LOVE is the feet of the soul, and I am carried by love whithersoever I wish to go; and as this body of ours possesses two feet with which it walks, so the soul has two loves and affections which carry it on, viz., Thy Divine and holy love, and the love of worldly things. After Jacob had wrestled with the angel and was entitled the man who had seen God [face to face][Genesis xxxii. 30.], the angel touched him on one leg and made him lame of one foot.

O Lord, my soul in learning the excellence of Thy goodness, and in discovering somewhat of Thy Divine perfections, immediately goes halting in respect to the love of the world, and walks straight along the way of Thy holy love. Why should my soul become an adulteress when she has a husband so lovely and rich, and so worthy of being loved? I will be lame in the love of the world and the way of wickedness in order to walk lightly along the paths of Thy Divine love, when I shall have tasted of Thy sweetness, according to what the prophet says when speaking to Thee: "I have run the way of Thy commandments when Thou didst enlarge my heart."[Psalms cxviii. 32.]

Unfold the innermost membrane of my heart, fill it with 'the joy of love, that I may run with delight to keep Thy commandments. The burden of the love of the world weighs down the wings of my love, so that it cannot fly to Thee, my God, Who art the centre of my soul. Why should I desire to burden myself with the love of things which impede the flight of my soul to its Creator and Spouse? I will abhor from my heart everything beside Thee, since Thou alone art sufficient for me.

He loves Thee but little, O Lord, who loves other things together with Thee, if he does not love them for Thy sake. The love is severed, and the heart is divided in the case of the man who, not content with Thy love alone, loves the creatures, yet not for Thy sake. It is a marvellous thing that, man being what he is, Thou, my God, contentest Thyself with him alone; and that, being what Thou art, man is not satisfied with Thee alone, but seeks to love other things together with Thee, yet not for Thy sake, as if Thou only wert not sufficient for him. How couldst Thou, my God and my perfect good, be so small a thing to me that Thou shouldst not suffice for me?

O centre of my heart and Spouse of my soul! whom do I desire in heaven or earth but Thee?[Psalms lxxii. 25 (not exact).] If Thou art goodness itself, and containest in a pre-eminent degree all good things, why doth my soul go forth to seek for good things in miserable creatures, and abandon Thee, the fountain of all goodness? Why doth my heart set out in search of the love of the creatures when experience has taught me that they cannot give me rest, and that I cannot find true repose in them? They themselves tell me that I should love Thee alone. I hold them in much esteem until I have obtained them, and after they are secured, they are counted as valueless.

Before they were obtained they had this virtue, that by their absence they had the power to move my desire with the appearance of good which was, however, more fallacious than real; but, after they were possessed, that desire ceased, and when the desire died away their slight value disclosed itself, and thus they are made of very little account. The more the creature is possessed, the better it is known; and when it is absent, it is unknown: by possession it discovers itself, and by discovering itself it exhibits those defects which were not known before, and thus the will holds it (the creature) in less esteem than before.

Earthly goods very soon become distasteful[note 1], and when we begin to enjoy them they mortify us by their imperfections and defects. If then, Thou my God, the more Thou art possessed and loved, dost more fully discover the riches of Thy goodness and Thy infinite perfections, why should I desire to weave a garment of wool and linen contrary to the law[Deuteronomy xxii. 11.], mingling the imperfect love of the creature with the excellency of Thy holy love?

The creature, if it gratifies me in some respects, does not care to do so in everything; and even if it were entirely desirous, it could not; and if it were both willing and able to do so wholly (which is impossible), it could not accomplish this in every place, nor at all times. Why then should I not prefer to be loved by One "Who can gratify me in more things than I can either know, or think, or desire, or ask; and this in all places and at all times?

O how the world and our own flesh hold us bewitched; and how do we, in consequence, cease to love that eternal goodness and admirable beauty of God, in order to debase ourselves to things so vile as the creatures of this world! All creatures are telling me:

Love thy God and not me. Why dost thou love me? Wherefore dost thou desire me? Behold I am but earth and dust. What dost thou see in me that is not alien? Love only Him Who created us out of nothing, and Who bestowed upon us all that we are. Take heed that I do not deceive thee: for all that thou lovest in me, and all that thou seekest and desirest and that appears good to thee, is false. Remember that if thou love me I will slay thee, and will cause thy death. I am not designed for any other end than to lift up thy heart that thou mayst love thy Creator and mine. The more beautiful the creature is, and the more the sense of love stirs thee, so much the more shouldst thou be inflamed with the love of thy Lord.

If, then, my soul, thou lovest' these temporal things, for the beauty which thou beholdest in them, much more oughtest thou to love thyself, since thou surpassest all that is earthly in elegance and perfection. If thou couldst discern the beauty of thy countenance, thou wouldst clearly understand how worthy of reproof thou art in thinking that there is anything external to thee which is worthy of thy love.

If, therefore, love cannot exist in solitude, and when it passes out of itself must love something else, whom oughtest thou to love but thy refuge and protector, Who is thy God, since everything corporeal is less than thyself? He wrongs himself who fixes his affection on things which are not worthy of him. It is expedient that every one should consider himself, and after he has understood his dignity, should not love things which are inferior to himself, that he may not do injury to his love. For those things which are beautiful when considered by themselves, become depreciated when compared with others more beautiful.

And as it is folly to unite ugly things with those which are beautiful, so it is unbecoming to treat those things which have only an inferior show of beauty on an equality with those which are perfect and complete in their loveliness. If thou, my soul, dost not desire to retain thy love in solitude, thou shouldst not desire to keep it low and mean. If thou desire one only love, seek Him Who is to be loved alone. Thou knowest that love is fire, and that fire requires materials whereby it may burn; take care therefore that thou love not things which will only repay thee with smoke.

Take note of thy beauty, and thou wilt understand what beauty thou oughtest to love. All the world is subject to thee; and thou dost not disdain to admit to thy love — I do not say all the world, but some little particle of the world which in its nature is not beautiful, nor is a necessary element of good, nor extensive in quantity, nor very perfect in goodness. If thou love these things, love them as the gifts of thy God, fixing all thy love in thy Creator and its own. Love not the gifts which He bestows on thee more than the kindness of Him Who loves thee.

Thou doest a greater wrong to His love if, while receiving His benefits, thou dost not pay thy love in the same coin by loving Him Who loveth thee. Undervalue His gifts if thou canst; but if thou canst not scorn them, pay Him back with the same love. Thou art unworthy of the love of thy God, if thou set thy love on these transitory things. Love Him, and love thyself for the love of Him; love His gifts for His sake, love Him because thou hast joy in Him, and love thyself because thou art loved by Him.

1. Literally, "strike us in the face". [back]