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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“Descend on us, therefore, O sweet and lovely charity, enlarge our heart and widen our desire, extend the vessel of our mind, increase the space within the dwelling of our heart, so that it may be big enough to hold God as its Guest and its Inhabitant.” So concludes Hugh of St Victor’s meditation, De Laude Caritatis. In Hugh’s ascetical system as a whole we find a “complete, integrated Christian life,” wrote Martin Thornton—one that maintains the affective-speculative synthesis so necessary to the English School of Catholic spirituality, yet usually emphasizes the latter aspect. “According to his teaching, the universe is symbolic of the mind of God,” Thornton wrote in The Purple Headed Mountain. To meditate, for Hugh, is to read—whether words in a book, or flowers in a garden—and then allow their inner meaning to be absorbed by the mind. All of creation is the Book of Nature.
Called a “second Saint Augustine,” Hugh had “a unique ability to put theological, especially Trinitarian, speculation to practical, even pastoral use” (Boyd Taylor Coolman, Trinity and Creation, p. 27). While there is an intellectual element in his thinking, including the treatise herein, it is not in any strict sense discursive. Along with the Cistercian Fathers—although in many illuminating respects, quite distinct—Hugh and his fellow Canons Regular were patristic, monastic, rational, affective but not cloyingly sentimental, and non-scholastic. At all times, even when bathing in rich imagery, Hugh throws us to prayer.
“Our progress is from the many to the One,” he concludes in De Amore Sponsi ad Sponsam, an interpretation of three verses of The Song of Songs, inviting us anew to that potent, yet of late overlooked, book of Scripture. May Hugh guide us, in charity, toward Unity with God.
Father Matthew C. Dallman
Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary, 2016
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