St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
|TREATISE ON THE LOVE OF GOD|
By St Francis de Sales
Book I. Containing A Preparation For The Whole Treatise.
Ch 7. Description of Love in General.
The will has so great a sympathy with good that as soon as she perceives it she turns towards it to delight therein as in her most agreeable object, to which she is so closely allied that her nature cannot be explained except by the relation she has thereto, just as one cannot show the nature of what is good except by the affinity it has with the will.
For, tell me, Theotimus, what is good but that
which every one wills. And what is the will, if not
the faculty which bears us towards and makes us tend
to good or what the will believes to be such?
The will then has a most close affinity with good; this affinity produces the complacency which the will takes in feeling and perceiving good; this complacency moves and spurs the will forward to good; this movement tends to union; and in fine the will moved and tending to union searches out all the means necessary to get it.
And in truth, speaking generally, love comprises all this together, as a beautiful tree, whose root is the correspondence which the will has to good, its foot is the complacency, its trunk is the movement, its seekings, its pursuits, and other efforts are the branches, but union and enjoyment are its fruits. Thus love seems to be composed of these five principal parts under which a number of other little pieces are contained as we shall see in the course of this work.
Let us consider, I pray you, the exercise of an insensible love between the loadstone and iron; for it is the true image of the sensible and voluntary love of which we speak. Iron, then, has such a sympathy with the loadstone that as soon as it feels the power thereof, it turns towards it; then it suddenly begins to stir and quiver with little throbbings, testifying by this the complacency it feels, and then it advances and moves towards the loadstone striving by all means possible to be united to it. Do you not see all the parts of love well represented in these lifeless things?
But to conclude, Theotimus, the complacency and the movement towards, or effusion of the will upon, the thing beloved is properly speaking love; yet in such sort that the complacency is but the beginning of love, and the movement or effusion of the heart which ensues is the true essential love, so that the one and the other may truly be named love, but in a different sense: for as the dawning of day may be termed day, so this first complacency of the heart in the thing beloved may be called love because it is the first feeling of love.
But as the true heart of the day is measured from the end of dawn till sunset, so the true essence of love consists in the movement and effusion of the heart which immediately follows complacency and ends in union.
In short, complacency is the first stirring or emotion which good causes in the will, and this emotion is followed by the movement and effusion by which the soul runs towards and reaches the thing beloved, which is the true and proper love. We may express it thus: the good takes, grasps and ties the heart by complacency, but by love it draws, conducts and conveys it to itself, by complacency it makes it start on its way, but by love it makes it achieve the journey.
Complacency is the awakener of the heart, but love
is its action; complacency makes it get up, but love
makes it walk. The heart spreads its wings by
complacency but love is its flight. Love then, to
speak distinctly and precisely, is no other thing
than the movement, effusion and advancement of the
heart towards good.
And as the bee being born in honey, feeds on honey, and only flies for honey, so love is born of complacency, maintained by complacency, and tends to complacency. It is the weight of things which stirs them, moves them, and stays them; it is the weight of the stone that stirs it and moves it to its descent as soon as the obstacles are removed; it is the same weight that makes it continue its movement downwards; and finally it is the same weight that makes it stop and rest as soon as it has reached its place.
So it is with the complacency which excites the
will: this moves it, and this makes it repose in the
thing beloved when it has united itself therewith.
This motion of love then having its birth,
preservation, and perfection dependent on
complacency, and being always inseparably joined
thereto, it is no marvel that these great minds
considered love and complacency to be the same,
though in truth love being a true passion of the soul
cannot be a simple complacency, but must needs be the
motion proceeding from it.
There are yet certain other motions of love by which we desire things that we neither expect nor aim at in any way, as when we say:-- Why am I not now in heaven! I wish I were a king; I would to God I were younger; how I wish I had never sinned, and the like. These indeed are desires, but imperfect ones, which, to speak properly, I think, might be called wishings (souhaits). And indeed these affections are not expressed like desires, for when we express our true desires we say: I desire (Je desire): but when we signify our imperfect desires we say: I should or I would desire (je desirerois), or I should like.
We may well say: I would desire to be young; but
we do not say: I desire to be young; seeing that this
is not possible; and this motion is called a wishing,
or as the Scholastics term it a velleity, which is
nothing else but a commencement of willing, not
followed out, because the will, by reason of
impossibility or extreme difficulty, stops her
motion, and ends it in this simple affection of a
wish. It is as though she said: this good which I
behold and cannot expect to get is truly very
agreeable to me, and though I cannot will it nor hope
for it, yet so my affection stands, that if I could
will or desire it, I would desire and will it gladly.
Nor is this all, Theotimus, for there are desires and velleities which are yet more imperfect than those we have spoken of, forasmuch as their motions are not stayed by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, but by their incompatibility with other more powerful desires or willings; as when a sick man desires to eat mushrooms or melons;-- though he may have them at his order, yet he will not eat them, fearing thereby to make himself worse; for who sees not that there are two desires in this man, the one to eat mushrooms, the other to be cured?
But because the desire of being cured is the stronger, it blocks up and suffocates the other and hinders it from producing any effect. Jephte wished to preserve his daughter, but this not being compatible with his desire to keep his vow, he willed what he did not wish, namely, to sacrifice his daughter, and wished what he did not will, namely, to preserve his daughter.
Pilate and Herod wished, the one to deliver our Saviour, the other his precursor: but because these wishes were incompatible with the desires, the one to please the Jews and Caesar, the other, Herodias and her daughter, these wishes were vain and fruitless.
Now in proportion as those things which are
incompatible with our wishes are less desirable, the
wishes are more imperfect, since they are stopped
and, as it were, stifled by contraries so weak. Thus
the wish which Herod had not to behead S. John was
more imperfect than that of Pilate to free our
Saviour. For the latter feared the calumny and
indignation of the people and of Caesar; the other
feared to disappoint one woman alone.