10 June 2010

The Greatest of All is Charity

Faith and hope are at work only in the human person, but charity is at work in God. Faith can move mountains; charity creates the mountains, the heavens and the earth. Faith urges a creature, as one who is capable of loving, to make every effort to attain paradise. Charity entreats God, who is aflame with love, to descend to earth to enable humankind to reach heaven by means of God’s own charity. Faith says to humanity: Serve God as is fitting. Charity says: O God, take on human flesh and serve humanity, which is in your debt beyond what it possesses. Faith says to humanity: Strike the heavens and open them for yourself. Charity says: O God, break the heavens so that humanity may find them open. Faith teaches us to die for love of God; charity invites God to die for us and invites us to die for our God. Faith reveals God from a distance; charity brings humanity to God, for charity made God take on human flesh and makes humanity take so divinity.

Faith may be compared to a noble lady who only reigns here where we have no abiding city, but who looks for one in the future; charity is empress of heaven and earth. Faith is an inhabitant of the country; charity is a city dweller. Faith rules over a multitude of lowly creatures; charity commands angels. Faith is above its servants; charity is above its beloved children and the saints.

Give this some thought. If a world such as ours were located in the sun, how would this world be lighted, warmed, gladdened and governed? It certainly would not be by the sun’s rays, but only by its essence, since the sun would dude the entire world in its essence. But the sun does not light, warm, gladden or govern our world by itself, since it cannot come to us of itself, but by means of its rays which it sends us. The reason why the sun produces such effects by its rays is that it cannot come to us directly. Consider how much more this is true of God. The Father, like the sun, produces his ray. This is the Word, eternal and essential. The Father and the Word like the sun and its ray, produce the essential warmth, who is the Holy Spirit. Hence this divine sun is power, light and fire; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; power, truth and charity; one God and three persons. And this divine sun is all-powerful, all-enlightening and all-burning - not three powers, but one power; not three lights, but one light; not three fires, but one fire.

Nevertheless, a doubt may arise here. Since we said that we are all in God and that God is charity, from this it would appear that we are all in charity, so are all in truth and in that true power. This is false because few are in charity, while many are in error and falsehood and a rather large number are weak and frail. Let me respond first of all by giving some examples. There are many fish in the sunlight, but, since they are covered by water, they receive no warmth. There are many blind persons who walk in light, but do not see. There many vessels which contain food, but they do not eat. Hence it is not enough simply to be in a place to share in the inherent power of that place; a proper receptivity is necessary. A sick person may eat without deriving benefit from the food; a dead person may be placed in a fire, but does not feel its warmth. A person standing in the sunlight who is continually showered with could water will not get warm and will always be shivering.

And so, although we may be in the divine fire, which does not warm the body but the soul, we do not benefit from this divine fire, if we continue to pour the hail of the flesh, the ice of the world, and the wind of temptation on our souls. From what has been said it is necessary to keep the soul apart from these things, lest anyone remain hidden from its warmth, as the psalmist says.
 From On the Love of Charity, treatise, by Blessed John Dominic.

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