Holiness and Charity

In our exploration of holiness, its attributes and its perplexities, we continue with St Francis de Sales’ explanations of virtues and their relation to LOVE.

St Francis de Sales wrote, “There are some virtues which by reason of their natural alliance and correspondence with charity are also much more capable of receiving the precious influence of sacred love, and consequently the communication of the dignity and worth of it.

Such are faith and hope, which, together with charity, have an immediate reference to God; and religion, and penitence, and devotion, which are employed to the honour of his Divine Majesty. For these virtues, of their own nature, have so close a relation to God, and are so susceptible of the impressions of heavenly love, that to make them participate in its sanctity they need only to be with it, that is, in a heart which loves God.

All virtues receive a new lustre and an excellent dignity from the presence of holy love, but faith, hope, the fear of God, piety, penance, and all the other virtues which of their own nature particularly tend to God and to his honour, not only receive the impression of divine love whereby they are raised to a great value, but they wholly incline towards it, associating themselves with it, following and serving it on all occasions.

The holy Word attributes a certain saving, sanctifying and glorifying property and force to faith, to hope, to piety, to the fear of God, to penance: which clearly shows that those virtues are of great price, and that being practised by a heart which is in charity they become more excellent, fruitful and holy than the others, which of their own nature have not so great an affinity with sacred love.

Charity then is a virtue beyond comparison, which not only adorns the heart in which it is, but by its mere presence also blesses and sanctifies all the virtues which it meets there, perfuming and scenting them with its celestial odour, by means of which they are made of great value in the sight of God; which, however, it does far more excellently in faith, in hope and in other virtues, which of themselves naturally tend to piety.

For sacred love is fed according to its heart’s desire in these exercises, and in greater abundance spreads its graces and properties over them than it does over the actions of those virtues which are purely human.”

Source: Treatise on the Love of God, St Francis de Sales, Book 11, Chapter 3

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