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CHAPTER I.

THAT HOLY LOVE MAY BE AUGMENTED STILL MORE AND MORE IN EVERY ONE OF US.

The sacred Council of Trent assures us, that the friends of God, proceeding from virtue to virtue, are day by day renewed, that is, they increase by good works in the justice which they have received by God's grace, and are more and more justified, according to those heavenly admonitions; He that is just let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still.122122Apoc. xxii. 11. And: Be not afraid to be justified even to death.123123Ecclus. xviii. 22. The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day.124124Prov. iv. 18. Doing the truth in charity, let us in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ.125125Eph. iv. 15. And finally: This I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding.126126Phil. i. 9. All these are sacred words out of David, S. John, Ecclesiasticus, and S. Paul.

I never heard of any living creature whose growth was not bounded and limited, except the crocodile, who from an extremely little beginning never ceases to grow till it comes to its end, representing equally in this the good and the wicked: For the pride of them that hate thee ascendeth continually,127127Ps. lxxiii. 23. says 128the great king David; and the good increase as the break of day, from brightness to brightness. And to remain at a standstill is impossible; he that gains not, loses in this traffic; he that ascends not, descends upon this ladder; he that vanquishes not in this battle, is vanquished: we live amidst the dangers of the wars which our enemies wage against us, if we resist not we perish; and we cannot resist unless we overcome, nor overcome without triumph. For as the glorious S. Bernard says: "It is written in particular of man that he never continueth in the same state;128128Job xiv. 2. he necessarily either goes forward or returns backward. All run indeed but one obtains the prize, so run that you may obtain.1291291 Cor. ix. 24. Who is the prize but Jesus Christ? And how can you take hold on him if you follow him not? But if you follow him you will march and run continually, for he never stayed, but continued his course of love and obedience until death and the death of the cross."

Go then, says S. Bernard; go, I say with him; go, my dear Theotimus, and admit no other bounds than those of life, and as long as it remains run after this Saviour. But run ardently and swiftly: for what better will you be for following him, if you be not so happy as to take hold of him! Let us hear the Prophet: I have inclined my heart to do thy justifications for ever,130130Ps. cxviii. 112. he does not say that he will do them for a time only, but for ever, and because he desires eternally to do well, he shall have an eternal reward. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.131131Ibid. 1. Accursed are they who are defiled, who walk not in the law of the Lord: it is only for the devil to say that he will sit in the sides of the north.132132Is. xiv. 13. Detestable one, wilt thou sit? Ah! knowest thou not that thou art upon the way, and that the way is not made to sit down but to go in, and it is so made to go in, that going is called making way. And God speaking to one of his greatest friends says: Walk before me and be perfect.133133Gen. xvii. 1.

True virtue has no limits, it goes ever further; but especially holy charity, which is the virtue of virtues, and which, having an 129infinite object, would be capable of becoming infinite if it could meet with a heart capable of infinity. Nothing hinders this love from being infinite except the condition of the will which receives it, and which is to act by it: a condition which prevents any one loving God as much as God is amiable, as it prevents them from seeing him as much as he is visible. The heart which could love God with a love equal to the divine goodness would have a will infinitely good, which cannot be but in God. Charity then in us may be perfected up to the infinite, but exclusively; that is, charity may become more and more, and ever more, excellent, yet never infinite. The Holy Ghost may elevate our hearts, and apply them to what supernatural actions it may please him, so they be not infinite. Between little and great things, though the one exceed the other never so much, there is still some proportions provided always that the excess of the thing which exceeds be not an infinite excess: but between finite and infinite there is no proportion, and to make any, it would be necessary, either to raise the finite and make it infinite, or to lower the infinite and make it finite, which is impossible.

So that even the charity which is in our Redeemer, as he is man, though greater than Angels or men can comprehend, yet is not infinite of itself and in its own being, but only in regard to its value and merit, as being the charity of a divine Person who is the eternal Son of the omnipotent Father.

Meanwhile it is an extreme honour to our souls that they may still grow more and more in the love of their God, as long as they shall live in this failing life: Ascending by steps from virtue to virtue.134134Ps. lxxxiii. 6.

 


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