How we ought to love God, and how Christ is a Master of the Eternal Good, wherefore we ought to love Him above all things; a Master of the Highest Truth, wherefore we ought to contemplate Him; and a Master of the Highest Perfectness, wherefore we ought to follow after Him without let or hindrance.
John xx. 16.-"She turned herself and said unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."
WHEN our Lord had risen from the dead, Mary Magdalene desired with her whole heart to behold our blessed Lord; and he revealed Himself to her in the form of a gardener, and so she did not know Him. Then our Lord said unto her "Mary;" and with that word she knew Him, and said, Rabboni! that is to say, Master.
Now mark, so long as Mary stood by the grave looking at the angels, Christ stood behind her, concealing Himself from her. For the Lord our God hideth Himself from those who are full of care about the creatures, and grieving over the loss of earthly things and creatures; but as soon as man turns from the creatures to find God, God reveals Himself unto the soul. Thus, when Mary turned to the grave of Christ, it was said unto her, "Mary," which name signifies a star of the sea, a queen of the world, and one who is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He who desireth to see God, must be as a star in the firmament, severed from and spurning all the things of time, and illuminated to see all heavenly things.
When she heard the word that Christ spoke, "Mary," she knew our Lord, and said, Rabboni, which is to say, Master; for she and His other disciples and followers commonly address Him with this title, as He says: "Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am." For He is truly a Master of the Highest Good, and therefore should we love Him above all things. He is a Master of Truth, and therefore should we contemplate Him. He is a Master of the Highest Perfectness, and therefore should we follow Him without any looking backwards behind us.
He is (as I said first) a Master of the Highest Good, and therefore should we love Him above all things. Now, thou mightest say, "God is infinite, a supreme Good without limits, and the soul and all creatures are finite and bounded; how, then, can the soul love and know God?" Hearken: God is infinite and without end, but the soul's desire is an abyss which cannot be filled except by a Good which is infinite; and the more ardently the soul longeth after God, the more she wills to long after Him; for God is a Good without drawback, and a well of living water without bottom, and the soul is made in the image of God, and therefore it is created to know and love God. So, because Christ is a Master of the Highest Good, the soul ought to love Him above all things; for He is love, and from Him doth love flow into us, as out of a well of life. The well of life is love; and he who dwelleth not in love is dead, as St. John says in his Epistle. Now, forasmuch as Christ is a well-spring and Master of the Highest Good, therefore shall the soul love Him without resistance. For it is her property that she must love that which is God; and therefore must she love that which is the Highest Good, without measure, without rival, and without ceasing to utter forth His praise.
Without measure shall the soul love God; concerning which St. Bernard says: "The cause wherefore the soul shall love God, is God; but the measure of this love is without measure, for God is an immeasurable Good, because His benefits are without number or end: wherefore the soul shall love God without measure." Hence St. Paul says: "I pray God that your love may increase and abound yet more and more." And St. Bernard says: "In our love to God we have no rule nor direction to observe, but that we love Him as He hath loved us. He hath loved us unto the end that we might love Him world without end. Therefore, our inward desire ought ever to increase so long as we are here on earth; but although the inward work of our love to God ought ever to increase, yet the outward works of love ought to be meted out with due wisdom, that we so exercise ourselves as not to injure nature, but to subdue it unto the spirit."
In the second place, the soul shall love God without a fellow; that is to say, in that degree of love with which the soul loveth God, shall no creature stand; and all whom the soul loves, she shall love in God and to God. Furthermore, she shall love the creatures for God's sake, to God and in God. She loves them for God's sake, when she loves them for that cause which is God; she loves them to God, when she loveth them for that goodness which is God; she loves them in God, when she seeks no other delight nor end in them but God; and thus she loveth the creatures in God, and God in the creatures. Hence Christ tells us: "Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," which words are thus expounded by St. Augustine: "Our Lord saith that we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, to the intent that man should have no single faculty within his soul that is empty or barren of the love of God; that is, from which the love of God is absent; and that all which it comes into our heart to love, we may love for God's sake, and enjoy in godly love; for God loveth the soul, and therefore shall the soul love Him without a fellow."
In the third place, the soul shall love God without silence; for he who is in love cannot be silent, but must proclaim and utter forth his love. St. Gregory speaks of two sorts of crying aloud: the one is that of the mouth, the other that of the works. He says of the voice of the deeds, that it is louder than that of the mouth. Of the latter, David says; "I have cried unto God with my voice, and He hath heard my prayer." Chrysostom says: "It is the habit and custom of loving souls that they cannot hide their love, nor forbear to speak of it, but they tell it to their familiar friends, and describe the inward flames of love; and the faults which they have committed against God they tell to those whom they love, and cannot keep silence about them, but often speak of them, that they may obtain relief and refreshment thereby." The second cry is that of the actions,-the way in which a man proves his inward love by his outward works. St. Gregory says the witness of love is the proof given by the works; for where love is, it works great things; but if it work not, it is a sure sign that it is not there. Thus Mary Magdalene had good reason to exclaim "Master!" for Christ is a Master of all Good. Therefore we ought to love Him above all things. And rightly is He called a Master of Love, for three causes; for He rewards nothing but love, He rewards only out of love, and He rewards with love.
First, I say that He rewards nothing but love. By three things may a man win reward: by outward acts, by inward contemplation, and by inward aspiration and love. The outward act has no merit unless it be wrought in love; for the outward act perishes and is over, and cannot merit that which is eternal. For Paul says: "Charity never ceases;" wherefore a man can never win eternal life by any works except they be done in love; and hence he who truly loveth God separates himself from all that is not God; for he who loves the uncreated good, despises the created.
In the second place, I said that God only rewards out of love. For from the love wherewith He loveth man, He giveth Himself, He giveth His very self as a reward, He giveth Himself wholly, and not in part; for God hath loved man with an eternal love, and He gives a man nothing less than Himself. He said to Abraham: "Fear not, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."
In the third place, He rewards a man with love. For this reward consists in being able to behold God in His clearness without a veil, and to enjoy the fruition of His love, and keep it for all eternity. Wherefore it was not without reason that Mary exclaimed "Master!" And thou too, O man, cry unto Him devoutly from the bottom of thy heart; "O Master of the Highest Good, and my God, by the love which Thou art, draw me to Thyself, I long after Thy favour, and that I may love Thee above all things."
Now when I began I mentioned two other points: first, how that Christ is a Master of the Highest Truth, and therefore we ought to contemplate Him. Here take note that thou canst contemplate God in His creatures, which He has made out of nothing, whereby thou art able to discover His omnipotence. But when thou seest and considerest how admirably the creatures are fashioned and put together, and in what wonderful order they are arranged, thou art able to perceive and trace the Wisdom of God, which is ascribed to the Son. And when further thou comest to perceive the gentleness of the creatures, and how all creatures have something loving in them, then thou perceivest the loving-kindness of the Holy Spirit. Thus St. Paul tells the Romans that men are able to behold the invisible goodness of God through the things that they can see; that is to say, the creatures which He has made. We are also able to perceive God by the light of grace, as the Prophet says: "Lord, in Thy light shall we see the light;" that is, God Himself; for "God is light, and in Him is no darkness anywhere." Moreover we shall at the last behold God in the light of His glory, and there shall we see Him without a veil, bright as He is; for He is a Master of Truth, who giveth us to know all truth. In the third place, Christ is a Master of Perfection; wherefore a man shall leave all things to follow Him, for in God he shall find all things united in one perfectness which are scattered abroad among the creatures. Therefore, O man, if thou wilt be perfect, be a follower of Christ. He says: "Whoso will not forsake father and mother, and sisters and brothers, and all that he hath, cannot be my disciple." For father and mother, sisters and brothers, and all creatures, are a man's enemies if they keep him back from God and hinder him from treading the straight path to eternal blessedness. Therefore forsake the creatures, and follow after the Master of Perfection, even Jesus Christ, blessed for ever. May He grant us by His grace to do so! Amen.