"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."

Thomas á Kempis

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."

R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."

St Louis Bertrand

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St. Francis de Sales  (1567-1622)
 Bishop, Founder of the Visitation and Doctor of the Church


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 world.

The soul then which contemplates the infinite treasures of divine perfections in her well-beloved, holds herself too happy and rich in this that love makes her mistress by complacency of all the perfections and contentments of this dear spouse. And even as a baby makes little movements towards his mother's breasts, and dances with joy to see them discovered, and as the mother again on her part presents them unto him with a love always a little forward, even so the devout soul feels the thrillings and movements of an incomparable joy, through the content which she has in beholding the treasures of the perfections of the king of her holy love; but especially when she sees that he himself discovers them by love, and that amongst them that perfection of his infinite love excellently shines.

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.

Nature surely lodges the breasts in the bosom to the end that, since the heat of the heart there concocts the milk, as the mother is the child's nurse, so her heart may be his fosterfather, and the milk may be a food of love, better a hundred times than wine. Note, meantime, Theotimus, that the comparison of milk and wine seems so proper to the holy spouse that she is not content to have said once that the breasts of her beloved are better than wine,(6) but she repeats it thrice.

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.

Milk, which is a food provided by the heart and all of love, represents mystical science and theology, that is, the sweet relish which proceeds from the loving complacency taken by the spirit when it meditates on the perfections of the divine goodness. But wine signifies ordinary and acquired science, which is squeezed out by force of speculation under the press of divers arguments and discussions.

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 his blood."

1. Prov. xv. 14.
2. John iv. 34.
3. Cant. v. 1.
4. Cant. i. 3.
5. Cant. i. 3.
6. Cant. i. 1.
7. Botrus Cypri. Our version wrongly translates this as a cluster of Cypress [Tr.]
8. Gen. xlix. 11.
9. Gen. xxvii. 27.