Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to love You truly, with my whole heart, my whole soul, and with all my strength.
“Virtue lies in the golden mean.” This maxim which is so exact for the moral virtues, cannot be applied to the theological virtues, which, having an infinite object, can have no limit. The measure of our faith, hope, and charity is to believe, to hope, and to love without measure. However much we love God, we can never love Him too much, nor can we love Him as much as He is lovable. By its very nature then, the precept of charity admits of no limit and we could never say, “I shall love God up to a certain point and that will be enough,” for by doing so, we would renounce tending toward the perfection of charity, which consists in loving God in a way that is as nearly proportionate as possible to His infinite lovableness. This is why it is necessary never to stop in the practice of charity, employing all our strength that it may continually increase in our soul. Because the precept of charity concerns the love of God—the infinite, supreme Good—it possesses an absolute character: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength” (Mark 12:30). If we, so little and so limited, do not employ in the love of God all the little that we have and are, how can we truly tend toward the perfection of charity? If it is not in our power to love God as much as He deserves to be loved, it is, however, possible for us to strive to love Him with our whole strength, and this is exactly the perfection of love which God asks of us.
Furthermore, even human love is by its nature “totalitarian.” The more intimate and intense a friendship, the more it demands the exclusive gift of the heart; and when a friend begins to make reservations or to give his affection to others, the friendship loses its vigor, grows cold, and may even vanish. Therefore, we must guard against any coldness in our friendship with God, being careful to keep for Him alone the first fruits of our heart and to employ ourself wholly in loving Him with all our strength. It is true that only in heaven will we be able to love God with all our strength and in such a way that our love tends always and actually toward Him. Although this absolute totality and stability in love is not possible to us here on earth, it is possible for us to make an act of love each time that we will to do so. It is always in our power to unite our whole being—heart, affections, will, and desires—to God by an act of love.
“O Lord God, was it not enough to permit us to love You without its being necessary to invite us to do so by exhortations, even obliging us to do so by commanding it? Yes, O divine Goodness, in order that neither Your greatness nor our lowliness, nor any other pretext could prevent us from loving You, You have commanded us to do so. O my God, if we could only comprehend the happiness and honor of being able to love You, how indebted we should feel to You, who not only permit but command us to love You! O my God, I do not know whether I should love more Your infinite beauty which Your divine goodness commands me to love or this goodness of Yours which commands me to love such infinite beauty! O beauty of my God, how lovable you are, being revealed to me by Your immense goodness! O goodness, how lovable you are, communicating to me such eminent beauty!
“O Lord, how sweet is this commandment. If it were given to the damned, they would be instantly freed from their sufferings and supreme misfortune, for the blessed enjoy beatitude only by complying with it. O, celestial Love! how amiable You are to our souls! O divine Goodness, may You be blessed eternally, You who so urgently command us to love You, although Your love is so desirable and necessary for our happiness that, without it, we could only be unhappy!
“O Lord, in heaven we shall need no commandment to love You, for our hearts, attracted and ravished by the vision of Your sovereign beauty and goodness, will necessarily love You eternally. There our hearts will be wholly free of passions, our souls will be completely delivered from distractions, our minds will have no anxieties, our powers will have no repugnances, and therefore we shall love You with a perpetual, uninterrupted love. But in this mortal life, we cannot achieve such a perfect degree of love, because, as yet, we do not have the heart, the soul, the mind, or the powers of the blessed. Nevertheless, You desire us to do in this life everything that depends on ourselves to love You with all our heart and all the strength we have; this is not only possible but very easy, for to love You, O God, is a sovereignly lovable thing” (cf. St. Francis de Sales).
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Art for this post on the precept of charity: Saint François de Sales, statue de l’église Saint-Germain de Paris, Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac, Dordogne, France, photographed by Père Igor, 19 September 2010, own work, CC, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.
This article originally appeared on SpiritualDirection.com and is reprinted here with kind permission.