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 III. Of The Progress And Perfection Of Love.
Ch 1. That Holy Love May Be Augmented Still More And More In Every One Of Us.
The sacred Council of Trent assures us, that the friends of God, proceeding from virtue to virtue, are day by day renewed, that is, they increase by good works in the justice which they have received by God's grace, and are more and more justified, according to those heavenly admonitions; He that is just let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctifced still.(1) And: Be not afraid to be justified even to death.(2) The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and inereaseth even to perfect day.(3) Doing the truth in charity, let us in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ.(4) And finally: This I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding.(5) All these are sacred words out of David, S. John, Ecclesiasticus, and S. Paul.
I never heard of any living creature whose growth was not bounded and limited, except the crocodile, who from an extremely little beginning never ceases to grow till it comes to its end, representing equally in this the good and the wicked: For the pride of them that hate thee ascendeth continually,(6) says the great king David; and the good increase as the break of day, from brightness to brightness.
And to remain at a standstill is impossible; he that gains not, loses in this traffic; he that ascends not, descends upon this ladder; he that vanquishes not in this battle, is vanquished: we live amidst the dangers of the wars which our enemies wage against us, if we resist not we perish; and we cannot resist unless we overcome, nor overcome without triumph.
For as the glorious S. Bernard says: "It is
written in particular of man that he never continueth
in the same state;(7) he necessarily either goes
forward or returns backward. All run indeed but one
obtains the prize, so run that you may obtain.(8) Who
is the prize but Jesus Christ? And how can you take
hold on him if you follow him not? But if you follow
him you will march and run continually, for he never
stayed, but continued his course of love and
obedience until death and the death of the cross."
True virtue has no limits, it goes ever further; but especially holy charity, which is the virtue of virtues, and which, having an infinite object, would be capable of becoming infinite if it could meet with a heart capable of infinity. Nothing hinders this love from being infinite except the condition of the will which receives it, and which is to act by it: a condition which prevents any one loving God as much as God is amiable, as it prevents them from seeing him as much as he is visible. The heart which could love God with a love equal to the divine goodness would have a will infinitely good, which cannot be but in God.
Charity then in us may be perfected up to the
infinite, but exclusively; that is, charity may
become more and more, and ever more, excellent, yet
never infinite. The Holy Ghost may elevate our
hearts, and apply them to what supernatural actions
it may please him, so they be not infinite. Between
little and great things, though the one exceed the
other never so much, there is still some proportions
provided always that the excess of the thing which
exceeds be not an infinite excess: but between finite
and infinite there is no proportion, and to make any,
it would be necessary, either to raise the finite and
make it infinite, or to lower the infinite and make
it finite, which is impossible.
Meanwhile it is an extreme honour to our souls
that they may still grow more and more in the love of
their God, as long as they shall live in this failing
life: Ascending by steps from virtue to virtue.(13)