THE great love which Thou, O Lord, bearest towards us in loving us manifested itself before Thou wast loved by us. Thy love was not the requital of my love, neither could my love satisfy that affection which Thou didst entertain for me. In loving me first consists the proof of love, and Thou hast first loved me from eternity, according to that saying of the prophet,[Ps. xcix. 5.] "His mercy endureth for ever, and His truth to generation and generation ".

The holy king employed the term "mercy" in speaking of Thy sacred love because this appellative of mercy gives me a more complete knowledge of what Thou art than the name of love. Mercy is an affection of the mind which commiserates another's sorrow and provides for the person who is in necessity, first bestowing upon him the compassion of the soul. Setting aside that which is out of character with Thy Nature as an impassible Being, I will consider that which properly belongs to Thee as an attribute, and will remark upon love.

Compassion and a sorrowful heart do not pertain to Thee, because Thy nature is the essence of perfection and glory; but it does peculiarly belong to Thee to provide for the poor and needy. I know the blessings which Thou hast bestowed upon me in loving me, and this in the name of mercy; for Thou hast found in me no beauty or good things to attract Thy love, but misery for Thee to heal and poverty to enrich.

For this reason the prophet employs the name of mercy rather than that of love: and thus hast Thou loved me, a miserable sinner, without any merits of mine, solely because of Thy goodness and love; and this love so surely existed before I came into being that S. John in saying that Thou didst first love us, and David in singing that Thy mercy is everlasting, both declare the endlessness of Thy love, because Thou hast loved us without beginning and eternally.

Thou knowest all things in Thyself, and it is not necessary that they should be actually done or that they should play a good or an evil part in order to be made fully known to Thee; for since Thou dost not receive knowledge from created things, so Thou hast no occasion to wait for what men do in order to understand their works. There can be no novelty nor accident in Thy case, for that would be a great imperfection, while the least imperfection must be very far from Thee. Wherefore, when I perceive Thee doing anything new, I do not conceive that Thou art then possessed by a new will nor that Thou art then desiring something for the first time; but my thoughts revert to that most remote and eternal disposition of Thine whereby Thou hast eternally ordained all things and determined everything that we see done anew.

The things are new to our eyes, are eternal to Thine, since before they are done Thou knowest them; and thus Thy mercy and love are eternal, because in Thy eternity Thou beholdest and knowest perfectly the misery of our sin, and whereas we are worthy of condemnation, Thou hast shown mercy by having compassion upon us, and hast effectively sought to give us in due time grace and glory in order to heal our wounds and overcome death, bestowing upon us the resurrection and life.

Consider now, therefore, O my soul, how strongly thou art bound to the Divine love because of thy God having loved thee so greatly before thou couldst have any good desires towards Him. Measure that couple of hours which have passed since thou didst begin to exist with the eternity of God during which He loved thee. A thousand years are in the Divine esteem but as yesterday which quickly passes away.[Ps. lxxxix. 4.] Compare one with the other, and thou wilt find thyself abashed and overcome; and would to God that thou wouldst comply with the law of those who are conquered and placed in subjection to the power of the Conqueror! Would to God that thou couldst find thyself so bound and overcome as to remain a captive to the love of Him Who so loved thee in His eternity, in order that thou mightest be free from those chains of fire in which all the sinners of the earth will be imprisoned!

Never, O Lord, hast Thou repented of having done good to us however ungrateful Thou hast known us to be, nor hast Thou turned back in Thy mercies; for, as the apostle saith, "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance".[Rom. xi. 29.] In Thee there is neither yea nor nay, for Thou remainest so faithful and true for ever. I began to exist yesterday, and have wasted my days idly, and what is worse, in a thousand offences against Thee. Many times I have resolved to love Thee and I have turned back, and when I have begun sometimes to serve Thee I have turned to offend Thee. Of this my heart is witness, and so are the angels and every creature.

Oh, what great dishonour and shame! Oh, confusion full of safety if I could only know it! Peradventure Thou didst wait until the time should arrive in which Thou shouldst come in the flesh[note 1] in order to seek my good? Perhaps the deformity of my offence hindered Thy Divine goodness and beauty from cherishing me? O my God, infinite goodness, eternal love and true salvation! I knew Thee not, not even for many years after I came into existence; and when at length out of Thy boundless charity Thou hadst given me the grace to know Thee, and Thy great beauty and goodness had affected me, I fixed my love on the foulness and corruption of the creature, forsaking Thy love Who art infinite goodness and glory, and the beauty of the angels. I remained in the love of the creatures, when Thy Paternal care had bestowed them on me for my refreshment and service, for the manifestation of which goodness Thou art worthy of all love and reverence.

Thy goodness, O Lord, and my wickedness contended against each other; and the more kind and generous Thou didst show Thyself towards me, so much the more rebellious didst Thou find me, and ungrateful for the blessings which I received from Thy bounty. My ingratitude did not exhaust the fountain of Thy mercy, for Thy goodness and clemency overcome all human wickedness; and just as love does not know how to be idle, but manifests itself in deeds, so for the love Thou bearest us Thou hast given us gifts of nature and grace, and hast promised us gifts of glory if we keep Thy commandments.

Why, then, O my God, and infinite goodness, will my heart not love Thee, when I see that I am forestalled by Thy love and that Thou hast been beforehand in seeking and loving me and hast shown the sovereign love which Thou bearest me by so many benefits? The first things that my eyes beheld when I was born were the gifts of Thy Hand with which Thou didst take possession of my heart that I might love Thee perpetually.

As the primum mobile carries along with it the other spheres and the heavens, moving them from east to west, so the force of that Holy love which Thou hadst for me from the first in Thy eternity carries away with it all the powers of the soul and the senses of the body, subjecting them to the sweet service of the yoke of Thy holy love. This is what the Bride in the Song of Songs asks of Thee as a peculiar favour: "Draw me; we will run after Thee in the odour of Thy ointments".[Cant. i. 3.] From the knowledge of these things it follows that I find myself under a strong obligation to love Him Who, loving me of old and eternally, has bound me with such great benefits.

1. "Tiempo en que nacieses."[back]