From “The Maxims of the Saints” by Archbishop Fenelon
Translated by H.R. Allenson, edited by Steve Kimes
There are many ways to love God. At least, there are various feelings which go under that name.
First, there is what may be called selfish love. This is a love of God which originates solely in regard too our own happiness. Those who love God with no other love than this kind love Him just as the miser loves his money, and the sensual man loves his pleasures. These attach no value to God except as a means to an end: the gratification of their desires. Such love, if it can be called that, is unworthy of God. He does not ask it, and He will not receive it.
Second, there is another kind of love that doesn’t suppress our own happiness as a motive to love God. However, this love requires our happiness to be a subordinate to a much higher motive: a desire for the glory of God. It is a mixed love, in which we regard ourselves and God at the same time. This love is not necessarily selfish and wrong. On the contrary, it is correct when we put our love for ourselves and our love for God in the correct position. In this way we would love God as He ought to be loved, and love ourselves no more than we ought to be loved. This kind of love is unselfish and right. This is the love most often spoken of by Jesus.
However, there is another kind of love of God. This mixed love described above can become a pure love of God. This can happen when the love of self is lost, though not absolutely, in regard to the will of God. Even mixed love can become pure love when the two loves, of ourselves and of God are combined rightly.
Pure love is not inconsistent with mixed love, but it is mixed love carried to it’s true result. When this result is attained, the motive of God’s glory expands itself so that it fills the mind. The other motive, that of our own happiness, becomes so small, and it so recedes from our inward notice that it is practically annihilated. At this point God becomes what He ever ought to be—the center of the soul. God is then the Sun of the soul, from which all its light and its warmth proceed.
We lay ourselves at His feet. Self is known no more—not because it is wrong to notice and desire our own good, but because the object of desire is withdrawn from our notice. When the sun shines, the stars disappear. When God is in the soul, who can think of himself? In this way we love God, and God alone. And all other things are in and for God.
Whoever has attained pure love has also attained all the moral and Christian virtues. For all the virtues: temperance, self control, restraining from sexual pleasures, truth, kindness, forgiveness and justice—are all included in holy love. Love will develop and show itself in all of these forms. St. Augustine remarks that love is the foundation, source or principle of all the virtues.