The Love of Esteem
Presence of God – O my God, sovereign and infinite Good, grant that I may esteem nothing more than You and prefer nothing to You.
Our Lord once said to St. Teresa: “Knowest thou what it is to love Me in truth? It is to realize that everything which is not pleasing to Me is a lie” (The Book of Her Life 40). Without sound of words, the Holy Spirit gives this lesson to every soul that lets itself be formed and purified by Him. The more He enlightens it on the truth of its own misery and that of all creatures, the more the soul remains disinclined toward them; it withdraws all its hope from them and comes truly to esteem God above all things and to prefer Him to everything else. The attitude of this soul becomes very like that of St. Paul, who exclaimed: “I count all things to be but loss for … Jesus Christ, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
The love of esteem which the Holy Spirit pours into the soul through the purifying darkness is so strong that the soul is disposed to accept any sacrifice whatsoever, to confront every obstacle, to undergo every humiliation and suffering that it may win its God. St. John of the Cross says: “The love of esteem which it has for God is so great, even though it may not realize this, and may be in darkness, that it would be glad, not only to suffer in this way, but even to die many times over in order to give Him satisfaction” (Dark Night of the Soul II 13:5). Let us note that the soul does not feel nor take pleasure in its own love, this love is not accompanied by enjoyment and sweetness; nevertheless, it is a love so real that it leads the soul effectively to the accomplishment of the most difficult things “if thereby … it might find Him whom it loves” (Dark Night of the Soul II 13:5). We should also note that it is not a question of impulses, of inoperative desires which immediately give way before concrete opportunities for sacrifice, but, on the contrary, of a strong determination of the will which nothing can shake. Once the soul has understood that a certain action is necessary in order to unite itself to God, it pays no attention to anything, neither to the repugnances of nature, nor to the voice of self-love or egoism, nor to what others might say or think; it plunges headlong with great courage.
“Most amiable Son of God, I confess to You my fault. I know not by what spirit I was led when I allowed my heart, created for You, to be ensnared by affection for creatures and sullied by the profane conversations of earth. I let myself be deceived, not by reality, but by the appearance of a love artfully represented, and I withdrew far from You and from the sweet law of Your true and only love. But now that Your light has drawn me out of my darkness, I renounce all worldly beauty and I choose You, Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin, that I may love You by a pact of eternal love.
“Without You, infinite Beauty and Goodness, no creature can possess true good, and outside of You my soul finds no satisfaction. For You have given it so great a capacity and such a hunger for the infinite, that it can neither will nor seek any other good than You. When I consider the earth, and all things, O Son of the Most High, they seem small and imperfect compared with You. If all the dignities of the world, all created beauties, all the comforts of life were given to me; if I had at my disposal all that is great, honorable, rich, and admirable in the world and could enjoy all these things together for all eternity, I would never change what I have chosen, but I would sing with ardent love: Your Face, O Lord, I seek and I shall seek it forever.
“Close my heart, Lord, that no human affection may enter there. Grant that I may not see, nor feel, nor taste, anything created, and may no creature attach itself to me, to the detriment of Your pure love. You alone, O my infinite Good, suffice to fill to the brim all my desires and to satisfy this hunger which tortures me; no other good, not even all other goods combined would be able to satisfy me; rather, after having tasted them all, I would be left dying with hunger, languishing in extreme abandonment, deprived of You” (Ven. John of Jesus Mary).
Note from Dan: This post on the love of esteem is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art for this post on the love of esteem: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; both Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.