As God created man to his own image and likeness, so did he appoint for man a love after the image and resemblance of the love which is due to his own divinity. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest, and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Why do we love God, Theotimus? |The cause for which we love God,| says S. Bernard, |is God Himself;| as though he had said: we love God because he is the most sovereign and infinite goodness. And why do we love ourselves in charity? Surely because we are the image and likeness of God; and whereas all men are endowed with the same dignity, we love them also as ourselves, that is, as being holy and living images of the divinity. For it is on that account that we belong to God by so strict an alliance and so sweet a dependence of love, that he makes no difficulty to call himself our father, and to call us his children; it is on that account that we are capable of being united to his divine essence by the fruition of his sovereign goodness and felicity; it is on that account that we receive his grace, that our spirits are associated to his most Holy Spirit, and made in a manner participant of his divine nature, as S. Leo says. And therefore the same charity which produces the acts of the love of God, produces at the same time those of the love of our neighbour. And even as Jacob saw that one same ladder touched heaven and earth, serving the angels both for descending and ascending, so we know that one same charity extends itself to both the love of God and our neighbour, raising us to the union of our spirit with God, and bringing us back again to a loving society with our neighbours; always, however, on the understanding that we love our neighbour as being after the image and likeness of God, created to have communication with the divine goodness, to participate in his grace, and to enjoy his glory.
Theotimus, to love our neighbour in charity is to love God in man, or man in God; it is to hold God alone dear for his own sake and the creature for the love of him. The young Tobias, accompanied by the angel Raphael, having met with Raguel his relative, by whom, however, he was unknown, -- Raguel had no sooner set eyes upon him, says the Scripture, but turning himself towards his wife: Anna, look, look, said he, how like is this young man to my cousin? And when he had spoken these words, he said: whence are ye, young men our brethren? But they said, we are of the tribe of Nephthali, of the captivity of Ninive. And Raguel said to them: Do you know Tobias my brother? And they said, we know him. And when he was speaking many good things of him, the angel said to Raguel: Tobias concerning whom thou inquirest is this young man's father. And Raguel went to him, and kissed him with tears, and weeping upon his neck, said: a blessing be upon thee, my son, because thou art the son of a virtuous man. And Anna his wife and Sara their daughter wept, through tenderness of affection. Do you not observe that Raguel, without knowing the younger Tobias, embraces, caresses, kisses him, and weeps for joy over him. Whence proceeds this love but from that which he had for the old Tobias, the father, whom this child did so much resemble? A blessing be upon thee, said he; but why? certainly not because thou art a good youth, for that as yet I know not, but because thou art son, and like, to thy father, a good and most virtuous man.
Ah! then, Theotimus, when we see a neighbour who is created to the image and likeness of God, ought we not to say one to another: Observe and see this creature, how he resembles the Creator? Might we not cast ourselves upon his neck, to caress him and weep over him with love? Should we not bless him a thousand and a thousand times? And why? For the love of him? No verily: for we know not whether he be worthy of love or hatred in himself; but wherefore then? O Theotimus! for the love of God, who has made him to his own image and likeness, and consequently capable of participating in his goodness, in grace and in glory. For the love of God, I say, from whom he is, whose he is, by whom he is, in whom he is, for whom he is, and whom he resembles in a most particular manner. Wherefore the love of God not only oftentimes commands the love of our neighbour, but itself produces this love and pours it into man's heart, as its resemblance and image: for even as man is the image of God, so the sacred love of man towards man, is the true image of the heavenly love of man towards God. But this subject of the love of our neighbour requires a treatise apart, which I beseech the sovereign lover of men to will to inspire into some one of his most excellent servants, since the supreme love of the divine goodness of the heavenly Father, consists in the perfection of the love of our brothers and companions.