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 2. How By Holy Complacency We Are Made As Little Infants At Our Saviour's Breasts.
O God! how happy the soul is who takes pleasure in knowing and fully knowing that God is God, and that his goodness is an infinite goodness!
For this heavenly spouse, by this gate of complacency, enters into us and sups with us and we with him. We feed ourselves with his sweetness by the pleasure which we take therein, and satiate our heart in the divine perfections by the delight we take in them: and this repast is a supper by reason of the repose which follows it, complacency making us sweetly rest in the sweetness of the good which delights us, and with which we feed our heart; for as you know, Theotimus, the heart is fed with that which delights it, whence in our French tongue we say that such a one is fed with honour, another with riches, as the wise man said that the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness,(1) and the sovereign wisdom protests that his meat, that is his pleasure, is to do the will of him that sent him.(2) In conclusion the physician's aphorism is true what is relished, nourishes: and the philosophers - what pleases, feeds.
Let my beloved come into his garden, said the sacred spouse, and eat the fruit of his apple-trees.(3) Now the heavenly spouse comes into his garden when he comes into the devout soul, for seeing his delight is to be with the children of men, where can he better lodge than in the country of the spirit, which he made to his image and likeness.
He himself plants in this garden the loving complacency which we have in his goodness, and which we feed on; as, likewise, his goodness takes his pleasure and repast in our complacency; so that, again, our complacency is augmented in perceiving that God is pleased to see us pleased in him. So that these reciprocal pleasures cause the love of an incomparable complacency, by which our soul, being made the garden of her spouse, and having from his goodness the apple trees of his delights, renders him the fruit thereof, since she is pleased that he is pleased in the complacency she takes in him.
Thus do we draw God's heart into ours, and he
spreads in it his precious balm, and thus is that
practised which the holy bride spoke with such joy.
The king hath brought me into his store-rooms: we
will be glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy
breasts more than wine; the righteous love thee.(4)
For I pray you, Theotimus, what are the store-rooms
of this king of love but his breasts, which abound in
the variety of sweetness and delights. The bosom and
breasts of the mother are the storeroom of the little
infant's treasures: he has no other riches than
those, which are more precious unto him than gold or
the topaz, more beloved than all the rest of the
Has not this fail soul reason to cry: O my king how lovable are thy riches and how rich thy loves! Oh! which of us has more joy, thou that enjoyest it, or I who rejoice thereat! We will be glad and rejoice in thee remembering thy breasts(5) so abounding in all excellence of sweetness! I because my well-beloved enjoys it, thou because thy well-beloved rejoices in it; we both enjoy it, since thy goodness makes thee enjoy my rejoicing, and my love makes me rejoice in thy enjoying.
Ah! the righteous and the good love thee, and how
can one be good and not love so great a goodness!
Worldly princes keep their treasures in the cabinets
of their palaces, their arms in their arsenals, but
the heavenly Prince keeps his treasures in his bosom,
his weapons within his breast, and because his
treasure is his goodness, as his weapons are his
loves, his breast and bosom resemble those of a
tender mother, who has her breasts like two cabinets
rich in the treasures of sweet milk, armed with as
many weapons to conquer the dear little baby as it
makes its attacks in sucking.
Wine, Theotimus, is the milk of grapes, and milk
is the wine of the breasts, and the sacred spouse
says that her well-beloved is to her a cluster of
grapes, but of Cyprian grapes,(7) that is, of an
excellent odour. Moses said that the Israelites might
drink the most pure and excellent blood of the grape,
and Jacob describing to his son Juda the fertility of
the portion which he should have in the land of
promise, prophesied under this figure the true
felicity of Christians, saying that the Saviour would
wash his robe, that is, his holy Church, in the blood
of the grape,(8) that is in his own blood. Now blood
and milk are no more different than verjuice and
wine, for as verjuice ripening by the sun's heat
changes its colour, becomes a grateful wine, and is
made good for food, so blood tempered by the heat of
the heart takes a fair white colour, and becomes a
food most suited for infants.
Now the milk which our souls draw from the breasts of our Saviour's charity is incomparably better than the wine which we press out from human reasoning; for this milk flows from heavenly love, who prepares it for her children even before they have thought of it; it has a sweet and agreeable taste, and the odour thereof surpasses all perfumes; it makes the breath fresh and sweet as that of a sucking child; it gives joy without immoderation, it inebriates without stupefying, it does not excite the senses but elevates them (ne leve pas mais releve).
When the holy Isaac embraced and kissed his dear child Jacob, he smelt the good odour of his garments, and at once, filled with an extreme pleasure, he said: Behold the smell of my son is as the smell of a plentiful field which the Lord hath blessed.(9) The garment and perfumes were Jacob's, but Isaac had the complacency and enjoyment of them.
Ah! the soul which by love holds her Saviour in the arms of her affections, how deliciously does she smell the perfumes of the infinite perfections which are found in him, with what complacency does she say in herself: behold how the scent of my God is as the sweet smell of a flowery garden, ah! how precious are his breasts, spreading sovereign perfumes.
So the soul of the great S. Augustine, stayed in
suspense between the sacred contentment which he had
in considering on the one side the mystery of his
Master's birth, on the other the mystery of his
passion, cried out, ravished in this complacency "I
know not whither to turn my heart. On the one side
the Mother's breast offers me its milk, on the other
the life-giving wound of the Son gives me to drink of