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 2. How Easy Our Saviour Has Made The Increase Of Love.
Do you see, Theotimus, that glass of water or that piece of bread which a holy soul gives to a poor body for God's sake; it is a small matter, God knows, and in human judgment hardly worthy of consideration: God, notwithstanding, recompenses it, and forthwith gives for it some increase of charity.
The goat's-hair which was anciently presented to the Tabernacle was received in good part, and had place amongst the holy offerings; and the little actions which proceed from charity are agreeable to God, and have their place among merits. For as in Araby the Blest, not only the plants which are by nature aromatic, but even all the others, are sweet, gaining a share in the felicity of that soil; so in a charitable soul not only the works which are excellent of their own nature, but also the little actions, smell of the virtue of holy love, and have a good odour before the majesty of God, who in consideration of them increases charity.
And I say God does it, because Charity does not
produce her own increase as a tree does, which by its
own virtue produces and throws out, one from another,
its boughs: but as Faith, Hope and Charity are
virtues which have their origin from the divine
goodness, so thence also they draw their increase and
perfection, not unlike bees, which, having their
extraction from honey, have also their food from it.
It is God therefore that gives this increase, in consideration of the use we make of his grace, as it is written; For he that hath, that is, who uses well the favours received, to him shall be given, and he shall abound. (3) Thus is Our Saviour's exhortation practised: Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven:(4) as though he said: add ever new good works to the former ones; for fasting, prayer and alms-deeds are the coins whereof your treasures are to consist.
Now as amongst the treasures of the temple, the
poor widow's mite was much esteemed, and as indeed,
by the addition of many little pieces treasures
become great, and their value increases, so the least
little good works, even though performed somewhat
coldly, and not according to the whole extent of the
charity which is in us, are agreeable to God, and
esteemed by him; in such sort that though of
themselves they cannot cause any increase in the
existing love, being of less force than it, yet the
divine Providence, counting, and out of his goodness,
valuing them, forthwith rewards them with increase of
charity for the present, and assigns to them a
greater heavenly glory for the future.
The more attentively we regard our image in a looking-glass, the more attentively it regards us again; and the more lovingly God casts his gracious eyes upon our soul, which is made to his image and likeness, our soul in return, with so much the more attention and fervour is fixed upon the divine goodness, answering, according to her littleness, every increase which this sovereign sweetness makes of his divine love towards her. The Council of Trent says thus: " If any say that justice received is not preserved, yea that it is not augmented, by good works in the sight of God, but that works are only the fruits and signs of justification acquired, and not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema."
Do you see, Theotimus, the justification wrought
by charity is augmented by good works, and, which is
to be noted, by good works without exception: for, as
S. Bernard says excellently well on another subject,
nothing is excepted where nothing is distinguished.
The Council speaks of good works indifferently, and
without reservation, giving us to understand, that
not only the great and fervent, but also the little
and feeble works cause the increase of holy Charity,
but the great ones greatly, and the little much less.
In the action of moral virtues little works bring
no increase to the virtue whence they proceed, yea,
if they be very little, they impair it: for a great
liberality perishes if it occupies itself in
bestowing things of small value, and of liberality
becomes niggardliness. But in the actions of those
virtues which issue from God's mercy, and especially
of charity, every work gives increase. Nor is it
strange that sacred love, as King of virtues, has
nothing either great or small which is not loveable,
since the balm tree, prince of aromatic trees, has
neither bark nor leaf that is not odoriferous: and
what could love bring forth that were not worthy of
love, or did not tend to love?