The glorious S. Paul speaks thus: Now the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. But mark, Theotimus, how this holy Apostle, counting these twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, reckons them as only one fruit; for he does not say the fruits of the spirit are charity, joy, but the fruit of the spirit is charity, joy. Now the mystery of this manner of speech is this. The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us. charity is truly the only fruit of the Holy Ghost, but because this one fruit has an infinity of excellent properties, the Apostle, who wishes to mention some of them by way of example, speaks of this one fruit as of many, because of the multitude of properties which it contains in its unity, and conversely speaks of all these fruits as of one only, by reason of the unity in which is comprised this variety. So he who should say that the fruit of the vine is grapes, must, wine, brandy, the drink that rejoices the heart of man, the beverage that comforts the stomach: -- would not mean that they were fruits of different species, but only that, although it was only one fruit, yet it had many different properties, according as it was differently used.
The Apostle, then, simply means to say that the fruit of the Holy Ghost is charity; which is joyous, peaceable, patient, benign, good, long-suffering, mild, faithful, modest, continent, chaste; that is to say, that divine love gives us an inward joy and consolation together with great peace of heart, which in adversity is preserved by patience, and which makes us benign and gracious in succouring our neighbour by a cordial goodness towards him; a goodness which is not variable, but constant and persevering, and which gives us a noble, long-suffering heart, by means of which we become mild, affable and condescending to all, we support their humours and imperfections, we keep perfectly faithful towards them, testifying a simplicity accompanied with confidence as well in our words as in our actions, we live modestly and humbly, cutting off all superfluities and irregularities in meat, drink, apparel, bed, games, pastimes and other such desires and pleasures, by a holy continency, repressing, especially, the inclinations and rebellions of the flesh by a vigilant chastity; so that our whole man may come to be engaged in holy loving, as well interiorly by joy, peace, patience, longanimity, goodness and fidelity, as exteriorly by benignity, mildness, modesty, continency and chastity.
Now charity is called a fruit inasmuch as it delights us, and inasmuch as we enjoy its delicious sweetness, the sweetness of a true apple of paradise, gathered from the tree of life, which is the Holy Spirit, grafted on our human spirits and dwelling in us by his infinite mercy. But when we not only rejoice in this heavenly love and enjoy its delicious sweetness, but also place all our glory therein as in the crown of our honour, then it is not only a fruit, delightful to our palate, but it is also a most desirable beatitude and felicity, not only because it assures to us the felicity of the next life, but also because even in this life it enriches us with a contentment of inestimable value, a contentment which is so strong that all the waters of tribulation and the floods of persecution cannot extinguish it. Yea, it is not only not extinguished, but it waxes rich amidst poverty, it is glorified by abjections and humiliations, it rejoices in tears, it gains strength by being forsaken of justice and deprived of the help thereof when it implores and no one will grant; compassion and commiseration recreate it, when it is surrounded by the miserable and suffering; it delights in renouncing all sorts of sensual and earthly delights to obtain purity and cleanness of heart; it places its valour in stilling wars, jarrings and dissensions, and in spurning temporal grandeurs and reputations; it grows strong by enduring all sorts of sufferings, and holds that its true life consists in dying for the well-beloved.
So that in a word, Theotimus, most holy charity is a virtue, a gift, a fruit and a beatitude. As being a virtue, it makes us obedient to the exterior inspirations which God gives us by his commandments and counsels, in the execution of which we practise all virtues; whence love is the virtue of all virtues. As being a gift, charity makes us docile and tractable to interior inspirations, which are, as it were, God's secret commandments and counsels, in the execution of which the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are employed, so that charity is the gift of gifts. As being a fruit, it gives us an extreme relish and pleasure in the practice of the devout life, which is felt in the twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, and therefore it is the fruit of fruits. As being a beatitude, it makes us repute the affronts, calumnies, revilings and insults which the world heaps upon us as the greatest of favours and a singular honour; and withal makes us forsake, renounce and reject all other glory save that which comes from the well-beloved Crucified, for which glory we glory in the abjection, abnegation and annihilation of ourselves, desiring no other marks of majesty than the thorn-crown of the Crucified, the sceptre of His reed, the robe of scorn which was put upon Him, and the throne of His cross, upon which sacred lovers have more content, joy, glory and felicity than ever Solomon had on his throne of ivory.
Thus love is oftentimes represented by the pomegranate, which, as it takes its properties from the pomegranate-tree, may be said to be the virtue of this tree; so again it seems to be its gift, which it offers to man by love; and it is its fruit, since it is eaten to please man's taste; and finally it is, so to speak, its glory and beatitude, since it bears the crown and diadem.