THE charity with which Thou hast loved us, O most merciful Lord, is a virtue which in respect to the other virtues is like gold in comparison with the other metals. For just as gold exceeds every other metal in value, in estimation and in beauty, so doth Thy charity in perfection and excellence exceed the rest of the virtues, which if not enclosed[note 1] in charity possess little or no value. This Thy holy apostle expresses very well, saying: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass."[1 Cor. xiii. 1 seq.] The other virtues have no value without charity, and they all depend upon charity; yet it does not depend upon any other, but itself alone includes all virtues. It gives life to faith, securely trusts itself with hope, endures with patience, overcomes with courage, compassionates with pity, is silent with meekness, distributes with liberality, and finally exercises all the virtues; for, as the holy apostle says, it is patient, kind, is not moved by envy, doeth no evil, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, doth not scoff at any one, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth with the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. All these things are the natural fruits of other virtues which charity possesses united together, as experience shows us. In natural love and in that of the world, when one friend is very fond of another, he at once believes in him and trusts him with all he has, gives him all he can, and forgives him any offence or grievance that he has received. He feels no envy on account of the good things which the other possesses, endeavours to content him, does him no wrong, undergoes great trouble for the beloved object, encounters any danger; and the pain and grief which compassion for the other's suffering produces is greater than his own suffering. And so if that person by whose love he is captivated falls short in gladness, he feels excessive sorrow: if he fails in health, the friend is more afflicted; if he is poor, the friend is no longer rich; if he falls into adversity, the friend looks upon himself as a fellow-sufferer. If then worldly love acts thus in the case where it exists, how much more becomingly will Divine Love operate! O great influence and exceeding power and abundant energy of this holy Love! what thing is there that Thou canst not effect, however impossible it may appear? and what thing so difficult that Thou canst not encounter, what thing so strong that Thou canst not overcome? O most mighty Love "Who art strong as death[Cant. viii. 6.], and so much stronger than all strong things as Thou art more powerful than all powerful things, and as Thou art more sweet and gentle than anything in the world! O wondrous power of love, which not with iron, nor with weapons, nor with armed hand, but with a gentle sweetness and with sweet gentleness holdest all things under Thy sovereign sway, and in a wonderful manner constrainest the world to Thy service, and receivest tribute from all things. We know well, O Lord, how abundant, affluent and rich is Thy House, and how full of Divine riches. Amongst all Thy celestial treasures there are no greater riches, no greater treasure than Thy Holy Love; there is nothing more precious, nor more glorious, nor more to be desired. And since this is so, the greatest favour and benefit that Thou canst bestow upon a man is to give him Thy Holy Love. Let any one who desires it ask from Thee, my God, the gift of wisdom; let him ask the gift of prophecy; let him ask for humility and chastity, whatever he desires. I do not ask anything for myself except Thy Divine Love, for whosoever possesses that possesses all. This is the greatest blessing that can be desired, and the greatest boon that can be bestowed. And the reason is because whatever gift Thou grantest me, and whatever benefit Thou condescendest to offer me, I hold of no account if Thou deny me Thy Divine Love, with which I attain to possess Thee, for love has such power that it causes Thee, Lord, to be mine, my possession and inheritance; and whosoever attains all that he can attain, yet if he does not obtain the love of God, does not secure the fruition of God. Divine fruition and Thy love are so intimately related[note 2] that there can be no fruition where there is no I love. What then will it profit to possess all that one possesses, if we do not possess Thee, my God? For since Thou canst not confer upon us anything else of greater value than Thyself, so Thou canst bestow nothing more precious than Thy love, since with that Thou givest us possession of Thyself. If Thou shouldst give me the choice, I would sooner choose to love Thee without seeing Thee than to see Thee without loving Thee. For in not loving Thee, I could not possess Thee entirely, nor retain Thy friendship; while by loving Thee, although I might not see Thee, I could be Thy friend and could please Thy Divine Majesty, which without love is impossible. O Supreme Good! O Infinite Beneficence! give me Thy holy love, and make of me what Thou wilt. Have no fear, then, O my soul, because this chariot of Elias is of fire[4 Kings ii. 11.], for it is the kindling of holy love that seizes upon souls and lifts them up to heaven. The children in Babylon feared it not, but rather entered boldly into that fire, and while their bonds were consumed, they walked about free, singing and praising God with all creation.[Daniel iii. 25 seq.] This fire of holy love does not burn but gives light. Or we will rather say that it burns and does not burn; for in consuming the bonds it releases the prisoners from snares, annihilates tribulations and looses the chains of sin. But it does not singe even the hairs of the head of the just ones of God. Such is the power and might of the Divine fire of love, which, by purifying the desire of the flesh, spiritualises it, and exalts it to rejoice in Thee, O Lord, conjointly with the spirit, according to that which Thy holy prophet said: "My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God".[Ps. lxxxiv. 2.] It is a great thing to have subdued the flesh to so great a degree of spirituality, and to be so subject to the Spirit that it may rejoice together with the soul in God; but the great power of love can accomplish all that. Holy love anticipates the joys of the resurrection, when the spirit shall have entire dominion over the flesh, by subordination, even here, the body to the soul.

1. Lit. "set like a precious stone in gold". [back]

2. "Están tan hermanados". [back]