The Complete Ascetical Works of St. Alphonsus/Volume 6/The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ/Introduction

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How deserving Jesus Christ is of our Love, on Account of the Love He has shown us in His Passion.

The whole sanctity and perfection of a soul consists in loving Jesus Christ, our God, our sovereign good, and our Redeemer. Whoever loves me, says Jesus Christ himself, shall be loved by my Eternal Father: My Father loves you because you have loved Me.[1] Some, says St. Francis de Sales,[2] make perfection consist in an austere life; others in prayer; others in frequenting the Sacraments; others in alms-deeds. But they deceive themselves: perfection consists in loving God with our whole heart. The Apostle wrote: Above all things, … have charity, which is the bond of perfection.[3] It is charity which keeps united and preserves all the virtues that render a man perfect. Hence St. Augustine said: "Love God, and do whatever you please;"[4] because a soul that loves God is taught by that same love never to do anything that will displease him, and to leave nothing undone that may please him.

But perhaps God does not deserve all our love? He has loved us with an everlasting love.[5] O man, says the Lord, behold I was the first to love thee. Thou wast not yet in the world, nay, the world itself was not, and I already loved thee. As long as I am God, I loved thee; as long as I have loved myself, I have also loved thee. With good reason, therefore, did St. Agnes, that young holy virgin, reply to those who wished to unite her to an earthly spouse: "I am engaged to another lover."[6] "Go," said she, "O lovers of this world, cease to sue my love; my God was the first to love me. He has loved me from all eternity: it is but just, then, for me to give him all my affections, and to love none other but him."

As Almighty God knew that man is won by kindness, he determined to lavish his gifts upon him, and so take captive the affections of his heart. For this reason he said, I will draw them with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love.[7] I will catch men by those very snares by which they are naturally caught, that is, by the snares of love. And such exactly are all the favors of God to man. After having given him a soul created in his own image, with memory, understanding, and will, and a body with its senses, he created heaven and earth for him, yes, all that exists, all for the love of man, the firmament, the stars, the planets, the seas, the rivers, the fountains, the hills, the plains, metals, fruits, and a countless variety of animals: and all these creatures that they might minister to the uses of man, and that man might love him in gratitude for so many admirable gifts.

"Heaven and earth, and all things, tell me to love Thee,"[8] says St. Augustine. "My Lord," he said, "whatever I behold on the earth, or above the earth, all speak to me, and exhort me to love Thee; because all assure me that Thou hast made them for the love of me."

The Abbot de Rancé, founder of La Trappe, when from his hermitage he stood and surveyed the hills, the fountains, the birds, the flowers, the planets, and the skies, felt himself animated by each one of these creatures to love that God who had created all through love to him.

In like manner St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, when she held any beautiful flower in her hand, was enkindled by the sight of it with love to God; and she would say: "And God, then, has thought from all eternity of creating this flower for love of me!" Thus did that flower become, as it were, a dart of love, which sweetly wounded her, and united her more and more to her God.

On the other hand, St. Teresa, at the sight of trees, fountains, rivers, lakes, or meadows, declared that all these fair things upbraided her for her ingratitude in loving so coldly a God who created them that he might be loved by her.

To the like purpose is it related of a pious hermit, that when walking through the country, it seemed to him that the plants and flowers in his path reproached him for the cold return of love he made to God; so that he went along gently striking them with his staff, and saying to them: "Oh, be silent, be silent; you call me an ungrateful wretch; you tell me God has made you for love of me, and yet I do not love him; but now I understand you, be silent, be silent; do not reproach me more."

But God was not satisfied with giving us so many beautiful creatures. He has gone to such lengths to gain our love, as to give himself to us. The Eternal Father did not hesitate to give us even his only-begotten Son: For God so fared the world as to give His only-begotten Son.[9] When the Eternal Father saw that we were all dead, and deprived of his grace by sin, what did he do? for the immense love, nay, as the Apostle writes, for the too great love he bore us, he sent his beloved Son to make atonement for us; and so to restore to us that life which sin had robbed us of: Who through his exceeding charity with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ.[10] And in granting us his Son (not sparing his Son, that he might spare us), he has granted us every good together with him, his grace, his love, and paradise, since assuredly all these gifts are much less than that of his Son: He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him tip for its all, how hath He not also with Him given us all things.[11]

And so, likewise, the Son, through his love towards us, has given himself wholly to us: Who loved me, and de livered Himself for me.[12] In order to redeem us from ever lasting death, and to recover for us the divine grace and heaven which we had forfeited, he became man, and put on flesh like our own: And the Word was made flesh.[13] Be hold, then, a God reduced to nothingness: But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, … and in habit found as a man.[14] Behold the sovereign of the world humbling himself so low as to assume the form of a servant, and to subject himself to all the miseries which the rest of men endure.

But what is more astonishing still is, that he could very well have saved us without dying and without suffering at all; but no: he chose a life of sorrow and contempt, and a death of bitterness and ignominy even to the expiring on a cross, the gibbet of infamy, the award of vilest criminals: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.[15] But why, if he could have ransomed us without suffering, why should he choose to die, and to die on a cross? To show us how he loved us. He loved us, and delivered Himself for us.[16] He loved us, and because he loved us, he delivered him self up to sorrows, and ignominies, and to a death more cruel than ever any man endured in this world.

Hence that great lover of Jesus Christ, St. Paul, took occasion to say: The charity of Christ presseth us.[17] Wishing to show us by these words that it is not so much the sufferings themselves of Jesus Christ as his love in enduring them, that obliges us, and, as it were, constrains us to love him. Let us hear what St. Francis de Sales says on this text: "When we remember that Jesus Christ, true God, has loved us to such an excess as to suffer death, and the death of the cross, for us, our hearts are, as it were, put in a wine-press, and suffer violence, until love be extorted from them, but a violence which, the stronger it is, becomes the more delightful."[18] He then goes on to say, "Ah! why do we not therefore cast our selves on Jesus crucified, to die on the cross with him, who has chosen to die for love of us? I will hold him (should we say), and I will never let him go; I will die with him, and will be consumed in the flames of his love. One flame shall consume this divine Creator and his miserable creature. My Jesus gives himself unreservedly to me, and I give myself unreservedly to him. I will live and die on his loving breast; neither life nor death shall ever separate me from him. O eternal love, my soul longs after Thee, and makes choice of Thee forever. Come, O Holy Spirit, and inflame our hearts with love. O love, O death, to die to all other loves, to live solely to that of Jesus Christ! O Redeemer of our souls, grant that we may eternally sing, Live, Jesus! I love Jesus; live, Jesus, whom I love! yes, I love Jesus, who reigns for evermore."[19]

The love of Jesus Christ towards men created in him a longing desire for the moment of his death, when his love should be fully manifested to them; hence he was wont to say in his lifetime: I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished![20] I have to be baptized in my own blood; and how do I feel myself straitened with the desire that the hour of my Passion may soon arrive; for then man will know the love which I bear him! Hence St. John, speaking of that night in which Jesus began his Passion, writes: Jesus knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end.[21] The Redeemer called that hour His own hour, because the time of his death was the time desired by him; as it was then that he wished to give mankind the last proof of his love, by dying for them upon a cross overwhelmed by sorrows.

But what could have ever induced a God to die as a malefactor upon a cross between two sinners, with such insult to his divine majesty? "Who did this?" asks St. Bernard; he answers, "It was love, careless of its dignity."[22] Ah, love indeed, when it tries to make itself known, does not seek what is becoming to the dignity of the lover, but what will serve best to declare itself to the object loved. St. Francis of Paula therefore had good reason to cry out at the sight of a crucifix, "O charity, O charity, O charity!" And in like manner, when we look upon Jesus on the cross, we should all exclaim, O love, O love, O love!

Ah, if faith had not assured us of it, who could ever have believed that a God, almighty, most happy, and the Lord of all, should have condescended to love man to such an extent that he seems to go out of himself for the love of him? We have seen Wisdom itself, that is the Eternal Word, become foolish through the excessive love he bore to man! So spoke St. Laurence Justinian: "We see Wisdom itself infatuated through excess of love."[23] St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi said the same: One day, being in ecstasy, she took a wooden crucifix in her hands, and then cried out: "Yes, my Jesus, Thou art mad with love: I repeat it, and I will say it forever: My Jesus, thou art mad with love." But no, says St. Denis the Areopagite; "no, it is not madness, but the ordinary effect of divine love, which makes him who loves go out of himself, in order to give himself up entirely to the object of his love: divine love causes ecstasy."[24]

Oh, if men would only pause and consider, looking at Jesus on the cross, the love that he has borne each one of them! "With what love," says St. Francis de Sales, "would not our souls become enkindled at the sight of those flames which are in the Redeemer's breast! And oh, what happiness, to be able to be consumed by that same fire with which our God burns for us! What joy, to be united to God by the chains of love!" St. Bonaventure called the wounds of Jesus Christ, wounds which pierce the most senseless hearts, and which inflame the most icy souls.[25] How many darts of love come forth from those wounds, to wound the hardest hearts! Oh, what flames issue from the burning heart of Jesus Christ to inflame the coldest souls! And chains, how many, from that wounded side, to bind the most stubborn wills!

The Venerable John of Avila, who was so possessed with the love of Jesus Christ that he never failed in any of his sermons to speak of the love which Jesus Christ bears towards us, in a treatise on the love which this most loving Redeemer has for men, has expressed himself in sentiments so full of the fire of devotion, and of such beauty, that I desire to insert them here. He says as follows:

"Thou, O Redeemer, hast loved man in such a manner, that whoso reflects upon this love cannot do less than love Thee; for Thy love offers violence to hearts: as the Apostle says: The charity of Christ presseth us.[26] The source of the love of Jesus Christ for men is his love for God. Hence he said on Maunday Thursday, That the world may know that I love the Father, arise, let us go hence.[27] But whither? To die for men upon the cross."

"No human intellect can conceive how strongly this fire burns in the heart of Jesus Christ. As he was commanded to suffer death once, so, had he been commanded to die a thousand times, his love had been sufficient to endure it. And if what he suffered for all men had been imposed upon him for the salvation of one single soul, he would have done the same for each in particular as he did for all. And as he remained three hours upon the cross, so, had it been necessary, his love would have made him remain there even to the day of judgment. So that Jesus Christ loved much more than he suffered. O divine love, how far greater wert thou than thou outwardly seemedst to be; for though so many wounds and bruises tell us of great love, still they do not tell all its greatness. There was far more within than that which appeared externally. That was but as a spark which bounded forth from the vast ocean of infinite love. This is the greatest mark of love, to lay down our life for our friends. But this was not a sufficient mark for Jesus Christ wherewith to express his love."

"This is the love which causes holy souls to lose them selves, and to stand amazed, when once they have been allowed to know it. From it spring those burning sentiments of ardor, the desire of martyrdom, joy in sufferings, exultation under the storms of distress, the force to walk on burning coals as if they were roses, a thirst for sufferings, rejoicing in that which the world dreads, embracing that which it abhors. St. Ambrose says that the soul which is espoused to Jesus Christ upon the cross, thinks nothing so glorious as to bear upon itself the marks of the crucified one."

"But how, O my lover, shall I repay this your love! It is right that blood should be compensated by blood. May I behold myself dyed in this blood and nailed to this cross! O holy cross, receive me also! O crown of thorns, enlarge thyself, that I too may place thee on my head! O nails, leave those innocent hands of my Lord, and come and pierce my heart with compassion and with love! For Thou, my Jesus, didst die, as St. Paul says, in order to gain dominion over the living and the dead, not by means of chastisements, but by love:" For to this end Christ died and rose again: that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.[28]

"O robber of hearts, the strength of Thy love has broken the exceeding hardness of our hearts! Thou hast inflamed the whole world with Thy love. O most loving Lord, inebriate our hearts with this wine, consume them with this fire, pierce them with this dart of Thy love! Thy Cross is indeed an arrow which pierces hearts. May all the world know that my heart is smitten! O sweetest love, what hast Thou done? Thou hast come to heal me, and Thou hast wounded me. Thou hast come to teach me, and Thou hast made me well-nigh mad. O madness full of wisdom, may I never live with out you! All, O Lord, that I behold upon the cross invites me to love Thee: the wood, the figure, the wounds of Thy body; and above all, Thy love, engages me to love Thee, and never to forget Thee more."[29]

But in order to arrive at the perfect love of Jesus Christ, we must adopt the means. Behold, then, the means which St. Thomas Aquinas gives us:[30]

1. To have a constant remembrance of the benefits of God, both general and particular.

2. To consider the infinite goodness of God, who is ever waiting to do us good, and who ever loves us, and seeks from us our love.

3. To avoid even the smallest thing that could offend him.

4. To renounce all the sensible goods of this world, riches, honors, and sensual pleasures.

Father Tauler[31] says that meditation on the sacred Passion of Jesus Christ is a great means also for acquiring his perfect love.

Who can deny that, of all devotions, devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ is the most useful, the most tender, the most agreeable to God, one that gives the greatest consolation to sinners, and at the same time most powerfully enkindles loving souls? Whence is it that we receive so many blessings, if it be not from the Passion of Jesus Christ? Whence have we hope of pardon, courage against temptations, confidence that we shall go to heaven? Whence are so many lights to know the truth, so many loving calls, so many spurrings to change our life, so many desires to give ourselves up to God, except from the Passion of Jesus Christ? The Apostle therefore had but too great reason to declare him to be excommunicated who did not love Jesus Christ. If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.[32]

St. Bonaventure says there is no devotion more fitted for sanctifying a soul than meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ; whence he advises us to meditate every day upon the Passion, if we would advance in the love of God. "If you would make progress, meditate daily on the Passion of the Lord; for nothing works such an entire sanctification in the soul, as the meditation of the Passion of Christ."[33] And before him St. Augustine, as Bustis relates, said, that one tear shed in memory of the Passion is worth more than to fast weekly on bread and water fora year.[34] Wherefore the saints were always occupied in considering the sorrows of Jesus Christ: it was by this means that St. Francis of Assisi became a seraph. He was one day found by a gentleman shedding tears, and crying out with a loud voice: being asked the cause "I weep," he answered, "over the sorrows and ignominies of my Lord: and what causes me the greatest sorrow is, that men, for whom he suffered so much, live in forgetfulness of him." And on saying this he wept the more, so that this gentleman began also himself to weep. When the saint heard the bleating of a lamb, or saw anything which reminded him of the Passion of Jesus, he immediately shed tears. On another occasion, being sick, some one told him to read some pious book. "My book," he replied, "is Jesus crucified." Hence he did nothing but exhort his brethren to be ever thinking of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Tiepoli writes: "He who becomes not inflamed with the love of God by looking on Jesus dead upon the cross, will never love at all."

Affections and Prayers.

O Eternal Word! Thou hast spent three-and-thirty years in labors and fatigues; Thou hast given Thy life and Thy blood for man's salvation; in short, Thou hast spared nothing to make men love Thee; and how is it possible that there should be those who know this, and yet do not love Thee? O God, amongst these ungrateful ones I also may be numbered! I see the wrong I have done Thee; O my Jesus, have pity upon me! I offer Thee this ungrateful heart—ungrateful it is true, but penitent. Yes, I repent above every other evil, O my dear Redeemer, for having despised Thee! I repent, and I am sorry with my whole heart. O my soul, love a God who is bound like a criminal for thee; a God scourged like a slave for thee; a God made a mock-king for thee; a God, in short, dead upon a cross, as the vilest outcast for thee! Yes, my Saviour, my God, I love Thee, I love Thee! Bring continually to my remembrance, I beseech Thee, all that Thou hast suffered for me, so that I may never more forget to love Thee. O cords that bound my Jesus, bind me to Jesus; thorns that crowned my Jesus, pierce me with the love of Jesus; nails that transfixed my Jesus, nail me to the Cross of Jesus, that I may live and die united to Jesus. O blood of Jesus, inebriate me with his holy love! O death of Jesus, make me die to every earthly affection! Pierced feet of my Lord, I embrace you; deliver me from hell, which I have deserved; my Jesus, in hell I could no more love Thee, and yet I desire to love Thee always. Save me, my dearest Saviour; bind me to Thyself, that I may never again lose Thee. O Mary, refuge of sinners, and Mother of my Saviour! help a sinner who wishes to love God, and who recommends himself to thee; succor me for the love thou bearest to Jesus Christ.


How much Jesus Christ deserves to be Loved by us, on Account of the Love He has shown us in Instituting the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved His own … He loved them unto the end.[35] Our most loving Saviour, knowing that his hour was now come for leaving this earth, desired, before he went to die for us, to leave us the greatest possible mark of his love; and this was the gift of the most Holy Sacrament.

St. Bernardine of Sienna remarks, that men remember more continually and love more tenderly the signs of love which are shown to them in the hour of death.[36] Hence it is the custom that friends, when about to die, leave to those persons whom they have loved some gift, such as a garment or a ring, as a memorial of their affection. But what hast Thou, O my Jesus, left us, when quitting this world, in memory of Thy love? Not, indeed, a garment or a ring, but Thine own body, Thy blood, Thy soul, Thy divinity, Thy whole self, without reserve. "He gave thee all," says St. John Chrysostom; "He left nothing for himself."[37]

The Council of Trent says,[38] that in this gift of the Eucharist Jesus Christ desired, as it were, to pour forth all the riches of the love he had for men. And the Apostle observes, that Jesus desired to bestow this gift upon men on the very night itself when they were planning his death: The same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread; and giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye, and eat: this is My body.[39] St. Bernardine of Sienna says, that Jesus Christ, burning with love for us, and not content with being prepared to give his life for us, was constrained by the excess of his love to work a greater work before he died; and this was to give his own body for our food.[40]

This Sacrament, therefore, was rightly named by St. Thomas, "the Sacrament of love, the pledge of love."[41] Sacrament of love; for love was the only motive which induced Jesus Christ to give us in it his whole self, Pledge of love; so that if we had ever doubted his love, we should have in this sacrament a pledge of it: as if our Redeemer, in leaving us this gift, had said: O souls, if you ever doubt my love, behold, I leave you myself in this Sacrament: with such a pledge, you can never any more doubt that I love you, and love you to excess. But more, St. Bernard calls this sacrament "the love of loves;"[42] because this gift comprehends all the other gifts bestowed upon us by our Lord, creation, redemption, predestination to glory; so that the Eucharist is not only a pledge of the love of Jesus Christ, but of paradise, which he desires also to give us. "In which, "says the Church, "a pledge of future glory is given us."[43] Hence St. Philip Neri could find no other name for Jesus Christ in the Sacrament save that of "love;" and so, when the holy Viaticum was brought to him, he was heard to exclaim, "Behold my love; give me my love."

The prophet Isaias[44] desired that the whole world should know the tender inventions that our God has made use of, wherewith to make men love him. And who could ever have thought if he himself had not done it that the Incarnate Word would hide himself under the appearances of bread, in order to become him self our food? "Does it not seem folly," says St. Augustine, "to say, Eat my flesh; drink my blood?"[45] When Jesus Christ revealed to his disciples the sacrament he desired to leave them, they could not bring themselves to believe him; and they left him, saying: How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? … This saying is hard, and who can hear it?[46] But that which men could neither conceive nor believe, the great love of Jesus Christ hath thought of and accomplished. Take ye, and eat, said he to his disciples before he went to die; and through them to us all. Receive and eat: but what food shall that be, O Saviour of the world, which Thou desirest to give us before Thou diest? Take ye, and eat; this is my body.[47] This is not earthly food; it is I myself who give myself entirely to you.

And oh, with what desire does Jesus Christ pant to come into our souls in the Holy Communion! With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer.[48] So he spoke on that night in which he instituted this sacrament of love. With desire I have desired: so did the excessive love which he bore us cause him to speak, as St. Laurence Justinian remarks: "These are the words of most burning love."[49] And in order that everyone might easily receive him, he desired to leave himself under the appearance of bread; for if he had left himself under the appearance of some rare or very costly food, the poor would have been deprived of him; but no, Jesus would hide himself under the form of bread, which costs but little, and can be found everywhere, in order that all in every country might be able to find him and receive him.

In order, then, to excite us to receive him in the Holy Communion, he not only exhorts us to do so by so many invitations,—Come, eat My bread; and drink the wine which I have mingled for you;[50] Eat, O friends, and drink,[51] speaking of this heavenly bread and wine, but he even gives us a formal precept: Take ye, and eat; this is My body. And more than this; that we may go and receive him, he entices us with the promise of paradise. He that eateth My flesh hath everlasting life. He that eateth this bread shall live forever.[52] And still more, he threatens us with hell, and exclusion from paradise, if we refuse to communicate. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you shall not have life in you.[53] These invitations, these promises, these threats, all proceed from the great desire he has to come to us in this sacrament.

But why is it that Jesus Christ so desires that we should receive him in the Holy Communion? Here is the reason. St. Denis says that love always sighs after and tends to union, and so also says St. Thomas, "Lovers desire of two to become one."[54] Friends who really love each other would like to be so united as to become one person. Now this is what the infinite love of God for man has done; that he would not only give us himself in the eternal kingdom, but even in this life would permit men to possess him in the most intimate union, by giving them himself, whole and entire, under the appearances of bread in the sacrament. He stands there as though behind a wall; and from thence he beholds, as it were, through a closed lattice: Behold He standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices.[55] It is true, we do not see him; but he sees us, and is there really present: he is present, in order that we may possess him: but he hides himself from us to make us desire him: and as long as we have not reached our true country, Jesus desires to give himself wholly to us, and to remain united with us.

He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that eateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him.[56] In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: "In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful."[57] St. John Chrysostom says, that Jesus Christ, through the ardent love which he bore us, desired so to unite himself to us, as to become one and the same thing with us. "He mingled himself with us, that we might be one thing; for this is the property of those who ardently love."[58]

"It was Thy wish, in short," says St. Laurence Justinian, "O God, enamoured of our souls, to make, by means of this sacrament, Thine own heart, by an inseparable union, one and the same heart with ours!"[59] St. Bernardine of Sienna adds, that "the gift of Jesus Christ to us as our food was the last step of his love; since he gives himself to us in order to unite himself wholly to us; in the same way as food becomes united with him who partakes of it."[60] Oh, how delighted is Jesus Christ to be united with our souls! He one day said to his beloved servant, Margaret of Ypres, after Communion, "See, my daughter, the beautiful union that exists between me and thee: come, then, love me; and let us remain ever united in love, and let us never separate again."

We must, then, be persuaded that a soul can neither do, nor think of doing, anything which gives greater pleasure to Jesus Christ than to communicate frequently, with dispositions suitable to the great guest whom she has to receive into her heart. I have said suitable, not indeed worthy dispositions; for if worthy were necessary, who could ever communicate? Another God would alone be worthy to receive God. By suitable, I mean such dispositions as become a miserable creature, clothed with the unhappy flesh of Adam. Ordinarily speaking, it is sufficient if a person communicates in a state of grace, and with a great desire of growing in the love of Jesus Christ. St. Francis de Sales said, "It is by love alone that we must receive Jesus Christ in the Communion, since it is through love alone that he gives himself to us."[61] For the rest, with regard to the number of times a person should communicate, in this he should be guided by the advice of his spiritual Father. Nevertheless, we should be aware that no state of life or employment, neither the married state nor business, prevents frequent Communion, when the director thinks it advisable, as Pope Innocent XI. has declared in his decree of 1679, when he says, "Frequent Communion must be left to the judgment of the confessors … who, for lay persons in business, or in the marriage state, must recommend it according as they see it will be profitable for their salvation."[62]

We must next understand that there is nothing from which we can derive such profit as from the Communion. The Eternal Father has made Jesus Christ the possessor of all his own heavenly treasures. The Father hath given all things into His hands.[63] Hence, when Jesus Christ comes to a soul in Holy Communion, he brings with him boundless treasures of grace; and consequently after Communion we can justly say, Now all good things came to me together with it.[64] St. Denis says, that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is far more powerful for the sanctification of souls than all other spiritual means of grace;[65] and St. Vincent Ferrer, that one Communion does more for the soul than a week's fasting on bread and water.

In the first place, as the Council of Trent teaches, Communion is that great remedy which frees us from venial, and preserves us against mortal sins.[66] It is said "from daily faults;" because according to St. Thomas,[67] a man is excited by means of this sacrament to make acts of love, by which venial sins are forgiven. And it is said that "we are preserved from mortal sins, because Communion increases grace, which will preserve us from great faults." Hence Innocent III. says, that Jesus Christ delivered us from the power of sin by his Passion, but that by the Eucharist he delivers us from the power of sinning.[68]

This Sacrament, moreover, above all others, inflames our souls with divine love. God is love.[69] And he is a fire which consumes all earthly affections in our hearts. He is a consuming fire.[70] And for this very purpose, namely, to enkindle this fire, the Son of God came upon earth. I am come to send fire on the earth; and he added, that he desired nothing but to see this fire en kindled in our souls: And what will I but that it be kindled?[71] And oh, what flames of love does not Jesus Christ light up in the heart of every one who receives him devoutly in this sacrament! St. Catharine of Sienna once saw the Host in a priest's hand appearing as a globe of fire; and the saint was astonished that the hearts of all men were not burned up, and, as it were, reduced to ashes by such a flame. Such brilliant rays issued from the face of St. Rose of Lima after Communion, as to dazzle the eyes of those who saw her; and the heat from her mouth was so intense, that a hand held near it was scorched. It is related of St. Wenceslaus, that by merely visiting the churches where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, he was inflamed by such an ardor, that his servant who accompanied him did not feel the cold, if when walking on the snow he trod in the footsteps of the saint.

St. John Chrysostom says that the most Holy Sacrament is a burning fire; so that when we leave the altar we breathe forth flames of love, which make us objects of terror to hell.[72] The spouse of the Canticles says: He brought me into the cellar of wine, He set in order charity in me.[73] St. Gregory of Nyssa says that Communion is precisely this cellar of wine, in which the soul becomes so inebriated with divine love, that it forgets and loses sight of creatures; and this is that languishing with love of which the spouse again speaks: Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples, because I languish with love.[74]

Some one will say: "But this is the very reason why I do not communicate frequently, because I see that I am so cold in the love of God." Gerson answers such a one by saying: "Do you, therefore, because you are cold, willingly keep away from the fire? Rather, because you feel yourself cold, should you so much the more frequently approach this sacrament, if you really desire to love Jesus Christ." "Although it be with lukewarmness," wrote St. Bonaventure, "still approach, trusting in the mercy of God. The more one feels himself sick, the greater need has he of a physician."[75] In like manner, St. Francis de Sales: "Two sorts of persons ought to go frequently to Communion: the perfect, in order to remain so; and the imperfect, in order to be become perfect."[76] But for frequent Communion, it is at least necessary to have a great desire to become a saint and to grow in the love of Jesus Christ. Our Lord said once to St. Matilda: "When you go to Communion desire all the love which a soul has ever had for me, and I will receive your love according to your desire."[77]

Affections and Prayers.

God of love, O infinite lover, worthy of infinite love, tell me what more canst Thou invent to make us love Thee? It was not sufficient for Thee to become man, and to subject Thyself to all our miseries; not sufficient to shed all Thy blood for us in torments, and then to die overwhelmed with sorrow, upon a cross destined for the most shameful malefactors. Thou didst, at last, oblige Thyself to be hidden under the species of bread and wine, to become our food, and so united with each one of us. Tell me, I repeat, what more canst Thou invent to make Thyself loved by us? Ah, wretched shall we be if we do not love Thee in this life! And when we shall have entered into eternity, what remorse shall we not feel for not having loved Thee! My Jesus, I will not die without loving Thee, and loving Thee exceedingly! I am heartily sorry, and am pained for having so greatly offended Thee. But now I love Thee above all things. I love Thee more than myself, and I consecrate to Thee all my affections. Do Thou, who inspires! me with this desire, give me also grace to accomplish it. My Jesus, my Jesus, I desire nothing of Thee but Thyself. Now that Thou hast drawn me to Thy love, I leave all, I renounce all, and I bind myself to Thee: Thou alone art sufficient for me. Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me, and make me a saint! Add this also to the many wonders thou hast done in changing sinners into saints.


The Great Confidence we ought to have in the Love which Jesus Christ has shown us and in all He has done for us.

David placed all his hope of salvation in his future Redeemer, and said: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.

But how much more ought we to place our confidence in Jesus Christ, now that he has come, and has accomplished the work of redemption! Hence each one of us should say, and repeat again and again with greater confidence: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.[78]

If we have great reason to fear everlasting death on account of our sins against God, we have, on the other hand, far greater reason to hope for everlasting life through the merits of Jesus Christ, which are infinitely more powerful for our salvation than our sins are for our damnation. We have sinned, and have deserved hell; but the Redeemer has come to take upon himself all our offences, and to make satisfaction for them by His sufferings: Surely He hath borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows.[79]

In the same unhappy moment in which we sinned, God had already written against us the sentence of eternal death; but what has our merciful Redeemer done? Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us, … the same He took out of the way, fastening it to the cross.[80] He cancelled by his blood the decree of our condemnation, and then fastened it to the cross, in order that, when we look at the sentence of our damnation for the sins we have committed, we may at the same time see the cross on which Jesus Christ died and blotted out this sentence by his blood, and so regain hope of pardon and everlasting life.

Oh, how far more powerfully does the blood of Jesus Christ speak for us, and obtain mercy for us from God, than did the blood of Abel speak against Cain! You are come to Jesus the mediator of the New Testament, and to the sprinkling of blood, which speaketh better than that of Abel.[81] As if the Apostle had said, "O sinners, happy are you to be able, after you have sinned, to have re course to Jesus crucified, who has shed all his blood, in order to become the mediator of peace between sinners and God, and to obtain pardon for them! Your iniquities cry out against you, but the blood of the Redeemer pleads in your favor; and the divine justice cannot but be appeased by the voice of this precious blood."

It is true that we shall have to render a rigorous account to the Eternal Judge of all our sins. But who is to be our Judge? The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son.[82] Let us comfort ourselves, the Eternal Father has committed our judgment to our own Redeemer. Therefore St. Paul encourages us, saying, Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus who died, … who also maketh intercession for us.[83] Who is the judge to condemn us? It is that same Saviour who, in order not to condemn us to everlasting death, vouchsafed himself to be con demned and to die; and not content with this, at this moment intercedes with his Father for our salvation. Hence St. Thomas of Villanova says: "What do you fear, O sinner, if you detest your sin? How will he condemn you, who died in order not to condemn you? how will he cast you from him, if you return to his feet, he who came from heaven to seek you at the very time you were flying from him?"[84]

And if we fear on account of our frailty to fall under the assaults of our enemies, against whom we must continually wage war, behold what we have to do, as the Apostle admonishes us: Let us run to the fight proposed unto us: looking on Jesus the author and finisher of faith, who having joy proposed unto Him, underwent the cross, despising the shame.[85] Let us go out to the battle with great courage, looking at Jesus crucified, who from his cross offers us his assistance, the victory, and crown. In past times we fell into sin because we left off looking at the wounds and the pains endured by our Redeemer, and so we did not have recourse to him for help. But if for the future we set before our eyes all he has suffered for love of us, and how he ever stands ready to assist us when we have recourse to him, it is certain that we shall not be conquered by our enemies. St. Teresa said, with her wonted generosity, "I do not understand the fears of certain persons, who say, The devil, the devil, so long as we can say, God, God, and make Satan tremble."[86] On the other hand, the saint assures us, that if we do not place all our confidence in God, all our own exertions will be of little or no avail. "All our exertions," these are her own words, "are of little use, if we do not give up entirely all trust in ourselves, and place it altogether in God."[87] Oh, what two great mysteries of hope and love for us are the Passion of Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of the Altar!—mysteries, which we could have never believed, had not faith assured us of them. That God Almighty should deign to become man, shed all his blood, and die of sorrow upon a cross, and why? To pay for our sins, and gain salvation for us rebellious worms! And then his own very body, once sacrificed upon the Cross for us, this he vouchsafes to give us for our food, in order to become wholly united with us! O God, how should not these two mysteries consume with love the hearts of all men! And what sinner is there, be he ever so abandoned, who can despair of pardon, if he repent of the evil he has done, when he sees a God so full of love for men, and so inclined to do them good? Hence St. Bonaventure, full of confidence, said, "I will have great confidence, firmly hoping that he who has done and suffered so much for my salvation will deny me nothing that I have need of."[88] How can he refuse to give me the graces necessary for my salvation, who has done and suffered so much to save me?

Let us go therefore (the Apostle exhorts us) with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.[89] The throne of grace is the cross on which Jesus sits to dispense graces and mercy to all who come to him. But we must quickly have recourse to him, if we would find seasonable aid for our salvation: for there will come a time perhaps when we shall no longer be able to find it. Let us go quickly then and embrace the cross of Jesus Christ, and let us go with great confidence. Let us not be frightened by the sight of our miseries; in Jesus crucified we shall find all riches, all grace: In all things you are made rich in Him, … so that nothing is wanting to you in any grace.[90] The merits of Jesus Christ have enriched us with all the divine treasures, and have made us capable of every grace we can desire.

St. Leo says, "that Jesus has brought us by his death more good than the devil has done us harm by sin."[91] And by these words he explains what St. Paul said before him, that the gift of redemption is greater than sin: grace has overcome the offence. Not as the offence, so also is the gift: where sin abounded, grace hath abounded more.[92] From this the Saviour encourages us to hope for every favor and every grace through his merits. And see how he teaches us the way to obtain all we want from his Eternal Father: Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you.[93] Whatever you desire, he says, ask for it of the Father in my name, and I promise you that you shall be heard. And indeed how shall the Father be able to deny us, when he has given us his only-begotten Son, whom he loves as himself? He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things?[94] The Apostle says all things; so that no grace is excepted, neither pardon, nor perseverance, nor holy love, nor perfection, nor paradise, "all, all, he has given us." But we must pray to him. God is all liberality to those who call upon him: Rich unto all that call upon Him.[95]

I will again quote here many other beautiful thoughts of the Venerable John of Avila, which he has left us in his letters, on the great confidence we should have in the merits of Jesus Christ:

"Do not forget that Jesus Christ is the mediator between the Eternal Father and ourselves; and that we are beloved by him, and united to him by so strong bonds of love that nothing can break them, so long as a man does not himself dissolve them by some mortal sin. The blood of Jesus cries out, and asks mercy for us; and cries out so loudly that the noise of our sins is not heard. The death of Jesus Christ hath put to death our sins: O Death, I will be thy death![96] Those who are lost are not lost for want of means of satisfaction, but because they would not avail themselves of the sacraments as the means of profiting by the satisfaction made by Jesus Christ.

"Jesus has taken upon himself the affair of remedying our evils, as if it had been personally his own affair. So that he has called our sins his own, although he did not commit them, and has sought pardon for them; and with the most tender love has prayed, as if he were praying for himself, that all who should have recourse to him might become objects of love. And as he sought, so he found, because God has so ordained that Jesus and ourselves should be so united in one, that either he and we should be loved, or he and we hated: and since Jesus is not or cannot be hated, in the same way, if we remain united by love to Jesus, we shall be also loved. By his being loved by God, we are also loved, seeing that Jesus Christ can do more to make us loved than we can do to make ourselves hated; since the Eternal Father loves Jesus Christ far more than he hates sinners.

"Jesus said to his Father: Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me.[97] Love has conquered hatred; and thus we have been pardoned and loved, and are secure of never being abandoned, so strong is the tie of love that binds us. The Lord said by Isaias: Can a woman forget her infant? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven Thee in My hands.[98] He has graven us in his hands with his own blood. Thus we should not trouble ourselves about anything, since everything is ordained by those hands which were nailed to the cross in testimony of the love he bears us.

"Nothing can so trouble us on which Jesus Christ cannot reassure us. Let the sins I have committed surround me, let the devils lay snares for me, let fears for the future accuse me, by demanding mercy of the most tender Jesus Christ, who has loved me even until death, I cannot possibly lose confidence; for I see myself so highly valued, that God gave himself for me. O my Jesus, sure haven for those who seek Thee in time of peril! O most watchful Pastor, he deceives himself who does not trust in Thee, if only he has the will to amend his life! Therefore Thou hast said: I am here, fear not; I am he who afflicts and who consoles. Some from time to time I place in desolations, which seem equal to hell itself; but after a while I bring them out and con sole them. I am thine advocate, who have made thy cause my own. I am thy surety, who am come to pay thy debts. I am thy Lord, who have redeemed thee with my blood, not in order to abandon thee, but to enrich thee, having bought thee at a great price. How shall I fly from him who seeks me, when I went forth to meet those who sought to outrage me? I did not turn away my face from him who struck me; and shall I from him who would adore me? How can my children doubt that I love them, seeing that out of love to them I placed myself in the hands of my enemies? Whom have I ever despised that loved me? Whom have I ever abandoned that sought my aid? Even I go seeking those that do not seek me."[99]

If you believe that the Eternal Father has given you his Son, believe also that he will give you everything else which is infinitely less than his Son. Do not think that Jesus Christ is forgetful of you, since he has left you, as the greatest memorial and pledge of his love, himself in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Affections and Prayers.

O my Jesus, my love, what joyful hope does Thy Passion give me! How can I possibly fear not to receive from an Almighty God who has given me all his blood, the pardon of my sins, paradise, and all other graces that I require! Ah, my Jesus, my hope and my love, Thou, in order that I might not perish, didst give Thy life; I love Thee above every good, my Redeemer and my God. Thou gavest Thyself entirely to me; I give Thee my whole will, and with it I repeat that I love Thee, and I will always say, I love Thee, I love Thee. So I always desire to say in this life so I wish to die, breathing forth my last sigh with this dear word on my lips, My God, I love Thee; and from that moment I may commence a love towards Thee which shall last forever, and without cessation for all eternity. I love Thee, then; and because I love Thee, I repent above all things for having offended Thee. In order not to lose a passing satisfaction, I have been willing, wretch that I am, to lose Thee so often, O infinite good! This thought torments me more than any pain: but it is a consolation to me to think that I have to do with infinite goodness, that knows not how to despise a heart that truly loves. Oh, that I could die for Thee, who didst die for me! My dear Redeemer, I surely hope of Thee eternal salvation in the life to come, and in this life I hope for holy perseverance in Thy love; and therefore I propose always to ask it of Thee. And do Thou, by the merits of Thy death, give me perseverance in praying to Thee. This too I ask and hope of thee, O Mary my Queen!


How much we are obliged to love Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ as God has a claim on all our love; but by the love which he has shown us, he wished to put us, so to speak, under the necessity of loving him, at least in gratitude for all that he has done and suffered for us. He has greatly loved us, that we might love him greatly. "Why does God love us, but that he may be loved?"[100] wrote St. Bernard. And Moses had said the same before him: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou fear the Lord thy God … and love Him?[101] Therefore the first command which he gave us was this; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with Thy whole heart.[102] And St. Paul says, that love is the fulfilling of the law: Love is the fulfilling of the law.[103] For "fulfilling" the Greek text has the "embracing of the law;"[104] love embraces the entire law.

Who, indeed, at the sight of a crucified God dying for our love can refuse to love him? Those thorns, those nails, that cross, those wounds, and that blood, call upon us, and irresistibly urge us, to love him who has loved us so much. One heart is too little wherewith to Jove this God so enamoured of us. In order to requite the love of Jesus Christ, it would require another God to die for his love. "Ah, why," exclaims St. Francis de Sales, "do we not throw ourselves on Jesus Christ, to die on the cross with him who was pleased to die there for the love of us?"[105] The Apostle clearly impresses on us that Jesus Christ died for us for this end, that we might no longer live for ourselves, but solely for that God who died for us: Christ died for all, that they also who lire may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them.[106]

And the recommendation of Ecclesiasticus is here in point: Forget not the kindness of thy surety; for He hath given His life for thee.[107] Be not unmindful of him who has stood surety for thee; who, to satisfy for thy sins, was willing to pay off, by his death, the debt of punishment due from thee. Oh, how desirous is Jesus Christ that we should continually remember his Passion! and how it saddens him to see that we are so unmindful of it! Should a person endure for one of his friends affronts, blows, and imprisonment, how afflicting would it be for him to know that that friend afterwards never gave it a thought, and cared not even to hear it spoken of! On the contrary, how gratified would he be to know that his friend constantly spoke of it with the warmest gratitude, and often thanked him for it. So it is pleasing to Jesus Christ when we preserve in our minds a grateful and loving recollection of the sorrows and death which he underwent for us. Jesus Christ was the desire of all the ancient Fathers; he was the desire of all nations before he was yet come upon earth. Now, how much more ought he to be our only desire and our only love, now that we know that he is really come, and are aware how much he has done and suffered for us, so that he even died upon the cross for love of us!

For this purpose he instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist on the day preceding his death, and gave us the injunction, that as often as we should be nourished with his most sacred flesh, we should be mindful of his death: Take ye, and eat; this is My body. … This do for a commemoration of Me, etc. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until He come.[108] Wherefore the holy Church prays: "O God! who under this wonderful Sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy Passion,"[109] etc. And she also sings: "O sacred banquet, in which Christ is taken, the memory of his Passion is renewed,"[110] etc. Hence we may gather how pleasing to Jesus Christ are they who think frequently of his Passion, since it was for this very purpose that he left himself in the holy Sacrament upon our altars, in order that we might bear in continual and grateful remembrance all that he suffered for us, and by this means evermore increase our love towards him. St. Francis de Sales called Mount Calvary "the mountain of lovers." It is impossible to remember that mount and not love Jesus Christ, who died there for love of us.

O God! and how is it that men do not love this God who has done so much to be loved by men! Before the Incarnation of the Word, man might have doubted whether God loved him with a true love; but after the coming of the Son of God, and after his dying for the love of men, how can we possibly doubt of his love? "O man," says St. Thomas of Villanova, "look on that cross, on those torments, and that cruel death, which Jesus Christ has suffered for thee: after so great and so many tokens of his love, thou canst no longer entertain a doubt that he loves thee, and loves thee exceedingly." And St. Bernard says, that "the cross and every wound of our Blessed Redeemer cry aloud to make us understand the love he bears us."[111]

In this grand mystery of man's redemption, we must consider how Jesus employed all his thoughts and zeal to discover every means of making himself loved by us. Had he merely wished to die for our salvation, it would have been sufficient had he been slain by Herod with the other children; but no, he chose before dying to lead, during thirty-three years, a life of hardship and suffering; and during that time, with a view to win our love, he appeared in several different guises. First of all, as a poor child born in a stable; then as a little boy helping in the workshop; and finally, as a criminal executed on a cross. But before dying on the cross, we see him in many different states, one and all calculated to excite our compassion, and to make himself loved: in agony in the garden, bathed from head to foot in a sweat of blood; afterwards, in the court of Pilate, torn with scourges; then treated as a mock-king, with a reed in his hand, a ragged garment of purple on his shoulders, and a crown of thorns on his head; then dragged publicly through the streets to death, with the cross upon his shoulders; and at length, on the hill of Calvary, suspended on the cross by three iron nails. Tell me, does he merit our love or not, this God who has vouchsafed to endure all these torments, and to use so many means in order to captivate our love? Father John Rigouleux used to say: "I would spend my life in weeping for love of a God whose love induced him to die for the salvation of men."

"Love is a great thing,"[112] says St. Bernard. A great thing, a precious thing is love. Solomon, speaking of the divine wisdom, which is holy charity, called it an infinite treasure; because he that possesses charity is made partaker of the friendship of God: For she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God.[113]

The angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, says, that charity is not only the queen of all virtues, but that, wherever she reigns, she draws along with her, as it were, in her train, all other virtues, and directs them all so as to bring us in closer union with God; but charity is properly that which unites us with God. As St. Bernard tells us: "Charity is a virtue uniting us with God."[114] And, indeed, it is over and over again signified in the holy Scriptures, that God loves whoever loves him: I love them that love Me.[115] If any one loves me … My Father will love Him; and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.[116] He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him.[117] Behold the beautiful union which charity produces; it unites the soul to God. Moreover, love supplies strength to practise and to suffer everything for God: Love is strong as death.[118] St. Augustine writes: "Nothing is so hard that cannot be subdued by the fire of love."[119] Wherefore the saint says, that where we love, either the labor is not felt, or if felt, the labor itself is loved: "In that which is loved, either there is no labor, or the labor is loved."[120]

Let us hear from St. John Chrysostom what are the effects of divine love in those souls in which it reigns: "When the love of God has taken possession of a soul, it produces an insatiable desire to work for the beloved; insomuch that however many and however vast the works which she does, and however prolonged the duration of her service, all seems nothing in her eyes, and she is afflicted at doing so little for God; and were it permitted her to die and consume herself for him, she would be most happy. Hence it is that she esteems herself an unprofitable servant in all that she does; because she is instructed by love to know what God deserves, and sees by this clear light all the defects of her actions, and finds in them motives for confusion and pain, well aware how mean is all that she can do for so great a Lord."

"Oh! how those persons delude themselves," says St. Francis de Sales, "who place virtue in anything else but in loving God! Some," writes the saint, "put per fection in austerities, others in alms, others in prayer, others in frequenting the holy sacraments. For my part, I know of no other perfection than that of loving God with our whole heart; because all the other virtues, without love, are but a mere heap of stones. And if we do not perfectly enjoy this holy love, the fault lies with us, because we do not, once for all, come to the conclusion of giving up ourselves wholly to God."[121]

Our Lord said one day to St. Teresa, "Everything which does not give pleasure to me is vanity." Would that all understood well this great truth! For the rest, one thing is necessary.[122] It is not necessary to be rich in this world, to gain the esteem of others, to lead a life of ease, to enjoy dignities, to have a reputation for learning; it is only necessary to love God and to do his will. For this single end has he created us, for this he preserves our life; and thus only can we gain admittance into Paradise. Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.[123] The Lord thus speaks to all his espoused souls. Put me as a seal upon thy heart and upon thine arm, in order that all thy desires and actions may tend to me; upon thy heart, that no other love but mine may enter there upon thine arm, in order that all thou dost may have me for its sole object. Oh, how quickly does that soul speed onwards to perfection, that in all its actions regards but Jesus crucified, and has no other pretension than to gratify him!

To acquire, then, a true love of Jesus Christ should be our only care. The masters of spiritual life describe the marks of true love. Love, say they, is fearful, and its fear is none other than that of displeasing God. It is generous, because, trusting in God, it is never daunted even at the greatest enterprises for his glory, It is strong, because it subdues all its evil appetites, even in the midst of the most violent temptations, and of the darkest desolations. It is obedient, because it immediately flies to execute the divine will. It is pure, because it loves God alone, and for the sole reason that he deserves to be loved. It is ardent, because it would inflame all mankind, and willingly see them consumed with divine love. It is inebriating, for it causes the soul to live as it were out of itself, as if it no longer saw, nor felt, nor had any more senses left for earthly things, bent wholly on loving God. It is unitive, by producing a strict union between the will of the creature and the will of the Creator. It is longing, for it fills the soul with desires of leaving this world, to fly and unite itself perfectly with God in its true and happy country, where it may love him with all its strength.

But no one teaches us so well the real characteristics and practice of charity as the great preacher of charity, St. Paul. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, he says, in the first place, that without charity man is nothing, and that nothing profits him: If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing, And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.[124] So that even should a per son have faith strong enough to remove mountains, like St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, but had not charity, it would profit him nothing. Should he give all his goods to the poor, and even willingly suffer martyrdom, but remain void of charity,—should he do it, that is, for any other end than that of pleasing God, it would profit him nothing at all. Then St. Paul gives us the marks of true charity, and at the same time teaches us the practice of those virtues which are the daughters of charity; and he goes on to say: Charity is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up, is not ambitious; seeketh not her own; is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.[125]

Let us therefore, in the present book, proceed to consider these holy practices, that we may thus see if the love which we owe to Jesus Christ truly reigns within us; as likewise that we may understand in what virtues we should chiefly exercise ourselves, in order to persevere and advance in this holy love.

Affections and Prayers.

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee? O love of God! O ingratitude of man! O men, O men! do but cast one look on the innocent Son of God, agonizing on the cross, and dying for you, in order to satisfy the divine justice for your sins, and by this means to allure you to love him. Observe how, at the same time, he prays his eternal Father to forgive you. Behold him, and love him. Ah, my Jesus, how small is the number of those that love Thee! Wretched too am I; for I also have lived so many years unmindful of Thee, and have grievously offended Thee, my beloved Redeemer! It is not so much the punishment I have deserved that makes me weep, as the love which Thou hast borne me. O sorrows of Jesus! O ignominies of Jesus! O wounds of Jesus! O death of Jesus! O love of Jesus! rest deeply engraved in my heart, and may your sweet recollection be forever fixed there, to wound me and inflame me continually with love. I love Thee, my Jesus; I love Thee, my sovereign good; I love Thee, my love and my all; I love Thee, and I will love Thee forever. Oh, suffer me never more to forsake Thee, never more to lose Thee! Make me entirely Thine; do so by the merits of Thy death. In this I firmly trust. And I have a great confidence also in thy intercession, O Mary, my Queen; make me love Jesus Christ and make me also love thee, my Mother and my hope!
  1. "Ipse enim Pater amat vos, quia vos me amastis."John, xvi. 27.
  2. Spirit, p. 1, ch. 25.
  3. "Super omnia, … charitatem habete, quod est vinculum perfectionis."—Col. iii. 14.
  4. "Ama, et fac quod vis."
  5. "In charitate perpetua dilexi te."Jer. xxxi. 3.
  6. "Ab alio amatore præventa sum."
  7. "In funiculis Adam traham eos, in vinculis charitatis."Osee, xi. 4
  8. "Cœlum et terra et omnia mihi dicunt, ut te amem."Conf. B. 10, c. 6.
  9. "Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium unigenitum daret." John, iii. 16.
  10. "Propter nimiam charitatem suam qua dilexit nos, et cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificavit nos in Christo."Eph. ii. 4.
  11. "Qui etiam proprio Filio suo non pepercit, sed pro nobis omni bus tradidit illum: quomodo non etiam cum illo omnia nobis donavit?"Rom. viii. 32.
  12. "Dilexit me, et tradidit semetipsum pro me."Gal. ii. 20.
  13. "Et Verbum caro factum est."John, i. 14.
  14. "Exinanivit semetipsum formam servi accipiens, … et habitu inventus ut homo."Phil. ii. 7.
  15. "Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis."Phil. ii. 8.
  16. "Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis."Eph. v. 2.
  17. "Charitas Christi urget nos."—2 Cor. v. 14.
  18. Love of God, B. 7, c. 8.
  19. Love of God, B. 12, c. 13.
  20. "Baptismo habeo baptizari; et quomodo coarctor usquedum perficiatur!"Luke, xii. 50.
  21. "Sciens Jesus quia venit hora ejus, ut transeat ex hoc mundo ad Patrem, cum dilexisset suos, … in finem dilexit eos."John, xiii. 1.
  22. "Quis hoc fecit?—Fecit amor, dignitatis nescius."—In Cant. s. 61.
  23. "Vidimus Sapientiam amoris nimietate infatuatam."—Serm. de Nat. D.
  24. "Extasim facit divinus amor."—De Div. Nom. c. 4.
  25. "Vulnera, corda saxea vulnerantia, et mentes congelatas inflammantia."—Stim. div. am. p. 1, c. 1.
  26. "Charitas Christi urget nos."—2 Cor. v. 14.
  27. "Ut cognoscat mundus quia diligo Patrem, … surgite, eamus."John, xiv. 31.
  28. "In hoc enim Christus mortuus est et resurrexit, ut et mortuorum et vivorum dominetur."Rom. xiv. 9.
  29. Disc. on the Love of God.
  30. De Duob. Præc. c. 4.
  31. Epist. 20.
  32. "Si quis non amat Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, sit anathema."—1 Cor. xvi. 22.
  33. "Si vis proficere, quotidie mediteris Domini passionem; nihil enim in anima ita operatur universalem sanctimoniam, sicut meditatio passionis Christi."
  34. "Magis meretur vel unam lacrymam emittens ob memoriam passionis Christi, quam si qualibet anni hebdomada in pane et aqua jejunaret."—Rosar. p. 2, s. 15.
  35. "Sciens Jesus quia venit hora ejus, ut transeat ex hoc mundo ad Patrem, cum dilexisset suos qui erant in mundo, in finem dilexit eos."John, xiii. I.
  36. "Quæ in fine in signum amicitiæ celebrantur, firmius memoriæ imprimuntur, et cariora tenentur."—T. ii, s. 54, a. i, c. 1.
  37. "Totum tibi dedit, nihil sibi reliquit."
  38. "Divitias divini sui erga homines amoris velut effudit."Sess. xiii. c. 2.
  39. "In qua nocte tradebatur, accepit panem, et gratias agens fregit, et dixit: Accipite et manducate; hoc est corpus meum."—1 Cor. xi. 23.
  40. "In illo fervoris excessu, quando paratus erat pro nobis mori, ab excessu amoris majus opus agere coactus est, quam umquam operatus fuit, dare nobis corpus in cibum."Loco cit.
  41. "Sacramentum charitatis, Pignus charitatis."
  42. "Amor amorum."
  43. "In quo … futuræ gloriæ nobis pignus datur."
  44. Isa. xii. 4.
  45. "Nonne videtur insania: Manducate meam carnem, bibite meum sanguinem?"—In Ps. xxxiii. en. 1.
  46. "Quomodo potest hic nobis carnem suam dare ad manducandum?—Durus est hic sermo; et quis potest eum audire?"John, vi. 53, 61.
  47. "Accipite et manducate; hoc est corpus meum."
  48. "Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum."Luke, xxii. 15.
  49. "Flagrantissimæ charitatis est vox hæc."—De Tr. Chr. Ag. c. 2.
  50. "Venite, comedite panem meum, et bibite vinum quod miscui vobis."Prov. ix. 5.
  51. "Comedite, amici, et bibite."Cant. v. i.
  52. "Qui manducat meam carnem, … habet vitam æternam. Qui manducat hunc panem, vivet in æternum."John, vi. 55, 59.
  53. "Nisi manducaveritis carnem Filii hominis, … non habebitis vitam in vobis."John, vi. 54.
  54. "Amantes desiderant ex ambobus fieri unum."—1. 2, q. 28, a. 1.
  55. "En ipse stat post parietem nostrum respiciens per fenestras, prospiciens per cancellos."—Cant. ii. 9.
  56. "Qui manducat meam carnem, … in me manet, et ego in illo."—John, vi. 57.
  57. Introd. p. 2, ch. 21.
  58. "Semetipsum nobis immiscuit, ut unum quid simus; ardenter enim amantium hoc est."—Ad pop. Ant. hom. 61.
  59. "O quam mirabilis est dilectio tua, Domine Jesu, qui tuo corpori taliter nos incorporari voluisti, ut tecum unum cor et unam animam haberemus inseparabiliter colligatam!"—De Inc. div. am. c. 5.
  60. "Ultimus gradus amoris est, cum se dedit nobis in cibum; quia dedit se nobis ad omnimodam unionem, sicut cibus et cibans invicem uniuntur."—T. ii. s. 54, a. 4, c. i.
  61. Introd. p. 2, ch. 21.
  62. "Frequens accessus (ad Eucharistiam) confessariorum judicio est relinquendus, qui, … laicis negotiatoribus et conjugatis, quod prospicient eorum saluti profuturum, id illis præscribere debebunt."
  63. "Omnia dedit ei Pater in manus."John, xiii. 3.
  64. "Venerunt mihi omnia bona pariter cum illa."Wisd. vii. 11.
  65. Eucharistia maximam vim habet perficiendæ sanctitatis."
  66. "Antidotum quo liberemur a culpis quotidianis, et a peccatis mortalibus præservemur."Sess. xiii. c. 2.
  67. P. 3, q. 79, a. 4.
  68. "Per crucis mysterium, eripuit nos a potestate peccati; per Eucharistiæ sacramentum, liberat nos a voluntate peccandi."—De Alt. Myst. l. 4, c. 44.
  69. "Deus charitas est."—1 John, iv. 8.
  70. "Ignis consumens est."Deut. iv. 24.
  71. "Ignem veni mittere in terram; et quid volo, nisi ut accendatur?"Luke, xii. 49.
  72. "Carbo est Eucharistia, quæ nos inflammat, ut tamquam leones ignem spirantes ab illa mensa recedamus, facti diabolo terribiles."—Ad pop. Ant. hom. 61.
  73. "Introduxit me in cellam vinariam, ordinavit in me charitatem."Cant. ii. 4.
  74. "Fulcite me floribus, stipate me malis, quia amore langueo."Cant. ii. 5.
  75. "Licet tepide, tamen confidens de misericordia Dei accedat; tanto magis æger necesse habet requirere medicum, quanto magis senserit se ægrotum."—De Prof. rel. l. 2, c. 77.
  76. Introd. p. 2. ch. 21.
  77. Spir. Grat. l. 3, c. 22.
  78. "In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum; redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis."Ps. xxx. 6.
  79. "Vere languores nostros ipse tulit, et dolores nostros ipse portavit."Isa. liii. 4.
  80. "Delens quod adversus nos erat chirographum decreti, quod erat contrarium nobis, et ipsum tulit de medio, affigens illud cruci."Col. ii. 14.
  81. "Accessistis ad … Mediatorem Jesum, et sanguinis aspersionem melius loquentem quam Abel."Heb. xii. 22, 24.
  82. "Pater … omne judicium dedit Filio."John, v. 22.
  83. "Quis est qui condemnet? Christus Jesus, qui mortuus est, … qui etiam interpellat pro nobis."Rom. viii. 34.
  84. "Quid times, peccator? Quomodo te damnabit pœnitentem, qui moritur ne damneris? Quomodo te abjiciet redeuntem, qui de cœlo venit quærere te?"—Tr. de Adv. D.
  85. "Curramus ad propositum nobis certamen, aspicientes in Auctorem fidei et consummatorem Jesum, qui, proposito sibi gaudio, sustinuit crucem, confusione contempta."Heb. xii. 1, 2.
  86. Life, ch. 25.
  87. Life, ch. 8.
  88. "Fiducialiter agam, immobiliter sperans nihil ad salutem necessarium ab eo negandum, qui tanta pro mea salute fecit et pertulit."
  89. "Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportune."Heb. iv. 16.
  90. "In omnibus divites facti estis in illo, … ita ut nihil vobis desit in ulla gratia."—1 Cor. i. 5, 7.
  91. "Ampliora adepti sumus per Christi gratiam, quam per diaboli amiseramus invidiam."De Asc. s. 1.
  92. "Non sicut delictum, ita et donum: … ubi abundavit delictum, superabundavit gratia."—Rom. v. 15.
  93. "Amen, amen, dico vobis: si quid petieritis Patrem in nomine meo, dabit vobis."John, xvi. 23.
  94. "Pro nobis omnibus tradidit illum: quomodo non etiam cum illo omnia nobis donavit?"Rom. viii. 32.
  95. "Dives in omnes qui invocant illum."Ibid. x. 12.
  96. "O mors! ero mors tua."Osee, xiii. 14.
  97. "Pater! quos dedisti mihi, volo ut, ubi sum ego, et illi sint mecum."John, xvii. 24.
  98. "Numquid oblivisci potest mulier infantem suum, ut non misereatur filio uteri sui? et si illa oblita fuerit, ego tamen non obliviscar tui."Isa. xlix. 15.
  99. Part 2, Ep. 48.
  100. "Non ad aliud amat, nisi ut ametur."In Cant. s. 83.
  101. "Et nunc, Israel, quid Dominus Deus tuus petit a te, nisi ut timeas Dominum Deum tuum, … et diligas eum?"Deut. x. 12.
  102. "Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo."Deut. vi. 5.
  103. "Plenitude legis est dilectio."Rom. xiii. 10.
  104. "Completio legis."
  105. Love of God, B. 7, ch. 8.
  106. "Pro omnibus mortuus est Christus, ut et qui vivunt, jam non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro ipsis mortuus est."—2 Cor. v. 15.
  107. "Gratiam fidejussoris ne obliviscaris; dedit enim pro te animam suam."Ecclus. xxix, 20.
  108. "Accipite et manducate; hoc est corpus meum: … hoc facite in meam commemorationem. … Quotiescumque enim manducabitis panem hunc, … mortem Domini annuntiabitis."—1 Cor. xi. 24.
  109. "Deus qui nobis sub Sacramento mirabili passionis ture memoriam reliquisti. …"
  110. "O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumilur, recolitur memoria passionis ejus! …"
  111. "Testis crux, testes dolores, testis amara mors quam pro te sustinuit."Dom. 17 p. Pent. conc. 3.
  112. "Magna res amor."—In Cant. s. 83.
  113. "Infinitus enim thesaurus est hominibus, quo qui usi sunt, participes facti sunt amicitiæ Dei."Wisd. vii. 14.
  114. "Charitas est virtus conjungens nos Deo."
  115. "Ego diligentes me diligo."Prov. viii. 17.
  116. "Si quis diligit me, … Pater meus diliget eum, et ad eum veniemus, et mansionem apud eum faciemus."John, xiv. 23.
  117. "Qui manet in charitate, in Deo manet, et Deus in eo."—1 John, iv. 16.
  118. Fortis est ut mors dilectio."Cant. viii. 6.
  119. "Nihil tam durum, quod amoris igne non vincatur."—De Mor. Eccl. cat. c. 22.
  120. "In eo quod amatur, aut non laboratur, aut et labor amatur."—De Bono vid. c. 21.
  121. Spirit, p. 1, ch. 25.
  122. "Porro unum est necessarium."Luke, x. 42.
  123. "Pone me ut signaculum super cor tuum, ut signaculum super brachium tuum."Cant. viii. 6.
  124. "Et si habuero omnem fidem, ita ut montes transferam, charitatem autem non habuero, nihil sum. Et si distribuero in cibos pauperum omnes facilitates meas; et si tradidero corpus meum, ita ut ardeam, charitatem autem non habuero, nihil mihi prodest."—1 Cor. xiii. 2, 3.
  125. "Charitas patiens est, benigna est; charitas non æmulatur, non agit perperam, non inflatur, non est ambitiosa, non quærit quæ sua sunt, non irritatur; non cogitat malum, non gaudet super iniquitate, congaudet autem veritati; omnia suffert, omnia credit, omnia sperat, omnia sustinet."—1 Cor. xiii. 4–7.