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 6. Of The Love Of Benevolence Which We Exercise Towards Our Saviour By Way Of Desire.
In the love which God exercises towards us he always begins by benevolence, willing and effecting all the good that is in us, in which afterwards he takes complacency.
He made David according to his heart by
benevolence, then he found him according to his heart
by complacency. He first created the universe for
man, and man in the universe, giving to each thing
such a measure of goodness as was proportionable to
it, out of his pure benevolence, then he approved all
that he had done, finding that all was very good, and
by complacency rested in his work.
Now this love of benevolence towards God is practised in this sort. We cannot, with a true desire, wish any good to God, because his goodness is infinitely more perfect than we can either wish or think: desire is only of a future good, and no good is future to God, since all good is so present to him that the presence of good in his divine Majesty is nothing else but the Divinity itself.
Not being able then to make any absolute desire for God, we make imaginary and conditional ones, in this manner: I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, who being full of thine own infinite goodness, hast no need of my goods,(1) nor of anything whatever, but if, by imagination of a thing impossible, I could think thou hadst need of anything, I would never cease to wish it thee, even with the loss of my life, of my being, and of all that is in the world. And if, being what thou art, and what thou canst not but still be, it were possible that thou couldst receive any increase of good, - O God! what a desire would I have that thou shouldst have it! I would desire, O eternal Lord! to see my heart converted into a wish, and my life into a sigh, to desire thee such a good! Ah! yet would I not for all this, O thou sacred well-beloved of my soul, desire to be able to wish any good to thy Majesty, yea I delight with all my heart in this supreme degree of goodness which thou hast, to which nothing can be added, either by desire or yet by thought.
But if such a desire were possible, O infinite Divinity, O divine Infinity! my soul would be that desire and nothing else, so intensely would she be desirous to desire for thee that which she is infinitely pleased that she cannot desire; seeing that her powerlessness to make this desire proceeds from the infinite infinity of thy perfection, which outstrips all desire and all thought.
Ah! O my God! how dearly I love the impossibility of being able to desire thee any good, since this comes from the incomprehensible immensity of thy abundance. That is so sovereignly infinite, that if there were an infinite desire it would be infinitely satiated by the infinity of thy goodness, which would convert it into an infinite complacency. This desire then, by imagination of impossibilities, may be sometimes profitably practised amidst great and extraordinary feelings and fervours.
We are told that the great S. Augustine often made
such, pouring out in an excess of love these words:
"Ah! Lord, I am Augustine and thou art God, but
still, if that, which neither is nor can be, were,
that I were God and thou Augustine, I would, changing
my condition with thee, become Augustine to the end
that thou mightest be God!"
And then, Theotimus, we desire not the complacency
for the pleasure it yields us, but purely because
this pleasure is in God. For as we desire not the
compassion for the pain it brings to our heart, but
because this sorrow unites and associates us to our
well-beloved, who is in pain; so we do not love the
complacency because it brings us pleasure, but
because this pleasure is taken in union with the
pleasure and good which is in God; to be more united
to which, we would desire to exercise a complacency
infinitely greater, in imitation of the most holy
Queen and Mother of love, whose sacred soul
continually magnified and exalted God. And that it
might be known that this magnifying was made by the
complacency which she took in the divine goodness,
she declares; My spirit hath exultingly rejoiced in
God my Saviour.(2)