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 V. Of The Two Principal Exercises Of Holy Love Which Consist In Complacency And Benevolence.
Ch 1. Of The Sacred Complacency Of Love; And First Of What It Consists.
Love, as we have said, is no other thing than the movement and outflowing of the heart towards good by means of the complacency which we take in it; so that complacency is the great motive of love, as love is the great movement of complacency.
Now this movement is practised towards God in this manner. We know by faith that the Divinity is an incomprehensible abyss of all perfection, sovereignly infinite in excellence and infinitely sovereign in goodness. This truth which faith teaches us we attentively consider by meditation, beholding that immensity of goods which are in God, either all together by assembling all the perfections, or in particular by considering his excellences one after another; for example, his all-power, his all-wisdom his all-goodness, his eternity, his infinity.
Now when we have brought our understanding to be very attentive to the greatness of the goods that are in this Divine object, it is impossible that our will should not be touched with complacency in this good, and then we use the liberty and power which we have over ourselves, provoking our own heart to redouble and strengthen its first complacency by acts of approbation and rejoicing.
"Oh!" says the devout soul then, "how beautiful
art thou, my beloved, how beautiful art thou! Thou
art all desirable, yea, thou art desire itself! Such
is my beloved and he is my friend, O ye daughters of
Jerusalem.(1) O blessed be my God for ever because he
is so good! Ah! whether I die or whether I live, too
happy am I in knowing that my God is so rich in all
goodness, his goodness so infinite, and his infinity
Know ye, said they, that the Lord he is God. O God, my God, my God, thou art my God. I have said to the Lord: Thou art my God. Thou art the God of my heart, and my God is my portion for ever.(2) He is the God of our heart by this complacency, since by it our heart embraces him and makes him its own: he is our inheritance, because by this act, we enjoy the goods which are in God, and, as from an inheritance, we draw from it all pleasure and content; by means of this complacency we spiritually drink and eat the perfections of the Divinity, for we make them our own and draw them into our hearts.
Jacob's ewes drew into themselves the variety of colours which they observed. So a soul, captivated by the loving complacency which she takes in considering the Divinity, and in it an infinity of excellences, draws into her heart the colours thereof, that is to say, the multitude of wonders and perfections which she contemplates, and makes them her own by the pleasure which she takes in them.
O God! what joy shall we have in heaven, Theotimus, when we shall see the well-beloved of our hearts as an infinite sea, whose waters are perfection and goodness! Then as stags, long and sorely chased, putting their mouths to a clear and cool stream draw into themselves the coolness of its fair waters, so our hearts, after so many languors and desires meeting with the mighty and living spring of the Divinity, shall draw by their complacency all the perfections of the well-beloved, and shall have the perfect fruition of them by the joy which they shall take in them, replenishing themselves with his immortal delights; and in this way the dear spouse will enter into us as into his nuptial bed, to communicate his eternal joy unto our souls, according as he himself says, that if we keep the holy law of his love he will come and dwell within us.
Such is the sweet and noble robbery of love,
which, without uncolouring the well-beloved colours
itself with his colours; without disrobing him
invests itself with his robes, without taking from
him takes all that he has, and without impoverishing
him is enriched with all his wealth; as the air takes
light, not lessening the original brightness of the
sun, and the mirror takes the grace of the
countenance, not diminishing that of him who looks in
Behold, I beseech you, the heart of S. Clare of Montefalco: it so delighted in our Saviour's passion and in meditating on the most holy Trinity, that it drew into itself all the marks of the passion, and an admirable representation of the Trinity, being made such as the things it loved. The love which the great Apostle S. Paul bore to the life, death and passion of our divine Saviour was so great that it drew the very life, death, and passion of this divine Saviour into his loving servant's heart; whose will was filled with it by dilection, his memory by meditation, and his understanding by contemplation. But by what channel or conduit did the sweet Jesus come into the heart of S. Paul?
By the channel of complacency, as he himself declares, saying: God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.(4) For if you mark well, there is no difference between glorying in a person and taking complacency in him, between glorying and delighting in, save that he who glories in a thing, to pleasure adds honour; honour not being without pleasure, though pleasure can be without honour.
This soul, then, had such complacency, and
esteemed himself so much honoured in the divine
goodness which appears in the life, death and passion
of our Saviour, that he took no pleasure but in this
honour. And it is this that made him say, God forbid
that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ; as he also said that he lived not
himself but Jesus Christ lived in him.