MONDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE ASCENSION
ON THE EXCELLENCE OF FRATERNAL CHARITY
Consider first, that charity is the queen of virtues and the most excellent of them all, according to the doctrine of the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. 13, and this, not only as she loves God in himself but also as she loves him in our neighbours, by loving them for his sake; for, as the motive is the same in both these loves, so the virtue is the same. Hence St. Peter calls upon all Christians, 1 Peter iv. 8, ‘Before all things have a constant mutual charity; for charity covereth a multitude of sins.’ And St. Paul, Colos. iii. 14, ‘Above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection .’ He adds, Rom. viii. 8,10, ‘that the love our neighbours is the fulfilling of the law and commandments of God,’ and Gal. v. 14, ‘that all the law is fulfilled in this one word, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Hence also St. John, the beloved disciple, both in his words and in his writings, continually inculcated this duty of loving each other, as the favourite virtue of Jesus Christ, and in a manner the whole duty of a Christian. O my soul, let us then embrace with all our affections this amiable virtue, this chief favourite of Christ and his saints; let us value it as an in estimable treasure, and be ever willing rather to lose any thing else than this blessed charity.
Consider 2ndly, that we may with truth apply to charity what the wise man writes of wisdom that ‘all good things come to him together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands,’ Wisd. vii. 11. What these riches are that come through the hands of charity, we learn from the apostle, 1 Cot. xiii. 4, &c. ‘Charity is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own (that is, she is not selfish,) she is not provoked to anger, she thinketh no evil, she rejoiceth not in iniquity, (that is, in any thing that is wrong,) but rejoiceth with truth, (being pleased with all that is right and true,) she beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,’ &c. See, my soul, how many virtues are the constant attendants and offspring of charity. O how amiable is this character of the truly charitable Christian! O how lovely is the parent of all this heavenly train.
Consider 3rdly, that charity, in the strictest sense, is indeed a heavenly virtue; as well because she maintains her ground in heaven and receives her full perfection there, where faith and hope are no more, (‘Charity,’ saith the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. 1, ‘never falleth away,’) as also because the eternal charity of the saints is no small part of their heavenly happiness; their love of God is their essential bliss, their love of one another in God, and the joy that they conceive at one another’s happiness, multiplies, as I may say, their heaven to as many fold as there are happy spirits and saints in heaven. And no wonder, since charity, even here below, when it is perfect brings with it unspeakable joy, and in a manner a heaven upon earth, by keeping all the passions under and establishing the reign of peace and joy in the soul. As on the other hand, where there is no charity the passions are all let loose; hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, &c.; the soul is always in a storm, she is a stranger to peace, she is in confusion and darkness, and the very image of hell; where it is no small part of their misery that they cannot love.
Conclude to aspire as much as thou art able after this heavenly charity; she will teach thee whilst thou art here upon earth to emulate the love of the blessed in heaven; she alone will bring thee to their happy company.