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OF TWO OTHER DEGREES OF GREATER PERFECTION, BY WHICH WE MAY LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS.
Now there are other souls who neither love superfluities, nor yet with superfluity, but love only that which God wills and as he wills:—blessed souls, who love God, their friends in God, and their enemies for God; they love many things together with God, but none at all, save in God and for God: it is God that they love, not only above all things, but even in all things, and all things in God, resembling the phœnix when perfectly renewed in youth and strength, which is never seen but in the air, or upon the tops of mountains that are in high air: for so these souls love nothing but in God; though indeed they love many things with God, and God with many things. S. Luke recounts that our Saviour invited a young man to follow him, who indeed loved him dearly, but who had also a great affection for his father, and thereupon had a mind to return home to him. But our Saviour cuts off this superfluity of love, and excites him to a love more pure, that he may not only love our Saviour more than his father, but not even love his father at all, but in our Saviour. Let the dead bury their dead: but as for thee (who 422hast met with life), go thou, and preach the kingdom of God.449449Luke ix. 60. And these souls, as you see, Theotimus, having so great a union with the spouse, merit to share his rank, and to be queens, as he is king; since they are entirely dedicated to him without any division or separation, having no affections out of him, or without him, but only in him and for him.
But, at last, above all these souls, there is yet one most only one, who is the queen of queens, the most loving, the most lovely, and the most beloved, of all the friends of the divine beloved, who not only loves God above all things and in all things, but also loves only God in all things, so that she loves not many things, but one only thing, which is God himself. And whereas it is God alone whom she loves in all that she loves, she loves him indifferently in all things, according as his good-pleasure may require, outside all things and without all things. If it be only Esther that Assuerus loves, why should he love her more when perfumed and adorned, than in her ordinary attire? If it be my Saviour only that I love, why shall I not as much love Mount Calvary as Mount Thabor, since he is as truly on the one, as on the other? And why shall I not as affectionately in one as in the other say: It is good for us to be here.450450Matt. xvii. 4. I love my Saviour in Egypt, without loving Egypt; why shall I not love him at the banquet of Simon the leper, without loving the banquet? And if I love him amidst the blasphemies which are poured upon him, not loving the blasphemies, why shall I not love him perfumed with Magdalen's ointment, without loving either the ointment or its scent? It is the true sign that we love only God in all things, when we love him equally in all things, because he being always equal to himself, the inequality of our love towards him must needs proceed from the consideration of something that is not himself. Now this sacred loving one loves no more her God with all the world, than if he were alone without the world: because all that is out of God, and is not God, is nothing to her. She is an all-pure soul who loves not even Paradise but because her beloved is loved there: and he is so sovereignly beloved in his Paradise that if yet he had no Paradise 423to bestow, he would neither appear less amiable, nor be less beloved of this generous loving heart, who cannot love the Paradise of her spouse but only her spouse of Paradise, and who puts no less price on Calvary while her spouse is there crucified, than upon Paradise where he is glorified. He that weighs one of the little balls of the heart of S. Clare of Montefalco, finds it as heavy as all the three together. So does perfect love find God as amiable all alone, as it finds all creatures together with him, since it loves all creatures only in God and for God.
Souls in this degree of perfection are so rare that each one is called the only one of her mother, who is divine Providence; she is called the one dove, for whom the love of her mate is all; she is termed perfect, because by love she is made the same thing with the sovereign Perfection, whence she may say with a most humble truth: I to my beloved and his turning towards me.451451Cant. vii. 10. Now there is no one save the most blessed Virgin our Lady, who has perfectly arrived at this height of excellence in the love of her dearly beloved: for she is a dove so singularly singular in love, that all the rest being compared to her are rather to be termed daws than doves. But leaving this peerless queen in her matchless eminence,—there have yet been other souls who have been in such estate of pure love that in comparison with others they might take the rank of queens, of only doves, of perfect friends of the spouse. For I pray you, Theotimus, what must he needs have been, who with all his heart sang to God: What have I in heaven, and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?452452Ps. lxxii. 25. And he that cried out: I count all things but as dung that I may gain Christ;453453Phil. iii. 8.—did he not testify that he loved nothing out of his master, and that he loved his master without any other things? And what must have been the feelings of that great lover, who sighed all the night: "My God is to me all things." Such were S. Augustine, S. Bernard, the two SS. Catharine, of Siena and of Genoa, and many others, in imitation of whom every one may aspire to this divine degree of love: rare and singular souls, who resemble no longer the birds of this world, no not the very phœnix itself, though so singularly rare; but 424are only represented by that bird which, for its excellent beauty and nobleness is said not to be of this world, but of Paradise, of which it bears the name. For this fair bird disdaining the earth, never touches it, but lives above in the air; yea even when it desires to unweary itself, it will only cleave to the trees by little threads, hanging by them suspended in the air, out of which, or without which, it can neither fly nor repose. Even so these great souls do not, properly speaking, love creatures in themselves, but in their Creator, and their Creator in them. But if they cleave to any creature by the law of charity, it is only to repose in God, the single and final aim of their love. So that finding God in creatures, and creatures in God, they love God, not the creatures; as pearl-fishers, though they find the pearls in oysters, consider that they are simply fishing for pearls.
At the same time no mortal creature, as I think, ever loved the heavenly lover solely with this perfectly pure love, except that Virgin who was his spouse and mother both together; on the contrary, as regards the practice of these four differences of love, one can hardly live without passing from one of them to another. The souls which like young maidens are still entangled in some vain and dangerous affections are not, at times, without feelings of a purer and supreme love; but as these are but momentary and passing flashes, we cannot say that they raise them from the state of young novice, or apprentice, maidens. It happens also sometimes, to the souls who are in the degree of singular and perfect lovers, that they forget themselves and fail very sadly, even as far as to the committing great imperfections and grievous venial sins, as we see in various somewhat bitter dissensions which have occurred between great servants of God, yea even amongst some of the divine Apostles, who, as we cannot deny, fell into some imperfections; certainly charity was not violated by them, but the fervour of it was. Nevertheless, as these great souls ordinarily loved God with the perfectly pure love, we are not to say that they were not in the state of perfect love. For as we see that good trees never produce any hurtful fruit, yet sometimes bear green or defective and worm-eaten fruit, or mistletoe and moss; so great saints never produce any 425mortal sin, but still they produce some useless, immature, harsh, rough and ill-flavoured actions. In such cases we must allow that these trees are fruitful, otherwise they would not be good trees; but still we must not deny that some of their fruits are fruitless. For who will deny that catkins and the mistletoe of trees are fruitless fruits? And who also will deny that slight angers and little excesses of joy, of laughter, of vanity and of other similar passions, are unprofitable and unlawful movements? Yet the just man brings them forth seven times a day, that is, very often.
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