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304

CHAPTER VIII.

AN ADMIRABLE EXHORTATION OF S. PAUL TO THE ECSTATIC AND SUPERHUMAN LIFE.

But finally, methinks S. Paul makes the most forcible, pressing and admirable argument that ever was made, to urge us all to the ecstasy and rapture of life and operation. Hear, Theotimus, I beseech you; be attentive and weigh the force and efficacy of the ardent and heavenly words of this Apostle, ravished and transported with the love of his Master. Speaking then of himself (and the like is to be said of everyone), the charity, says he, of Christ presseth us.3473472 Cor. v. 14. Yes, Theotimus, nothing so much presses man's heart as love; if a man know that he is beloved, be it by whom it may, he is pressed to love in his turn. But if a common man be beloved by a great lord, he is much more pressed; and if by a great monarch, how much more yet? And now, I pray you, knowing well that Jesus Christ, the true eternal God omnipotent, has loved us even to suffering death for us, and the death of the cross is——not this, O my dear Theotimus, to have our hearts under the press, and to feel them strongly pressed, and to feel love pressed out of them by violence and constraint, which is so much the more violent by how much it is more lovable and beloved! But how does this divine lover press us? The charity of Christ presseth us, says his holy Apostle, judging this. What means that judging this? It means that our Saviour's charity presses us then especially when we judge, consider, ponder, meditate, and attend to, the resolution of this question which faith gives. And what resolution? Mark, my good Theotimus, how he proceeds, graving, fixing and stamping his conception on our hearts. Judging this, says he; and what? That if one died for all, then all were dead, and Jesus Christ died for all. It is true, indeed: if one Jesus Christ died for all, all then are dead in the person of this only Saviour who died for them, and his death is to be imputed 305unto them, since it was endured for them and in consideration of them.

But what follows from this? Methinks I hear that apostolic mouth, as with a peal of thunder startling the ears of our hearts! That follows then, O Christians, which Jesus Christ dying for us desired of us. And what did he desire of us but that we should be conformed unto him, to the end, says the Apostle, that those who live may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. True God! Theotimus, how powerful a consequence is this in the matter of love! Jesus Christ died for us; by his death he has given us life; we only live because he died; he died for us, as ours, and in us; our life then is no more ours, but his who has purchased it for us by his death: we are therefore no more to live to ourselves but to him, nor in ourselves but in him, nor for ourselves but for him. A maiden of the Isle of Sestos had brought up a young eagle with the care children are wont to bestow upon such affairs; the eagle being come to its full growth began little by little to fly and to chase birds, according to its natural instinct; then getting more strength it seized upon wild beasts, never failing faithfully to take home the prey to its dear mistress, as in acknowledgment of the bringing up which it had had from her. Now it happened upon a day that this young damsel died, while the poor eagle was on the hunt, and her body, according to the custom of that time and country, was publicly placed upon the funeral pile to be burnt; when even as the flame began to seize upon her the eagle came up with strong and eager flight, and, when it beheld this unlooked-for and sad spectacle, pierced with grief, it opened its talons, let fall its prey, and spread itself upon its poor beloved mistress; and covering her with its wings, as it were to defend her from the fire, or for pity's sake to embrace her, it remained there constant and immovable, courageously dying and burning with her; the ardour of its affection not giving way to flames and ardours of fire, that so it might become the victim and holocaust of its brave and prodigious love, as its mistress was of death and fire.

O Theotimus! To what a high flight this eagle moves us! Our Saviour has bred us up from our tender youth, yea he 306formed us and received us as a loving nurse into the arms of his divine Providence, even from the instant of our conception.

Not being yet, thy holy hand did make me;

Scarce born, into thy arms thy love did take me.

 

He made us his own by Baptism, and tenderly nourishes both our soul and our body with an incomprehensible love; to purchase us life he suffered death, he has fed us with his own flesh and blood. Ah! what remains then, my dear Theotimus, what conclusion are we to draw from this, except that those who live should live no more to themselves but to him that died for them: that is to say, that we should consecrate all the moments of our life to the divine love of our Saviour's death, bringing home to his glory all our prey, all our conquests, all our actions, all our thoughts, and all our affections. Let us behold him, Theotimus, this heavenly Redeemer, extended upon the cross as upon a funeral pile of honour, where he dies of love for us, yea of a love more dolorous than death itself, or a death more amorous than love itself. Ah! why do we not spiritually cast ourselves upon him to die upon the cross with him, who has truly willed to die for love of us? I will hold him, should we say, if we had the eagle's generosity, and will never depart from him. I will die with him and burn in the flames of his love, one and the same fire shall consume this divine Creator and his poor creature. My Jesus is wholly mine, and I am wholly his: I will live and die upon his breast, nor life nor death shall ever separate me from him. Thus then is made the holy ecstasy of true love, when, we live not according to human reason and inclinations, but above them, following the inspirations and instincts of the divine Saviour of our souls.

 


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