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Christian Counsel: 28: Pure Love Only Can Suffer Aright and Love its Sufferings

By Francois Fenelon


      We know that we must suffer, and that we deserve it; nevertheless, we are always surprised at affliction, as if we thought we neither merited nor had need of it. It is only true and pure love that delights to endure, for nothing else is perfectly abandoned. Resignation induces us to bear pain, but there is a something in it which is afflicted in suffering, and resists. The resignation that measures out its abandonment to God with selfish reflection, is willing to suffer, but is constantly examining to ascertain whether it suffers acceptably. In fact, the resigned soul is composed as it were of two persons; one keeping the other in subjection, and watching lest it should revolt.

      In pure love, unselfish and abandoned, the soul is fed in silence on the cross, and on union with the crucified Saviour, without any reflections on the severity of its sufferings. There exists but a single, simple will, which permits God to see it just as it is, without endeavoring to behold itself. It says nothing, does nothing. What then does it do? It suffers. And is this all? Yea, all; it has nothing else to do but to suffer. Love can be heard easily enough, without speech or thought. It does all that it is required to do, which is, to have no will when it is stripped of all consolation. The purest of all loves is a will so filled with that of God, that there remains nothing else.

      What a consolation is it to think that we are then rid of so many anxieties about our exercise of patience and the other virtues in the sight of those about us? It is enough to be humbled and abandoned in the midst of suffering. This is not courage; it is something both more and less; less in the eyes of the ordinary class of Christians, more in the eyes of pure faith. It is a humiliation which raises the soul into all the greatness of God; a weakness which strips it of every resource, to bestow upon it his omnipotence. "When I am weak," says St. Paul, "then I am strong; I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (2 Cor. xii. 10; Phil. iv. 13.)

      It suffices then, to feed upon some short sentences suited to our state and our taste, with frequent interruptions to quiet the senses and make room for the inward spirit of recollection. We sometimes suffer, scarcely knowing that we are in distress; at other times we suffer, and know that we bear it ill, but we carry this second and heavier cross without impatience. True love goes ever straightforward, not in its own strength, but esteeming itself as nothing. Then indeed we are truly happy. The cross is no longer a cross when there is no self to suffer under it, and to appropriate its good and evil.

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See Also:
   1: Of the Little Knowledge of God there is in the World
   2: Of the Necessity of Knowing and Loving God
   3: On Pure Love
   4: On Prayer and the Principal Exercises of Piety
   5: On Conformity to the Life of Jesus Christ
   6: On Humility
   7: On Prayer
   8: On Meditation
   9: On Mortification
   10: On Self-Abandonment
   11: On Temptations
   12: On Wandering Thoughts and Dejection
   13: On Confidence in God
   14: In What Manner We are to Watch Ourselves
   15: On the Inward Teaching of the Spirit Of God
   16: On Daily Faults and the Toleration of Ourselves
   17: On Fidelity in Small Matters
   18: On Transitory Emotions, Fidelity, and Simplicity
   19: On The Advantages of Silence and Recollection
   20: Privation and Annihilation, A Terror Even to the Spiritually-Minded
   21: On The Proper Use of Crosses
   22: On the Interior Operations of God to Bring Man to the True End of His Creation
   23: On Christian Perfection
   24: The Way of Naked Faith and Pure Love is Better and More Certain than that of Illuminations and Sensible Delights
   25: On the Presence of God
   26: On Conformity to the Will of God
   27: General Directions for Attaining Inward Peace
   28: Pure Love Only Can Suffer Aright and Love its Sufferings
   29: Interested and Disinterested Love Have Each its Appropriate Season
   30: On True Liberty
   31: On the Employment of Time

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