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 8. An Exhortation To The Amorous Submission Which We Owe To The Decrees Of Divine Providence.
Let us love then, Theotimus, and adore in humility of spirit this depth of God's judgments, which, as S. Augustine says, the holy Apostle discovers not, but admires, when he cries out: O the depth of God's, judgments!
"Who can count the sands of the sea, and the drops of rain, or measure the depths of the abyss," says that excellent understanding S. Gregory Nazianzen:(1) "and who can sound the depth of the Divine Wisdom by which it has created all things, and governs them as it pleases and judges fit. For indeed it suffices that, after the example of the Apostle, we admire it without stopping at the difficulty and obscurity of it. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?"
Theotimus, the reasons of God's will cannot be penetrated by our intelligence till we see the face of him who reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly;(2) doing all that he doth in measure, and number, and weight;(3) and to whom the Psalmist says, Lord, thou hast made all things in wisdom.(4)
How often does it happen that we are ignorant why and how even the works of men are done? And therefore, says the same holy Bishop of Nazianzus, "as the artist is not ignorant of his art, so the things of this world are not carelessly and unskilfully made, though we know not the reasons of them."
Entering into a clockmaker's shop, we shall sometimes find a clock no greater than an orange, which yet has in it a hundred or two hundred pieces, of which some serve to show the time, others to strike the hour or give the morning alarm; we shall see in it little wheels, some turning to the right, others to the left, one by the top, another by the bottom; and the balance which with measured beats keeps rising and falling on either side. We wonder how art could join together such a number of pieces, with so just a correspondence, not knowing what each little piece serves for, nor why it is made so, unless the master tell us; knowing only in general that all serve either to point out or to strike the hour.
It is reported that the good Indians will stand whole days musing upon a clock, to hear it strike at the times fixed, and not being able to guess how it is done, they do not therefore say that it is without art or reason, but are taken with love and respect towards those who regulate the clocks, admiring them as more than men. Theotimus, we see in this manner the universe, but specially human natures to be a sort of clock, composed with so great a variety of actions and movements that we cannot but be astonished at it.
And we know in general that these so diversely
ordered pieces serve all, either to point out, as on
a dial-plate, God's most holy justice or as by a bell
of praise, to sound the triumphant mercy of his
goodness. But to know the particular use of every
piece, how it is ordered to the general end, or why
it is so, we cannot conceive, unless the sovereign
Workman instruct us. Now he conceals his art from us,
to the end that with more reverence we may admire it,
till in heaven he shall ravish us with the sweetness
of his wisdom, where in the abundance of his love he
will discover unto us the reasons, means and motives
of all that shall have passed in the world towards
our eternal salvation.
But especially let us believe that he rules our
affairs, (ours who know him) though our life be
tossed about in so great contrariety of accidents. Of
these we know not the reasons, to the end, perhaps,
that not being able to attain this knowledge we may
admire the sovereign reason of God which surpasses
all things: for with us things easily known are
easily despised; but that which surpasses the highest
powers of our spirits by how much it is harder to be
known, by so much it excites a greater admiration in
us. Truly the reasons of divine providence were low
placed if our small capacities could reach unto them;
they would be less lovable in their sweetness and
less admirable in their majesty if they were set at a
less distance from our capacity!"
Ah! what can we fear, nay rather, what ought not we to hope for, being the children of a Father so rich in goodness to love and to will to save us; who knows so well how to prepare the means suitable for this and is so wise to apply them; so good to will, so clearsighted to ordain, and so prudent to execute?
Let us never permit our minds to flutter with curiosity about God's judgments, for, like little butterflies, we shall burn our wings, and perish in this sacred flame. These judgments are incomprehensible, or, as S. Gregory Nazianzen says, inscrutable, that is, one cannot search out and sound their motives: the means and ways by which he executes and brings them to perfection cannot be discerned and recognized: and, clever as we may be, yet we shall find ourselves thrown out at every turn and lose the scent.
For who hath known the mind, the meaning and the intention of God? Who hath been his counsellor, to know his purposes and their motives? Or who hath first given to him? Is it not he, on the contrary, who presents us with the benedictions of his grace to crown us with the felicity of his glory? Ah! Theotimus, all things are from him, as being their Creator; all things are by him, as being their Governor; all things are in him, as being their Protector; to him be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen!(5)
Let us walk in peace, Theotimus, in the way of
holy love, for he that shall have divine love in
dying, after death shall enjoy love eternally.