IF SO many reasons as there are for loving Thee, O God of my heart and Spouse of my soul, do not suffice to make my heart burn day and night with the flame of devotion to Thee, at least the boundless love which Thou bearest towards me ought to awaken me and move me a little. Nothing is more provocative of love than the being loved; and thus it is that we love those who love us, although they may be unworthy of our affection, solely because they love us.

Who is so heathenish and barbarous as not to love one who loves him? The most hard-hearted men are wont to love those who love them. Yet they do not desire to act thus towards Thee, even being what Thou art, and though loving them so much that Thou hast given Thyself for them. Since one love is not satisfied except with another love, it is certainly very just, O Lord, that I should love Thee, and that I should burn with a living flame of the pure fire of love, since I am so fervently loved by Thee.

If, my soul, thou doubtest the love which God bears to thee, consider the witnesses to His love. The cross is a witness, the nails are witnesses, the pains, the tumult, the streams of blood are witnesses, and the bitter and cruel death which He suffered for thee is a witness. He endured all this, and it appeared to Him but little in proportion to the greatness of His love; and if it were possible. He would even entreat and desire to endure greater things for thee, greater sorrows, greater anguish, and greater pains, for this is what He meant by His cry upon the cross, when He said that He thirsted. And although it is written of Him that He shall be full of troubles[Lament. iii. 61.], and the Scripture in another place saith also that His soul shall be filled with evils[Ps. Ixxxvii. 4.], yet with all this He desires to be filled to the utmost,[note 1] and He thirsts with insatiable longing.[note 2]

Truly He endured enough, for from the sole of His foot to His head He had no soundness, and yet He thirsted for more. If, then, my soul, thou art cold in loving a Being of so great love, thou showest thyself harder than the rocks, since thou knowest that before such condescension they broke asunder[Matt. xxvii. 51.], hard as they were, and those things which had no feeling still showed feeling. If the very rocks could not endure so great a weight of love, learn from the hardest rocks to love thy Creator.

Why, then, dost thou not soften thyself, O miserable, seeing that the rocks were rent asunder at such great favour, and that those rocks performed the office of hearts for men? Become, then, a disciple of the rocks, and learn to love. The most precious gift that Thou hast given us, O our God, and the greatest that we have received from Thy Divine hands, was love. Thy love towards men was a gift, and an interior favour, hidden, secret, intimate, and the source and foundation of all other gifts and favours. For just as one concludes that there must be fire where we see smoke and sparks coming forth, so we conclude with respect to the love which Thou bestowest upon us through the good things which Thou hast done in us and for us. In this way Thou commendest Thyself by the prophet Malachi, saying: "I have loved you, saith the Lord"[Mal. i. 2.].

Thou drawest forth the love of Thyself, not by change, but by communication. Thou hast created the heavens and filled them with angels; Thou hast created the air and filled it with birds, the sea with fishes, and the earth with animals; but for man Thou hast provided a habitation in Thyself. Thus Thou saidst to the patriarch Abraham: "I am thy reward exceeding great"[Gen. xv. 1.]. The love which Thou bearest to man is shown in the favours which Thou bestowest on him. Thou lovest us so much, O Lord, that even in those chastisements which Thou layest upon us, Thou endeavourest to promote our good and profit, and desirest that we should know, humble, and amend ourselves.

When Thou didst send those seven plagues upon Egypt Thou saidst to Moses: "And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord"[Exod. vii. 5.] Thou didst desire to make Thyself known to these Gentiles, in order that, abandoning their idolatry, they might serve Thee and might themselves be saved. In the Gospel Thou commandest that the servant should be sold who owed ten thousand talents, in order that being amended by his chastisement he might humble himself, and might be found worthy of having all his debt forgiven.

O how good Thou art towards us, Thou God of Israel, and how greatly dost Thou love us, since equally in prosperity as in the tribulations which Thou sendest to us, Thou seekest our profit; and thus, O Lord, Thou lovest not only that in me which cometh from Thyself, but also even that which is peculiarly my own, and which comes from my free will, if it be good, while Thou abhorrest the evil that is in me. Wherefore if it were possible to chastise the sin of those who are in hell without chastising their persons, Thou wouldst do so, because Thou lovest our human nature so much. But since it is not possible to chastise the one without the other, because the faults and sins are accidents and cannot exist without a substance, for this reason when Thou punishest the one Thou punishest the other.

If a wound be inflicted on any one, and after it has been healed the mark still remains, although he abhors the wound and the mark, he loves the flesh where the injury was inflicted. Even so, Lord, Thou lovest the creatures whom Thou hast made, while abhorring the sins and faults which proceed from the human will. In the book of Wisdom it is written that Thou hatest none of the things that Thou hast made[Wisd. xi. 25.]: "For God made not death, neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living"[Wisd. i. 13.][note 3]. But the wickedness of the perverse will is the author of sin; wherefore by punishing in hell the evil that man has done, Thou preservest his nature, which is a good gift of Thine; for Thy love continues unchangeable in its affection for that nature which Thou hast created; and thus in all that Thou doest for us, O Lord, Thou showest the great love that Thou entertainest for us, and all the benefits which Thou dost confer upon men proceed from that burning and most ardent love wherewith Thou lovest us.

Predestination springs from love; the creation of the heaven and the earth and of all other things is the fruit of love. Wherefore as Thou, Lord, desirest that we should imitate Thee in all things, so Thou desirest that all our actions should come forth enkindled with charity; and hence it comes to pass that Thou art not willing to accept anything that does not present itself adorned with charity: and the reason is that he who giveth Thee gold or silver is bestowing on Thee outward things merely; but he who loves Thee giveth himself to Thee; and this is the cause why Thou dost so liberally reward the services which we render Thee; because Thou dost find in them the love that we owe Thee.

Thou sayest, Lord, in Thy Gospel, that as the Father hath loved Thee, so Thou hast loved us[John XV. 9.], for as the Father loved Thee in that human nature which Thou didst take upon Thee out of Thy graciousness, so Thou lovest us out of Thy kindness without any merits of our own. How is it, then, my soul, that thou wilt not love Him Who loveth thee so deeply? So soon as thou beginnest to love thy God, thou wilt find such joy and delight in that love, that thou wilt experience greater misery in relinquishing it, lest thou lose such great sweetness, than the trouble which will fall to thy lot in really breaking with the world for the love of thy Spouse Jesus Christ. This doth not bring torment to any one, since it is a greater sorrow to forsake the love of God after thou hast tasted it, than to break with the world and to begin to love thy God.

1. "Cuanto al efecto." [back]

2. "Cuanto al afecto." [back]

3. The Vulg. reads: "Nec laetatur in perditione vivorum," which exactly accords with the Greek. [back]