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 II. The History Of The Generation And Heavenly Birth Of Divine Love.
Ch 8. How Much God Desires We Should Love Him.
Although our Saviour's redemption is applied to us in as many different manners as there are souls, yet still, love is the universal means of salvation which mingles with everything, and without which nothing is profitable, as we shall show elsewhere.
The Cherubim were placed at the gate of the earthly paradise with their flaming sword, to teach us that no one shall enter into the heavenly paradise who is not pierced through with the sword of love. For this cause, Theotimus, the sweet Jesus who bought us with his blood, is infinitely desirous that we should love him that we may eternally be saved, and desires we may be saved that we may love him eternally, his love tending to our salvation and our salvation to his love. Ah! said he: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled?(1)
But to set out more to the life the ardour of this desire, he in admirable terms requires this love from us. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.(2) Good God! Theotimus, how amorous the divine heart is of our love. Would it not have sufficed to publish a permission giving us leave to love him, as Laban permitted Jacob to love his fair Rachel, and to gain her by services? Ah no! he makes a stronger declaration of his passionate love of us, and commands us to love him with all our power, lest the consideration of his majesty and our misery, which make so great a distance and inequality between us, or some other pretext, might divert us from his love.
In this, Theotimus, he well shows that he did not leave in us for nothing the natural inclination to love him, for to the end it may not be idle, he urges us by this general commandment to employ it, and that this commandment may be effected, he leaves no living man without furnishing him abundantly with all means requisite thereto. The visible sun touches everything with its vivifying heat, and as the universal lover of inferior things, imparts to them the vigour requisite to produce, and even so the divine goodness animates all souls and encourages all hearts to its love, none being excluded from its heat.
Eternal wisdom, says Solomon, preacheth abroad,
she uttereth her voice in the streets: At the head of
multitudes she crieth out, in the entrance of the
gates of the city she uttereth her words, saying: O
children, how long will you love childishness, and
fools covet those things which are hurtful to
themselves, and the unwise hate knowledge? Turn ye at
my reproof behold I will utter my spirit to you, and
will show you my words.(3) And the same wisdom
continues in Ezechiel saying: Our iniquities and our
sins are upon us, and we pine away in them: how then
can we live? Say to them: As I live, saith the Lord
God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that
the wicked turn from his way, and live.(4) Now to
live according to God is to love, and he that loveth
not abideth in death.(5) See now, Theotimus, whether
God does not desire we should love him!
Now what does all this mean, Theotimus, except that God does not only give us a simple sufficiency of means to love him, and in loving him to save ourselves, but also a rich, ample and magnificent sufficiency, and such as ought to be expected from so great a bounty as his. The great Apostle speaking to obstinate sinners: Despisest thou, says he, the riches of his goodness, and patience, and long-suffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God.(7)
My dear Theotimus, God does not therefore employ a simple sufficiency of remedies to convert the obstinate, but uses to this end the riches of his goodness. The Apostle, as you see, opposes the riches of God's goodness against the treasures of the impenitent heart's malice, and says that the malicious heart is so rich in iniquity that he despises even the riches of the mildness by which God leads him to repentance; and mark that the obstinate man not only contemns the riches of God's goodness, but also the riches which lead to penance, riches whereof one can scarcely be ignorant.
Verily this rich, full and plenteous sufficiency of means which God freely bestows upon sinners to love him appears almost everywhere in the Scriptures. Behold this divine lover at the gate, he does not simply knock, but stands knocking; he calls the soul, come, arise, make haste, my love,(8) and puts his hand into the lock to try whether he cannot open it. If he uttereth his voice in the streets he does not simply utter it, but he goes crying out, that is, he continues to cry out. When he proclaims that every one must be converted, he thinks he has never repeated it sufficiently. Be converted, do penance, return to me, live, why dost thou die, 0 house of Israel?(9)
In a word this heavenly Saviour forgets nothing to
show that his mercies are above all his works, that
his mercy surpasses his judgment, that his redemption
is copious, that his love is infinite, and, as the
Apostle says, that he is rich in mercy, and
consequently he will have all men to be saved; not
willing that any should perish.(10)