The Greatest Commandment


Why do we love ourselves in charity?

Surely because we are the image and likeness of God; and whereas all human beings 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....  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 neighbor.

When we see a neighbor 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?  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 neighbor, 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....  The supreme love of the divine goodness of the heavenly Father consists in the perfection of the love of our brothers and companions.




Saint Francis de Sales, T.O.M., A.O.F.M. Cap. "The Greatest Commandment." from Treatise on the Love of God Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Note: St. Francis de Sales is out of print. This excerpt appeared in Magnificat in March 2014.


Saint Francis de Sales, T.O.M., A.O.F.M. Cap., (1567-1622) was a Bishop of Geneva who became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God. Besides these two well-known books he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence. Some of his devotional writings have been collected into Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady, Sermons of St. Francis de Sales For Lent, Sermons of St. Francis de Sales On Prayer. For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints.

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