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 11. Of The Union Of The Blessed Spirits With God, In The Vision Of The Divinity.
When we look upon anything, though it is present to us, it is not itself united to our eyes but only sends out to them a certain representation or picture of itself, which is called its sensible species, by means of which we see.
So also when we contemplate or understand
anything, that which we understand is not united to
our understanding otherwise than by another
representation and most delicate and spiritual image,
which is called intelligible species. But further,
these species, by how many windings and changes do
they get to the understanding! They arrive at the
exterior senses, thence pass to the interior, then to
the imagination, then to the active understanding,
and come at last to the passive understanding, to the
end that passing through so many strainers and under
so many files they may be purified, subtilised and
perfected, and of sensible become intelligible.
But in heaven, Theotimus, - Ah! my God, what a favour! - The Divinity will unite itself to our understanding without the mediation of any species or representation at all, but it will itself apply and join itself to our understanding, making itself in such sort present unto it, that that inward presence shall be instead of a representation or species. O God! what sweetness shall it be for man's understanding to be united for ever to its sovereign object, receiving not its representation but its presence, not the picture or species, but the very essence of its divine truth and majesty.
We shall be there as most happy children of the divinity, and shall have the honour to be fed with the divine substance itself, taken into our soul by the mouth of our understanding, and what surpasses all sweetness is, that as mothers are not contented with feeding their babes with their milk, which is their own substance, if they do not also put the breast into their mouth, that these may receive their substance, not in a spoon or other instrument, but even in, and by this same substance (so that this maternal substance serves as well for food, as for a conduit to convey it to the dear little suckling); - so God our Father is not contented to make us receive his proper substance in our understanding, that is, to make us see his divinity, but by an abyss of his sweetness, wills himself to apply his substance to our soul, to the end that we may no longer understand it by species or representation but in itself and by itself; so that his fatherly and eternal substance is both species and object to our understanding.
Then these divine promises shall be fulfilled in
an excellent manner: I will lead her into the
wilderness, and I will speak to her heart,2 and give
her suck. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with
her. That you may suck and be filled with the breasts
of her consolations, that you may milk out, and flow
with delights from the abundance of her glory: you
shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees
they shall caress you.3