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But there are some virtues which by reason of their natural alliance and correspondence with charity are also much more capable of receiving the precious influence of sacred love, and consequently the communication of the dignity and worth of it. Such are faith and hope, which, together with charity, have an immediate reference to God; and religion, and penitence, and devotion, which are employed to the honour of his Divine Majesty. For these virtues, of their own nature, have so close a relation to God, and are so susceptible of the impressions of 471heavenly love, that to make them participate in its sanctity they need only to be with it, that is, in a heart which loves God. So, to make grapes taste of olives it is but necessary to plant the vine amongst the olives; for by their neighbourhood alone, without touching one another at all, these plants will mutually interchange their savours and properties, so great an inclination and so strict an affinity is there of one to the other.

Truly all flowers, except those of the tree called Sad (triste), and a few others that are monsters in Nature, all, I say, rejoice, expand and put on beauty at the sight of the sun, and the vital heat which they receive from his rays; but all yellow flowers, and especially that which the Greeks term Heliotropium, and we sunflower, not only receive gladness and pleasure from his presence, but by an affectionate turning movement follow the attractions of his rays, keeping him in sight, and turning themselves towards him, from his rising to his setting. So all virtues receive a new lustre and an excellent dignity from the presence of holy love, but faith, hope, the fear of God, piety, penance, and all the other virtues which of their own nature particularly tend to God and to his honour, not only receive the impression of divine love whereby they are raised to a great value, but they wholly incline towards it, associating themselves with it, following and serving it on all occasions. For in fine, my dear Theotimus, the holy Word attributes a certain saving, sanctifying and glorifying property and force to faith, to hope, to piety, to the fear of God, to penance: which clearly shows that those virtues are of great price, and that being practised by a heart which is in charity they become more excellent, fruitful and holy than the others, which of their own nature have not so great an affinity with sacred love. And he who cries out: If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing,5035031 Cor. xiii. 2. clearly shows that with charity this faith would greatly profit him. Charity then is a virtue beyond comparison, which not only adorns the heart in which it is, but by its mere presence also blesses and sanctifies all the virtues which it meets there, perfuming 472and scenting them with its celestial odour, by means of which they are made of great value in the sight of God; which, however, it does far more excellently in faith, in hope and in other virtues, which of themselves naturally tend to piety.

Wherefore, Theotimus, of all virtuous actions we ought most carefully to practise those of religion and reverence towards divine things, those of faith, of hope and of the most holy fear of God, taking occasion often to speak of heavenly things, thinking of and sighing after eternity, frequenting churches and sacred services, reading spiritual books, observing the ceremonies of the Christian religion: for sacred love is fed according to its heart's desire in these exercises, and in greater abundance spreads its graces and properties over them than it does over the actions of those virtues which are purely human; as the lovely rainbow makes all the plants upon which it lights odoriferous, but the aspalathus incomparably more so than all the rest.


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