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 3. That Holy Complacency Gives Our Heart To God, And Makes Us Feel A Perpetual Desire In Fruition.
The love which we bear to God starts from the first complacency which our heart feels on first perceiving the divine goodness, when it begins to tend towards it. Now when by the exercise of love we augment and strengthen this first complacency, as we have explained in the preceding chapters, we then draw into our hearts the divine perfections and enjoy the divine goodness by rejoicing in it, practising the first part of the amorous contentment of love expressed by the sacred spouse, saying: My beloved to me.(1)
But because this amorous complacency being in us who have it, ceases not to be in God in whom we have it, it gives us reciprocally to his divine goodness; so that by this holy love of complacency we enjoy the goods which are in God as though they were our own; but because the divine perfections are stronger than our spirit, entering into it they possess it reciprocally, insomuch that we not only say God is ours by this complacency but also that we are to Him.(2)
The herb aproxis (as we have said elsewhere) has so great a correspondence with fire, that though at a distance from it, as soon as it sees it, it draws the flame and begins to burn, conceiving fire not so much from the heat as from the light of the fire presented to it. When then by this attraction it is united to the fire, if it could speak, might it not well say: my wellbeloved fire is mine since I draw it to me and enjoy its flames, but I am also its, for though I drew it to me it reduced me into it as more strong and noble; it is my fire and I am its herb: I draw it and it sets me on fire.
So our heart being brought into the presence of
the divine goodness, and having drawn the perfections
thereof by the complacency it takes in them, may
truly say: God's goodness is all mine since I enjoy
his excellences, and I again am wholly his, seeing
that his delights possess me.
Which belongs more to the other, the pearl to the oyster or the oyster to the pearl? The pearl is the oyster's because she drew it to her, but the oyster is the pearl's because it gives her worth and value.
Complacency makes us possessors of God, drawing into us his perfections, but it makes us also possessed of God, applying and fastening us to his perfections.
Now in this complacency we satiate our soul with delights in such a manner that we do not yet cease to desire to be satiated, and relishing the divine goodness we desire yet to relish it; while satiating ourselves we would still eat, as whilst eating we feel ourselves satisfied.
The chief of the Apostles, having said in his first epistle that the ancient prophets had manifested the graces which were to abound amongst Christians, and amongst other things our Saviour's passion, and the glory which was to follow it (as well by the resurrection of his body as also by the exaltation of his name), in the end concludes that the very angels desire to behold the mysteries of the redemption in this divine Saviour: On whom, says he, the angels desire to look.(3) But how can this be understood, that the angels who see the Redeemer and in him all the mysteries of our salvation, do yet desire to see him?
Theotimus, verily they see him continually, but with a view so agreeable and delightsome that the complacency they take in it satiates them without taking away their desire, and makes them desire without removing their satiety; the fruition is not lessened by desire, but perfected, as their desire is not cloyed but intensified by fruition.
The fruition of a thing which always contents never lessens, but is renewed and flourishes incessantly; it is ever agreeable, ever desirable. The perpetual contentment of heavenly lovers produces a desire perpetually content, as their continual desire begets in them a contentment perpetually desired.
Good which is finite in giving the possession ends
the desire, and in giving the desire takes away the
possession, being unable to be at once possessed and
desired. But the infinite good makes desire reign in
possession and possession in desire, finding a way to
satiate desire by a holy presence, and yet to make it
live by the greatness of its excellence, which
nourishes in all those that possess it a desire
always content and a content always full of desire.
The damned are in eternal movement without any mixture of rest; we mortals who are yet in this pilgrimage have, now movement, now rest, in our affections; the Blessed ever have repose in their movements and movement in their repose; only God has repose without movement, because he is sovereignly a pure and substantial act.
Now although according to the ordinary condition of this mortal life we have not repose in movement, yet still, when we practise the acts of holy love, we find repose in the movement of our affections, and movement in the repose of the complacency which we take in our well-beloved, receiving hereby a foretaste of the future felicity to which we aspire.
If it be true that the chameleon lives on air, wheresoever he goes in the air he finds food, and though he move from one place to another, it is not to find wherewith to be filled, but to exercise himself within that element which is also his food, as fishes do in the sea. He who desires God while possessing him, does not desire him in order to seek him, but in order to exercise this affection within the very good which he enjoys; for the heart does not make this movement of desire as aiming at the enjoyment of a thing not had, since it is already had, but as dilating itself in the enjoyment which it has; not to obtain the good, but to recreate and please itself therein; not to gain the enjoyment of it but to take enjoyment in it.
So we walk and move to go to some delicious
garden, where, being arrived, we cease not to walk
and exercise ourselves, not now to get there, but
being there to walk and pass our time therein: we
walk in order to go and enjoy the pleasantness of the
garden, being there we walk to take our pleasure in
the enjoyment of it. Seek ye the Lord and be
strengthened, seek his face evermore.(4) We always
seek him whom we always love, says the great S.
Augustine: love seeks that which it has found, not to
have it but to have it always.