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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER XV.

OF THE GREAT SENTIMENT OF LOVE WHICH WE RECEIVE BY HOLY HOPE.

As when exposed to the rays of the sun at mid-day, we hardly see the brightness before we suddenly feel the heat; so the light of faith has no sooner spread the splendour of its truths in our understanding, but immediately our will feels the holy heat of heavenly love. Faith makes us know by an infallible certitude that God is, that he is infinite in goodness, that he can communicate himself unto us, and not only that he can, but that he will; so that by an ineffable sweetness he has provided us with all things requisite to obtain the happiness of immortal glory. Now we have a natural inclination to the sovereign good, by reason of which our heart is touched with a certain inward anxious desire and continual uneasiness, not being able in any way to quiet itself, or to cease to testify that its perfect satisfaction and solid contentment are wanting to it. But when holy faith has represented to our understanding this lovely object of our natural inclination,—Oh! Theotimus, what joy! what pleasure! how our whole soul is thrilled, and, all amazed at the sight of so excellent a beauty, it cries out with love: Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, behold thou art fair!105105Cant. i. 14.

Eliezer sought a wife for the son of his master Abraham; how could he tell whether he should find her beautiful and gracious as he desired? But when he had found her at the fountain, and saw her so excellent in beauty and so perfect in sweetness, and especially when he had obtained her, he adored God, and blessed him with thanksgiving, full of incomparable joy. Man's heart tends to God by its natural inclination, without fully knowing what he is; but when it finds him at the fountain of faith, and sees him so good, so lovely, so sweet and gracious to all, and so ready to give himself, as the sovereign good, to all who desire him,—O God! what delight! and what sacred movements in the soul, to unite itself for ever to this goodness so sovereignty amiable! I have found, says the soul thus inspired, I have at last found that which my heart desired, and now I am at rest. And as Jacob, having seen the fair Rachel, after he had holily kissed her, melted into tears of sweetness for the happiness he experienced in so desirable a meeting, so our poor heart, having found God, and received of him the first kiss, the kiss of holy faith, it dissolves forthwith in sweetness of love for the infinite good which it presently discovers in that sovereign beauty.

We sometimes experience in ourselves a certain joyousness which comes as it were unexpectedly, without any apparent reason, and this is often a presage of some greater joy; whence many are of opinion that our good angels, foreseeing the good which is coming unto us, give us by this means a foretaste thereof, as on the contrary they give us certain fears and terrors amidst dangers we are not aware of, to make us invoke God's assistance and stand upon our guard. Now when the presaged good arrives, we receive it with open arms, and reflecting upon the joyousness we formerly felt without knowing its cause, we only then begin to perceive that it was a forerunner of the happiness we now enjoy. Even so, my dear Theotimus, our heart having had for so long a time an inclination to its sovereign good, knew not to what end this motion tended: but so soon as faith has shown it, then man clearly discerns that this was what his soul coveted, his understanding sought, and his inclination tended towards. Certainly, whether we wish or wish not, our soul tends towards the sovereign good. But what is this sovereign good? We are like those good Athenians who sacrificed unto the true God, although he was unknown to them, till the great S. Paul taught them the knowledge of him. For so our heart, by a deep and secret instinct, in all its actions tends towards, and aims at, felicity, seeking it here and there, as it were groping, without knowing where it resides, or in what it consists, till faith shows and describes the infinite marvels thereof. But then, having found the treasure it sought for,—ah! what a satisfaction to this poor human heart! What joy, what complacency of love! O I have met with him, whom my heart sought for without knowing him! O how little I knew whither my aims tended, when nothing contented me of all I aimed at, because, in fact, I knew not what I was aiming at. I was seeking to love and knew not what to love, and therefore my intention not finding its true love, my love remained ever in a true but ignorant intention. I had indeed sufficient foretaste of love to make me seek, but not sufficient knowledge of the goodness I had to love, to actually practise love.

 


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