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1. Having spoken of the virtues proper both for Christians in general, and for religious in particular, we have now only to treat of faith, hope, and love, three virtues most intimately connected with each other. The greatest of these is love, because God is love.

2. I regard faith as the beam, hope as the light, and love as the disc of the sun. I look upon the three as forming but one focus of brilliancy and splendour.

3. Faith can accomplish things that are deemed impossible.1 Hope is always accompanied by the mercy of God; and resting upon this solid basis, it cannot be overthrown or confounded.2 Love never falleth away, never stands still, never gives any repose to him who is pierced by its burning darts, but urges him perpetually onwards by a holy and happy delirium of love.

4. He who selects the love of God for his theme, undertakes to speak of God himself. But it is a most difficult and dangerous thing to speak of Him, when we have not a sufficiently elevated idea of this most mysterious and sublime object.

5. The angels know the excellency of divine love; they do not, however, all know it in an equal degree, but only in proportion as they are enlightened by divine light.

6. “God is love;”3 and he who should undertake to define what God is, would be like the blind man who should attempt to count the grains of sand on the sea shore.

7. Divine love, according to its essence and nature, is the resemblance of man to God, as far as a mortal creature is susceptible of such resemblance; according to its power and efficacy, it is the inebriation of the soul; according to its properties, it is the source of faith, the abyss of patience, and the ocean of humility.

8. Divine love banishes every thought contrary to the welfare of our neighbour. For “love”, says the apostle, “thinketh no evil.”4

9. Love, which is the sovereign peace of the soul, and love which makes us the adopted sons of God, differ from each other in name only, in the same manner as these three, light, fire, and flame, concur to produce one and the same effect.

10. We have more or less of fear as we have more or less of love. For he who is without fear, is either filled with divine love, or is spiritually dead. We still, however, admit, that this perfect love produces the pious and salutary fear of the Lord, which itself again fans the flame of love. Thus they mutually cherish each other in an interchange of holy and reciprocal services.

11. It will not, it seems to me, be improper to draw from the conduct of men towards each other, faint images and examples of the desire, the fear, the ardour, the zeal, the respect, and the love, which we ought to cherish and entertain for God. Happy is he who has an affection for God, not less ardent than people of the world have for its perishable beauties! Happy is he who does not fear God less than a criminal does his judge! Happy is he who takes as deep an interest in divine things, which alone deserve our attachment, as good and faithful servants do in the employment of their master! Happy is he who has not less desire and jealousy of the virtues which adorn a Christian, than fond husbands have of their wives! Happy is he who pays the same respect to God in prayer, as courtiers pay to their king in his presence! Happy is he who strives as earnestly to please God, as many do to please men, and win their friendship!

12. A mother does not take so much pleasure in folding in her arms the infant she nourishes at her breast, as he whom we call the child of divine love takes in always being united to God, and held within the embraces of his heavenly Father.

13. He who truly loves another, beholds the image of his beloved ever present to his imagination; and entertains it with so much delight, that during the oblivious hours of sleep, it still flits before his mind, and forms the subject of his dreams. The same observation is applicable to divine love. Hence these expressions in the Canticle of Solomon: “I sleep,” through the necessity of nature, “but my heart watches” through the ardour of my love.5

14. I beg you, dear Reverend Father Abbot, to remark, that the stag has no sooner attracted the serpent from its hiding place, killed, and devoured it, than it is seized with so violent a thirst, that it roams every where in quest of a fountain; in like manner, the Christian who has drawn his passions from their lurking places in his heart, and then destroyed them, sighs and languishes after the Lord, with his soul pierced by the flaming dart of divine love.

15. The feeling of hunger is often uncertain and unknown to others, but that of thirst, which is a more violent sensation, is clear and visible, since the exterior features display the effects of the burning heat of the interior. Hence, holy David, in his ardent longings for the enjoyment of God’s infinite beauty, exclaimed: “As the hart panteth after fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O my God. My soul hath thirsted after the strong and living God.”6

16. If the presence of a person who is dear to us produces a visible change, both in mind and body, and fills us with joy and delight that are visible in the countenance, what change should not the presence of our Lord produce in a pure soul, when He makes Himself known to her in an invisible manner?

17. When the fear of the Lord is engraven deeply on our heart, it will efface and blot out all the stains of the soul. Hence the request of holy David: “Pierce, O God, my flesh with thy fear.”7 Divine love, likewise, consumes those who possess it day by day. “Thou hast wounded my heart.”8 Some, that rejoice in this virtue, are so overpowered with joy, that their eyes sparkle with the heavenly flame; and they exclaim with the Royal Prophet: “The Lord is my helper and protector; in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped.”9 For the joy of the heart enkindles the countenance into a pleasing and brilliant lustre. Hence, when the interior of a Christian is on fire with divine love, the brightness of the flame is reflected upon the exterior, as upon the face of a mirror, and we perceive the peace and serenity of his soul, as in the case of Moses, who, when he had been honoured by an interview with God, was obliged to veil his face, that its effulgence might not dazzle the Israelites.

18. They who have attained to that degree of divine love, which assimilates them to angels, frequently forget to take the nourishment necessary for the body, and ordinarily, in my opinion, have not that desire for food, which is natural to other men. And certainly there is no occasion for surprise, since people in the world sometimes neglect their meals, when agitated by any violent passion.

19. I believe that the bodies, which are, as it were, become incorruptible, are not so subject to diseases as other; because, purified by the bright flame of divine love, which extinguishes concupiscence, they are not liable to corruption. I believe, likewise, that when persons thus pure in body do eat, they have no relish or pleasure in their food. For the water which is in the earth, does not supply more nourishment to vegetables by moistening their roots, than the celestial fire of love does to souls whom it prepares for heaven.

20. The increase of the fear of God is the commencement of love. And the perfection of chastity is the foundation of knowledge in the divine mysteries and in theology.

21. He who is perfectly united to God in all the powers both of mind and body, receives from God Himself, in a secret and mysterious manner, which is understood by the heart, a knowledge of His sacred truths. But it is dangerous to speak of God, when we are not intimately united to Him.

22. The Son of God renders our chastity perfect by His divine presence, which suppresses the concupiscence of the flesh. And when sensuality is dead within us, the soul aspires to know the mysteries of faith, and begins to be favoured with an interior light in this heavenly science.

23. When we speak of God by the Spirit of God, our speech is that of God Himself, and is pure and holy, and subsists for ever. But he who treats of God by his own knowledge, and not by that which comes from the Holy Spirit, deals merely in assertion and conjecture, which have no solid ground work or subsistence.

24. Chastity of mind and body enlightens the soul with the doctrines of true theology, and furnishes it with the gift of understanding what the Church teaches concerning the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.

25. He who loves God loves his brother. For the love we have for our neighbour, is the sign and manifestation of the love which we bear to God.

26. Now he who loves his neighbour, cannot endure those who speak evil of him, but shuns them as he would fire.

27. He who boasts that he loves God, but hates his brother, resembles the man who fancies that he is running, whilst he is but dreaming.

28. Hope fortifies love, because it induces us to expect the recompense due to our love.

29. Hope is a gift of heaven, and enriches us with spiritual and hidden riches. It is a treasure which the soul possesses with an unshaken faith in this life, before it possess with an immutable assurance, the treasures of the next. Hope is our comfort amidst toil and labour, the gate of love, the mortal enemy of despair, the image of our future possessions.

30. The want of hope is the ruin of divine love. It is hope which gives us patience and courage under our trials, which wipes from the brow the dew drops of perspiration, and which obtains for us the mercy of the Lord.

31. Hope is a sword with which the solitary puts to flight tepidity and idleness.

32. Experience in the reception of God’s favours, is the ground work of our hope. He who has never received these blessings, cannot rely upon God with a firm confidence.

33. Anger destroys hope. “Hope,” says the apostle, “confoundeth not.” 10 Whereas anger heapeth upon us confusion and shame.

34. Divine love is sometimes favoured with the gift of prophecy, and the power of working miracles. It is an inexhaustible ocean of divine illuminations, and the commencement of a flame, which, the more it spreads over the heart, burns and consumes with thirst, him who cherishes it. Love constitutes the happiness of the angels, and enables them to increase in glory and knowledge for all eternity.

35. Shew me, O most beautiful virtue, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the mid-day.11 Enlighten me, quench my thirst, lead me by the hand, that I may speedily come and be united to Thee, without wandering after the flocks of Thy companions. Thou reignest over all creatures. Thou hast wounded and pierced my soul. I cannot contain the fire which Thou hast enkindled within me. Its flames will not abide within; they will display themselves outwardly, in the praises which I now bestow upon thee in the conclusion of my work. “Thou rulest the power of the sea, and appeasest the motion of its waves. Thou hast humbled the proud one, as one that is slain. With the arm of thy strength thou hast scattered thine enemies....But blessed is the people that knoweth thy jubilation....For thou art the glory of their strength; and in thy good pleasure shall our horn be exalted.”12

36. I could wish, O renowned virtue, I could wish to learn from thyself, in what manner Jacob saw thee leaning upon the mysterious ladder. Explain to me, I pray thee, in what state we ought to be in order to ascend this ladder; and by what series of virtues, like so many rounds in the ladder, the admirers of thy sovereign beauty, may mount up to thee. I wish, also, to know very much, how many are these rounds or steps, and what is necessary to attain the topmost. For Jacob, who formerly wrestled with thee, and deserved to mount this mystic ladder, has informed us that angels are our guides in its ascent; but he has not expounded to us the mysteries concealed under this beautiful vision. When I had concluded this discourse, I thought I beheld love, as a queen standing before me, and saying: “You cannot, O admirer of divine love, contemplate the attractive features of my beauty, until you are set free from the frail tenement of your mortal body, which, as a thick and impenetrable veil, shrouds me from your sight. Be content, therefore, at present to learn that the ladder is the order and connection of those virtues which compose divine love; and that it is I who am leaning upon the ladder, according to the testimony of him who is the interpreter of the secrets of heaven: ‘Now there remains faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’”13

  1. Heb. xi.

  2. Rom. v. 5.

  3. I John iv. 8.

  4. I Corinth. xiii. 5.

  5. Cant. v. 2.

  6. Ps. xli. 1.

  7. Ps. cxviii. 120.

  8. Cant. iv. 9.

  9. Ps. xxvii. 7.

  10. Rom v. 5.

  11. Cant. i. 6.

  12. Ps. lxxxviii.10. & c.

  13. I Corinth. xiii. 13.


Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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