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 IV. Of The Decay And Ruin Of Charity.
Ch 2. How The Soul Grows Cold In Holy Love.
The soul is often grieved and troubled in the body, even so far as to desert many of its members, which remain deprived of motion and feeling, while it never forsakes the heart, wherein it fully remains till the very end of life.
So charity is sometimes weakened and depressed in the affections till it seems to be scarcely in exercise at all, and yet it remains entire in the supreme region of the soul. This happens when, under the multitude of venial sins as under ashes, the fire of holy love remains covered, and its flame smothered, though it is not dead or extinguished.
For as the presence of the diamond hinders the exercise and action of that property which the adamant has of drawing iron, and yet does not take it away, as it acts immediately this obstacle is removed, so the presence of venial sins in no sort deprives charity of its force and power to work, yet as it were benumbs it and deprives it of the use of its activity, so that charity remains without action, sterile and unfruitful.
It is true that neither venial sin nor even the affection to it, is contrary to the essential resolution of charity, which is to prefer God before all things; because by this sin we love something outside reason but not against reason, we defer a little too much, and more than is fit, to creatures, yet we do not prefer them before the Creator, we occupy ourselves more than we ought in earthly things, yet do we not for all that forsake heavenly things.
In fine, this kind of sin impedes us in the way of charity, but does not put us out of it, and therefore venial sin, not being contrary to charity, never destroys charity either wholly or partially.
God signified to the Bishop of Ephesus that he had forsaken his first charity,(1) where he does not say that he was without charity, but only that it was not such as in the beginning; that is, that it was not now prompt, fervent, growing in love, or fruitful: as we are wont to say of him who from being bright, cheerful and blithe, becomes sad, heavy and sullen, that he is not now the same man he was; for our meaning is not that he is not the same in substance, but only in his actions and exercises.
And thus Our Saviour says that in the latter days
the charity of many shall grow cold,(2) that is, it
shall not be so active and courageous, by reason of
fear and sadness which shall oppress men's hearts.
Certain it is that when concupiscence hath conceived
it bringeth forth sin.(3) The sin however, though sin
indeed, does not always beget the death of the soul,
but then only when it is complete in malice, and when
it is consummate and accomplished, as S. James says.
And he here establishes so clearly the difference
between mortal and venial sin, that it is strange
that some in our age have had the temerity to deny
The affection to great sins did so make truth prisoner to injustice amongst the pagan philosophers, that, as the great Apostle says: Knowing God they honoured him not according to that knowledge;(4) so that though this affection did not banish natural light, yet it made it profitless. So the affection to venial sin does not abolish charity, but it holds it as a slave, tied hand and foot, hindering its freedom and action. This affection, attaching us too closely to the enjoyment of creatures, deprives us of the spiritual intimacy between God and us, to which charity, as true friendship, excites us; consequently this affection makes us lose the interior helps and assistances which are as it were the vital and animating spirits of the soul, in default of which there follows a certain spiritual palsy, which in the end, if it be not remedied, brings us to death.
For, after all, charity being an active quality
cannot be long without either acting or dying: it is,
say our Ancients, of the nature of Rachel, who also
represented it. Give me, said she to her husband,
children, otherwise I shall die;(5) and charity urges
the heart which she has espoused to make her fertile
of good works; otherwise she will perish.
In fine, Theotimus, we are wont to say that such
as have a very weakly constitution have no life, that
they have not an ounce, or not a handful of it,
because that which is quickly to have an end seems
indeed already not to be. And those good-for-nothing
souls who are addicted to pleasure and set upon
transitory things, may well say that they no longer
have charity, for if they have it they are in the way
soon to lose it.