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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER III.

THAT HOLY COMPLACENCY GIVES OUR HEART TO GOD, AND MAKES US FEEL A PERPETUAL DESIRE IN FRUITION.

The love which we bear to God starts from the first complacency which our heart feels on first perceiving the divine goodness, when it begins to tend towards it. Now when by the exercise of love we augment and strengthen this first complacency, as we have explained in the preceding chapters, we then draw into our hearts the divine perfections and enjoy the divine goodness by rejoicing in it, practising the first part of the amorous contentment of love expressed by the sacred spouse, saying: My beloved to me.231231Cant. ii. 2. But because this amorous complacency being in us who have it, ceases not to be in God in whom we have it, it gives us reciprocally to his divine goodness; so that by this holy love of complacency we enjoy the goods which are in God as though they were our own; but because the divine perfections are stronger than our spirit, entering into it they possess it reciprocally, insomuch that we not only say God is ours by this complacency but also that we are to Him.232232Cant. ii. 2.

The herb aproxis (as we have said elsewhere) has so great a correspondence with fire, that though at a distance from it, as soon as it sees it, it draws the flame and begins to burn, conceiving fire not so much from the heat as from the light of the fire presented to it. When then by this attraction it is united to the fire, if it could speak, might it not well say: my well-beloved fire is mine since I draw it to me and enjoy its flames, but I am also its, for though I drew it to me it reduced me into it as more strong and noble; it is my fire and I am its herb: I draw it and it sets me on fire. So our heart being brought into the presence of the divine goodness, and having drawn the perfections thereof by the complacency it takes in them, may truly say: God's goodness is all mine since I enjoy his excellences, and I again am wholly his, seeing that his delights possess me.

By complacency our soul, like Gideon's fleece, is wholly filled with heavenly dew, and this dew belongs to the fleece because it falls upon it, and again the fleece is the dew's because it is steeped in it and receives virtue from it. Which belongs more to the other, the pearl to the oyster or the oyster to the pearl? The pearl is the oyster's because she drew it to her, but the oyster is the pearl's because it gives her worth and value. Complacency makes us possessors of God, drawing into us his perfections, but it makes us also possessed of God, applying and fastening us to his perfections.

Now in this complacency we satiate our soul with delights in such a manner that we do not yet cease to desire to be satiated, and relishing the divine goodness we desire yet to relish it; while satiating ourselves we would still eat, as whilst eating we feel ourselves satisfied. The chief of the Apostles, having said in his first epistle that the ancient prophets had manifested the graces which were to abound amongst Christians, and amongst other things our Saviour's passion, and the glory which was to follow it (as well by the resurrection of his body as also by the exaltation of his name), in the end concludes that the very angels desire to behold the mysteries of the redemption in this divine Saviour: On whom, says he, the angels desire to look.2332331 Pet. i. 12. But how can this be understood, that the angels who see the Redeemer and in him all the mysteries of our salvation, do yet desire to see him? Theotimus, verily they see him continually, but with a view so agreeable and delightsome that the complacency they take in it satiates them without taking away their desire, and makes them desire without removing their satiety; the fruition is not lessened by desire, but perfected, as their desire is not cloyed but intensified by fruition.

The fruition of a thing which always contents never lessens, but is renewed and flourishes incessantly; it is ever agreeable, ever desirable. The perpetual contentment of heavenly lovers produces a desire perpetually content, as their continual desire begets in them a contentment perpetually desired. Good which is finite in giving the possession ends the desire, and in giving the desire takes away the possession, being unable to be at once possessed and desired. But the infinite good makes desire reign in possession and possession in desire, finding a way to satiate desire by a holy presence, and yet to make it live by the greatness of its excellence, which nourishes in all those that possess it a desire always content and a content always full of desire.

Consider, Theotimus, such as hold in their mouth the herb sciticum; according to report they are never hungry nor thirsty, it is so satisfying, and yet never lose their appetite, it nourishes them so deliciously. When our will meets God it reposes in him, taking in him a sovereign complacency, yet without staying the movement of her desire, for as she desires to love so she loves to desire, she has the desire of love and the love of desire. The repose of the heart consists not in immobility but in needing nothing, not in having no movement but in having no need to move.

The damned are in eternal movement without any mixture of rest; we mortals who are yet in this pilgrimage have, now movement, now rest, in our affections; the Blessed ever have repose in their movements and movement in their repose; only God has repose without movement, because he is sovereignly a pure and substantial act. Now although according to the ordinary condition of this mortal life we have not repose in movement, yet still, when we practise the acts of holy love, we find repose in the movement of our affections, and movement in the repose of the complacency which we take in our well-beloved, receiving hereby a foretaste of the future felicity to which we aspire.

If it be true that the chameleon lives on air, wheresoever he goes in the air he finds food, and though he move from one place to another, it is not to find wherewith to be filled, but to exercise himself within that element which is also his food, as fishes do in the sea. He who desires God while possessing him, does not desire him in order to seek him, but in order to exercise this affection within the very good which he enjoys; for the heart does not make this movement of desire as aiming at the enjoyment of a thing not had, since it is already had, but as dilating itself in the enjoyment which it has; not to obtain the good, but to recreate and please itself therein; not to gain the enjoyment of it but to take enjoyment in it. So we walk and move to go to some delicious garden, where, being arrived, we cease not to walk and exercise ourselves, not now to get there, but being there to walk and pass our time therein: we walk in order to go and enjoy the pleasantness of the garden, being there we walk to take our pleasure in the enjoyment of it. Seek ye the Lord and be strengthened, seek his face evermore.234234Ps. civ. 4. We always seek him whom we always love, says the great S. Augustine: love seeks that which it has found, not to have it but to have it always.

Finally, Theotimus, the soul which is in the exercise of the love of complacency cries continually in her sacred silence: It suffices me that God is God, that his goodness is infinite, that his perfection is immense; whether I die or whether I live matters little to me since my dear well-beloved lives eternally an all-triumphant life. Death itself cannot trouble a heart which knows that its sovereign love lives. It is sufficient for a heart that loves that he whom it loves more than itself is replenished with eternal happiness, seeing that it lives more in him whom it loves than in him whom it animates; yea, that it lives not itself, but its well-beloved lives in it.

 


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