He has so well gnawed away at the bitter bark of the nut.

I needed to read this today, from the spiritual counsel of Walter Hilton, on one’s attitude towards a virtuous life:

“Many people possess virtues — such as humility, patience, charity towards their neighbors, and so on—but only as a matter of rational choice and directed will, having no love or spiritual delight in them. Such a person will perform virtuously, but often with grouching, heaviness, or even bitterness in the doing. Nevertheless, perform he does, prompted rationally out of a fear of God.

Such a person has virtuous reason and a disciplined will, but no proper love or affection for virtue for its own sake. Yet when, by the grace of Jesus and by appropriate spiritual and bodily disciplines, reasons are transformed into light and iron will into love, then this person will possess his virtues in love. It is as if at last he has so well gnawed away at the bitter bark of the nut that he has broken through, and is now able to feed himself on the sweet kernel. Suddenly the virtuous deeds which were once so heavy a duty are changed into a sweet delight. The person now rejoices in meekness, patience, purity, sobriety, and charity as he would in any delightful thing.”

—”True Spirituality: The Goal of the Contemplative Life,” from Toward a Perfect Love: the Spiritual Counsel of Walter Hilton, translated by David Lyle Jeffrey [Amazon | Google Books]