the ancient way would retire, lacking its effect. Therefore, that the truth might appear, the shadow yield, and an easier way to heaven be shown, I, God and man, born without sin, willed to be baptized out of humility and as an example to others and so that I might open heaven to those who believe. As a sign of this, when I had been baptized, the heavens were opened; the Father's voice was heard; the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove; and I, God's Son, was shown in a true human being in order that all the faithful might know and believe that the Father opens heaven for the faithful who have been baptized.
The Holy Spirit is with the baptizer, and the virtuous power of my humanity is in the element, although in the Father and in Me and in the Holy Spirit there is only one operation and one will. And so, with the coming of truth - i.e., when I, who am truth, came into the world - then, at once, the shadow vanished; the shell of the law was broken and the kernel appeared; circumcision gave way and in me baptism was confirmed - by means of which, heaven is opened for the young and the old; and the children of wrath become children of grace and of life everlasting."
The fifth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, instructing her not to be worried about the care of earthly riches and informing her of the patience to be had in times of tribulation together with the virtues of perfect self-denial and humility.
The Son of God speaks to the bride and says: "Be diligently attentive to yourself!" She answers: "Why?" The Lord says to her: "Because the world is sending to you four servants who wish to deceive you. The first is the worry of riches. When he comes, answer him: 'Riches are transitory; and the greater their abundance, the greater the accounting of them that one must give. Therefore, I do not care about them because they do not follow their owner, but leave him.' The second servant is the loss of riches and the deprivation of things that had been bestowed. Answer him thus: 'He who gave the riches has himself taken them away. He knows what is expedient for me. May his will be done!'
The third servant is the tribulation of this world. Speak to him thus: 'Blessed be you, my God, who permit me to be troubled. For through tribulations I know that I belong to you because you permit tribulation in the present that you may spare in the future. Therefore, distribute to me patience and strength to endure.' The fourth servant is scorn and insults. Answer them thus: 'God alone is good, and to him all honor is due. But I, who have done all wicked and worthless deeds, whence or why should I have honor? I am worthy, rather, of every insult because the whole of my life has blasphemed God. Why does honor mean more to me than insult? For it only excites pride and diminishes humility: and God is forgotten. Therefore, to God be all honor and praise.' For the sake of these reasons, stand fast against the servants of the world; and love me, your God, with all your heart."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Since you are both God and man, why did you not show your divinity as well as your humanity? Then all would have believed in you."
Second question. "Item. Why did you not cause all your words to be heard in a single moment? Then it would not have been necessary for them to be preached through the intervals of time."
Third question. "Item. Why did you not do all your works in one hour?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why did your body grow through the intervals of time and not in one moment?"
Fifth question. "Item. At the approach of death, why did you not show yourself in the might of your divinity; and why did you not show your severity on your enemies when you said, 'All is consummated'?"
Response to the first question. The Judge answered: "O Friend, it is you that I answer - and yet, not you. On the one hand, I answer you in order that the malice of your thought may be noted by others. On the other hand, it is not you that I answer, for these things are shown, not for your own improvement, but as a benefit and as a warning for others in the present and in the future. For you do not intend to alter your obstinacy; and therefore you will not pass over from your death into my life because in your own life you hate true life. Nevertheless, others who have heard about your life - I should say: your 'death' - will pass over and will fly to my life because, as it is written, for the saints, all things work together for good; and God permits nothing without a cause. Therefore, when spiritual things are discussed between us, I answer you, not as those who speak in human fashion, but in order that what you think and crave may be expressed in similitudes for others.
"You ask, therefore, why I did not openly show my divinity as well as my humanity. The reason is that the divinity is spiritual and the humanity is corporeal. Nevertheless, the divinity and the humanity are, and were, inseparable from the first moment that they were joined. The Godhead is uncreated, and all things that exist were created in it and through it, and all perfection and beauty is found in it. If, therefore, such great beauty and perfection were to be shown visibly to eyes of clay, who would endure the sight? Who could look at even the material sun in its clarity? Who would not be terrified by the sight of lightning and the sound of thunder? How much greater the fear if the Lord of lightnings and Creator of all were seen in his glory!
Thus it was for a two-fold cause that my Godhead was not shown openly. First, because of the weakness of the human body, which is earthen in its substance. If any human's body were to see the Godhead, it would melt like wax before a fire; and the soul would rejoice with such great exultation that the body would be annihilated like a cinder. Second, because of the divine goodness and its immutable stability. For if I showed to corporeal eyes my Godhead, which is incomparably more splendid than fire or the sun, I would be acting contrary to myself; for I said: 'No human shall see me and live.' Not even the prophets saw me as I am in the nature of my Godhead; for even those who heard the voice of my Godhead and saw the smoking mountain were terrified and said: 'Let Moses speak to us, and we shall hear him.' Therefore, in order that man might better understand me, I, God the merciful, showed myself to him in a form like himself that could be seen and touched - namely, in my humanity, in which the Godhead exists but, as it were, veiled - in order that man might not be terrified by a form unlike himself. For, insofar as I am God, I am not corporeal and not corporeally portrayed; therefore, it was in my humanity that I could be heard and seen more tolerably by man."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why I did not speak all my words in one hour, I answer you: Just as, materially, it goes against the body for it to take in one hour as much food as might content it for many years, so it is against the divine arrangement that my words, which are the food of the soul, would all have been spoken in one hour. But just as bodily food is taken in little by little, to be chewed and, when chewed, to be carried to the interior, so my words were not to be spoken in one hour, but rather through the intervals of time, in accord with the intelligence of those who were making progress, in order that the hungry might have something by which to be satisfied and that when satisfied, they might be excited to higher things."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why I did not do all my works in one moment, I answer: Of those who saw me in the flesh, there were some who believed and some who did not believe. For those who believed, it was necessary that they be instructed in words, through the intervals of time, and be occasionally aroused by examples and strengthened by works. As for those who did not believe, it was just that they showed their malicious disposition and were tolerated as long as my divine justice might permit. If I had done all my works in a single moment, all would have followed me out of fear rather than out of love. And how, then, would the mystery of man's redemption have been fulfilled? Therefore, just as at the beginning of the world's creation, everything was brought to pass at distinct hours and in distinct ways - although everything that was to be made existed then, at one and the same time, without change, in my divine foreknowledge - so also, in my humanity, all things were to be done rationally and distinctly, for the salvation and instruction of all."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why my body grew for a number of years and not in one moment, I answer: The Holy Spirit, who is eternally in the Father and in me, the Son, showed to the prophets what I would do and suffer when I came in the flesh. Therefore it pleased the Godhead that I should take on such a body, in which I could labor from morn to evening and from year to year, even to the end of death. Therefore, lest the prophets' words seemed empty, I, the Son of God, took on a body like Adam except for sin - a body in which I would be like those whom I was going to redeem - in order that through my charity, man, who had turned away, might be led back; that man, who had died, might be revived; that man, who had been sold, might be redeemed."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why I did not show the power of my Godhead and the truth of my divinity to all when, on the cross, I said: 'It is consummated,' I answer: All that was written about me had to be fulfilled. Therefore, I fulfilled all those things even to the last point. But, because many things had been foretold about my resurrection and ascension, it was therefore necessary that these words too should have their effect. If the power of my Godhead had been shown at my death, who would have dared to take me down from the cross and bury me? In the end, it would have been a very small matter for me to come down from the cross and scatter my crucifiers; but how, then, would prophecy have been fulfilled; and where, then, would the virtue of my patience be? And if I had come down from the cross, would then all have really believed? Would they not have said that I had used the evil art? For if they were indignant because I raised the dead and healed the sick, they would have said even worse things if I had come down from the cross. Therefore, that captives might be loosed, I - the free - was captured; and that the guilty might be saved, I - the guiltless - stood fast upon the cross. And through my steadfastness, I steadied all that was unstable and strengthened the weak."
The sixth revelation in the Book of Questions in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and teaches her - saying that in the spiritual life, labor and vigorous perseverance and humble acquiescence in an elder's advice and manly resistance to temptations will gain, for her, repose of mind and eternal glory. He proposes as an example Jacob, who worked as a servant to win Rachel. He says that for some the strongest temptations come at the beginning of their conversion to the spiritual life; for others, in the middle of the spiritual life or at its end. Therefore one must fear and, with humility, persevere in virtues and in labor to the very end.
The Son speaks: "It is written that Jacob worked as a servant for Rachel's sake and that the days seemed few to him because of his great love; for the greatness of his love lightened his labors. But when Jacob believed that he had attained his desire, he was outwitted; nevertheless, he did not yet cease from his labor because love does not debate about difficulty until it reaches what it desires. So it is in spiritual matters. To obtain the things of heaven, many labor manfully in prayers and pious works; but when they think that they have attained the repose of contemplation, they become involved in temptations. Their tribulations increase; and just when they are considering themselves almost perfect, they find that they are totally imperfect. And no wonder; for it is temptations that probe and purge and perfect man. And so for some, temptations increase in the beginning of their conversion to the spiritual life; and such persons are more perfectly strengthened in the end.
Others are more gravely tempted in the middle of their lives and at the end. These must look to themselves carefully, never having any presumption about themselves, but laboring all the more bravely. As Laban said: 'It is the custom to take the elder sister first.' It was as if he were to say: 'First practice labor, and afterward you will have the repose you desire.' Therefore, daughter, you are not to marvel if even in old age temptations increase. For as long as life is permitted, temptation too is possible. The devil never sleeps, because temptation is an opportunity for perfection so that man may not presume. Behold, I show you the example of two persons. One was tempted at the beginning of his conversion, and he persisted and progressed and attained what he sought. The other experienced in his old age grave temptations that he had little known in his youth. He became so involved in them that he almost forgot all prior ones. But because he stood by his resolve and did not cease to labor - even though he had become cold and tepid - therefore he came to his desires and to repose of mind. He recognized in his own case that the judgments of God are hidden and just and that if it had not been for those temptations, he would have had difficulty in reaching eternal salvation."
First question. Again the religious appeared, standing on his rung as before and saying: "O Judge, I ask you: Why did you prefer to be born of a virgin rather than of another woman not a virgin?"
Second question. "Item. Why did you not show with a visible sign that she was both a mother and a pure virgin?"
Third question. "Item. Why did you so hide your nativity, which was known to but a very few?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why did you flee before Herod into Egypt, and why did you permit innocent boys to be killed?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why do you allow yourself to be blasphemed and falsehood to prevail over truth?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "O friend, I preferred to be born of a virgin rather than of a woman not a virgin because for me, God the most pure, all purest things are fitting. As long as man's nature remained in the order of its creation, it had no deformity; but when my command was violated, there arose at once a certain ability to blush for shame - as happens to persons who sin against their temporal lord and who blush even at the limbs with which they sinned. With the arrival of shame for the violation, inordinate impulses soon increased, and most of all in that organ which was set in place for the sake of fruitfulness. But so that this impulse might not be fruitless, by the goodness of God it was converted into something good; and through the institution of a divine command, the work of carnal intercourse was granted as the means by which nature could bear fruit.
However, it is more glorious to extend oneself beyond a command by doing whatever additional good one can out of love; and this is virginity. For it is more virtuous and more magnificent to be in the fire of tribulation and not burn, than to be without fire and yet wish to be crowned. Now, since virginity is a most beautiful path to heaven - while marriage is, as it were, a road - it befitted me, God the most pure, to rest in the purest virgin. Just as the first man was made from the earth when it was, in a way, a virgin - for it had not yet been polluted with blood - and because Adam and Eve sinned while their nature was still healthy, so too I, God, willed to be received by the purest receptacle so that through my goodness all things might be reformed."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why I did not show by open signs that my Mother was both mother and virgin, I answer: I made all the mysteries of my incarnation known to the prophets so that it might be all the more firmly believed, the longer it had been predicted. That my Mother truly was a virgin both before and after childbirth was sufficiently attested to by Joseph, who was the guardian and the witness of her virginity. Even if her chastity had been shown by a more evident miracle, the distrustful, in their malice, would still not have ceased from blasphemy. They distrust that a virgin conceived through the power of the Godhead because they do not attend to the fact that it is easier for me, God, to do this than it is for the sun to penetrate glass. It was an act of my divine justice that me mystery of God's incarnation was hidden from the devil and from mankind, to be revealed in the time of grace. Now, however, I say that my Mother truly is a mother and a virgin. Just as, in the molding of Adam and Eve, there was the wonderful power of the Godhead and, in their cohabitation, a delightful honesty, even so, in my Godhead's approach to the Virgin, there was a wonderful goodness - for my incomprehensible divinity descended into that closed vessel without doing it violence. And that place was a delightful habitation for me; for I, God - who was everywhere in my divinity - was, in my humanity, enclosed. Here, too, there was wonderful power; for I, God, who am bodiless, went forth with a body from her womb, while preserving her virginity. Because man made difficulties about believing and because my Mother is a lover of total humility, it therefore pleased me to hide her beauty and her perfection for a time in order that my Mother too might have some merit with which she might be more perfectly crowned and in order that I, God, might be more fully glorified at that time in which I would fulfill my promises of reward for the good and retribution for the wicked."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why I did not show my nativity to mankind, I answer: Although the devil lost the dignity of his previous rank, he did not lose his knowledge, which he possesses for the testing of the good and for his own confusion. Therefore, in order that my human nature might grow and might reach the predetermined time, the mystery of my pity had to be concealed from the devil because I willed to come in secrecy to make war on the devil and because I chose to be despised in order to subdue the arrogance of mankind. The very teachers of the law, who read about me in their books, despised me because I came in humility; and because they were proud, they would not hear the true justice that comes from faith in my redemption. Therefore they shall be confounded when the son of perdition comes in his pride.
But if I had come with great power and honor, how then would the proud have been humbled? Or will the proud now enter heaven? Not at all! And so I came humbly in order that man might learn humility; and I hid myself from the proud because they wished to understand neither my divine justice nor themselves."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why I fled into Egypt, I answer: Before the violation of the commandment, there was a single way to heaven, broad and bright: broad in its abundance of virtues and bright with divine wisdom and with the obedience of a good will. And when that will had changed, two ways began. One led to heaven; the other led away. Obedience led to heaven; disobedience led astray. Therefore, because it was in the power of man's free will to choose good or evil - namely, to obey or not to obey - he sinned because he willed otherwise than I, God, wanted him to will. In order that man might be saved, it was just and right that someone came able to redeem him - someone who would possess perfect obedience and innocence and, in whose regard, those who so wished could show love and those who so wished could show malice. But in order to redeem mankind, it was not an angel that ought to be sent; for I, God, do not grant my glory to another. Nor was there any human found who could placate me on his own behalf, much less for others. Therefore, I, God, who alone am just, came to justify all. The fact that I fled into Egypt showed the weakness of my humanity and fulfilled a prophecy. And I also gave an example to coming generations: that sometimes persecution must be eluded for the greater glory of God in the future. Because I was not found by my pursuers, my divine plan prevailed over that of men; for it is not easy to fight against God. The fact that the infants were slain was a sign of my future passion and a mystery of election and divine charity. Although these speechless infants did not bear witness to me with their voices or their mouths, they did so through their death, as befitted my own speechless infancy; for it had been foreseen that God's praise would be accomplished even in the blood of the Innocents.
For, although the malice of the unjust afflicted them unjustly, nevertheless it was my divine permission, always kind and just, that exposed them, not without justice, in order to show the malice of mankind and the incomprehensible counsel and pity of my Godhead. Therefore, where unjust malice boiled up against the children, there merit and grace justly abounded; and where confession of the tongue and age were lacking, there the blood that had been shed accumulated a most perfect goodness."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why I allow myself to be blasphemed, I answer: It is written that when King David eluded his son's persecution, a certain man cursed him on the way; and when his servants wanted to kill that man, David prohibited them for a double reason: first, because he had hope of returning; second, because he considered his own weakness and sin, the foolishness of the curser, and God's patience and goodness towards himself. Figuratively, I am David. Man truly persecutes me with his evil deeds - as the servant persecuted his lord - casting me out of my kingdom, i.e., out of his soul, which I created and which is my kingdom. Then he rebukes me for being unjust in judgment and even blasphemes me because I am patient.
Indeed, because I am meek, I suffer their foolishness; and because I am a judge, I await their conversion even to the very last moment. Finally, because man believes falsehood rather than truth - loving the world more than me, his God - it is therefore no wonder if the wicked man is tolerated in his wickedness; for he wills neither to seek the truth nor to recover from his evil."
The seventh revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and praises frequent confession in order that man may not lose the divine grace that he has.
The Son of God speaks: "When there is a fire in the house, it is necessary to have a venthole through which the smoke can go out so that the inhabitant may enjoy the warmth. Thus, for everyone who desires to keep my Spirit and my divine grace, frequent confession is useful so that through it, the smoke of sin may escape. For although my divine Spirit is in itself unchangeable, nevertheless it quickly withdraws from the heart that is not guarded by humble confession."
The eighth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to the bride and says of those who find their pleasure in carnal and earthly delights - neglecting heavenly desires and charity and the memory of his passion and of eternal judgment - that their prayer is like the sound of stones colliding and that they will be abominably cast forth from God's sight as if they were an abortion or the soiled napkin of menstruous woman.
"That man sang: 'Deliver me, O Lord, from the unjust man.' This voice is in my ears like the sound of two stones struck together. Indeed, his heart calls to me as if with three voices. The first says: 'I want to have my will in my own hands; I want to sleep and to arise and to talk of pleasant things. I shall give nature what it craves. I long for money in my purse and the softness of garments on my back. When I have these and other things, I count them a greater happiness than all of the soul's other spiritual gifts and virtues.' His second voice is this: 'Death is not too hard, and judgment is not as severe as it is written. We are threatened with harsh things as a precaution, but they are mitigated out of mercy. Therefore, if I can have my will in the present, let my soul pass over as best it can in the future.' The third voice is this: 'God would not have redeemed man if he did not wish to give man heavenly things; nor would he have suffered if he did not wish to lead us back to our Father's home. Why, indeed, did he suffer? Who ever compelled him to suffer?
Obviously, I have no intelligence of heavenly things except by hearsay; and whether one should trust the Scriptures is something that I do not know. If I could only have my will, I would take it in place of the heavenly kingdom.' Behold, such is that man's will. Therefore, in my ears his voice is like the sound of stones. "But, O friend, I answer your first voice: 'Your way does not tend toward heaven, and the passion of my charity is not to your taste. Therefore hell has opened for you; and because you love things base and earthly, you will therefore go to the regions below.'
To your second voice, I answer: 'Son, death will be hard for you, judgment unendurable, and flight impossible, unless you amend yourself.' To your third voice, I say: 'Brother, all my works were done out of charity in order that you might be like me and, though turned away, might come to me again. But now my works are dead in you, my words are burdensome, and my way is neglected. And so what awaits you is punishment and the company of the demons because you turn your back to me, you trample underfoot the signs of my humility, and you give no attention to the state in which I stood before you - and for you - on the cross.
In a threefold state, I stood there for your sake: first, as a man whose eye was penetrated by a knife; second, as a man whose heart was perforated by a sword; third, as a man whose every limb trembled with the pain of pressing tribulation. Indeed, my passion was to me more bitter than a puncture in the eye; yet I suffered it out of charity. My Mother's sorrow moved my heart more than my own; yet I bore it. For a long time, all my inner and outer parts trembled out of pressing pain and suffering; and yet I did not dismiss it or draw back. Thus I stood fore you, but all this you forget and neglect and despise. Therefore you shall be cast forth as an abortion; and, like the napkin of a menstruous woman, you will be cast out.'
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why is your grace so quickly withdrawn from some while others are long tolerated in their wickedness?"
Second question. "Item. Why is grace granted to some in their youth while others, in old age, are deprived of it?"
Third question. "Item. Why are some troubled beyond measure while others are, as it were, secure from tribulation?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why are some given intelligence and an incomparable genius for learning while others are like asses without intellect?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why are some excessively hardened while others rejoice in wonderful consolation?"
Sixth question. "Item. Why is greater prosperity given in this world to the wicked rather than to the good?"
Seventh question. "Item. Why is one called in the beginning and another toward the end?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, all my works are in my foreknowledge from the beginning; and all things that have been made were created for the solace of man. But because man prefers his own will to my will, therefore, out of justice, the goods gratuitously given to him are taken from him in order that man may know that with God all things are rational and just. And because many are ungrateful for my grace and become more undevout the more their gifts are multiplied, the gifts are therefore quickly taken from them in order that my divine plan may be more swiftly manifested and lest man abuse my grace to his own greater doom. Item. As to why some are long tolerated in their wickedness, the reason is that amidst their evils, many have some tolerable trait. For either they are of profit to some, or they are a caution to others. When Saul was denounced by Samuel, Saul's sin seemed slight in the sight of men while David's sin seemed greater. However, under the pressure of testing, Saul disobediently abandoned me, his God, and consulted the pythoness. But David, in temptation, became more faithful, patiently enduring the things that bore down upon him and considering that they befell him for his sins. The fact that I patiently endured Saul demonstrates Saul's ingratitude and my divine patience. The fact that David was chosen shows my foreknowledge and David's future humility and his contrition."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why grace is taken away from some in their old age, I answer: All are given grace in order that the Giver of grace may be loved by all. But because many, toward their end, are ungrateful for my divine grace - as Solomon was - it is therefore just that what was not carefully kept before the end should, in the end, be withdrawn. For my gift and my divine grace are taken away sometimes because of the recipient's negligence in attending to what he has received and to what he should give in return, sometimes as a caution for others so that everyone in the state of grace may always fear and feel dread at the fall of others. For even the wise have fallen through negligence; and even some, who seemed to be my friends, have been supplanted because of their ingratitude."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why some have greater tribulation, I answer: I am the Creator of all. Therefore no tribulation comes without my permission, as it is written: I am God 'creating evil' - i.e., permitting tribulation - because no trouble befalls even the gentiles without me or without a rational cause. For my prophets foretold many things concerning the adversities of the gentiles in order that they, being negligent and abusive of reason, might be taught by scourges and in order that I, God - permitting all - might be known and glorified by every nation. If therefore I, God, do not spare the pagans from scourges, far less will I spare these who have more copiously tasted of the sweetness of my divine grace.
The fact that some have less tribulation, and others more, occurs so that mankind may turn away from sin and may, after troubles in the present, obtain consolation in the future. For all who are judged and who judge themselves in this age will not come to future judgment. As it is written: They will pass 'from death into life.' The fact that some are protected from the scourge occurs lest, having been scourged, they murmur and thus incur a heavier judgment, for there are many who do not deserve to be scourged in the present. There are even some in this life who are not weighed down by any bodily or spiritual annoyance and who live as carelessly as if God did not exist or as if God spares them because of their works of justice. But they should be greatly afraid and should grieve lest I, God, who spare them in the present, come unforeseen and damn them more harshly because they have no compunction.
There are some who have health in the flesh but are troubled in soul because of their contempt for God. Others enjoy neither bodily health nor inner consolation of soul, and yet they persevere in serving and honoring me according to their ability. Indeed, some - from their mother's womb and right up to the end - are afflicted by infirmities. But I, their God, so moderate the tribulations of all these people that nothing happens without a cause and a recompense, for of those who slept before their temptations the eyes of many are opened in tribulation."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why some have greater intelligence, I answer: The abundance of one's wisdom does not profit the soul toward eternal salvation unless the soul also shines with a good life. On the contrary, it is more useful to have less knowledge and a better life. Therefore, each person has been given a measure of rationality by means of which he can obtain heaven if he lives piously. However, rationality varies in many according to their natural and spiritual dispositions. For just as, by means of divine fervor and the virtues, man makes progress toward perfection of the virtues, so too through bad will and bad disposition of nature and wrong upbringing, man descends into vanities.
Many times nature suffers a defect when one strives against nature and one sins. Therefore, it is not without cause that in some, rationality is great but useless, as in those who have knowledge but not life. In others, there is less knowledge but better practice. In some, of course, rationality and life are in agreement; but in others, on the contrary, there is neither rationality nor life. This variety comes from my well-ordered and divine permission - sometimes, for the benefit of humans or for their humiliation and instruction; sometimes, because of ingratitude or temptation; sometimes, because of a defect of nature or latent sins; sometimes, in order to avoid the occasion of a greater sin; and sometimes, because a nature is not suited to receive anything greater. Let everyone who has the grace of intelligence therefore fear that, because of it, he will be judged more heavily if he is negligent. Let him who has no intelligence or talent rejoice and do as much as he can with the little that he has; for he has been freed from many occasions of sin. In youth, Peter the apostle was forgetful and John was no trained expert; but they grasped true wisdom in their old age because they sought wisdom's beginning.
When young, Solomon was docile and Aristotle was subtle; but they did not grasp the beginning of wisdom because they neither glorified the Giver of knowledge as they ought, nor imitated the things that they knew and taught, nor learned for themselves, but for others. Balaam, too, had knowledge but did not follow it; and therefore the she-ass rebuked his folly. Daniel when young, judged his elders. Erudition, without a good life, does not please me; therefore, it is necessary that those who abuse rationality be corrected. For I, the God and Lord of all, give knowledge to mankind; and I correct both the wise and the foolish."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why some are hardened, I answer: The fact that Pharaoh was hardened was his own fault, and not mine, because he would not conform himself to my divine will. For obduracy is nothing other than the withdrawal of my divine grace; and grace is withdrawn because man has not given to me, God, that free thing he has, namely, his own will, as you will be able to understand through an example.
There was a man who possessed two fields, of which the one remained uncultivated and the other, at certain times, bore fruit. His friend said to him: 'Since you are wise and wealthy, I wonder why you do not cultivate your fields more diligently or hand them over to others for cultivation.' He answered: 'One of these fields - no matter how much diligence I display - produces nothing but very bad herbs - which noxious beasts seize upon, and then the beasts befoul the place. If I apply an enrichment, the field grows so insolent and wanton that even if it produces a modicum of grain, even more weeds spring up, which I disdain to gather because I desire no grain unless it is pure. Therefore, the better plan is to leave such a field uncultivated; for then the beasts do not occupy the place and the beasts do not hide in the grass. And if some bitter herbs do sprout, they are useful for the sheep, for after tasting them, the sheep learn not to be fastidious about things that are sweet.
The other field is laid out according to the temperature of the seasons. A part of it is stony and needs enrichment; another part is moist and needs warmth; another part is dry and needs moisture. For that reason, I will to regulate my work according to the field's condition.' I, God, am like that man. The first field is the free movement of the will given to man. He moves it more against me than for me. And if man does some things that please me, in many more things he provokes me, for man's will and mine are not in agreement. So too Pharaoh acted, for, although through sure signs he recognized my power, nonetheless he strengthened his resolution of standing fast in his wickedness against me. Therefore, he experienced my justice, for it is just that he who does not make good use of trifles should not pride himself on things that are very great.
The second field is the obedience of a good mind and the rejection of one's own will. If such a mind is dry in devotion, it must wait for the rain of my divine grace. If it is stony through impatience or obduracy, it must, with composure, endure purgation and rebuke. If it is moist through carnal wantonness, let it embrace abstinence and be like an animal prepared for its owner's will; for in such a mind I, God, take much glory. Therefore, the fact that some become hardened is caused by man's will being contrary to mine. For even though I will that all be saved, nevertheless this is not accomplished unless man has personally cooperated by making his entire will conform to my will. The fact that not all are given equal grace and progress is an act of my hidden judgment, for I know and I regulate for each person what is expedient and necessary for him; and I restrain man's attempts lest he fall too deeply. For many have the talent of grace and would be able to work; but they refuse. Others abstain from sin out of fear of punishment or because they do not have the means to sin or because sin does not amuse them. Therefore, to some, greater gifts are not given because I, who alone know the minds of human beings know how to distribute my gifts."
Response to the sixth question. "Item. As to why the wicked sometimes have greater prosperity in the world than the good, I answer: This is an indication of my great patience and charity and a testing for the just. For if I gave temporal goods only to my friends, the wicked would despair and the good would grow proud. Therefore, temporal goods are given to all so that I, the Creator and giver of all, may be loved by all and so that, when the good grow proud, they may be instructed in justice by means of the wicked. Indeed, let all understand that temporal things are not to be loved or preferred to me, God, but are to be had for sustenance alone; and let them be all the more fervent in my service, the less the stability that they find in temporal things."
Response to the seventh question. "Item. As to why one is called at the beginning and another at the end, I answer: I am like a mother who sees in her children the hope of life and gives stronger things to some and lighter things to others. With those for whom there is no hope she also sympathizes, and she does for them as much as she can. But if the children become worse from the mother's remedy, what need is there then to labor? This is the way I deal with man. One, whose will is foreseen as more fervent and whose humility and stability are foreseen as more constant, received grace in the beginning; and it will follow him to the end. Another, who, amidst all his wickedness, still attempts and strives to become better, deserves to be called toward the end. But he who is ungrateful does not deserve admission to his mother's breasts."
The ninth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and shows her that she has already been rescued and delivered from the house of the world and of vices and that she has now been brought to dwell in the mansion of the Holy Spirit. And therefore he warns her to conform herself to that same Spirit by always persevering in purity, humility, and devotion.
The Son speaks to the bride: "You are she who was nurtured in a house of poverty and then came into the society of the great. In a house of poverty, there are three things, namely, stained walls, harmful smoke, and pervasive soot. But you have been led into a house where there is beauty without stain, warmth without smoke, and sweetness that fills without cloying. The house of poverty is the world. Its walls are pride, oblivion of God, abundance of sin, and disregard of the future.
These walls stain because they annihilate good works and hide God's face from mankind. The smoke is love of the world. It harms the eyes because it darkens the soul's understanding and causes the soul to worry about superfluous things. The soot is pleasure; for even if it delights for a time, it never satisfies or replenishes with eternal goodness. From these things, therefore, you were drawn away; and you were led into the mansion of the Holy Spirit. He is in me, and I am in him, and he encloses you in himself. He, indeed, is most pure and most beautiful and most steadfast; for he sustains all things. Therefore, conform yourself to the Inhabitant of the house by remaining pure, humble, and devout."
First question. Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why do animals suffer inconveniences when they will not have eternal life and do not have the use of reason?"
Second question. "Item. Why are all things born with pain when there is no sin in the birth of anything?"
Third question. "Item. Why does an infant carry the sin of its father when it does not know how to sin?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why does the unforeseen so frequently occur?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why does a wicked man die a good death like the just; and the just sometimes a bad death like the unjust?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, although this inquisition of yours does not come from love, nevertheless I do answer you so that others may love. You inquire why animals suffer infirmities. It is because in them - as in everything else - all things are disordered. For I am the establisher of all natures, and I gave to each nature its own temperament and order by which each thing might move and live. But after man - because of whom all things were made - opposed his lover, i.e., me, his God, all other things began to take on his disorder; and all that should have revered him began to oppose and resist him.
Therefore, it is out of this vice of disorder that so very many annoyances and adversities befall both man and the animals. However, animals also sometimes suffer because of the intemperance of their own nature - sometimes for the mitigation of their wildness and the purging of nature itself; sometimes because of mankind's sins so that, when the things that man loves are plagued or withdrawn, man himself may attentively consider what great punishment he deserves, for he has the use of a greater thing, reason. Indeed, if mankind's sins did not demand it, the animals that are in man's hands would not be so singularly afflicted. But not even they suffer without great justice.
For either it will be to them for a swifter end of life, or for less labor of misery and consumption of strong nature, or because of the change of seasons or out of the carelessness of man when labor is forthcoming. Let man therefore fear me, his God, more than everything else and be all the more gentle toward my creatures and animals, on whom he must have mercy for the sake of me, their Creator. For this reason, I, God, gave man the precept concerning the Sabbath, for I care about everyone of my creatures."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why all things are born with suffering, I answer: When man scorned the most beautiful delight, he immediately incurred a toilsome life. And because disorder began in man and through man, it is my justice that the other creatures too - which exist for man's sake - should have some bitterness for the tempering of their delight and the fostering of their nourishment. Therefore, man is born with pain and makes progress with labor so that he may be eager to hasten to his true rest. He dies naked and poor so that he may bridle his inordinate impulses and so that he may fear future examination. And thus, even animals give birth with pain so that bitterness may temper their excesses and so that they may be partners with man in labor and pain. Therefore, man, who is so much nobler than the animals, should all that more fervently love me, the Lord God, his Creator."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why the child carries the sins of the father, I answer: Could anything that comes from something unclean be clean itself? Therefore, when the first man lost the beauty of innocence because of his disobedience, he was cast out of the paradise of joy and became involved in unclean things. No one was found able, of himself, to recover this innocence. Therefore I, the merciful God, came in the flesh and instituted baptism, by means of which a child is liberated from wrong uncleanness and from sin. Because of this, the son will not carry the sin of the father; but each one will die in his own sin.
However, it happens many times that children imitate the sins of their parents; and therefore the parents' sins are sometimes punished in the children. This is not because the sins of the parents will not be punished in the parents themselves, although the punishment of these sins may be deferred for a time. But each one will die in, and be punished for, his own sin. Sometimes, too, the sins of the fathers - as it is written - are visited even upon the fourth generation; for when the children do not endeavor to mitigate my wrath in their own behalf or on behalf of their parents, it is my divine justice that they be punished together with the parents whom they followed against me."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why the unforeseen soul frequently comes about, I answer: It is written that man shall be punished through those things through which he sins. And who shall be able to understand the plan of God? Many seek me, not in accordance with knowledge, but for the sake of the world. Some fear more than is right; others presume too much; others are proud in their designs. Therefore, I, God, who work the salvation of all, cause sometimes the occurrence of that which man most fears: sometimes, the removal of a thing that is loved more than is right; sometimes, the delay of a thing that is too anxiously anticipated and desired, in order that, above all things, man may always fear, love, and acknowledge me, his God."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why a wicked man dies a good death like the just, I answer: The wicked sometimes have certain good traits and do certain works of justice for which they are to be repaid in the present. Similarly, too, the just sometimes do certain bad things for which they are to be scourged in the present, or they should be expected to be. Therefore, because at present all things are uncertain and all things are reserved for the future and because there is one entrance for all, therefore there must also be one exit for all, for it is not the exit but the life that makes a man blessed. However, the fact that the wicked meet with an exit like that of the just is a result of my divine providence, for they themselves desired that exit. The devil, foreseeing the exits of his friends, sometimes foretells to them their time of death to cause in them presumption and vainglory and the deception - as it is found in those books entitled Apocrypha - that after death they will be praised as if they were just.
On the other hand, the just sometimes meet with a lamentable exit for their own greater merit so that they who, in their lifetime, always were careful about the virtues, may, through a contemptible death fly free to heaven - insofar as not even offscourings would be found in need of cleansing. As it is written, a lion killed a disobedient prophet and did not eat of the cadaver but guarded it. In that the lion killed the body, what else is hinted at if not my divine permission that the prophet's disobedience be punished? That the lion did not eat of the cadaver was a showing of the prophet's good works so that purged in the present, he might be found to be just in the future. Therefore, let each one fear to examine my judgments; for even as I am incomprehensible in virtue and power, so am I terrible in my plans and my judgments. Indeed, some who wished to comprehend me in their wisdom have failed in their hope."
The tenth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to the bride and warns her not to be disturbed if his divine words, given to her in revelations, are found to be sometimes obscure, sometimes dubious, and sometimes uncertain; for this happens from certain causes designated here and out of the hidden justice of God. He advises, however, that the events and promises of his words must always be awaited with patience and fear and humble perseverance lest the promised grace be revoked for ingratitude. He says also that many things, said in a corporeal way, will not be accomplished in the body but in the spirit.
The Son speaks to the bride: "Be not disturbed if I speak one word obscurely and another more expressly; or if I now say that someone is my servant or son and friend and, another time, the contrary is found. For my words can be interpreted in diverse ways: just as I said to you of one man that his hand would become his death, and of another, that he would approach my table no more. These things are said either because I am going to tell you why I have spoken thus or because you, in fact, will see the final truth - just as it is now clear in the case of those two. Sometimes, too, I say things obscurely in order that you may both fear and rejoice - fearing that they may come to pass in another way because of my divine patience, which knows the changes of hearts, and rejoicing too because my will is always fulfilled. So too, in the Old Law, I said many things that were to be understood more spiritually than corporeally - as concerning the temple and David and Jerusalem - in order that carnal mankind might learn to desire spiritual things.
For to test faith's constancy and the solicitude of my friends, I said and promised many things which, according to the diverse effects of my Spirit, could be understood in different ways by the good and the wicked, and so that in their different states they each might have opportunities in which they could be trained and tested and taught by me. That some things have been said obscurely happens out of my justice so that my plan may be hidden, and so that each one may patiently await my grace lest, perchance - if my plan were always made known with a definite date - all might grow tepid while waiting. And I have promised many things that have been withdrawn because of man's ingratitude; and many things have been said corporeally which shall be accomplished in a spiritual way, as concerning Jerusalem and Zion. For the Jews are, as it is written, the blind and deaf People of the Lord."
First question. Again the same religious appeared, standing on his rung as before, and said: "O Judge, I ask you: Why have many things been created that seem to be of no usefulness?"
Second question. "Item. Why are souls - remaining in the body or going forth from the body - not commonly seen?"
Third question. "Item. Why are your praying friends not always heard?"
Fourth question. "Item. Why are many who want to do evil not given permission?"
Fifth question. "Item. Why do evils come upon some who do not deserve them?"
Sixth question. "Item. Why do those who have the Spirit of God sin?"
Seventh question. "Item. Why does the devil adhere to some, being always present to them, but never to others?"
Response to the first question. The Judge replied: "Friend, just as my works are many, so too they are wonderful and incomprehensible. And, many though they are, none are without cause. Man, indeed, is like a boy nurtured in a prison, in darkness. If one were to tell him that light and stars exist, he would not believe because he has never seen. Similarly, ever since man deserted the true light, he delights only in darkness in accord with the popular saying: To a man accustomed to evil, evil seems sweet. And so, although man's intellect is darkened, nevertheless there is no shadow or change in me. I do arrange, and have arranged, all things so temperately and honestly and wisely that nothing has been made without a cause or a use, not the highest mountain, nor the desert, nor the lakes; not the beasts, nor even the venomous reptiles. I provide for the usefulness of all creatures as well as of mankind.
I am like a man who has certain places for strolling; other places for keeping utensils; other places for animals, tame and wild; other places for fortifications or for the mysteries of his council; other places because of the congruent position of the land; other places for mankind's reproof. Thus I, God, have arranged all things in a rational manner: some things for man's use and delight, some to be refuges for animals and birds, some for the training and bridling of human cupidity, some for the harmony of the elements, some for the admiration of my works, some for the punishment of sin and for the harmony of things higher and lower, some for a cause known and reserved to me alone.
For behold: the bee - so brief and small - knows how to extract much from many sources for the confecting of honey. So too the other creatures, both minute and large, surpass man in the shrewd distinguishing of herbs and in the consideration of their usefulness; and there are many things profitable for them which are harmful to man. What wonder then if man's sense is weak in discerning and understanding my marvels, since he is already surpassed by the tiniest creatures? Behold: what is more ugly than a frog or a serpent; what is more contemptible than a burr or a nettle or similar things? And yet they are very good for those who know how to discern my works. And so, whatever exists is of use for something; and each thing that moves knows how its own nature will be able to subsist and gain strength. Therefore, because all my works are wonderful and all praise me, let man, who is so much more beautiful and preferred than the others, know that he is all that more obligated than the others to honor me.
Moreover, if the impact of the waters were not confined by some boundary of mountains, where would mankind dwell in safety? And if the beasts had no refuge, how would they escape the insatiable greed of man? And if man had everything as he wished, would he then require the things of heaven? But if the beasts neither toiled nor feared, they would grow dissolute and infirm. Therefore, very many of my works are in concealment in order that I, the wonderful and incomprehensible God, may be known and honored by mankind out of admiration for my wisdom in the creation of my so many creatures."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why souls are not seen by man, I answer: the soul is of a far better nature than the body because it is from the power of my Godhead and is immortal, having a partnership with the angels, and more outstanding than all the planets and nobler than the whole world, Therefore, because the soul is of a most noble and fiery nature - giving the body life and warmth - and because it is spiritual, it can in no way be seen by corporeal beings except through corporeal similitudes."
Response to the third question. "Item. As to why my friends, petitioning me in their prayers, are not always heard by me, I answer: I am like a mother who sees her son making a request contrary to his welfare and puts off listening to his petition while stemming his tears with some indignation. Indeed, such indignation is not anger but great mercy. Thus I, God, do not always hear my friends because I see - better than they themselves would see - the things that are more useful for their welfare.
Did not Paul and others pray with energy and yet were not heard? But why? Because amidst their abundant virtues, my friends themselves have certain weaknesses and things to be purged; and therefore they are not heard in order that they may be all that more humble and fervent toward me, the more lovingly they are defended by me and preserved unscathed in temptations to sin. It is therefore a token of great love that the prayers of my friends are not always heard - for the sake of their greater merit and for the proving of their constancy. For just as the devil tries, if possible, to spoil the life of the just through some sin or through a contemptible death in order that the constancy of the faithful may thus grow tepid, so too I permit, not without cause, the testing of the just in order that their stability may be known to others and that they themselves may be more sublimely crowned. And just as the devil does not blush to tempt his own because he sees that they are quite prompt in sinning, so for a time I do not spare my elect because I see that they are prepared for all good."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why some who wish to do evil are not given permission, I answer: If a father has two sons, the one obedient and the other disobedient, that father resists the disobedient one as much as he can, lest the son transgress with malice. But the father tests the obedient son and urges him on to greater things so that by his activity even the disobedient son may also be incited toward better things. So too I, many times, do not permit the wicked to sin, because in the midst of their evils they do some good things by which they profit either themselves or others. Therefore, justice demands that they not be handed over to the devil at once and that they not always have success in fulfilling their will."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why evils come upon some who do not deserve them, I answer: Only I, God, know how good each person is and what each one deserves. Because many things appear beautiful when they are not, even gold is proved in the fire. Therefore, the just man is sometimes troubled as an example to others and for a crown for himself. So too Job was tested. He was good before his scourges; but during and after them, he became more known to mankind. And yet, who would want to examine why I scourged him? Who could know it but I myself, who anticipated with my blessings and preserved him from sinning and upheld him in temptations? And just as, without merits of his own, I anticipated him with my grace, so too I tested him with justice and mercy; for no one will be justified in my sight except through my grace."
Response to the sixth question. "Item. As to why those who had my Spirit sin, I answer: The Spirit of my Godhead is not bound but blows where it will and draws back when it will. It does not dwell in a vessel which is subject to sins but in one which has charity. For I, God, am charity; and where I am, there is freedom. Therefore he who accepts my Spirit has the ability to sin if he wishes, because every human being has free will. And so, when man moves his will against me, then my Spirit, which is in him, withdraws from him; or man himself is rebuked in order that he may correct his will. Thus, Balaam willed to curse my people; but I did not permit him. For although he was a wicked and covetous prophet, nevertheless he sometimes spoke good things, not of himself, but from my Spirit. Many times, the gift of my Spirit is given to the good and to the wicked. Otherwise, those great and eloquent speakers would not have disputed about such lofty things if they had not had my Spirit; nor would they have raved so foolishly against me if their thoughts had not been contrary to me and if they had not inclined toward pride, wanting to know more than they ought."
Response to the seventh question. "Item. As to why the devil is more present to some and adheres to them, I answer: The devil is, as it were, the lictor and the examiner of the just. Therefore, with my permission, he vexes the souls of certain people; he overshadows the consciences of others; and of some he vexes even the bodies. He vexes the souls of those who sin against reason and give themselves over to every impurity and infidelity. He disturbs the consciences and bodies of those who are purged and vexed, in the present, for some sins.
Indeed, such vexation also comes upon infants of either sex - whether pagan or Christian - either because of the parents' lack of care or a defect of nature, or for the terror and humiliation of others, or because of some sins. But my justice mercifully arranged that these infants, who are spared the occasions of sin, either are not too gravely punished or are more sublimely crowned. Similarly, many such things also happen to brutes either for the punishment of others, or for a quicker end to life, or because of the intemperance of their own nature. Therefore, that the devil adheres to some and is nearer to them is the result of my permission, either for greater humiliation and caution; or for a greater crown and a greater solicitude in seeking me; or because of sins to be purged in the present; or because, through the demands of their guilt, the punishment of some begins in the present and will endure without end."
The eleventh revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and tells her why and when he began to administer and infuse into her the words of divine revelations in spiritual vision. And he tells her that the aforementioned words of the revelations, which are contained in these books, have principally these four virtues: they spiritually satisfy one who thirsts for true charity, they warm the cold, they gladden the disturbed, and they heal weak souls.
The Son of God speaks: "By means of natural things, a healthful drink can be made - namely, of cold iron and hard stone, of a dry tree and a bitter herb. But how? Certainly, if steel were to fall upon a sulphurous mountain with force, then fire would go forth from the steel to ignite the mountain. Out of its warmth, an olive tree planted nearby - outwardly dry but inwardly full of unction - would begin to flow so greatly that the bitter herb, planted at the olive's foot, would be sweetened by the downflow of oil; and thence a healthful drink could be made. This is what I have done for you in a spiritual way. For your heart was as cold toward my love as steel; and yet, in it there moved a modest spark of love for me, namely, when you thought me worthy of love and honor above all others.
But that heart of yours then fell upon the sulphurous mountain when the glory and delight of the world turned against you and when your husband, whom you carnally loved beyond all others, was taken from you by death. In truth, mundane pleasure and delight are well compared to a sulphurous mountain; for they are accompanied by swollenness of the soul, the stench of concupiscence, and the burning of punishment. And when at your husband's death your soul was gravely shaken with disturbance, then the spark of my love - which lay, as it were, hidden and enclosed - began to go forth, for, after considering the vanity of the world, you abandoned your whole will to me and desired me above all things. And so, because of that spark of love, you relished the dry olive tree, i.e., the words of the gospels and the conversation of my Doctors, and abstinence so pleased you that all the things that previously seemed bitter began to be sweet for you. And when the oil began to flow and the words of my revelations came down upon you in spirit, then one stood upon the mountain and cried, saying: 'By this drink, thirst is quenched; the cold are warmed; the disturbed are gladdened; and the infirm convalesce.' It is I myself, God, who cry. My words - which you hear from me frequently in spiritual vision - like the good drink, satisfy those who thirst for true charity; second, they warm those who are cold; third, they gladden those who are disturbed; and fourth, they heal those who are weak in soul."
First question. Again the same religious appeared, standing on his rung as before and saying: "O Judge, I ask you: Why, according to the word of the Gospel, will the goats be placed at your left and the sheep at your right? Surely, you do not delight in such things?" Second question. "Item. Since you are God's Son, coequal to the Father, why is it written that neither you nor the angels know the hour of judgment?"
Third question. "Item. Since your Holy Spirit spoke in the evangelists, why is there such great discrepancy in the gospels?"
Fourth question. "Item. Since, in your incarnation, there is so great a salvation for the whole human race, why did you delay so long a time to take on flesh?"
Fifth question. "Item. Since man's soul is better than the whole world, why do you not send your friends and preachers everywhere and at all times?"
Response to the first question. The Judge answered: "Friend, you do not ask in order to know but so that your malice may be known. Now then, in the Godhead there is nothing carnal, or carnally portrayed, because my Godhead is spirit. And with me, the good and the wicked cannot dwell together at one time any more than light can dwell together with darkness. Neither is there in my Godhead a right or a left - portrayed, as it were, corporeally - nor will they be happier for being at my right rather than at my left. These things have been said as a similitude. For, by 'right,' the loftiness of my divine glory is understood; by 'left,' the lack and loss of all good. Neither sheep nor goats exist in that wonderful glory of mine, where there is nothing corporeal or stained or changeable. However, the behavior of mankind is many times described in similitudes and in the figures of animals.
Just the sheep signifies innocence, the goat signifies wantonness, i.e., incontinent mankind, and must be placed at the left where there is a lack of all good. Therefore, know that I, God, sometimes use human words and similitudes in order that the little one may have something to suck and that the perfect may become more perfect and for the fulfillment of the Scripture, which says that the Son of the Virgin has been set in place for contradiction so that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed."
Response to the second question. "Item. As to why I, the Son of God, said that I was ignorant of the hour of judgment, I answer: It is written that Jesus advanced in age and wisdom. Everything that waxes and wanes has mutability; but the Godhead is immutable. Therefore, the fact that I, God's Son, coeternal with the Father, advanced was the result of my human nature. What I did not know was what my humanity did not know. In my Godhead, I knew and know all things. For the Father does nothing other than the things that I, the Son, do. Or does the Father know things unknown to me, the Son, and to the Holy Spirit? Not at all. But only the Father - with whom I the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one substance, one Godhead, and one will - knows that hour of judgment - not the angels and not any creature."
Response to the third question. "Item. If the Holy Spirit spoke in the evangelists, why is there such great discrepancy among them? I answer: It is written that the Holy Spirit is manifold in his operations; for to his elect he distributes his gifts in many ways. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is like a man who has a pair of scales in his hand, and, in many ways, balances and adjusts its extremities until the very movement of the scales arrives at stability. Such a pair of scales is handled in different ways by those accustomed to it and by those not accustomed, in different ways by the strong and by the weak. So too the Holy Spirit - in the manner of the scales - now ascends in human hearts and now again descends. He ascends when he elevates the mind through subtlety of understanding and through devotion of soul and through the inflaming of spiritual desire. He descends when he permits the mind to be involved with difficulties, to be worried by superfluous matters, and to be perturbed by tribulations. And as the scales have no fixity without the moderation of their loads and the application of the hand that controls them, so too, in the operation of the Holy Spirit, moderation is necessary, and a good life and simplicity of intention and discretion of works and virtues.
Therefore, when I, God's Son, visible in the flesh, preached different things in different places, I had different imitators and hearers; for some followed me out of love, others to find opportunity and because of curiosity. And some of those who followed me were subtle by nature; others were simpler. Therefore, I spoke simple things by which the simple were instructed; and I also spoke higher things at which the wise wondered. Sometimes, too, I spoke in parables and obscurely - about which some received an opportunity of speaking. Sometimes I repeated things previously said, and sometimes I expanded or condensed them. Therefore, it is no wonder if those who arranged the narrative of the gospels have set down things that are different, but nevertheless true, because some of them set down word for word and others set down the sense of the words, but not the words themselves. Some wrote things that they had heard but had not seen. Others wrote earlier things later. Some wrote more about my divinity. And each one of them wrote just as the Holy Spirit enabled him to speak. However, I want you to know that acceptance is to be given only to those evangelists whom my Church accepts.
Many who had zeal tried to write, but not in accordance with my own knowledge. For behold, I said that which was read today: 'Destroy this temple and I shall rebuild it.' Those who testified that they had heard these things were truthful according to the word that they had heard, but they were false witnesses because they did not attend to the sense of my words. For I spoke that word that it might be understood in reference to my body. Similarly, when I said: 'If you do not eat my flesh, you shall not have life,' many went away because they did not pay attention to the conclusion that I spoke: 'My words are life and spirit,' i.e., they have spiritual meaning and power. It is no wonder that they erred, for they did not follow me out of love. And so the Holy Spirit, in the manner of the scales, ascends in the hearts of mankind, now speaking corporeally and now spiritually. He descends when man's heart is hardened against God or becomes involved in heresies or worldly things and is darkened."
Then, at that same moment, the Judge said to the inquisitive religious, who was sitting on a rung of the ladder: "You, O friend, have so often asked me subtle questions. Now, for the sake of my bride who is present nearby, I ask you: Why does your soul - which has discretion and understanding of good and evil - love decadent things more than the things of heaven and not live in accord with those things that it understands?" That religious mentioned above answered: "Because I act against reason, and I make the senses of the flesh prevail over reason." Christ said: "Your conscience, then, shall be your judge." Finally, Christ said to the bride: "Behold, daughter, how greatly there prevails in man not only the devil's malice but also a depraved conscience! This comes about from the fact that man does not wrestle against his temptation as he ought. But this was not the behavior of that Master known to you. In his case, the Spirit descended by testing him with temptations to such an extent that it was as if all the heresies stood before him and said, as it were, with one mouth: 'We are truth.' However, he did not trust his senses and did not think thoughts that were beyond him. Therefore he was liberated and was made knowledgeable from 'In the beginning' right through to 'Alpha and O,' just as it was promised to him."
Response to the fourth question. "Item. As to why I delayed my incarnation for so long a time, I answer: My incarnation was truly necessary; for through it the curse was undone and all things were pacified in heaven and on earth. Nevertheless, it was necessary that man first be taught through the natural law and, then, through the written law. For through the natural law, the quantity and quality of man's love appeared. Through the written law, man understood his weakness and misery and then began to require medicine. It was therefore just that the physician came then, when the infirmity was aggravated, so that where disease abounded, medicine might even more abound. Nevertheless, both under the natural law and under the written law, there were many who were just; and many had the Holy Spirit and foretold many things and instructed others in all that was honest and waited for me, the Savior. These met with my mercy and not with eternal punishment."
Response to the fifth question. "Item. As to why, since the soul of man is better than the world, preachers are not sent everywhere and at all times, I answer: Truly, the soul is more worthy and more noble than the whole world and more stable than all things. It is more worthy because it is spiritual and equal to the angels and created for eternal joy. It is more noble because it was made, in the image of my Godhead, both immortal and eternal. Therefore, because man is more worthy and more noble than all creatures, man ought to live more nobly than all; for he, in preference to others, has been enriched with reason. But if man abuses reason and my divine gifts, what wonder is it if, at the time of justice, I punish that which was passed over in the time of mercy?
Therefore, preachers are not sent everywhere and at all times because I, God, foresee the hardness of many hearts and spare the labors of my elect lest they be troubled for an empty purpose. And because many who sin intentionally and with sure knowledge deliberately resolve to persevere in their sins rather than be converted, they are not worthy to hear the messengers of salvation. But, O friend, now I will end, with you, my response to your thoughts; and you shall end your life. Now you shall experience the profit that you have had from your wordy eloquence and the favor of man. Oh how happy you would be if you had paid attention to your profession and your vow!"
Item. The Spirit said to the bride: "Daughter, he who was seen to have asked such things at such length lives still in the body; but he is not going to remain alive one day. The thoughts and affections of his heart have been shown to you through similitudes, not for his greater reproach but for the salvation of the souls of others. But behold: together now with his thoughts and his affections, his hope and his life will end."
The twelfth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which Christ speaks to his bride, blessed Birgitta, and says to her that she must not be disturbed by the fact that he does not do justice at once in the case of a man who is a great sinner. For he defers the sentence of his justice in order that his justice - which is to be done in this man's case - may be made manifest to others. He also says that his divine words which are contained in this book of Heavenly Revelations must first grow and bear fruit even to full maturity and, afterwards, produce the effect of their virtue in the world. Indeed, these words are like oil in a lamp, i.e., in a virtuous soul, which they enrich with their unction and which, with the Holy Spirit coming upon it, they make to burn and shine with wonderful splendor. He adds that the said words of the revelations will first rise up and bear fruit in a place other than the kingdom of Sweden, where they began to be revealed by God to that same bride.
The Son of God speaks: "Why are you disturbed because I put up with that man so patiently? Do you not know that it is a grave thing to burn eternally? Therefore, even to the last point, I suffer him in order that in him my justice may be manifested to others. And so, wherever dye-plants have been sown, if they are cut before their time, they do not have the strength to color a thing as well as if they were cut in due time. Thus, my words - which are to be manifested with justice and mercy and ought to grow and bear fruit even to the fullness of maturity - then indeed will be more fit for the thing to which they will be applied and will fittingly color my virtue. However, why are you disturbed because that man distrusts my words unless more evident signs be shown? Was it you that bore him, or do you know his interior as I do?
Indeed, this man is, as it were, a burning and radiant lamp. When fat is put into it, the wick soon draws near, firmly adhering to it. Thus he is a lamp of virtues, a lamp fit to receive my divine grace. As soon as my words will be poured into him, they will liquify completely and will descend to the interior of his heart. And what wonder is it if the fat liquifies when fire burns in the lamp - a fire that liquifies the fat and makes the lamp burn? Truly, that fire is my Spirit, which exists and speaks in you; and the very same Spirit also exists and speaks in him, although in a more hidden and, for him, more useful way.
This fire kindles the lamp of his heart to labor in my honor. It also kindles his soul to receive the tallow of my grace and of my words, by which the soul is sweetly sustained and more fully fattened, when it comes to works. Therefore, do not fear; but persist steadfastly in faith! If these words came from your own spirit or from the spirit of this world, then deservedly you would have to dread. But, because they are from my Spirit, which the holy prophets also had, you must, therefore, not fear but rejoice, unless, perhaps, you are more afraid of the empty name of the world than of the postponement of my divine words.
"Listen further to what I say: This kingdom is entangled in a great and long-unpunished sin. Therefore my words cannot yet rise up and bear fruit here; as I shall now make clear to you, speaking by means of a similitude. If a nut had been planted in the earth and something heavy had been placed over it so that it could not rise up, the nut, being naturally sound and fresh, but hindered in its ascent by the pressing weight above it, searches about in the earth for a place to rise where there is less weight. There it fixes roots so deep and stable that it not only produces most beautiful fruit but also grows a strong trunk that annihilates all that impedes its ascent and extends itself over that heavy object. Thus, this nut signifies my words, which due to sin would not now be able to have their rise conveniently in this kingdom and will first rise up and make progress in another place until the hardness of this kingdom's earth decreases and mercy can be disclosed."
The thirteenth revelation in the Book of Questions, in which God the Father speaks to blessed Birgitta and subtly informs her about the virtue of those five sacred places which are in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and about the grace received by pilgrims who, with devout humility and true charity, visit those places. He says that in the said places there was a vessel that was closed and not closed, a lion born that was seen and not, seen, a lamb that was shorn and not shorn, a serpent placed that lay and did not lay, and an eagle that flew and did not fly. He expounds all these things figuratively, and there follows an exposition and clarification of the figurative words aforesaid.
God the Father speaks: "There was a certain lord whose servant said to him: 'Behold, your fallow land has been cultivated; and the roots have been pulled out. When is the wheat to be sown?' The lord said to him: 'Even though the roots seem to have been pulled out, nevertheless the hardened old trunks and stumps are still left. In spring, the rains and the winds are going to loosen them. Therefore, patiently await the time for sowing.' To this, the servant replied: 'What am I to do between the seasons of spring and harvest?' The lord said to him: 'I know five places. Everyone who goes to them shall have fivefold fruit if only he comes pure and empty of pride and warm with charity. In the first place, there was a vessel, closed and not closed; a vessel, small and not small; a vessel, luminous and not luminous; a vessel, empty and not empty; a vessel, clean and not clean. In the second place, there was born a lion that was seen and not seen, that was heard and not heard, that was touched and not touched, that was recognized and was not known, that was held and not held. In the third place, there was a lamb, shorn and not shorn; a lamb, wounded and not wounded; a lamb, calling and not calling; a lamb, suffering and not suffering; a lamb, dying and not dying. In the fourth place, there was put a serpent that lay and did not lay, moved and did not move, heard and did not hear, saw and did not see, felt and did not feel. In the fifth place, there was an eagle that flew and did not fly, and that came to a place from which it has never withdrawn, that rested and did not rest, that was renewed and not renewed, that rejoiced and did not rejoice, that was honored and not honored.'"
The exposition and clarification of the things said figuratively above.
The Father speaks: "That vessel of which I spoke to you was Mary, Joachim's daughter, the mother of Christ's human nature. She was indeed a vessel closed and not closed: closed to the devil but not to God. For just as a torrent - wishing to enter a vessel opposed to it and not being able - seeks other ways in and out, so the devil, like a torrent of vices, wished to approach Mary's heart by means of all his inventions; but he never was able to incline her soul toward even the slightest sin because it had been closed against his temptations. For the torrent of my Spirit had flowed into her heart and filled her with special grace.
Second, Mary, the mother of my Son, was a vessel small and not small: small and modest in the contempt of her lowliness; great and not small in love for my Godhead. Third, Mary was a vessel empty and not empty: empty of all hedonism and sin; not empty but full of heavenly sweetness and all goodness. Fourth, Mary was a vessel luminous and not luminous: luminous because every beautiful soul is created by me; but Mary's soul so grew toward the full perfection of light that my Son fixed himself in her soul, at whose beauty heaven and earth rejoiced. But this vessel was not luminous in the sight of mankind because she scorned the world's honors and wealth.
Fifth, Mary was a vessel clean and not clean: truly clean because she was all beautiful and because there was not found in her even enough uncleanness in which to fix the point of a needle; not clean because she came forth from Adam's root and was born of sinners, although herself conceived without sin in order that, of her, my Son might be born without sin. Therefore, whoever comes to that place, namely, where Mary was born and reared, will not only be cleansed but will also be a vessel to my honor.