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 8. Of The Incomparable Love Which The Mother Of God, Our Blessed Lady, Had.
But always and everywhere, when I make comparisons, I intend not to speak of the most holy virgin-mother, Our Blessed Lady. O my God - no indeed! For she is the daughter of incomparable dilection, the one only dove, the all-perfect spouse. Of this heavenly Queen, from my heart I pronounce this thought, amorous but true, that at least towards the end of her mortal days, her charity surpassed that of the Seraphim, for many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all.(1)
The Saints and Angels are but compared to stars, and the first of them to the fairest of the stars: but she is fair as the moon, as easy to be chosen and discerned from all the Saints as the sun from the stare. And going on further I think again that as the charity of this Mother of love excels in perfection that of all the Saints in heaven, so did she exercise it more perfectly, I say even in this mortal life. She never sinned venially, as the church considers; she had then no change nor delay in the way of love, but by a perpetual advancement ascended from love to love.
She never felt any contradiction from the sensual
appetite, and therefore her love, as a true Solomon,
reigned peaceably in her soul and made all its acts
at its pleasure. The virginity of her heart and body
was more worthy and honourable than that of the
Angels. So that her spirit, not divided or separated,
as S. Paul says, was solicitous for the things that
belong to the Lord how it might please God.(2) And,
in fine, maternal love, the most pressing, the most
active and the most ardent of all, what must it not
have worked in the heart of such a Mother and for the
heart of such a Son?
For, as the great S. Augustine says, charity obliges us to love our bodies properly, insomuch as they are necessary to good works, as they make a part of our person, and as they shall be sharers in our eternal felicity. In good truth, a Christian is to love his body as a living image of Our Saviour incarnate, as having issued from the same stock, and consequently belonging to him in parentage and consanguinity; especially after we have renewed the alliance, by the real reception of the divine body of Our Redeemer, in the most adorable sacrament of the Eucharist, and when by Baptism, Confirmation and other Sacraments we have dedicated and consecrated ourselves to the sovereign goodness.
But as to the Blessed Virgin, - O God, with what devotion must she have loved her virginal body! Not only because it was a sweet, humble, pure body, obedient to divine love, and wholly embalmed with a thousand sweetnesses, but also because it was the living source of Our Saviour's, and belonged so strictly to him, by an incomparable appurtenance. For which cause when she placed her angelic body in the repose of sleep, Repose then now, would she say, O Tabernacle of Alliance, Ark of Sanctity, Throne of the Divinity, ease thyself a little of thy weariness, and repair thy forces, by this sweet tranquillity.
Besides, dear Theotimus, do you not know that bad dreams, voluntarily procured by the depraved thoughts of the day, are in some sort sins, inasmuch as they are consequences and execution of the malice preceding? Even so the dreams which proceed from the holy affections of our waking time, are reputed virtuous and holy. O God!
Theotimus, what a consolation it is to hear S. Chrysostom recounting on a certain day to his people the vehemence of his love towards them. "The necessity of sleep," said he, "pressing our eyelids, the tyranny of our love towards you excites the eyes of our mind: and many a time while I sleep methinks I speak unto you, for the soul is wont to see in a dream by imagination what she thinks in the daytime. Thus while we see you not with the eyes of the flesh, we see you with the eyes of charity."
O sweet Jesus! what dreams must thy most holy Mother have had when she slept, while her heart watched? Did she not dream that she had thee yet in her womb, or hanging at her sacred breasts and sweetly pressing those virginal lilies? Ah! what sweetness was in this soul. Perhaps she often dreamed that as Our Saviour had formerly slept in her bosom, as a tender lambkin upon the soft flank of its mother, so she slept in his pierced side, as a white dove in the cave of an assured rock: so that her sleep was wholly like to an ecstasy as regards the spirit, though as regards the body it was a sweet and grateful unwearying and rest.
But if ever she dreamed, as did the ancient
Joseph, of her future greatness, - when in heaven she
should be clothed with the sun, crowned with stars
and having the moon under her feet,(4) that is,
wholly environed with her Son's glory, crowned with
that of the Saints, and having the universe under her
- or if ever, like Jacob, she saw the progress and
fruit of the redemption made by her Son, for the love
of the angels and of men; Theotimus, who could ever
imagine the immensity of so great delights? O what
conferences with her dear child! What delights on
But how much more probability is there then that
the mother of the true Solomon had the use of reason
in her sleep, that is to say, as Solomon himself
makes her say, that her heart watched while she
slept? Surely it was a far greater marvel that S.
John had the exercise of reason in his mother's womb,
and why then should we deny a less to her for whom,
and to whom, God did more favours than either he did
or ever will do for all creatures besides?