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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O blessed charity, whereby we love God, choose God, run to God, and reach God, and possess Him! O charity, what further shall I say of you? I have called you our leader on the road to God, what if I call you further the road of God Himself? For truly, charity, you are His road. But you are not a road like other roads. I will no show you a more excellent road, (1 Cor 12:31) says Paul; for he was talking, charity, of you. You re the supremely excellent road, the best of roads, that straightens crooked paths and shows the straight. You are the origin of all straight roads, all straight roads lead from you and run back into you. For God’s commandments are His roads, and they all hang on you, and have their being in you. You are the plenitude of righteousness, the Law’s perfection, the fulfilment of virtue, the recognition of truth.

You, therefore, are a road, O charity. What sort of road? A road supremely excellent, that takes and guides the wayfarer, and brings him to his goal. Whose road are you? You are at once man’s road to God, and God’s to man. O blessed road, that knows no traffic save that of our salvation! You bring God down to men, you direct men to God. He comes down when He comes to us; we go up when we go to Him; yet neither He nor we can pass to the other, save by you. You are the mediator, reconciling the opposed, making the separated friends, and in a manner putting them, unequal as they are, on equal footing. You bring God low, and life us up, drawing Him down to the depths and exalting us to the heights. And yet you do this in such wise that His descent to us is tender and not mean, and our uplifting is not proud, but glorious. It is, therefore, a mighty power that you wield, O charity; for you alone could draw God down from heaven to earth.

How strong a bond yours is, whereby both God was able to be bound, and man, who was bound, broke the fetters of iniquity! I do not know that there is anything that I could say more to your praise than that you drew God down from heaven, and lifted man to heaven from the earth. Great is your might, that through you God should thus far be brought low, and man thus far exalted. I think of God, born of a woman, a wordless baby, swaddled, crying in a cradle, sucking at the breast. I see Him later, seized and bound, wounded with scourges, crowned with thorns, spattered with spittle, pierced, nailed, and given gall and vinegar to drink. First He bore indignities, and later outrages; and yet, if we look for the reason why He condescended to the one and bore the other, we find not any, except charity alone.

O charity, how much can you achieve? If you could do so much with God, how much more will you do with man? If God went through such great things for the sake of man, what, then, shall man refuse to bear for God?

But perhaps you conquered God more easily than you can conquer man; perhaps you can prevail with God more readily, because God’s obligation to be overcome by you is in proportion to His happiness in being overcome.[1] You had the wisdom first to conquer Him, the easier victor; when in obedience to yourself you had made Him come down from the throne of His Father’s glory to take on Him the weakness of our mortal state, you still had us, the rebels. You brought Him, bound with your chains and wounded by your arrows, that man might be more ashamed to offer you resistance, seeing how you had triumphed even against God. You wounded the Impassible, you bound the Invincible, you drew the Unchangeable, you made the Eternal mortal. All this you did to soften our hard hearts, to prick our dull susceptibilities, so that your arrows might pierce them the more easily as they shook off their torpor.

Nor did you this in vain, for many have been conquered thus by you, many already have given you their hand. Many already there are who bear your arrows sticking in their hearts, and want them to go in more deeply still. For they have been wounded in a lovely and sweet way, and they neither grieve nor blush to have received the wounded you give. O charity, great is your victory! You wounded first the One, and through Him subsequently you have conquered all.

[1] Sed fortassis facilius vicis Deum quam hominem, magis praevalere potes Deo quam homini, quia quo magis beatum, eo magis Deo est debitum a te superari. I give the Latin, because the last clause is obscure, and I may have got it wrong.

Forward to CHAPTER SIX