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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CHARITY BOTH GOD AND GIFT OF GOD
O charity, I have praised you as best I could, and I am wondering if there be some better thing that I could add in praise of you. For I do not know whether it is a greater thing to say that you are God, or to say that you have conquered God. If the first be greater, then gladly and with boldness will I say this too that God is charity, and he that dwelleth in charity dwelleth in God, and God in him (1 Jn 4:16). Listen, O man, if you are still disposed to think it a small thing to have charity, listen; I tell you, God is charity. Is it a small thing to have God dwelling in oneself? It is a so great thing to possess charity, because charity is God. It is the exclusive prerogative of charity thus to be called God, so that He can be coupled with nothing else in the same way. We do not say, for instance, that God is humility, or God is patience, in the same way that we say that God is charity; because, though every virtue is the gift of God, it belongs to charity alone to be called not only the gift of God, but God.
Charity is the gift of God, however, for this reason: that the Holy Ghost is given by God to the faithful, and charity is God, because the same Spirit is consubstantial and co-eternal in the selfsame Godhead with Him by Whom He is given. God, then, bestows the other gifts of grace even on those of whom He disapproves; but He keeps charity, as being His own self, for the peculiar reward of those He loves.
Charity is therefore the unique fountainhead, wherein the stranger has no share; for, as we said, even those who are estranged from God by reason of their wicked life sometimes receive the other gifts of grace. But a bad man cannot have charity; and whoever has got it is not yet a stranger to God, but dwells him God, and God in him.
Charity so utterly belongs to God that He Himself will have no dwelling where charity is not. If any man love Me, he says, he will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23) If charity is with you, therefore, God has come to you, and He is dwelling in you; if you depart from charity, He also goes away and does not stay with you. If you have never had charity, God has never come to you, nor dwelt with you. If you have given up the charity you once began to have, He has departed from you. If you have gone on with charity as you began, God is with you, and is remaining with you.
Forward to CHAPTER SEVEN