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 VI. Of The Exercises Of Holy Love In Prayer.
Ch 7. Of The Loving Recollection Of The Soul In Contemplation.
I speak not here, Theotimus, of the recollection by which such as are about to pray, place themselves in God's presence, entering into themselves, and as one would say bringing their soul into their hearts, there to speak with God; for this recollection is made by love's command, which, provoking us to prayer, moves us to take this means of doing it well, so that we ourselves make this withdrawing of our spirit.
But the recollection of which I mean to speak is not made by love's command but by love itself, that is, we do not make it by free choice, for it is not in our power to have it when we please, and does not depend on our care, but God at his pleasure works it in us by his most holy grace. The Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa of Jesus says: "He who has written that the prayer of recollection is made as when a hedgehog or tortoise draws itself within itself, said well, saving that these beasts draw themselves in when they please, whereas recollection is not in our will, but comes to us only when it pleases God to do us this grace."
Now it comes thus. Nothing is so natural to good as to draw and unite unto itself such things as are sensible of it; as our souls do, which continually draw towards them and give themselves to their treasure, that is, what they love. It happens then sometimes that our Lord imperceptibly infuses into the depths of our hearts a certain agreeable sweetness, which testifies his presence, and then the powers, yea the very exterior senses of the soul, by a certain secret contentment, turn in towards that most interior part where is the most amiable and dearest spouse.
For as a new swarm of bees when it would take flight and change country, is recalled by a sound softly made on metal basins, by the smell of honied wine, or by the scent of some odoriferous herbs, being stayed by the attraction of these agreeable things, and entering into the hive prepared for it: -- so our Saviour, -- pronouncing some secret word of his love, or pouring out the odour of the wine of his dilection, more delicious than honey, or letting stream the perfumes of his garments, that is, feelings of his heavenly consolations in our hearts, and thereby making them perceive his most welcome presence, -- draws unto him all the faculties of our soul, which gather about him and stay themselves in him as in their most desired object.
And as he who should cast a piece of loadstone
amongst a number of needles would instantly see them
turn all their points towards their well-beloved
adamant, and join themselves to it, so when our
Saviour makes his most delicious presence to be felt
in the midst of our hearts, all our faculties turn
their points in that direction, to be united to this
Propose to yourself, Theotimus, the most holy Virgin, our Lady, when she had conceived the Son of God, her only love. The soul of that well-beloved mother did wholly collect itself about that well-beloved child, and because this heavenly dear one was harboured in her sacred womb, all the faculties of her soul gathered themselves within her, as holy bees into their hive, wherein their honey is; and by how much the divine greatness was, so to speak, straitened and contracted within her virginal womb, by so much her soul did more increase and magnify the praises of that infinite loving-kindness, and her spirit within her body leapt with joy (as S. John in his mother's womb) in presence of her God, whom she felt. She launched not her affections out of herself, since her treasure, her loves and her delights were in the midst of her sacred womb.
Now the same contentment may be practised by imitation, among those who, having communicated, feel by the certainty of faith that which, not flesh and blood, but the Heavenly Father has revealed, that their Saviour is body and soul present, with a most real presence, to their body and to their soul, by this most adorable sacrament.
For as the pearl-mother, having received the drops of the fresh dew of the morning, closes up, not only to keep them pure from all possible mixture with the water of the sea, but also for the pleasure she feels in relishing the agreeable freshness of this heaven-sent germ: - so does it happen to many holy and devout of the faithful, that having received the Divine Sacrament which contains the dew of all heavenly benedictions, their heart closes over It, and all their faculties collect themselves together, not only to adore this sovereign King, but for the spiritual consolation and refreshment, beyond belief, which they receive in feeling by faith this divine germ of immortality within them.
Where you will carefully note, Theotimus, that to
say all in a word this recollection is wholly made by
love, which perceiving the presence of the
well-beloved by the attractions he spreads in the
midst of the heart, gathers and carries all the soul
towards it, by a most agreeable inclination, a most
sweet turning, and a delicious bending of all the
faculties towards this well-beloved, who attracts
them unto him by the force of his sweetness, with
which he ties and draws hearts, as bodies are drawn
by material ropes and bands.
The blue lily, otherwise called the flag, is said
to draw its flowers together at the sight of the sun,
because they close and unite while the sun shines,
but in its absence they spread out and keep open all
the night. The like happens in this kind of
recollection which we speak of; for at the simple
presence of God, or the simple feeling that he sees
us, either from heaven or from any other place
outside us (even if we are not remembering the other
sort of presence by which he is in us), our powers
and faculties assemble and gather together within us,
out of respect to his divine Majesty, which love
makes us fear with a fear of honour and respect.