St. Philip Neri said that so much of our love as we fix upon creatures we take away from God; and, therefore, our Saviour, as St. Jerome wrote, is jealous of our hearts.1 As he himself has loved us so abundantly, he desires to reign alone in our hearts, and to have no companions there, who may rob him of a portion of that love which he desires to have wholly to himself; and, therefore, it displeases him to see us attached to any affection which is not for him. And does our Saviour ask too much; after having given his own blood and life, dying for us upon a cross? Does he not deserve to be loved by us with all our hearts, and without reserve?
St. John of the Cross said, that every attachment to creatures hinders us from belonging wholly to God. Who will give me the wings of a dove, that I may flee away and be at rest?2 says the Psalmist. There are souls that are called by God to become saints, but that, coming to him with reserve, and not giving him their whole love, retain some affection for earthly things, and thus never become, and never will become, holy. They fain would fly, but being held down by some attachment, they can not, but remain fixed upon earth. We must, therefore, strip ourselves of everything. Every thread, says the same St. John, whether great or small, hinders the soul from flying to God.
St. Gertrude once prayed to the Lord that he would teach her what he would have her to do. The Lord answered, I desire nothing from thee but a devoted heart.3 And it was this which David sought from God, Create in me a clean heart, O God!4 O my God! give me a pure heart; that is, emptied and stripped of every earthly affection.
“All for all,”5 wrote Thomas a Kempis. To gain all, we must give all. To possess God, we must leave all that is not God. Then the soul can say to to the Lord, “My Jesus, I have left all for Thee; now give Thyself wholly to me.” To attain this, we must not cease to beg of God that he would fill us with his holy love. Love is that mighty fire that burns up in our hearts every affection that is not for God. St. Francis de Sales said that when a house is in flames, we throw all the furniture out of the windows;6 by which he meant that when a soul is inflamed, and the divine love takes possession of it, it has no need of sermons or spiritual directors to detach it from the world; the love of God itself will cleanse the heart, and despoil it of every impure desire.
Holy love is introduced in the Canticles under the symbol of a cellar of wine: The king brought me into the wine-cellar; he created love within me.7 In this blessed cell the souls that are the brides of Christ, inebriated with the wine of holy love, lose all sense for the things of the world, admire God alone, in all things seek God alone, speak only of God, and desire to think only of God; and when they hear others speak of riches, dignities, pleasures, they turn to God and say to him, with a burning sigh, My God, and my all!8 What a world, what pleasures, what honors! Be Thou all my joy, all my contentment. St. Teresa wrote, when speaking of the prayer of union with God, that this union consists in dying to all worldly things, in order to possess nothing but God.9
That a soul may give itself wholly to God, three means are especially necessary: 1. The avoidance of all defects, even the very least, accompanied with conquests over every inordinate desire, such as an abstinence from observing such and such an object of sight or hearing, from certain little pleasures of sense, from certain witty or unnecessary conversations, and such-like; 2. Among things which are good, the constant choice of those that are the best and the most pleasing to God; and 3. The receiving with peace of mind and thanksgiving, from the divine hands, all things that are displeasing to our self-love.
O my Jesus, my love, my all! how can I see Thee dying upon a shameful cross, despised by all, and consumed by anguish, and then go and seek earthly pleasures and glories? I would be wholly Thine. Forget the offences I have committed against Thee, and receive me. Teach me to know from what things I ought to separate myself, and what I must do to please Thee--all this I desire to do. Give me strength to follow Thy will, and to be faithful to Thee. O my beloved Redeemer! Thou willest that I should give myself to Thee without reserve, that I may unite myself wholly to Thy heart. Behold, this day I give myself wholly to Thee, without reserve, every thing that I am; from Thee I hope for grace to be faithful even to death. O Mother of God, and my own Mother Mary! obtain for me the grace of holy perseverance.
1“Zelotypus est Jesus.” -- Ad Eustoch. De cust. virginit.
2“Quis dabit mihi pennas sicut columbæ, et volabo, et requiescam?” -- Ps. liv. 7.
3Insin. l. 4, c. 26.
4“Cor mundum crea in me, Deus.” -- Ps. l. 12.
5“Totum pro toto.” -- Imit. Chr. b. 3, c. 37.
6Spirit, p. 3. ch. 27.
7“Introduxit me in cellam vinariam, ordinavit in me charitatem.” -- Cant. ii. 4.
8Deus meus, et omnia.
9Interior Castle, dem. 5, ch. I.