“Love” says Saint Thomas (Aquinas) “is a certain affection by which the lover is transformed into the object loved.” Where two creatures in the same order of creation love each other, there will be a mutual transformation. If the object loved is equal in all respects to the capacity of the lover then a perfect love would give the lover, or if they are both equal to each other, would give the lovers both repose. But man having something divine in his nature, therefore nothing created can give perfect repose but God.
Divine love first enters our souls as a thief; then becomes a tyrant; and finally bestows upon us as a superabundant benefactor a thousand-fold more than we ever had before with life eternal – a spouse. Saint Augustine (of Hippo) said, “Lord give me your love and do with me as You please.” May we not say as well, “Lord, keep us from offending you, and then do what You please with Your servants.”
John Tauler beautifully says that divine love is a fire which consumes all terrestrial things and produces in man a happy desolation. “Love consists in loving God without consolations. One must overcome all to gain all; to gain that precious stone which is God.”
Father Hecker begins his “science of love” with God. Using the writing of Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Hecker believes that human beings are by nature spiritual beings. God has made us in such a way that there is a part of us that cannot find peace unless we find it in God. As we open our hearts to God’s love, our eyes to God’s presence and our minds to God’s word, the spiritual part of our being experiences a sense of purpose, a sense of peace and a true sense of fulfillment. Our capacity for attraction begins in God. Then as it grows and develops we begin to find God both around us and in others.
Father Hecker describes the dynamic of how God’s love enters our souls. Divine love is the very life of God and has the capacity to completely transform us; making us into the person that God in our creation has called us to be. God enters our souls like a thief in the night, when we least expect it. God comes to overwhelm us and overcome our defenses. God then becomes a tyrant, demanding that we change and open ourselves to grace. We are to belong to God alone and God is to be first and foremost in what it is that we do. Finally when we yield, God becomes our spouse, filling us with his blessings and teaching us to become dependent on his faithfulness and his strength. Father Hecker quotes the medieval mystic John Tauler, for the fire of God’s love is an internal desolation that burns down our defenses, our self-centeredness and our selfishness. It cleanses and transforms us.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.