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CHAPTER XXII.

A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF CHARITY.

Behold at length, Theotimus, how God, by a progress full of ineffable sweetness, conducts the soul which he makes leave the Egypt of sin, from love to love, as from mansion to mansion, till he has made her enter into the land of promise, I mean into most holy charity, which to say it in one word, is a friendship, and a disinterested love, for by charity we love God for his own sake, by reason of his most sovereignly amiable goodness. But this friendship is a true friendship, being reciprocal, for God has loved eternally all who have loved him, do, or shall love him temporally. It is shown and acknowledged mutually, since God cannot be ignorant of the love we bear him, he himself bestowing it upon us, nor can we be ignorant of his love to us, seeing that he has so published it abroad, and that we acknowledge all the good we have, to be true effects of his benevolence. And in fine we have continual communications with him, who never ceases to speak unto our hearts by inspirations, allurements, and sacred motions; he ceases not to do us good, or to give all sorts of testimonies of his most holy affection, having openly revealed unto us all his secrets, as to his confidential friends. And to crown his holy loving intercourse with us, he has made himself our proper food in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; and as for us, we have freedom to treat with him at all times when we please in holy prayer, having our whole life, movement and being not only with him, but in him and by him.

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Now this friendship is not a simple friendship, but a friendship of dilection, by which we make election of God, to love him with a special love. He is chosen, says the sacred spouse, out of thousands118118Cant. v. 10.—she says out of thousands, but she means out of all, whence this love is not a love of simple excellence, but an incomparable love; for charity loves God by a certain esteem and preference of his goodness so high and elevated above all other esteems, that other loves either are not true loves in comparison of this, or if they be true loves, this love is infinitely more than love; and therefore, Theotimus, it is not a love which the force of nature either angelic or human can produce, but the Holy Ghost gives it and pours it abroad in our hearts.119119Rom v. 5. And as our souls which give life to our bodies, have not their origin from the body but are put in them by the natural providence of God, so charity which gives life to our hearts has not her origin from our hearts, but is poured into them as a heavenly liquor by the supernatural providence of his divine Majesty.

For this reason, and because it has reference to God and tends unto him not according to the natural knowledge we have of his goodness, but according to the supernatural knowledge of faith, we name it supernatural friendship. Whence it, together with faith and hope, makes its abode in the point and summit of the spirit, and, as a queen of majesty, is seated in the will as on her throne, whence she conveys into the soul her delights and sweetnesses, making her thereby all fair, agreeable and amiable to the divine goodness. So that if the soul be a kingdom of which the Holy Ghost is king, charity is the queen set at his right hand in gilded clothing surrounded with variety;120120Ps. xliv. 10. if the soul be a queen, spouse to the great king of heaven, charity is her crown, which royally adorns her head; and if the soul with the body be a little world, charity is the sun which beautifies all, heats all, and vivifies all.

Charity, then, is a love of friendship, a friendship of dilection, a dilection of preference, but a preference incomparable, sovereign, and supernatural, which is as a sun in the whole soul to 126enlighten it with its rays, in all the spiritual faculties to perfect them, in all the powers to moderate them, but in the will as on its throne, there to reside and to make it cherish and love its God above all things. O how happy is the soul wherein this holy love is poured abroad, since all good things come together with her!121121Wisdom vii. 11.


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