Because he is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our supreme happiness for time and eternity. All sanctity as well as all perfection consists in loving Jesus Christ, our God, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sovereign Good and happiness. Whoever loves me, says Jesus Christ, shall be loved by my Father. "My Father loves you, because you have loved me." (John xvi., 27.) "Some," says St. Francis de Sales, " make perfection consist in austerity, others in prayer, others in the frequentation of the sacraments, and others in alms-giving. But they are all mistaken. Perfection consists in loving God with our whole heart." "Charity," says the Apostle, "is the bond of perfection." (Colos. iii., 14.) It unites and preserves all the other virtues. Love God, says St. Augustine, and do what you please ; for love will teach you to do nothing that could offend God, but, on the contrary, to do every thing that will please him. And does not God deserve all our love? He has loved us from all eternity. (Jer. li., 5.) Children of men, says the Lord, remember that I have loved you first. You were not yet in the world the world itself did not yet exist, and even then I loved you. As long as I am God I love you, and I have loved you as long as I have loved myself. St. Agnes was then right in saying to the young noble man who asked her hand in marriage : "My heart already belongs to another. No creature can henceforth have any claim upon it all my affections belong to my God, who has loved me first, and from all eternity." God wishing to gain man by kindness, was pleased to load him with favors, in order to win his love. I will bind him, says God, with chains of love. (Osee xi. 7 4.) These chains are the gifts which God has bestowed on man. He has given him a soul, created after his own image, gifted with memory, understanding, and will, and a body endowed with senses. It was for the love of man that God created the heavens, the earth, the sea, the mountains, the valleys, the plains, minerals, vegetables, animals of so many species, in a word all nature, and in return for so many benefits, God requires only from man his love. "O Lord, my God" says St. Augustine, "every thing that I behold on earth, and above the earth, speaks to me and exhorts me to love thee, because every thing tells me that it was created by thee and created for my benefit."
The Abbot de Ranee, the reformer of La Trappe, never looked at the hills, the fountains, the birds, the flowers, or the heavens, without feeling his soul inflamed with the love of God. Whenever St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi beheld a flower, the love of God was enkindled in her heart and she cried
out : "It was for love of me that God resolved from all eternity to create this flower !" This thought was a dart of love which penetrated her heart, and united it every day more intimately with God. St. Teresa, at the sight of a tree, a rivulet, a meadow, or fountain, reproached herself for loving God so little, though he had created all those beautiful objects to gain her love. A pious solitary, imagining that he heard the same reproaches from the herbs and flowers which he met on his walks, was wont to say to them : "You call me an ungrateful creature you tell me that it was through love of me God created you, and that, nevertheless, I do not love him. I understand you be silent, and do not reproach me any more. "God, not content with having created for us so many wonderful things, has done still more in order to gain our love, he has given us himself. The eternal Father has given us his only -begotten Son. (John iii., 1G.) We were all dead in sin. An excess of love, as the apostle says, induced God to send us his dearly-beloved Son to discharge our debts, and to restore us the life of grace (Ephes. ii., 4, 5.) by giving us his Son. In order to spare us, he did not spare his dearly-beloved Son. With his divine Son he has given us all things (Rom. viii., 32.) ; his grace, his love, his kingdom, for all these things are incomparably less than his only-begotten Son.
The Son of God was also entirely given us through love (Gal. ii., 2.) ; and, in order to redeem us from eternal death, and to restore to us the grace and heaven which we had forfeited, He was made man. (John i., 14.) He humbled himself. (Philipp. ii., 7.) The Sovereign of the Universe humbled himself, so as to take the form of a servant, and to subject himself to all human miseries. But what is most astonishing is, that though he could have saved us without suffering and dying he? nevertheless, chose torments, death, contempt, and a cruel ignominious death, the death of the cross. (Philipp. ii., 8.)
And why did Jesus, without necessity, deliver himself up to these torments ? It was, because he loved us, and wished to show us the entire extent of his love, by suffering for us what no one has ever yet endured. St. Paul inflamed with the love of Jesus said : The charity of Christ presses us. (2 Cor. v., 14.) He means to say that it is not so much what Jesus Christ has suffered for us, as the love which he has displayed in his sufferings, that should oblige and almost force us to love him. "To know that Jesus Christ has died on the cross for love of us" says St. Francis de Sales, "is sufficient to press our hearts with a love, whose violence is as sweet as it is powerful." The love which Jesus Christ had for us was so great that it made him long for the hour of his death, in order to make it known to all men. I have to be baptized in my own blood, he said, and how I long for the hour when I can show to men the great love I have for them.(Luke xii., 50.)
St. John, speaking of our Saviour's Passion, says that our Lord called this hour, his own hour (John xiii., 1.), because he desired nothing so much as the moment of his death; for it was then that he wished to give men the last proof of his love by dying for them on the cross. But what could have induced God to die, between two thieves, on an infamous gibbet? It was love, infinite love. No wonder that St. Francis of Paula cried out so often on beholding a crucifix: "O Love! Love!" Animated by the same spirit, we, too, should cry out when we behold Jesus on the cross: "Love! infinite Love!" Who would believe, if faith did not assure us, that an all powerful God, the Master of all things, and supremely happy in himself that such a God could love man so much that he seems to act as if he were beside himself. "We have seen wisdom itself," says St. Lawrence Justinian "we have seen the Eternal Word become foolish with the excessive love which he bears to men." St.
Mary Magdalen de Pazzi said the same thing one day, while in an ecstacy. Taking a crucifix in her hands she cried out : "lt my Jesus, thy love for me has even made thee foolish. Yes, I say it, and always will say it, love has made thee foolish." "But no," replies St.Denis the Areopagite, "no, it is not foolishness; it is the property of divine love to induce him who loves to give himself up entirely to the object of his love."
No one can conceive how ardently this fire of love burns in the heart of Jesus Christ. If, instead of dying once, he had been required to die a thousand times, his great love would have made the sacrifice. If, instead of dying for all men, he had been required to die for the salvation of only one, he would have cheerfully submitted. In fine, if, instead of remaining three hours upon the cross, he had been required to remain there until the day of judgment, he would have willingly consented, for the love of Jesus Christ was far greater than his sufferings. divine love ! how much more ardent you are than you seem to be exteriorly ! It is true indeed, my Jesus ! that thy blood and thy wounds give proof of a great love but they do not show us its entire extent. These exterior signs are slight indeed, when compared with the immense fire of love that inwardly consumes thee. The greatest mark of love is to give one s life for his friends ; but even this mark of love was not sufficient to express all the love of Jesus Christ. "God is love."; This is the language in which every thing speaks to us in heaven and on earth. But nothing in heaven or on earth speaks this in such burning words as the Mystery of Love the Blessed Eucharist, the last legacy of love. True love knows no bounds, feels no burden, cares for no hardship. It believes that it may and can do all things. Such is true love; such is the love of Jesus Christ. To gain our love he thinks that he may and can do all things. Hence those strange abasements, those mysterious humiliations of the God-Man, in presence of which reason is astounded, the senses revolt, the heart is terrified, and unbelief repeats its ceaseless question:"How is this possible?" But a voice proceeds from the altar, and that voice answers us: "It is thus that God has loved the world."
The pretended impossibilities of faith are nothing else than the ineffable condescensions of a God who loves us as God; the height, the breadth, the depth of all the mysteries of our holy faith, are but the height, the breadth, and the depth of the charity of Jesus Christ. His blood, which was shed to the last drop, is His title to the most beautiful of all royalties, the royalty of love. His crown of thorns is the diadem of love. His crib, and cross, and altar, are the thrones of love, and the holy reception of his body and blood is the banquet of love.
We read in Holy Scripture that King Assuerus, to manifest the riches and glory of his kingdom, made a solemn feast which lasted a hundred and forescore days. Jesus Christ, the king of kings, has also vouchsafed to manifest the riches of his treasures, and the majesty of his glory in a feast worthy of his greatness, it is the heavenly banquet of Holy Communion in which he gives himself entirely to us. This heavenly feast is not confined to the short space of a few days like that of King Assuerus. It has already lasted more than eighteen hundred years. We partake of it every day, and it will continue even to the end of the world. "Come" claims the royal prophet, "come and behold the works of God, the prodigious things he has wrought upon earth." (Ps. xlv.; 9.)
How admirable are the wisdom and depth of his counsels! How wonderful are the means which God's love uses for the salvation of men! The Incarnation was a miracle of divine love and wisdom so vast and so deep that the human mind can never fathom it. The passion and death of our Lord gives us an awful and unspeakable illustration of divine love. The last legacy of the love of Jesus combines both those mysteries in one mystery so stupendous that the very conception of it overwhelms the soul. "Having loved his own, he loved them to the end" and, in the fullness of that love, the end was the grandest illustration of his unutterable love.
Let us seat ourselves in spirit at the Last Supper in the midst of our Lord s disciples. The shadow of parting is on the festivity, and the words of our dear Lord are words of tenderness, but also of farewell. "I will not leave you orphans," he says, "I will come to you." (John xiv.,18.) "And now, Father, I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Preserve them in thy name, whom thou hast given to me, that like us, they may be one." And then turning to his disciples with all the love of a fond father, he says: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Love one another as I have loved you."
Now, at the last hour, the last time that he was to be hold his beloved apostles assembled, the last time that he was to exhort and encourage them before going through the dark realm of death, he thought of the perfect gift and blessing, the richest and most precious inheritance, the most inestimable of all things that love ever conceived or bestowed. Jesus, our Father, in leaving us, wished to combine, in one institution so much love and charity, that man, on beholding it, could no longer withhold his affection. Our dear Lord said: "I will unlock the barred gates of Paradise, I will place again in the midst of it the Tree of Life," that he who eateth of it may not die" And the angels shall minister to the being with whom I become one, and he shall shine with a brilliancy that even the Father will admire, a brilliancy that will attract him and the Holy Ghost to come thither and abide. And thus I shall make the soul of my beloved a temple, and a throne; and a heaven, and I will dwell there for evermore. Ponder well, my soul, this awful privilege union with
Christ. The Lord of heaven is your guest ; he is made one with you, as two pieces of wax are melted into each other. We become one with God ! One with the eternal ! One with the most Holy ! Oh, how little and vain are all the honors and treasures of this world when compared with the overwhelming dignity of being one with God ! How can we ever lose sight of the sublime thought.
"This is life eternal to know thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." It is" life eternal" to know Jesus" in the breaking of bread," in the Blessed Sacrament.
As soon as we are one with him, we share in what he possesses : we enjoy his happiness, we live his own immortal life ! "He who eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him, and I will raise him up on the last day." (St. John.) "So dearly has God loved the world that he has given his only-begotten Son to be the life of the world." "God is love," and this sweet Sacrament is the mystery of his love. It was on the eve of his Passion, the very night when men were plotting his ruin, when they decided to condemn him to a most shameful death, that Jesus left us this living pledge of his love. He did not leave a memorial of bronze or marble, as the great ones of this world leave behind them no, he left his own living, lifegiving Body and Blood he left himself. Did not God tell us long ago by the mouth of his prophet, that his delight was to be with the children of men ? Did he not assure us with his own blessed lips, "That he would not leave us orphans, but that he would be with us always, even to the end of the world ?" "God is love." He loves us with an infinite love. He has given us this earth, he has given us heaven; but all this does not satisfy his love. He gives us himself, his body and blood, his soul and divinity. No wonder that God complains : "What more could I do for thee, beloved soul, than I have done?"
Yes, in this Sacrament, God has exhausted his Omnipotence; for, though he is all-powerful, he cannot do more for us than he has done. He has exhausted his infinite wisdom, for though he is all- wise, he cannot invent a more wonderful proof of his love. He has exhausted his infinite wealth for in this Sacrament he has poured out all the treasures of his unfathomable love. God is love, arid he gives himself to us in the disguise of love. What an act of charity to a poor weak-sighted mortal to hide the dazzling light from his eyes ! and what loving kindness in our dear Lord to hide his dazzling splendor from our weak, sinful souls ! Were he to appear in his glory, who is there that could look upon him and live ? If we look into the sun but for a moment, we are blinded by its brightness, how then could we gaze upon the unveiled splendors of the Eternal Son of Justice The prophet Daniel saw only an angel, and he fainted away ; how then could we bear the sight of the King of angels ? When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, where he had been conversing with God, his face shone with such unearthly lustre that the people could not look upon him. He had to veil his face so that all might see him and speak to him. Now, if men were unable to look upon the face of a man, how shall we be able to look upon the face of God ?
The Apostles beheld on Mount Thabor but a faint glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and they fell prostrate on the ground. St. John, while in Patmos, beheld only in a vision the glory of Jesus, and he fell to the ground as if dead. How then can we, poor, weak sinners, bear to gaze on the entire fullness of the splendors of God s infinite Majesty ? Oh, what loving goodness then in Jesus, our Lord, to hide his glory behind the veils of the Sacrament, that we may approach him and speak to him without fear, as a child to its father, as a friend to a friend ! Our divine Redeemer took many forms to attract the love of man. That God, who is unchangeable, appeared at one time as a little babe in a crib, at another as an exile in Egypt ; now he appears as a docile child among the Doctors of the Law, and again as an apprentice in the workshop of St. Joseph : now he appears as a servant in the house of Nazareth, and again as a good shepherd, seeking the lost sheep of Israel; now he is the physican of body and soul, curing diseases, and forgiving sins, and again he appears as a malefactor, bleeding to death on the cross ; now he is the conqueror of death and hell, the glorious king of heaven and earth, and finally he shows himself as bread upon the altar.
Jesus chose to exhibit himself to us in these various guises, but whatever character he assumed, it was always that of a lover. Is it not strange that God who is so good, so amiable, should be forced to have recourse to so many stratagems to win our love ? He commands us to love him, he promises heaven if we obey, and he threatens with the flames of hell if we refuse. To win our love he has, as it were, annihilated himself. He annihilated himself in the Incarnation, but he has gone even still farther in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Ah ! my Lord, canst thou devise any thing else to make thyself loved ? "Make known his inventions," exclaims the prophet Isaias. (Xii., 4.) Go, O redeemed souls ! go and publish everywhere the loving devices of this loving God the devices which he has planned and executed to win our love. After lavishing so many of his gifts upon us, he has been pleased to bestow himself, and to bestow himself in so wonderful a manner.
If a king speaks a confidential word to one of his vassals, if he smiles upon him, how honored and happy does that vassal consider himself! How much more honored and happy would he be were the king to seek his friendship, were he to request his company every day at table, were he to assign to him an abode in his own palace ! Ah ! my King, my beloved Jesus, thou hast come down from heaven, and still daily comest down upon earth to be with men as thy brothers, and to give thyself wholly to them from the excess of the love thou bearest them ! "He loved us, and delivered himself up for us." "Yes," exclaims St. Augustine, "this most loving and most merciful God, through his love to man, chose to give him not only his goods, but even his very self." The affection which this sovereign Lord entertains towards us sinful creatures, is so immense that it induced him to give himself wholly to us. He was born for us, he lived for us, he died for us, he even offers up his life and all his blood for us every day in the Mass.
O power of divine love! The greatest of all has made himself the lowest of all ! Love triumphs even over God. God, who can never be conquered by any one, has been conquered by love ! What breast so savage as not to soften before such a God of love on the altar; what hardness will such love not subdue, what love does it not claim ? Thus he would appear and stay with us, who wished to be loved and not feared. Even the very brutes, if we do them a kindness, if we give them some trifle, are grateful for it. They come near us, they do our bidding after their own fashion, and show signs of gladness at our approach. How comes it, then, that we are so ungrateful towards God the same God who has bestowed his whole self upon us, who descends every day upon our altars to become the food of our souls !
Love is the loadstone of love. If you wish to be loved, you must love. There is no more effectual means to secure the affections of another than to love him and to show him that you love him. Ah! my Jesus, this rule holds good for others, holds good for all,but not for thee ! Men are grateful to all, but not to thee. Thou art at a loss what more to do, to show men the love thou bearest them. Thou hast positively nothing more left to do to allure the affections of men, and yet how many are there among men who really love thee! Ah ! God has not deserved such treatment from us ! man, whoever thou art, thou hast witnessed the love which God has borne thee in becoming man, in suffering and dying for thee, and in giving himself to thee as food. How long will it be before God shall know, by experience and by deeds, the love thou bearest him ! Indeed, every man at the sight of God clothed in flesh, and choosing a life of such durance, and a death of such ignominy, choosing to dwell a loving prisoner in our churches, every one, I say, ought to be enkindled with love towards so loving a God. "Oh ! that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down,
the mountains would melt away at thy presence, the waters would burn with fire." (Isai. Ixiv. 1-2.) It was thus the prophet cried out before the arrival of the Divine Word upon earth. Oh ! that thou wouldst deign to leave the heavens and to descend upon earth and become man amongst us ! On beholding thee like one of themselves the mountains would melt away : that is, men would surmount all obstacles, all difficulties in the way of observing thy laws and thy counsels the waters would burn with fire ! Surely, thou wouldst enkindle such a furnace of love in the human heart, that even the most frozen souls would catch the flame of thy blessed love ! And, in truth, after the Incarnation of the Son of God, how brilliantly has the fire of divine love shone in many souls ! It may be asserted without fear of contradiction that God was more loved in one century after the coming of Jesus Christ than in the entire four centuries preceding. How many youths, how many nobles, how many monarchs have abandoned wealth, honor and power, and sought the desert and the cloister, in order to give themselves up unreservedly to the love of their Saviour ? How many martyrs have gone rejoicing to torments and to death ! How many tender virgins have refused the proffered hand of the great ones of this world, in order to live and die for Jesus Christ, and thus repay, in some measure, the affection of a God who loved them to such excess !
It is said that when the Gospel was announced to the Japanese, while they were being instructed on the sublimity, the beauty and the infinite amiability of God, on the great mysteries of religion, on all that God has done for man how God was born in poverty, how God suffered and died for their salvation, they exclaimed in a transport of joy and admiration: "Oh! how great, how good, how amiable, is the God of the christians !" When they heard that there was an express command to love God, and a threatened punishment for not loving Him, they were surprised. "What!" said they, "a command given to reasonable men to love that God who has loved us so much? Why, is it not the greatest happiness to love Him, and the greatest of misfortunes not to love Him? What! are not the christians always at the foot of the altars of their God, penetrated with a deep sense of His goodness, and inflamed with His holy love?" And when they were told that there were christians who not only did not love God, but even offended and outraged Him, "O unworthy people! O ungrateful hearts!" exclaimed they with indignation : "Is it possible? In what accursed land dwell those men devoid of hearts and feelings?"
To be continued . . . . . .