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HOW OUR LORD PRACTISED ALL THE MOST EXCELLENT ACTS OF LOVE.
Having spoken at large of the sacred acts of divine love, I present you, that you may more easily and holily preserve the memory of them, with a collection or abridgment of them. The charity of Jesus Christ presseth us,4854852 Cor. v. 14. says the great apostle. Yea truly, Theotimus, it forces and carries us away by its in finite sweetness, exercised in the whole work of our Redemption, in which appeared the benignity and love of God towards men: for what did not this divine lover do in matter of love? 1. He loved us with a love of Complacency, for his delights were to be with the children of men486486Prov. viii. 31. and to draw man to himself, making himself man. 2. He loved us with a love of Benevolence, 461bestowing his own divinity upon man, so that man was God. 3. He united himself unto us by an incomprehensible Union, whereby he adhered to our nature, and joined himself so closely, indissolubly and supereminently to it, that never was anything so strictly joined and bound to humanity as is now the most holy divinity in the person of the Son of God. 4. He flowed out into us, and as it were melted his greatness, to bring it to the form and figure of our littleness, whence he is styled a source of living water, dew and rain of heaven. 5. He loved us to Ecstasy, not only because, as S. Denis says, by the excess of his loving goodness he goes in a certain manner out of himself, extending his Providence to all things and being in all things, but also because he has in a sort forsaken and emptied himself, dried up his greatness and glory, resigned the throne of his incomprehensible majesty, and, if it be lawful so to say, annihilated himself to stoop down to our humanity, to fill us with his divinity, to replenish us with his goodness, to raise us to his dignity, and bestow upon us the divine being of children of God. And he of whom it is so frequently written: I live, saith the Lord; could afterwards have said according to his apostle's language: I live, now not I, but man liveth in me. To me to live is man, and to die for man is gain. My life is hidden with man in God.487487Gal. ii. 20. He who dwelt in himself dwells now in us, and he who was living from all eternity in the bosom of his Eternal Father becomes mortal in the bosom of his temporal Mother; he who lived eternally by his own divine life, lived with a human life, and he who from eternity had been only God, shall be for all eternity man too: so has the love of man ravished God, and drawn him into an ecstasy! 6. Love often led him to admiration, as of the Centurion and Chanaanitess. 7. He contemplated the young man who had till that hour kept the commandments, and desired to be taught perfection. 8. He took a loving quiet in us, yea even with some suspension of his senses, in his mother's womb and in his infancy. 9. He had wondrous movements of Tenderness towards little children, whom he would take in his arms and lovingly 462fondle; towards Martha and Magdalen, towards Lazarus, over whom he wept, as he wept also over the city of Jerusalem. 10. He was animated with an incomparable Zeal, which, as S. Denis says, changed into Jealousy, turning away, as much as possible, all evil from his beloved human nature, with hazard, yea with the price, of his own life; driving away the devil the prince of this world, who seemed to be his rival and companion. 11. He had a thousand thousand Languors of love; for whence could those divine words proceed: I have a baptism, wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straightened until it be accomplished?488488Luke xii. 50. The hour in which he was baptized in his blood was not yet come, and he languished after it; the love which he bore unto us urging him thereunto, that he might by his death see us delivered from an eternal death. So he was sad, and sweated the blood of distress in the Garden of Olives, not only by reason of the exceeding sorrow which his soul felt in the inferior part of his reason, but also by reason of the singular love which he bore unto us in the superior portion thereof, sorrow causing in him a horror of death, and love giving him an extreme desire of the same; so that a most fierce combat and a cruel agony took place, between the desire and the dread of death, unto a mighty shedding of blood, which streamed down upon the earth as from a living spring.
12. Finally, Theotimus, this divine lover died amongst the flames and ardours of love, by reason of the infinite charity which he had towards us, and by the force and virtue of love: that is he died in love, by love, for love, and of love, for though his cruel torments were sufficient to have killed any one, yet could death never make entry into his life who keeps the keys of life and death, unless divine love, which handles those keys, had opened the gates to death, to let it ravage that divine body and despoil it of life. Love was not content to have only made him subject to death for us unless it made him dead. It was by choice, not by force of torment, that he died. No man taketh my life away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.489489John x. 18. He 463was offered, says Isaias, because it was his own will.490490Is. liii. 7. And therefore it is not said that his spirit went away, forsook him, or separated itself from him, but, contrariwise, that he gave up his spirit, breathed it out, yielded and commended it into the hands of his eternal Father; so that S. Athanasius remarks that he bowed his head to die, that he might consent to and bend to death's approach, which otherwise durst not have come near him; and crying out with a loud voice he gives up his spirit into his Father's hands, to show that as he had strength and breath enough not to die, so had he love so great that he could no longer live, but would by his death revive those who without it could never escape death, nor have the chance of true life. Wherefore our Saviour's death was a true sacrifice, and a sacrifice of holocaust, which himself offered to his Father for our redemption: for though the pains and dolours of his passion were so great and violent that any but he had died of them, yet had he never died of them unless he himself had pleased, and unless the fire of his infinite charity had consumed his life. He was then the sacrificer himself, who offered himself unto his Father and immolated himself, dying in love, to love, by love, for love, and of love.
Yet beware of saying, Theotimus, that this amorous death of the Saviour took place by manner of rapture, for the object which his charity moved him to die for was not love-worthy enough to ravish to itself this divine soul, which departed then from his body by way of ecstasy, driven and forced on by the abundance and might of love; even as we see the myrrh tree send forth its first juice by its mere abundance, without squeezing or drawing in any way; according to that which he himself said, as we have declared: No man taketh my life away from me but I lay it down of myself. O God! Theotimus, what burning coals are cast upon all our hearts to inflame us to the exercise of holy love towards our all-good Saviour, seeing he has so lovingly practised them towards us who are so evil! This charity then of Jesus Christ presseth us!
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