ON CONTEMPLATING GOD

William of Saint Thierry


Translated from the Latin by
Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker





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VII

with what love god loves us


1. We for our part, Lord, love Thee through a power and disposition to love which Thou hast bestowed on us. For Thou dost create all such good powers and affections, as well as the souls which come under their sway. Is it possible for Thee to love those Thou lovest, with only a passing infatuation? Canst Thou, the Maker of all men and all things, be affected by anything, in any way? To think so would be absurd, and it would be against faith, for the Creator of all is free from all sort of defect. How then dost Thou love us if not with love> But Thy goodness and Thy love are the same thing, O God. They are the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. From the very beginning He brooded over the waters, (Gen 1.2) over the minds of men as they tossed this way and that. And from the first moment of time, He has offered Himself as a gift and blessing to all, while He draws all things to Himself and brings God close to us, joining us in love to God. He does this by pouring His grace into us, filling us with a heartfelt desire, warding off evil and temptation—in fact, He provides everything useful, everything needful. IN this way Thy Holy Spirit produces the charity of God in us. Through that charity He can make Himself one with us, for He is the love and unity and will of the Father and Son. He lives in us by grace and unites us to God by the good will which He inspires in us. The strength of this good will is called love in us; by it, we love what we are bound to love—God—for love is nothing but an ardent and well-disposed will. And so Thou dost love Thyself in Thyself, Lord, when from the Father and Son proceeds the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father. This love is so intense that it is unity, and so complete is the unity that it is consubstantiality. And Thou lovest Thyself in us when Thou sendest the Spirit of Thy Son into our hearts. In the sweetness of love, and in the ardent good will which you inspire in us, He cries: Abba, Father. In this way Thou makest us love Thee, or rather, in this way Thou lovest Thyself in us. Before, we could only live in hope, and we could only do that because we knew Thy name, and because as true lovers of Thy name we boasted of Thee. But now, because Thy grace has been poured into us, and because we have received the spirit of adoption, we know that whatever the Father has is ours. And now, too, because the Spirit we have received is the Spirit of adoption, we can call on Thee by the same name as Thine only Son by nature uses.

2. All these blessings are from Thee. They are gifts of Thy love, because to love and to give us blessings are the same thing for Thee. Whatever gifts are worth having, whatever endowments are perfect of their kind, these come to us from Thee, the Father of all that gives light. And because they are from Thee, Thou lovest Thyself in us just as Thou lovest us in Thyself, when we love Thee by means of this great gift of Thine, and when our love joins us to Thee. And as has been said, we are made sharers in that prayer of Christ, Thy Son: "I wish that as I and Thou are one, so may they also be one in Us." (Jn 17.11, 21.) For we are Thy offspring, O Lord; we are the offspring of God, as the Apostle says, (Acts 17.28; Verse quoted from 'Phenomena' of Aratus, a poet of Tarsus, Paul's own city; there is a similar passage in the hymn of Cleanthes the Stoic) keeping the pagan poet's words, but changing their meaning. We are gods and we are all sons of the Most High. We claim this intimate affinity with Thee in virtue of Thy spiritual parenthood, since Thy son did not disdain to take the same name as we ourselves, by the spirit of adoption. Directed by saving precepts and schooled in divine teaching, we make bold to say with Him and through Him, "Our Father, Who art in heaven." And so Thou lovest us to the degree in which we receive Thy Spirit. He is Thy Love, and He occupies and possesses every corner of our affections. He transforms us into the purity of Thy truth, and the truth of Thy purity, in perfect conformity with Thy love. This procudes so strong a cleaving and so much enjoyment of Thy sweetness, that Thy son called it unity, praying "that they may be one in Us." He added, moreover, "as I and Thou are one," signifying the joy, the glory, the riches and the pride we experience in our union with Him. For ever wisdom has a special kind of pride when it says, "Mine are riches, glory, glorious riches and justice." (Prov 8.18.)


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