St. Francis de Sales on the Fire of Love and of Charity

December 9, 2021 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 65
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

UPON THE CHARACTER OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN.

A Salamander, according to the fable, is a creature hatched in the chilling waters of Arctic regions, and is consequently by nature so cold that it delights in the burning heat of a furnace. Fire, said the ancients, cannot consume it nor even scorch it. Blessed Francis said:

Just so is it with the christian. He is born in a region far away from God, and is altogether alien from Him. He is conceived in iniquity and brought forth in sin, and sin is far removed from the way of salvation.

Man is condemned before his very birth. Damnatus antequam natus, says St. Bernard. He is born in the darkness of original sin and in the region of the shadow of death.

But, being born again in the waters of Baptism, in which he is clothed with the habit of charity, the fire of the holy love of God is enkindled in him.

Henceforth his real life, the life of grace and of spiritual growth, depends absolutely upon his abiding in that love; for he who loves not thus is dead; while, on the other hand, by this love man is called back from death to life.

He continued:

Charity is like a fire and a devouring flame. The little charity which we possess in this life is liable to be extinguished by the violent temptations which urge us, or, to speak more truly, precipitate us into mortal sin; but that of the life to come is a flame all-embracing and all- conquering—it can neither fail nor flicker.

On earth charity, like fire, needs fuel to nourish it and keep it alive; but in its proper sphere, which is Heaven, it feeds upon its own inherent heat, nor needs other nourishment. It is of vital importance here below to feed our charity with the fuel of good works, for charity is a habit so disposed to action that it unceasingly urges on those in whom the Holy Spirit has shed it abroad to perform such works. This the Apostle expresses very aptly: The charity of Christ presseth us. [2 Cor. v. 14.]

St. Gregory adds that the proof of true, unfeigned love is action, the doing of works seen and known to be good. For, if faith is manifested by good works, how much more charity, which is the root, the foundation, the soul, the life, and the form of every good and perfect work.

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