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 9. A Preparation For The Discourse On The Union Of The Blessed With God.
The triumphant love which the blessed in heaven exercise, consists in the final, invariable and eternal union of the soul with its God. But this union - what is it?
By how much more agreeable and excellent are the objects our senses meet with, so much more ardently and greedily they give themselves to the fruition of them. By how much more fair, delightful to the view, and duly set in light they are, so much the more eagerly and attentively does the eye regard them: and by how much more sweet and pleasant voices or music are, so much the more is the attention of the ear drawn to them. So that every object exercises a powerful but grateful violence upon the sense to which it belongs, a violence more or less strong as the excellence is greater or less; provided always that it be proportionable to the capacity of the sense which desires to enjoy it; for the eye which finds so much pleasure in light cannot, however, bear an extreme light, nor fix itself upon the sun, and be music never so sweet, if loud and too near, it importunes and offends our ears.
Truth is the object of our understanding, which consequently has all its content in discovering and knowing the truth of things; and according as truths are more excellent, so the understanding applies itself with more delight and attention to the consideration of them.
How great was the pleasure, think you, Theotimus, of those ancient philosophers who had such an excellent knowledge of so many beautiful truths of Nature? Verily they reputed all pleasures as nothing in comparison with their well-beloved philosophy, for which some of them quitted honours, others great riches, others their country; and there was such a one as deliberately plucked out his eyes, depriving himself for ever of the enjoyment of the fair and agreeable corporal light, that he might with more liberty apply himself to consider the truth of things by the light of the spirit.
This we read of Democritus: so sweet is the
knowledge of truth! Hence Aristotle has very often
said that human felicity and beatitude consists in
wisdom, which is the knowledge of the eminent truths.
This we do not yet see in the clear day of glory, but as it were in the breaking of day; as it happened to Jacob near to the ford of Jaboc; for though he saw not the angel with whom he wrestled, save in the weak light of daybreak, yet this was enough to make him cry out, ravished with delight: I have seen God face to face, and my soul has been saved.(1)
O! how delightful is the holy light of faith, by which we know, with an unequalled certitude, not only the history of the beginning of creatures, and their true use, but even that of the eternal birth of the great and sovereign divine Word, for whom and by whom all has been made, and who with the Father and the Holy Ghost is one only God, most singular, most adorable, and blessed for ever and ever! Amen.
Ah! says S. Jerome to his Paulinus: "The learned
Plato never knew this, the eloquent Demosthenes was
ignorant of it." How sweet are thy words, O Lord, to
my palate, said that great king, more than honey to
my mouth!(2) Was not our burning within us, whilst he
spoke in the way?(3) said those happy pilgrims of
Emmaus, speaking of the flames of love with which
they were touched by the word of faith. But if divine
truths be so sweet, when proposed in the obscure
light of faith, O God, what shall they be when we
shall contemplate them in the light of the noonday of
Ah! how beautiful and dear are the truths which
faith discovers unto us by hearing! But when having
arrived in the heavenly Jerusalem, we shall see the
great Solomon, the King of Glory, seated upon the
thrown of his wisdom, manifesting by an
incomprehensible brightness the wonders and eternal
secrets of his sovereign truth, with such light that
our understanding will actually see what it had
believed here below - Ah! then, dearest Theotimus,
what raptures! what ecstasies! what admiration! what
love! what sweetness! No, never (shall we say in this
excess of sweetness) never could we have conceived
that we should see truths so delightsome. We believed
indeed all the glorious things that were said of
thee, O great city of God, but we could not conceive
the infinite greatness of the abysses of thy