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 13. Of The First Sentiments Of Love Which Divine Inspirations Cause In The Soul Before She Has Faith.
The wind that raises the apodes blows first upon their feathers, as the parts most light and most susceptible of its agitation, by which it gives the beginning of motion to their wings, extending and displaying them in such sort that they give a hold by which to seize the bird and waft it into the air. And if they, thus raised, do contribute the motion of their wings to that of the wind, the same wind that took them will still aid them more and more to fly with ease.
Even so, my dear Theotimus, when the inspiration, as a sacred gale, comes to blow us forward into the air of holy love, it first takes our will, and by the sentiment of some heavenly delectation it moves it, extending and unfolding the natural inclination which the will has to good, so that this same inclination serves as a hold by which to seize our spirit. And all this, as I have said, is done in us without us, for it is the divine favour that prevents us in this sort.
But if our will thus holily prevented, perceiving the wings of her inclination moved, displayed, extended, stirred, and agitated, by this heavenly wind, contributes, be it never so little, its consent - Ah! how happy it is, Theotimus. The same favourable inspiration which has seized us, mingling its action with our consent, animating our feeble motions with its vigour, and vivifying our weak cooperation by the power of its operation, will aid, conduct, and accompany us, from love to love, even unto the act of most holy faith requisite for our conversion.
True God! Theotimus, what a consolation it is to consider the secret method by which the Holy Ghost pours into our hearts the first rays and feelings of his light and vital heat! O Jesus! how delightful a pleasure it is to see celestial love, which is the sun of virtues, as little by little with a progress which insensibly becomes sensible, it displays its light upon a soul, and stops not till it has it all covered with the splendour of its presence, giving it at last the perfect beauty of love's day! O how cheerful, beautiful, sweet and agreeable this daybreak is!
Nevertheless true it is that break of day is
either not day, or if it be day, it is but a
beginning day, a rising of the day, and rather the
infancy of the day than the day itself. In like
manner without doubt these motions of love which
forerun the act of faith required for our
justification are either not love properly speaking,
or but a beginning and imperfect love. They are the
first verdant buds which the soul, warmed with the
heavenly sun, begins, as a mystical tree, to put
forth in springtime, rather presages of fruit than
Alas! Theotimus, the poor Pachomius, though of a
good natural disposition, was as yet asleep in the
bed of his infidelity, and behold how upon a sudden
God was present at the gate of his heart, and by the
good example of these Christians, as by a sweet
voice, he calls him, awakens him, and gives him the
first feelings of the vital heat of his love. For
scarcely had he heard, as I have said, of the sweet
law of Our Saviour, than, all filled with a new light
and interior consolation, having retired apart, and
mused for a space, he lifted up his hands towards
heaven, and with a profound sigh he said Lord God,
who hast made heaven and earth, if thou deign to cast
thine eyes upon my baseness and misery, and to give
me the knowledge of thy divinity, l promise to serve
thee, and obey thy commandments all the days of my
life! After this prayer and promise, the love of the
true good and of piety so increased in him, that he
ceased not to practise a thousand thousand acts of
Truly this astonished admiration he had was nothing else than his awakening, in which God touched him, as the sun touches the earth, with a ray of his brightness, which filled him with a great feeling of spiritual pleasure. For which cause Pachomius shakes himself loose from distractions, to the end he may with more attention and facility gather together and relish the grace he has received, withdrawing himself to think thereupon. Then he extends his heart and hands towards heaven, whither the inspiration is drawing him, and beginning to display the wings of his affections, flying between diffidence of himself, and confidence in God, he entones in a humbly amorous air the canticle of his conversion. He first testifies that he already knows one only God Creator of heaven and earth: but withal he knows that he does not yet know him sufficiently to serve him as he ought, and therefore he petitions that a more perfect knowledge may be imparted to him, that thereby he may come to the perfect service of his divine majesty.
Behold, therefore, I pray you, Theotimus, how gently God moves, strengthening by little and little the grace of his inspiration in consenting hearts, drawing them after him, as it were step by step, upon this Jacob's ladder. But what are his drawings?
The first, by which he prevents and awakens us, is
done by him in us and without our action; all the
others are also done by him and in us, but not
without our action. Draw me: says the sacred spouse,
we will run after thee to the odour of thy
ointments,(1) that is, begin thou first: I cannot
awake of myself, I cannot move unless thou move me;
but when thou shalt once have given motion, then, O
dear spouse of my heart, we run, we two, thou runnest
before me drawing me ever forward, and, as for me, I
will follow thee in thy course consenting to thy
drawing. But let no one think that thou draggest me
after thee like a forced slave, or a lifeless wagon.
Ah! no, thou drawest me by the odour of thy
ointments; though I follow thee, it is not that thou
trailest me but that thou enticest me; thy drawing is
mighty, but not violent, since its whole force lies
in its sweetness. Perfumes have no other force to
draw men to follow them than their sweetness, and
sweetness - how could it draw but sweetly and