IF, as a heathen sage observed, we cannot repay the gods or our parents who only bestow upon us this hired house in which our soul resides, how much am I indebted to Thee, Thou true God and my only Lord, since Thou hast given me both soul and body and all that I am! Thou wilt draw me, as Thou sayest, with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love.[Osee xi. 4.] Those cords are the mercies which Thou hast bestowed upon Adam and his sons. Thou sayest herein that Thou wilt do such deeds for man that Thou wilt draw him to Thee. If to love means to desire the good of the person loved, how much must Thy love mean to me! If I wished to enter into a reckoning with Thee and to count up the blessings which I have received from Thy hand, the time would fail me and life would come to an end before such a protracted calculation could be concluded. As many members as I have in my body, so many benefits do I find on account of which I ought to love Thee. If one should lose an eye, how much would he love the Being Who should restore it! If one should deserve to lose his eyes, how much would he love Him Who should preserve them! Am I not bound then to love Him Who gave me my eyes and preserves them to me, though I have deserved to lose them many times for making a bad use of them? How much more am I bound to love Him Who raised me up when I was dead!

O Creator of my life, restorer and preserver thereof! what do I possess in myself that I have not received from Thee? And, if it is so truly right that I should love Thee for the body and the life which Thou hast given me, wherefore should I not love Thee, and so much the more, for the reasonable soul which Thou hast created in me, since it is, beyond all comparison, of more value and excellence than this mortal and corruptible body of ours? and if this soul of mine should lose the use of reason, how much should I love Him Who should restore it! I am deeply bound to love Thee, since Thou hast given me the use of reason, a soul, a body, and life, and preservest them all, while I have many times deserved to lose them for my sins. Lift up, then, my soul, all thy thoughts to this unspeakable love of thy God. Nothing is more just, more useful, more salutary or more sweet, than that a man should love Him from Whom he has received his whole being and the preservation which he enjoys. If, my soul, thou canst not know what He is Who loves thee to such an extent, consider at least the pledges[note 1] which love has bestowed on thee. In the gifts which thou hast within thee thou wilt know with what affection and with what care and assiduity thou art bound to love. Thy pledges are conspicuous, thy gifts noble; it would therefore be unbecoming to make a paltry return for such great favours. Open thine eyes and behold the whole heavens, the earth, the air and all the elements and creatures which all do thee service. Thou receivest the benefit and dost not know Who it is that bestoweth it upon thee. If, then, my Lord, I fix my eyes on the treatment which Thou hast dealt out to me, I behold Thee, my God, so occupied in showing me mercies that it appears as if, forgetful of all the rest of mankind, Thou dost busy Thyself with me alone, and that Thou art taking care of me only.[note 2] Thou hast always been my solace in adversity and a guardian in my prosperity. Whichever way I wished to turn, Thy grace and pity went before me, and when I was on the point of being lost Thou didst deliver me. When I went astray Thou didst bring me back into the right way; when I was ignorant Thou didst instruct me; when I sinned Thou didst correct me; when I was sorrowful Thou didst console me; when I fell Thou didst raise me up and sustain me on my feet. Thou didst grant me to know Thee truly, to love Thee purely, to believe in Thee sincerely and to follow Thee fervently. O God of my heart, sweetness of my life and light of my eyes, dost Thou desire that I should love Thee? How shall I love Thee? and what am I that I should love Thee? How could it be that I should not love so generous a Benefactor, seeing how I am surrounded by His bounty? When the virtuous youth, Joseph, was solicited in Egypt by his immodest mistress, he called to mind the benefits he had received from his master, and answered her, saying, "My master hath delivered all things in his house into my charge, except thee, who art his wife; how then can I sin against my lord?"[note 3] He did not merely say, how should I wish to offend my lord? but, how could I do it? for it appeared to him impossible to injure one to whom he was so indebted. How, then, could I offend against Thee, my God, from Whose munificent hands I have received such benefits? Although my perverse will, with its liberty and its arrogance, sought to rid itself of Thy love, I know not how it were possible to offend against One to Whom I am so deeply indebted. If Putiphar entrusted his house to Joseph, he did not make him lord over all of it, but reserved some part for himself, as he said. But Thou, O my Lord, what hast Thou that Thou hast not conferred upon me? In giving me Thyself Thou hast given with Thyself all blessings, and what do I possess that I have not received from Thee? Thus the remembrance of the benefits so numberless and exalted compels me to love Thee, so that even if I should wish to cease from loving, I should never be able to cease from doing so. The Paschal lamb, which Thou didst enjoin the Jews to celebrate,[Exod. xii.] and all the other festivals, were intended to recall to them the memory of the benefits which they had received from Thee. The Passover was the memorial of the going out of Egypt, and the offering to Thee of the first-born was the memorial of those first-born[Exod xvi.] children of their enemies whom Thou slewest in Egypt; the manna which Thou didst command them to preserve in the Ark of the Covenant was (as Thou didst Thyself declare) in remembrance of the food with which Thou didst sustain Thy people forty years in the wilderness; and the twelve stones which Joshua gathered out of the Jordan[Jos. iv. 3, 6, 7, 20-24.] were set up in order that the children of Israel might for ever remember the blessings that they had received when the river divided to afford a dry passage for them. In this and in the feast of Tabernacles and in all other feasts and memorials which Thou commandedst them to celebrate, Thou hadst no other design than to cause the Israelites not to forget the mercies that Thou hadst shown them; that the memory of such supreme blessings should dispose their wills to love such a great Benefactor. When, in the Book of Deuteronomy,[Deut. vi.] Thou commandedst us to love Thee, before Thou didst set forth this precept, Thou saidst unto Thy people, "I am the Lord thy God Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt".[Deut. v. 6.] Thou didst set before their eyes the obligation which they were under to love Thee, recalling to their remembrance the benefits which they had received. All Thy gifts proceed from love, and thus Thou delightest, by the mercies which Thou bestowest, to bind us to love Thee, since there are so many reasons why Thou shouldst be loved by us.

1. "Arras" in Spanish are thirteen pieces of money which the bridegroom gives to the bride as a pledge in the act of marriage. [back]

2. So S. Augustine: "O Thou good Omnipotent, Who so carest for every one of us as if Thou caredst for him only; and so for all, as if they were but one!" (Confession, book iii., chap. 11, sect. 19). [back]

3. "Contra mi señor," applying the word as if it referred to Pharaoh's officer, Joseph's master; whereas, according to the original Hebrew, the LXX. and the Vulgate, it really refers to God (Gen. xxxlx. 8, 9). [back]