"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"

Thomas á Kempis

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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 12. Of The Sovereign Praise Which God Gives Unto Himself, And How We Exercise Benevolence In It.

All our Saviour's human actions are of an infinite merit and value, by reason of the person who produces them, who is the same God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, yet they are not infinite by nature and essence.

For as, being in a chamber, we receive not light according to the greatness of the brightness of the sun which sends it out, but according to the greatness of the window, by which it is communicated, - so our Saviour's human actions are not infinite, though indeed they are of infinite value; for although they are the actions of a divine person, yet they are not done according to the extent of his infinity, but according to the finite greatness of his humanity by which he does them. So that, as the human actions of our sweet Saviour are infinite compared to ours, so are they only finite in comparison with the essential infinity of the divinity. They are infinite in value, estimation and dignity, as proceeding from a person who is God; yet are they finite by nature and essence, as being done by God according to his human nature and substance, which is finite; and therefore the praises which are given by our Saviour, as he is man, not being in all respects infinite, cannot fully correspond to the infinite greatness of the divinity, to which they are directed.

Wherefore after the first ravishment of admiration which seizes us, when we meet with a praise so glorious as is that which our Saviour renders to his Father, we fail not to recognise that the divinity is yet infinitely more deserving of praise than it can be praised, either by all creatures, or by the very humanity of the eternal Son.

If a man were praising the sun for its light, the more he lifted himself towards it in praising it, the more praiseworthy he would find it, because he would still discover more and more brightness in it. And if, as is very probable, it be the beauty of this light which provokes larks to sing, it is no marvel that, as they fly more loftily, they sing more clearly, equally raising their voice and their flight, till such time as hardly being able to sing any more, they begin to fall in voice and body, bringing down by little and little their flight and their voice.

So, Theotimus, while by benevolence we are rising towards the divinity to intone and hear his praises, we see ever that he is above all praise. And finally, we learn that he cannot be praised according to his worth save only by himself, who alone can worthily match his sovereign goodness with sovereign praise.

Hereupon we cry out: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:" and that every one may know that it is not the glory of created praises which we wish God by this ejaculation, but the essential and eternal glory that is in himself, by himself, of himself, and which is himself, we add: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." As though we expressed a wish that God should be glorified for ever with the glory which he had before all creatures, in his infinite eternity and eternal infinity. For this we add the verse Gloria to every psalm and canticle, according to the ancient custom of the Eastern Church, which the great S. Jerome begged Pope S. Damasus to institute here in the Western; to protest, that all the praises of men and angels are too low to praise worthily the divine goodness, and that, to be worthily praised, itself must be its own glory, praise and benediction.

O God! what complacency, what a joy to the soul who loves, when she has her desire satisfied, in seeing her beloved infinitely praise, bless and magnify himself! But from this complacency there springs a new desire of praise: for the soul would gladly praise this so worthy a praise given to God by himself, thanking him profoundly for it, and calling again all things to her assistance, to come and glorify the glory of God with her, to bless his infinite benedictions, and praise his eternal praises; so that by this return and repetition of praises upon praises, she engages herself, between complacency and benevolence, in a most happy labyrinth of love, being wholly lost in this immense sweetness, sovereignly praising the divinity in that it cannot be sufficiently praised but by itself.

And though in the beginning, the amorous soul had conceived a certain desire of being able to praise God sufficiently; yet reflecting upon herself again, she protests that she would not wish to have power to praise him sufficiently, but remains in a most humble complacency, to perceive that the divine goodness is so infinitely praiseworthy, that it cannot be sufficiently praised save by its own infinity alone.

And here the soul, ravished with admiration, sings the song of sacred silence: A hymn becometh thee, O Lord, in Sion, and a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem.(1)

For so the seraphim of Isaias, adoring and praising God, veiled their faces and feet, confessing therein their want of ability to contemplate or serve him properly; for our feet, by which we go, signify service: but still they fly with two wings in the sweet unrest of complacency and benevolence, their love reposing in that delightful unrest.

Man's heart is never so much disquieted as when the motion by which it continually opens and shuts itself is hindered, never so quiet as when its motions are free; so that the heart's quiet consists in its motion. Now it is the same with the love of the Seraphim and seraphical men; for this has its repose in its continual movement of complacency, by which it draws God into itself, as if shutting itself, and of benevolence, by which it opens itself and throws itself entirely into God.

This love then desires to behold the infinite wonders of God's goodness, yet it spreads its wings over its face, confessing that it cannot succeed in this it would also present some worthy service, but it folds this desire over its feet, confessing that it has not power to perform it, nor does anything remain save the two wings of complacency and benevolence, by which it flies and darts towards God.

1. Ps. Ixiv. 1.