THE SIMPLICITY OF BLESSED RUUSBROEC
LA SEMPLICITA` DEL BEATO RUUSBROEC
DON DIVO BARSOTTI
orse più delle opere ê bella
la vita. Fu an'anima di una grande innocenza, umilta e
erhaps even more beautiful than his writings is his life. His was a soul of great innocence, humility, simplicity.
La vita l'ha scritta il Pomerius. Sono poche pagine, una di quelle vite che scrivevano anticamente, una delle cosi dette 'legendae', vita 'da leggersi'. Gli antichi piu di noi sapevano la meravigliosa virtu dell'esempio. Il primo insegnamento e 'la vita' e nessuno che voglia essere docile alla verita, e libero di trascurarne l'insegnamento. La 'legenda' e stata scritta dopo circa quarant'anni dalla morte del Beato. E una vita che ci ricorda quelle di tanti monaci russi, i piu grandi. Forse per questo ci piace tanto. Ci si dice che il Pomerius ha troppo ricalcato nella vita i modelli dell'agiografia medioevale cosi da non poter riconoscere i tratti distintivi del nostro Beato.
Pomerius has written his life, one of those lives that used to be written, of the sort called 'legend', a life to 'be read'. The ancients more than ourselves understood the marvelous power of the example. The first teaching is 'the life' and no one wishing to be open to truth, is free to draw away from its teaching. This 'legend' was written some forty years after the death of the Blessed Ruusbroec. And it is a life which reminds us of so many Russian ones, the greatest ones. Perhaps this is why we like it so much. One could say Pomerius has drawn into this life so much from other medieval hagiographical models that we cannot recognize the distinctive traits of our Blessed one.
Non vorrei fa polemiche, ma debbo dire che l'accento di verita che respirano le pagine del Pomerius è tale che non conosco altra vita che meglio mi sappia far conoscere un'anima. Gli avvenimenti e vero sono sfumati, indeciso ogni richiamo a fatti e personaggi reali, ma la realta storica e ben poco cosa di contro al ritratto di quest'anima inconfondibile nella sua purezza e semplicita.
I don't want to argue, but I ought to say that the accent of truth which breathes in Pomerius' pages is such that I know of no other life that makes me want to know more about his soul. The events are indistinct, hazy, with indistinct memories about facts and real persons, but the historical reality with little evidence to the contrary present a portrait of a soul that is undeniable in its purity and simplicity.
In San Francesco c'e piu giovinezza, un senso piu vivo di freschezza, nel Beato Ruusbroek una luce piu serena, piu calda, piu pura. Appena morto si e iniziato il processo per la beatificazione ma il periodo storico, molto critico per la Chiesa, impedi la prosecuzione dei lavori.
In St Francis there is more youthfulness, a greater living sense of freshness, in Blessed Ruusbroek a light that is more serence, warmer, purer. At his death the beatification process began, but the historical period, which was critical for the Church, impeded the process of the research.
Il processo fu poi ripreso nel '600, ma nel '600 sembrarono insufficienti le testimonianze sulla sua santita e la Congregazione dei Riti non stimo opportuno mandare avanti la causa. Fu poi ripresa dal cardinale Dechamp nel secolo scorso e nel 1909 fu finalemente permessa la celebrazione liturgical per la diocesi di Malines nel Belgio e per i canonici lateanensi. Poi, nel 1962, la sua festa fu estesa a tutto il Belgio.
The canonization process was taken up in the 1600s but there seemed to be insufficent evidence for his sanctity and the Congretation of Rites did not then pursue the cause. It was taken up again by Cardinal Dechamp in the next century and in 1909 finally the liturgical celebration was permitted in the Malines Diocese by the Lateran canons. Then in 1962, his feast day was extended to all of Belgium.
E forse il dono piu grande che il Belgio abbia fatto alla Chiesa.
It is perhaps the greatest gift Belgium has given to the Church.
Sono andato nel Belgio, a Groenendaal, la 'Valle verde', dove si trovava un giorno il monastero dove si era ritirato col suo zio canonico e un altro sacerdote.
Manuscript illumination of Jan van Ruusbroec and scribe writing at Groenendaal
Da questa piccola famiglia nacque poi una comunita religiosa senza tanta austerita ne propositi di grandi cose.
From this little family was born a religious community without austerity or grand pretensions.
La casa religiosa ora non esiste piu; le sue reliquie furono trasportate a Bruxelles, nella chiesa di Santa Gudula di cui era stato cappellano per circa 30 anni, prima di ritirarsi nella foresta. Di lui ormai sembra che il Belgio non abbia conservato piu nulla, anche se rimane la meravigliosa foresta.
The monastery no longer exists; his relics were brought to Brussels, to the church of St Gudula where he had been chaplain for around thirty years, before retiring to the forest. It seems Belgium has preserved nothing about him, although the marvellous forest still remains.
Era un'anima di una meravigliosa semplicita e candore.
His was a soul of marvellous simplicity and candour.
La sua vita fu un poema di sovrumana bellezza, tutta trasfigurata da una grande luce di pace e di umilta.
His life was a poem of
supreme beauty, all transfigured with a great light of peace
For Jan van Ruusbroec, see also Sparkling Stone, from the Amherst Manuscript, and the Julian
Library Portfolio booklet, God Friends: The Continental
Medieval Mystics and the Website essay on Godfriends. The Amherst
Manuscript gives certain passages in red, and its capitals are
blue with red penwork. The scribe wrote it in a fine clear
Anglicana script, circa 1435-1450 in a Grantham, Lincolnshire
dialect, including among these texts translations made by the
Lincolnshire Carmelite Richard Misyn, for an anchoress, Margaret
Heslyngton. It is possible that Richard Misyn himself is the
scribe. Later, a Sheen contemplative, James Grenehalgh, heavily
annotated the manuscript, usually doing so for a Syon nun,
Johanna Sewell. The text, transcribed here folio by folio and
line by line from the manuscript, is side by side there with the
Short Text of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, and,
with Henry Suso, Horologium Sapientiae,
and Marguerite Porete, Mirror
of Simple Souls , which are also present in the
Amherst Manuscript, may represent Julian's own library, perhaps
given her, even translated for her, by Cardinal
Adam Easton, Benedictine of Norwich, who defended similar
writings by St Birgitta of Sweden ,
for her canonization , and who is
known to have written now-lost contemplative treatises and
translations in the vernacular. The first illustration is by
Hans Memling in the Hospital of St John, Bruges, where, for
centuries, John writes the Apocalypse amidst the landscape of
his vision. Ruusbroec bases the Sparkling Stone, like
Julian her Showing of Love, upon the Apocalypse, the Book
of Revelation, or Showings, and upon the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius , the second
illustration being from a Ruusbroec manuscript, reproduced on
the cover of Vanden Blinkenden Steen.
ecently, I received an e-mail from China, from Beijing's Global Village's President, Liao Xiaoyi. She came to Florence with her seventeen-year-old daughter to speak about Jan van Ruusbroec, spirituality and ecology. Then, a Belgian visitor, Paul Van Gansen, shared with me the information of Jan van Ruusbroec's Groenendaal for her:
The priory of Groenendaal started as a humble
hut in the woods (http://www.filipsport.com/dutch/zonien.php,
near Brussels). The
hut was inhabitated by a hermit. The canons of the church of
St. Goedele (in Brussels) established themselves on that
spot (1343) and founded an abbey of Augustinians. The first
prior was Jan van Ruusbroec. He was the best known mystic of
his time. The priory was wealthy and powerful. Benefactors
not only gave the Augustinian canons privileges and land,
but also works of art, for instance a painting of Rogier van
The priory completely burnt down in 1435. Thanks to a plenary indulgence, granted by Pope Eugenius IV to everyone who helped to rebuilt, the abbey rose from its ashes. The new complex however, has not been spared from further calamities. Again and again the buildings were repaired and embellished.
In 1578, during the religious war between catholics and protestants, the monks fled to Brussels. They returned in 1606.
In 1784 however, the Austrian emperor Jozef II ordered the abolition of all contemplative monastic orders. Two years later the greater part of the abbey was already demolished, and all the works of art were sold.
Fantastic baroque choir-stalls (1663) can still be admired in the church of "Onze Lieve Vrouw" (Our Lady) at Vilvoorde (Brussels)-the main altar can be found in the church of Herfelingen-the side-altars in the church of Erps,and the confessionals at Wezembeek-Oppem.
After the revolution of Brabant (1789), a few monks went back to Groenendaal (1793), but the cloister was shut definitively by the French Republic in 1795.
Only a few buildings were saved: the house of the priors, called in Flemish "het kasteel" (the castle), and the cloister farm (1775), now called the "Bosmuseum" (museum of the woods). The castle is now let to a bridge club.
However, in the future, the Flemish Community will lay out an "archeological landscape". They intend to make visible the remains of ancient gardens, the profile of the terrace gardens and the alleys. The ruinous abbey church will be restored and fitted up as a centre of documentation of the priory of Groenendaal.
Everything is to be found at the limit of 2 villages:
A path of 5.7 km leads you to the spot.
Paul Van Gansen
For the Internet is such a Global Village, such a Global Hermitage.
See also Amherst Manuscript, Jan Van
Ruusbroec, Sparkling Stone, Henry Suso, Horologium
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