1Jn 4:7 Dearly beloved, let us love one another: for charity is of God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.
Dearly beloved, let us love one another. These words are rightly connected with what preceded. He means that the spirit of error is the spirit of cupidity, but the Spirit of truth is the Spirit of love and charity. Erroneous and heretical doctrine teaches men to love honours, wealth, gluttony; but the Apostles teach us to love God and our neighbour. He subjoins the reason:
For charity (love) is of God. The Spirit of truth is the Spirit of charity, that we may love one another; because as truth is from God, so also is charity. Yea, God, who is the chief and eternal Truth, is also the highest and uncreated Love. Wherefore it follows as a necessary consequence, that anyone that loveth (not by natural, but by supernatural charity) is born of God. Being born again of faith and charity, which are from God, he is made a child of God. For charity is a supernatural faculty, giving to the soul the ability to love God and our neighbour. That he may know God, not merely theoretically, but practically, because he supremely loves God whom he knows to be the Highest Good. Again, love causes a man more fully to know, and to have taste and experience of God, as it were by spiritual taste. And this taste and experience grow continually, even as love increases. Especially is this so, because God manifests Himself to him who loves, and more clearly reveals Himself to him by interior illuminations, inspirations, and consolations, according to that promise of Christ, “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him.” (John 14:21).
Observe: Charity (Love) is of God,—
- 1st. Because the essential, uncreated charity flows naturally from the Divine Essence Itself, like heat from fire. Indeed, the Divine Essence Itself is Love.
- 2d. Because the Holy Spirit is Itself substantial or essential (notionalis) Love. For He, as essential Love, proceeds from the Father and the Son by that act of love by which they love one another with an infinite love.
- 3d. Charity was created by God, because it is the highest and noblest gift of God, according to the words (Rom. v. 5), “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts;” not as if the charity wherewith we love God were itself God, or the Holy Spirit. For this is an exploded error. But because God, who is uncreated Love, inspires and kindles in us that created charity with which we love Him. As the light illuminating produces the light illuminated, as S. Augustine says (Confess. 12. 15). And this is precisely S. John’s meaning in this place, in which he tacitly intimates that this gift is not to be ascribed to our own strength, but is to be asked of God by constant prayer.
- 4th. Charity is of God, because God first loved us (1Jo_4:19), and by loving us inflames us to love Him in return.
- 5th. Charity is of God, because it is sanctioned by the law of God, and frequently and especially commanded by it. For the whole Decalogue is nothing else but the law of love to God and our neighbour.
From hence it follows that God is in Himself formal charity, and in us causal charity, and that as respecting every kind of cause: material, because He Himself is the object of our love; formal, because He is the pattern of the same; efficient, because He produces it in us; He is the final cause, because He is our end, and the end of our love.
Lastly, natural love is from nature, carnal love from the flesh, worldly love from the world; but supernatural love, or charity, is from God alone.
1Jn 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is charity.
He that loveth not knoweth not God. S. John having said just above, Every one that loveth is born of God, now proves the same thing from the contrary. He means, he who loveth not God and his neighbour, although he may know God speculatively, does not know Him practically, that is, experimentally. Just as no one knows experimentally the savour and sweetness of honey unless he taste it. For as taste is known by tasting, so is love known and tasted by actually loving. Wherefore, although S. John might in a similar manner have said, He who is not wise doth not know God, because God is Wisdom; or he who is not patient, knows not God, because God is Patience; or he who is not humble, knows not Christ, because Christ is Humility, and so on— nevertheless, preferred to say, He that loveth not, knoweth not God, because God is Love. This was (1.) Because he is treating of charity, not of wisdom, patience, &c. (2.) Because being full of the love of God and Christ, he breathes and delights in nothing else. For, as S. Bernard says, “Between the bridegroom and the bride, i.e., between lovers, no union need be sought but to love and be loved, for that Spouse is not only loving, but Love Itself.” This is what Jeremiah says (Jer_31:3), “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
For God is charity (love): both formal and uncreate, and so essential, and also causal and created. For in God and the Divine Essence, on account of Its perfection and simplicity, there are no accidents, but those things which in us are accidents, are in God inseparable from His Essence. Wisdom, goodness, love, and power are themselves the Divine Essence. So the Council of Rheims defined against Gilbert. Moreover, God is charity, or love, both in the abstract and the concrete. For He is supreme affection, and loves supremely, and therefore ought to be supremely loved by us in return. God, then, is Love, because He hath supremely loved us. And He hath given us this most clear proof of His love in that He sent His only Begotten Son to save us. Hence S. Augustine and Bede teach that he who loves not his neighbour sins against God, because God is Love.
Again, S. Chrysostom teaches that nothing can be compared with charity, because God Himself, who is incomparable, is Charity. Gagneius declares that we are certain that God loves us with an infinite love because He is very Love Itself. Hence the Fathers infer that Charity commands and embraces all the other virtues, for God commands and includes them.
1Jn 4:9 By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him.
By this hath the charity of God appeared: He now declares why he said, God is Love. It is because God hath declared His infinite love towards us by sending Christ in the flesh for our salvation, that by this means He might invite us to love Him back. There is an allusion to the words in 8. John’s Gospel (John 3:19), “So God loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“Behold,” says S. Augustine, “how we have an exhortation to love God. How could we love Him unless He had first loved us? If we were slow to love, let us not be slow to love again.” Pathetically and learnedly does S. Paulinus write about S. Mary Magdalene (Epist. 4 ad Sever.): “Therefore, let us love Him whom it is our duty to love. Let us kiss Him whom to kiss is purity. Let us be joined to Him whose marriage-bond is virginity. Let us be subject to Him, at whose feet to lie is to stand above the world. Let us fall down because of Him for whom to fall is resurrection. Let us die for Him in whom is life. In whom we live though we are dead.”
1Jn 4:10 In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.
In this, i.e., in the love of God wherewith He loved us. S. John, the beloved of Christ, lays special stress upon this, that God, moved by no love or duty on our part, but offended by our many provocations and wickednesses, first loved us. And when we were sinners and enemies, fleeing from Him, and fighting against Him, He followed us, and turned us by His love, that He might bring us back and save us. “For to this end He loved us,” says S. Augustine, “that we might love Him.” And sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins, i.e., to be a propitiator, and a propitiatory victim for our sins. S. Augustine reads libatorem, a pourer of libations, and explains it to mean Sacrificer. As S. Augustine says again, “He loved the wicked, that He might make them holy. He loved the unjust, that He might make them just. He loved the sick, that He might make them whole.”
See in this how high the ways of God are above the ways of men. For with men, if any one despise them, vex or spoil them, straightway they hate him, and think how they may do him some greater injury. But God—despised, contemned, robbed of His honour, injured in a thousand ways—enlarges the bowels of His love towards us. With love He fights against man’s hate. By hatred He is stirred up to love. Hatred is the whip of His love. He overcomes hatred by His infinite love, swallows it up, drowns and extinguishes it, as a mighty conflagration extinguishes a little drop of water. The love of God therefore towards His enemies is so wonderful, that by it He makes them His friends, His sons and heirs, and turns the greatest sinners into the greatest saints. Out of the thief upon the cross He made a preacher of Himself. Out of Saul He made S. Paul. Out of the sinful Magdalene He made a mirror of penitence and holiness. This is what Paul celebrates and admires
(1Tim 1:15-16), A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. But for this cause have I obtained mercy: that in me first Christ Jesus might shew forth all patience, for the information of them that shall believe in him unto life everlasting.
1Jn 4:11 My dearest, if God hath so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
My dearest, if God hath so loved us, &c. If here is not a particle expressive of doubtfulness. It is not conditional, but causal, and is equivalent to because. It means, Because God so loves us. Christ uses a similar construction, when He says, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
S. John says if, rather than because, for the sake of greater weight and pathos, as it were lost in amazement at the infinite love of God. Wherefore it is advisedly and intentionally that he says after the antecedent, if God so loved us, not we therefore ought so to love God, which is impossible, but, we ought also to love one another. As much as to say, Since we cannot render equal love in return for Divine love, let us at least love one another according to our slender capacity. For what we do to our neighbour God accounts as done to Him.
The word us includes also our neighbours. If God, who is not a partaker, vouchsafes to love all who participate in our nature, how much more does it become us to embrace with our love all who are of the same nature, and in respect of it are equals? Truly does S. Augustine say on this passage (Tract. 7): “Love, and do what thou wilt. For if thou art silent, thou keepest silence through love. If thou criest out, thou criest out in love. If thou correctest, thou correctest lovingly. If thou sparest, thou sparest in love. Let this be the root of love within. From that root nothing but love can spring.”
1Jn 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abideth in us: and his charity is perfected in us.
No man hath seen God at any time. Why does S. John here introduce these words? It is because these words partly give the reason why from the antecedent, if God hath so loved us the inference is drawn we also ought to love one another, not God (as might seem to be the conclusion that should be drawn), because we cannot see God, and benefit Him by loving Him. Hence, in the place of God, we testify our love towards Him whom we cannot see and do good to, by doing good to our neighbour whom we can see and benefit. Partly the words invite us to love our neighbour, and cohere with what follows. As though he said, Zealously love your neighbour. For this love God reckons as given to Himself. For although we cannot see Him, yet, if we love our neighbour, He, the Invisible, will be most truly present with us, and thus abiding in our soul, will place His seat and throne there. Yea, His love will be fully imprinted and perfected in our soul. The reason is because indivisible and Divine charity conjoins and confederates us with the invisible God. Moreover, God, who is invisible in Himself, seems visible in our neighbour. For he is God’s image.
Observe, no one hath seen God at any time, viz., in His Essence, or face to face, in this life. Whence the Doctors teach, with probability, that neither Moses, nor Paul, nor any other mere man (for Christ saw God, but He was the God-man), hath seen the Divine Essence in this life, according to the words in Exodus 33: “No man shall see Me and live.” Yet S. Augustine holds a contrary opinion, and from him S. Thomas.
Again, no man hath seen God, for neither is he able to see Him by the powers of his nature, as the Anomæans and Eunomæans supposed. Whom S. Chrysostom and S. Basil (lib. contr. Eunom.) refute. For the Blessed in heaven see God, but by the power of grace. For their mind is there elevated, and receives as it were another eye of a Divine order, even the light of glory, by which it sees God. By this sentence, then, S. John signifies that the majesty of God is so sublime, and so transcends, not only all other created things, but also the intelligence both of men and angels, that although He Himself is the most glorious Light, yet on account of His purity, subtilty, and sublimity, He cannot be perceived by any mind, or any created eye. S. John says the same thing in his Gospel (Jn 1:18). But there he applies it to the knowledge of God, as here to the love of God. It is as though he said, “God is invisible, and therefore cannot (in Himself) receive any office of love from man, because He far transcends all human wealth, as well as human sight and action. Yet He makes so much account of love, and of those who love their neighbour, that He stoops to them from the topmost height of heaven, and as it were comes down, dwells and abides in their hearts. This is that which S. Paul speaks of (1 Tim 6:16), “Who only hath immortality, and dwelleth in the inaccessible light, whom no man hath seen or can see.”
Lastly, S. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cateches. 9) thinks that God cannot be seen with the bodily eyes, because He Himself is incorporeal; and that therefore He stretches out the heaven itself as a veil before our eyes, lest the brightness of the Godhead should blind us, or kill us. But this is not true unless it be thus explained, that God, although dwelling Himself incorporeally in the empyrean, which is corporeal, and manifesting Himself and His glory to the bodies of the Blessed, there produces so great sensible light, which in some way sets forth His majesty, that it would blind the eyes of the Blessed, yea destroy them, unless they were fortified and preserved by the Divine power
Hence S. Epiphanius (in vii. Synod. Actor. 6) teaches that God as He is in Himself cannot be expressed by any image. Moreover also, Moses, forbidding the Jews to make an image of God, gives the reason. “Ye heard the voice of His words, but ye saw no shape, &c. Ye saw no similitude, lest being deceived ye should make a graven image.” (Deut 4:12.)
His charity is perfected in us: perfected, because it is perfect and complete in all its parts. Now the parts and offices of charity are two-fold—1st. Love of God; 2d. Love of our neighbour. Wherefore, if there were only that part of charity that we loved God, it would be imperfect; but it is perfected and completed if the second be added, and charity extends to our neighbour. Again, the charity with which we love God is perfected by charity towards our neighbour, because we love our neighbour for no other reason than for God’s sake. The love therefore of our neighbour for God’s sake perfects the love of God, because that which is the reason why other things are loved is Itself much more loved. When therefore we love our neighbour for God’s sake, much more do we love God Himself.
2d. The words may be understood of charity—not ours, but God’s. For this is the meaning of the word His: thus—Although God be invisible, yet He abides in us by love. Moreover, He shows that He loves us with a perfect love, since abiding in us, He forms, preserves, and augments in us the charity with which we love, not only Himself, but our neighbour for His sake. This meaning is alluded to in the next verse.
Moreover, charity is chiefly perfected by the love of our enemies, extending itself beyond our friends to our rivals, enemies, and persecutors. “The fire of charity,” says S. Augustine, “first seizes upon our neighbours, and so extends itself further, from our brethren to strangers, from thence to our adversaries.” Further on he teaches us to love our enemies, just as a physician loves the sick and insane. “When any one rages against thee, let him rage, but do thou entreat. When he hates, do thou pity. It is his fevered soul which hates thee. As soon as he is well, he will give thee thanks. How do physicians love the sick? Do they wish them always to be sick? They love the sick in order to make them whole. How much do they suffer from the insane! What reproaches! How often they are struck! The physician attacks the fever, he forgives the man.”
1Jn 4:13 In this we know that we abide in him, and he in us: because he hath given us of his spirit.
In this we know that we abide in Him . . . He hath given us His Spirit, &c. By His Spirit, i.e., the participation of the Spirit, the communication of grace and charity, which are the gifts of the Spirit.
In the preceding verse S. John said that God abides in us, and consequently we in God by charity. For so loving He abides in the lover and the beloved. For so God loves us and we God. He here inculcates the same thing, repeats it, and as it were enforces it by a reason. The reason is this, He who hath the Spirit of God abides in God, and God in him: but he who hath charity hath the Spirit of God. Therefore he who hath charity abides in God and God in him. The major premiss is self-evident, because where the Spirit of God is, there is God Himself. But where God is, there He unites to Himself the subject in which He is, and by, as it were, the infinity of His Essence incorporates and absorbs it, so that the subject should be more in God than God in it. He therefore who hath experience in himself of the Spirit of God, i.e. of charity, this man feels God’s presence and liberality. He feels God to be in him and himself in God, in such wise that God is bestowing His gifts upon him, and printing His perfect image in him, according to the words, “he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12)
1Jn 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father hath sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.
And we have seen and do testify, &c. These words have reference to the 9th verse, where he saith that God hath shown His love to us by sending His Son. This he now proves and confirms by his own testimony, and that of the other Apostles. For they were the eye and ear witnesses, who saw, heard, and conversed with Christ Incarnate, as he said in the beginning of the Epistle.
This is an allusion to S. John’s Gospel (John 3:17). “For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.” Whence S. Bernard saith (de amor Dei, c. 8), “Christ Himself is our Love, by whom we attain to Thee, by whom we embrace Thee: for how otherwise, 0 incomprehensible Majesty, couldest Thou appear comprehensible to the soul that loveth Thee? For although no understanding of any soul or spirit can comprehend Thee, yet the love of the loving soul comprehends Thee wholly as thou art.”
1Jn 4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God.
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, &c. He here maintains the Divinity of Christ because Ebion, Cerinthus, and many others at that time impugned it. This is as it were a conclusion drawn from the preceding verse. As though he said, Christ is the Saviour of the world. Whosoever therefore believeth in Him, and stedfastly confesses His faith, God abideth in him, and he in God. He abides, I say, by a true, living faith and confession, which includes charity, and which works by love. As S. Augustine says, “Whosoever shall confess, not in word, but in deed, not in tongue, but in life. For many confess in words, but deny by their deeds.”
1Jn 4:16 And we have known and have believed the charity which God hath to us. God is charity: and he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him.
And we have know and have believed the charity which God hath to us. In these words (“know,” “believed”) S. John confirms and inculcates what he has said in the two preceding verses. His meaning is, “We have seen and do testify of Christ incarnate, who is the Love of God, because we know Him by experience and conversation to be really such. And we have believed in Him by faith. Therefore we have believed the love which God hath to us, i.e., towards us, because we have believed that God in his infinite love towards us hath given to us Christ the Saviour. The Vulg. has in us, but the Syriac translates towards us. (So also the Eng. Version.)
Observe: S. John moves in a circle. From God he leaps to Christ, from Christ to charity, from charity to love of our neighbour, from charity and love he returns to God, thence to Christ, and so on. For all these things have reference to this one point, that we should love one another. And this is his argument, God in His infinite charity hath loved us, i.e. all men, by giving Christ His Son for our salvation. Therefore it is just that we should imitate His charity, and answer to His love by loving our neighbours and doing good to them in His love, because we cannot do good to God Himself.
Observe: the Vulgate renders more significantly, we have trusted in the charity (credidimus chatitate) than it is in the Greek (we have believed the charity [credidimus charitatem]), signifying that we are joined to the love of God, not only by faith, but likewise by hope and charity. We have not only known, and by faith believed the mystery of the Incarnation, in which God’s peculiar love to us shines forth, but we have wholly trusted and committed ourselves to the Divine charity. We have fixed our whole faith, hope, and love upon it. We rest securely upon it in all things, certain that it can never fail us, and saying with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth which I desire in comparison of thee. God is the God of my heart, and my portion for eternity.”
God is love: the Syriac reads, for God is love, giving the reason why he had said, and we have believed the love, and why God hath love towards us. The reason is because God Himself by His Essence is love. Therefore He cannot deceive him who believes, hopes in, and loves Him.
Now the reason why God is essentially love is because He Himself in His Essence is pure, perfect, and highest goodness, whose nature it is to be plainly and fully communicative and diffusive of Himself. This, says S. Dionysius, is an attribute of love. For God is a sea of honey, an ocean of goodness and charity. God is as it were a fire always burning, kindling all things and transforming them into Itself. For “our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29.) Listen to S. Bernard (Serm. 83 in Cant.): “I read,” he says, “that God is love, not that He is honour, or dignity. It is not that God does not wish to be honoured, for He saith, ‘If I be a Father, where is My honour?’ Honour is the due of a father. But if he manifest Himself as a bridegroom, I think He will change His voice and say, ‘If I be a Husband, where is My love?’ For before this He had spoken, and said, ‘If I be a Master, where is My fear?’ God therefore requires to be feared as a master, to be honoured as a father, to be loved as a husband. What is it which shines pre-eminently amongst these? Surely it is love. Without love fear hath torment, and honour hath no grace. Fear is slavish until it be manumitted by love. And the honour which springs not from love is mere flattery. And indeed to God alone belong honour and glory: yet will He accept of neither unless they be flavoured with the honey of love.”
Therefore God is love, because love is as it were a spiritual flame, kindling all, and like light shining everywhere, and illuminating all things. Hence S. Dionysius (de Div. Nom. c. 24, part 1) says that “Divine love is a motive force drawing things upward to God, who alone is Himself of Himself beautiful and good.” On these words of S. Dionysius our Lessius comments thus (de Div. Attrib. lib. 9, c. 2 and 3): “For by this very thing that God beholds His own infinite beauty and excellence, there arises in Him an infinite fire of love, by which he loves them as they are worthy to be loved, i.e. with an absolutely infinite love. For that which is beautiful and good, as soon as it is perceived, kindles love. Wherefore what is infinitely beautiful and good, when it is infinitely known, will excite infinite love; infinite, I say, both as to its warmth, and as to its appreciation, or, as the Schoolmen say, infinite intensively and appreciatively. 2d. That which is beautiful and good extends Itself and descends to the creatures, that It may communicate the same to them, either fully, or else some of Its rays and adumbrations, according to each one’s capacity and merits. For of what we supremely love, we desire to make known to all the excellency and beauty, and that its sweetness should be perceived by all, so that all may praise it. Love does the same in God. A third effect of this love is that it raises creatures upward, and turns them to the beautiful and good. This especially obtains with angels and men: for other things cannot take in the Divine goodness and beauty. But in man other things are drawn in some way to God, both because all the other steps of nature are in him, and also because all other things are for him. 4th. The Divine love is ecstatic, because it draws the lover out of itself to the thing loved. For it causes God in a sense to forget His loftiness, and inclines Him to our humility, and makes Him to be wholly occupied in the business of our salvation. The token of which is the Incarnation, preaching, miracles, His passion, death, sacraments, the sending of the Holy Ghost, the perpetual and wonderful government of His Church, the care and direction of individuals. In like manner it sets man outside himself, making him think not of himself and his own advantage, but only of God, and the good things of God. Wherefore a great lover of God denies himself, renounces his own desires, is careless about benefits for himself; forgets himself, and is wholly taken up with the things of God. In thought and affection he is wholly outside of himself, and is translated to his beloved. Such was S. Ignatius the Martyr, who said, ‘My Love is crucified.’ Such was the Apostle S. Paul, who said, ‘To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ There is an illustrious figure of this in the sun. For in things corporeal the sun is the highest beauty and greatest. Wherefore S. Gregory Nazianzen in a certain place saith, ‘As is the sun in things sensible, so is God in things intellectual.’ From the sun heat descends to lower things. It descends also by light. And things are illuminated before they receive heat. Receiving heat they become light, and are carried up to the sky. The sun is an emblem of God, and light of wisdom, warmth of love, and earthly things of souls and spirits. Love descends from God by wisdom. For first the mind is enlightened by the knowledge of the Divine beauty and goodness: then through that knowledge it conceives love. Love conceived makes the soul spiritual, heavenly, and presently draws it upward, and unites it to God, and makes it like to Him, the only and eternal One, as it were a parhelion, which is an express image of the sun.”
And he that dwelleth in love, &c. And, i.e., therefore. For this is as it were the conclusion from the premisses. God is love, therefore he that remaineth in love, remaineth in God, because God and Love are one and the same thing. And God in him, as in a sort of temple of love.
Thus love has united God to man, not only in affection and care, but also effectually and substantially, by, in truth, an hypostatic union. But it unites man to God, so that, wholly departing out of himself, he passes into God, and as it were loses himself, no longer thinking of anything, understanding or feeling anything but God. Not seeking, or desiring any other thing, having joy in no other thing but the good things of God. He who is thus joined to God is made one spirit with Him, because he puts off himself, and puts on God. Wherefore, as if he was altogether transformed into the Divine nature, he is in thought and affection wholly in God. Thus all the Saints in heaven will be one with God (this the Lord prays for them, John 17:17-21.), because they all acknowledge their own nothingness, as they are in themselves, and value themselves at nothing, except so far as they belong to God, and are for Him. And in this way they altogether cease from themselves. For why should they abide in nothing? Thus by the intellect and the will they will be most powerfully borne to Him, and will be wholly in Him. And they will, as it were, flow into Him, and be transformed, feeling and tasting nothing else but God, valuing nothing but His good, altogether as if they themselves were changed into God. Listen to S. Augustine—He who dwelleth in love, &c.: “They dwell one in the other, both that which contains and that which is contained.” Again he saith, “Let God be thy house. be thou the house of God. Abide in God, and let God abide in thee. God abides in thee that He may contain thee. Thou abidest in God that thou mayest not fall. For thus speaks the Apostle of charity, ‘Charity never falls.’ How can he fall whom God holds?”
For this cause, namely for a symbol of love, Christ instituted, and left to us by His testament, His very Self in the Eucharist, that indeed He might remain in us, and we in Him, not by a figure, as the heretics say, but really, substantially, personally, according to the words, “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me and I in him.” (S. John 6:54.) The Eucharist therefore is the fuel and incentive of love, which S. John in his whole epistle commends. For by it, as S. Chrysostom says (Hom. 54 in Joan.), “Not only in love, but in reality let us be changed into that Flesh.” By the Food which he has bestowed upon us this is brought about. For when He would show His love towards us, by means of His Body He commingled Himself with us, and brought Himself to be one with us, that body might be united with body. For this is the great desire of lovers.” Pope Leo teaches the same thing. “The participation of the Body and Blood of Christ does this very thing, that we should pass into that which we receive.” Lastly, S. Cyril of Jerusalem says, “Thus we shall be Christophus, i.e., Christ-bearers, when we have received His Body and Blood into our members: and thus, as Blessed Peter saith, we shall ‘become partakers of the Divine nature.'” Wherefore S. Irenæus (lib. 5 c. 6), explaining a Thess 5:26, “that your whole spirit, soul, and body may be preserved,” declares that the perfect man is renewed by the Body and Soul (of Christ) and the Holy Ghost dwelling in him.
Beautifully does S. Bernard say (Serm. 71 in Song), “Who is he who is perfectly joined to God but he who remains in God, as beloved by God? He has drawn God to himself by loving Him again. Therefore since man and God are wholly united between themselves, they are united by a close and mutual, as it were, bosom affection. And that in this way God is in man, and man is in God, I say without any doubt. But man indeed has been eternally in God, as being eternally loved, but God has been in man since He has been loved (by man).” Herein is that saying of Cato true, “Those who love are in a manner dead in their own bodies, but live in another’s.” Therefore God by love willed to bring us back to our first beginning, to unite us, that is, to His own goodness and beauty, to transform us into Himself. This could not be done by nature, therefore He found a method whereby He might perfectly accomplish this by love, that by its warmth we might flow into and be absorbed in Him. As S. Bernard says (de Delig. Deo), “In that what is felt is wholly Divine, to be thus affected is to be deified. As a little drop of water infused in a great quantity of wine seems wholly to lose itself whilst also it takes the colour and flavour of wine. And as iron made red-hot in the fire becomes exactly like (fire), and ceases from its own original appearance. And as the atmosphere suffused with the solar light is transformed into the brightness, so that it seems to be not so much illuminated, as light itself. Thus it will be necessary that all human affection in the Saints should in an ineffable manner cease from itself, and be wholly transfused into the will of God.” This indeed will be perfectly accomplished in the glory of heaven, but it is begun on earth by charity and grace. The same S. Bernard (Serm. 83 in Cant.) says, “Love is its own merit, its own reward. Beyond itself it requires neither cause nor enjoyment. Its enjoyment is experience. I love because I love. I love that I may love. A mighty thing is love. Yet if it recur to its origin, if it be brought back to its beginning, if it flow back to its fountain-head, it can always take of itself that wherewith it may flow. Love is the only one of all the motions, senses, and affections of the soul in which the creature can, although not upon an equality, yet in some likeness, respond to its Creator.”
Moreover, God abiding by love in the faithful soul produces in it these effects. First, it purifies it from earthly desires, so that it only seeks for and accomplishes heavenly things. Thus king Josaphat, when he was converted by Barlaam, burned with so great a fire of love that he left his kingdom, in his pleasures and honours; and as he went away into solitude he exclaimed, “Like as the hart desireth the water brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, 0 God. My soul cleaveth unto Thee, 0 Christ. Let Thy right hand uphold me.” (Damas. Hist. cap. 37.)
2d. The soul draws all its powers, senses, affections, love, faculties, thoughts, intentions Godward, so that it thinks only of God, sighs for Him, according to those words of S. Basil, “Have continually imprinted in thee the remembrance of God, as it were an indelible mark.” For what does he seek for without who has God within?
3d. Love causes the soul to desire to do great and heroic things for God her beloved, and to endure many things, and to be made like unto Christ crucified. Thus while the Spouse saith in the Canticles, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His,” she also saith, “A bundle of myrrh is my Beloved unto me, He shall dwell between my breasts.” Which words S. Bernard explains thus (Serm. 43), “Myrrh is a harsh and bitter thing, and signifies the harshness of tribulations. Looking with joyfulness at such things impending over her for the sake of her Beloved, the Bride speaks thus, being confident that she can bravely endure them all. ‘The disciples,’ it says, ‘went with joy from the presence of the Council because they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name.’ Lastly, the Bride speaks not of a bunch, but a little bunch (fasciculus), of myrrh, because she reckons all labours and sorrows light in comparison with love. Truly ‘a little bunch,’ because ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’
4th. It causes the soul to increase in love day by day. Listen to S. Bonaventura speaking of the charity of S. Francis (Lib. 1, Vit. ejus): “As it were a living coal of fire he seemed altogether absorbed in the Divine love. For as soon as he heard speak of the love of the Lord he was affected, roused up, inflamed, as though the inner chord of his heart were struck by the bow of the voice. In the midst of beauty he beheld Him the most beautiful, and by means of His footsteps impressed on visible things He followed His Beloved everywhere, making of all things a ladder for himself by which he might mount up to apprehend Him who is altogether desirable.” And again, “He was inflamed with love towards the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body with a thrill in every pulse, being lost in utter amazement at that most loving condescension of the Divine love.”
In chap. 13 he treats of the sacred stigmata. “The furnace of the love of the Blessed Jesus had grown in him to lamps of fire and flames. Since therefore he was drawn to God by the ardour of seraphic desires, and was transformed into Him by the fellowship of His sufferings who, out of his exceeding love, willed to be crucified, he beheld a seraph having six burning and glorious wings. There appeared between the wings the likeness of one crucified. He understood from, this that he should be wholly transformed, not by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the inflaming of his mind into the likeness of Christ crucified. When the vision disappeared it left in his heart a marvellous ardour: in his flesh also it left a no less wonderful impress of the signs (of Christ crucified).”
5th. It causes the soul which is kindled with the love of God to be in earnest to kindle the whole world with the same love. Thus the Blessed Jacoponus, when he heard of some sin by which God was offended, burning with charity, was wont to be greatly troubled, and would straightway weep. When he was asked “why?” he would answer, “Because Love is not loved.” Love is burning and hath wings. There is no tarrying in love. As S. Bernard says, “Love is nothing else than a burning will for good. He therefore who hath no zeal hath no love.”
6th. It causes that the soul which loves God should, by its love and confidence in Him, as it were rule over Him, and obtain from Him everything it asks. Thus it becomes as it were almighty, as Jacob struggling with the angel, God’s vicar, prevailed over him, and so was called Israel, i.e. “ruling God.” Hence the paradox, “To a believer belongs the whole world of riches.” Wherefore S. Francis says, “Fly from the creatures, if you wish to possess the creatures.”
7th. God makes the loving soul like unto Himself in character and virtues, and so makes it to be conscious of His secrets. He reveals to it the secrets of hearts, and things distant, and yet to come, as He did to His Apostles and Prophets.
8th. This love tranquillises the soul, makes it calm and imperturbed, yea glad and joyful in adversity as well as prosperity. Thus it always exults in God, and gives Him thanks. It praises and blesses Him, singing with the Psalmist, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall ever be in my mouth” (xxxiv. 1). And it saith, “As oft as I breathe, I breathe unto Thee, 0 my God.”
Lastly, this love so increases in very eminent saints that it brings on a sort of languor, and at last death itself, according to the words of the Spouse (Song ii. 15), “Prop me up with flowers, support me with apples, for I am sick through love. His left arm shall be under my head, and His right arm shall embrace me.” Thus the Blessed Virgin, languishing and panting for her Son, breathed out her soul into His hands, not from any disease, but from love and desire of enjoying Christ her Son. So teach Suarez, Canisius, and others.
Ver. 17.—In this is the love of God perfected, that we should have confidence, &c. Conf. Greek παζζησίαν, i.e., liberty, boldness in speaking. 1st. In this, i.e., with this end and fruit. Perfect charity produces this result, viz., confidence in the day of judgment—both the particular and the general judgment. Hence the righteous desire the coming of the Lord, and desire like Paul to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. As S. Augustine says, “They live with patience, and die with delight.” John descends from charity to its fruits. Of these he enumerates thus: (1.) Confidence to live and die trustfully. (2.) That the loving soul becomes without fear. (3.) That she obtains of God whatever she asks.
2d. And more powerfully. In this, i.e., God hath loved us and doth love us to such a purpose, and we in our turn are so allured by this precious love that we fully and perfectly love Him back again. And He so abides, I say, in us, that when we shall be examined by Him in the day of judgment concerning charity, we shall answer with confidence that we have loved, not the world, but Him, with our whole heart, and therefore He will award us the bliss of heaven.
3d. Others explain the words in this as follows:—By this sign we know that we have perfect love, if casting fear away we can anticipate the judgment day with great hope and confidence. From hence S. Augustine draws this conclusion, “Therefore, brethren, take heed, strive inwardly with yourselves that ye desire the day of judgment. In no other way is charity proved to be perfect except when that day begins to be longed for.”
Because as He is, so are we in this world. Who is He? First, God, whom shortly before he had spoken of. It means—Therefore shall we have confidence in the day of judgment because we are in charity, and live in this world perfected in it, so that we love even our enemies. So too God in His perfect love makes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.
2d. And more profoundly: He, namely Christ, whom, as my love, I always carry in my mind and my mouth. For this reason, S. John when he says He is, means Christ. Moreover Christ is, i.e. in this world, as the Syriac version renders. And even now He is by the providence, charity, and friendship by which He dwells in the minds of His saints endowed with charity. The meaning then is this: As He, Christ, lived in this world holy and immaculate, and being full of the love of God, was, and is, dead to the world, and so abides in us; so let us, in imitation of Him, strive to live holily and without spot in this world. Yea, as being dead to the world, and always bearing about in our body with Paul the death of Christ, we are full of love even to our enemies, and abide in Christ. Therefore we have confidence that in the day of judgment we shall not be confounded, but shall be glorified. For we have that day ever before our eyes, and we daily dispose ourselves for it by works of charity and every kind of holiness. Yea, we pant for it, knowing that here we are pilgrims, and guests for a day; according to the words, “Everyone that has this hope, purifies himself in Him even as He is holy.”