The Divine Love
The two treatises De Laude Caritatis and
De Amore Sponsi ad Sponsam

Hugh of St Victor

Translated by A Religious of C.S.M.V.
Edited by Matthew C. Dallman

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I will speak, He says, to My bride. God has two ways of speaking to a soul. He speaks in one way to the harlot, and in another to the bride; in one way to the foul, and in another to the fair; in one way to the sinner, and in another to her who has been rendered righteous.[1] He rebukes the foulness of the one, and praise the other’s beauty. He shakes the one with fear by His rebuke, and He inflames the other by His praise to love. He speaks to the one, when He shows her her stains; He speaks to the other, when He reminds her of the gifts that He has given her. He enlightens the darkness of the one, that she may know herself for what she is, and bewail what she has done; He touches the other with the sense of inward sweetness, so that she may reflect on what she has received, and not forget the Giver.

I will speak, He says, to My bride. It is as though He said, “If I then am the Bridegroom, and I have spoken to the bride, know that I can speak nothing but love.” So after the Bridegroom has spoken thus with Himself, He forthwith set out upon His journey; and, when He arrived and saw the bride, moved as it were to admiration by her beauty, He broke out in these words:

Thou art all fair, My neighbour![2]
Thou art all fair, My friend!

Or you can take that with what precedes it; in which case we shall read, I will say to My bride, Thou art all fair, My neighbour, and so forth. But Thou art all fair, My neighbour is best taken thus: “thou art all fair, because thou art My neighbour”—that is, very near to Me; “if thou wert not very near, thou wouldest not be altogether fair.”

Consider why He says Thou art all fair, My neighbour. Every soul is either turned away from God, or turned towards Him. But of those who are turned away, one is far from Him, and another very far. And of those who are turned towards Him also, one is near, and another is very near. The soul that is far from Him is indeed ugly, but not completely so; but the soul that is farthest or very far from Him is altogether ugly. In the same way the soul that is near Him is fair, but not completely so; and the soul that is nearest, very near to Him, is altogether so.

Thou art all fair, My neighbour; there is no spot in thee. A man is altogether fair when nothing is lacking to his beauty. He is altogether ugly when nothing is lacking in his hideousness. “I am altogether fair,” the Bridegroom says, “for all beauty is in Me. Thou art altogether fair, for in thee is no ugliness at all; there is no spot in thee.”

[1] I.e., “justified” in the theological sense.
[2] “Neighbour” is proxima, meaning literally she who is nearest, or very near.