We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from Richard Rolle, The Amending of Life
That a man be rightly directed to the worship of God and to his own profit and that of his neighbour, four things are to be told:
Firstly, what it is that defiles a man. And that is three sins or kinds of sin – namely, of thought, of mouth, and of work. A man sins in thought when he thinks anything against God, if he occupy not his heart with the love and praise of God, but suffers it to be distracted with divers thoughts and allows it to wander about the world. He sins in mouth when he lies, when he forswears, when he curses, when he backbites, when he defends a wrong, when he brings forth fond, foul, vain or idle speech. He sins in deed in many ways: by lechery, sinfully touching or kissing, wilfully defiling himself, or procuring or sustaining without great cause occasions by which he knows he might be defiled; by robbing, stealing, beguiling, smiting, and so on.
Secondly, what is it that cleanses a man? And there are three things against the three aforesaid sins; that is to say: contrition of thought and the expulsion of desires that belong not to the praise or worship of God; confession of mouth, that ought to be timely, bare and whole; satisfaction of work, which has three parts – namely, fasting because he has sinned against himself, prayer because he has sinned against God, almsdeeds because he has sinned against his neighbour. Yet I say that he should not give alms of other men’s goods, but he shall restore, for the sin is not forgiven unless that which is withdrawn is restored.
Thirdly, what keeps cleanness of heart? And there are three things: first, a lively thought of God, that there be no time in which thou dost not think of God except in sleep, which is common to all; second, a careful keeping of thy outward wits, that tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing be wisely restrained under the bridle of control; third, honest occupation, be it reading or talking of God, or writing, or other useful work. Similarly there are three things that keep cleanness of mouth: considered speech, to beware of much speech, and to hate lying. Also three things keep cleanness of working: moderation in food, avoiding evil company, and being often mindful of death.
Fourthly, what are the things that induce us to conform ourselves to God’s will? And there are three: example of creatures, that we have by beholding them; familiarity with God, that is gained by meditation and prayer; and joy of the heavenly kingdom, that is felt in a manner by contemplation.
And so the man of God set to live in this wise shall be as a tree that is set by the running and flowing waters of grace, that shall always be green in virtue and never dry through sin, that shall give fruit in due time, that is good works for example, and good words to the worship of God, and this he shall not sell for vain-glory. He says ‘in due time’ against them that give example of fasting when it is time for eating, and the reverse way also; and against miserly men that give their fruit when it is rotten, or else do not give until they die.