“Pondus meum, amor meus.”1 That simple, yet profound statement by St. Augustine of Hippo, the Great Saint, Father, and Doctor of the church, points directly to the very meaning of- and key to our existence. In English, it states, “My weight is my love.” To help explain this quote from the early days of the Church, I’d like to use a talk, given in Italy in 2013.
Hidden in the cloudy archives of YouTube is a tremendous and lengthy conference in Italian, given by the devout and erudite Franciscan priest, Padre Alessandro Maria Apollonio, on “Our Lady in the Thought of Bl. John Duns Scotus.” In order to share a piece of its brilliance with the world, and the wonderful meditation and direction that it provides, I have translated about seven minutes of it into English. In this excerpt, Father has used his piety and his vast knowledge (with Doctorates in both Philosophy and Theology) to re-center our focus on charity. Though it is truly beautiful that Christ, by taking on our human nature, took to Himself—in a sense—the universe (as we humans are both spiritual [like the Angels] and corporeal [like the rest of creation]), that fact is really not the point. The point is charity. Please read Father Alessandro’s explanation below. For some, it may take a bit of patience to follow him from beginning to end, but it’s worth it! I hope that it may be as fruitful for your meditation and inspiration as it has been for mine. What follows is my translation from the original Italian.
“The keystone of the entire Theological thought system of Duns Scotus is charity: the Love of God. […]
God created everything in view of Christ and of Mary; He created everything with them in mind. This is referred to as the absolute predestination of Jesus and of Mary. Before the world came into being—obviously, and before any foresight whatsoever of merit or demerit, therefore before foreseeing the sin or the obedience of Adam and Eve,2 the Most Holy Trinity conceived of this project of spreading God’s own Goodness ad extra, that is, outside of Himself, through the Order of Creation, with a set scope or purpose in mind: the scope of an architectural principle, laying out the vision of an end, a purpose for all the things that would be created in the succession of time. And this architectural principle, this center of the universe, this foundation of all of the order ad extra is Christ and Mary. But, if we put it even more precisely—in the Scotistic vision, on this issue of systematic Theology—we’ll see that it isn’t Jesus and the Mother of Jesus in as much as they are creatures who physically recapitulate in some way all the perfections of the universe: It’s not a question of the physical, and not even of the metaphysical; it is a question of charity.
The Most Holy Trinity, when seeing Jesus and Mary, pays little heed to their bodily beauty, their physical prowess; God doesn’t care so much about their intelligence, their genius; He’s not very interested in all of their physical and spiritual perfections: Essentially and above all else, He sees their charity. It was in view of the charity of Jesus and Mary that the universe was created. That which God cares about, in Himself and outside of Himself, is charity. All other perfections in the whole universe—be they spiritual or material—just disappear when juxtaposed with charity. Of no worth whatsoever is the grandeur of the galaxies, worthless the intelligence of an Angel—may as well be Lucifer—in comparison with one simple act of love of God. It is love that rules the universe; it is Love that constitutes God in his truest and most profound essence; and it is love that is the most perfect participation of a creature in the Divine Nature, through grace. What is grace? What does it mean to be “full of grace”? It means to be full of the love of God. What does it mean to be full of glory? It means being full of such a love of God that it transmits its perfection even to one’s bodily existence. What is a glorified body? It is a body that lives in the dimension of the spirit: in the dimension transfigured by charity.
Now, in this wonderful order, therefore, we are given the possibility of seeing and pondering the beauty of Mary, of Christ, inspired by the things that God has created, too. That is why St. Francis made of every creature a signification not only of the Glory of God, but of the humanity of Jesus Christ and obviously of the humanity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, united with Christ. The mountains: Behold, they speak to us of the stability, the constancy, the Rock, the strength of Christ. The heavens: The blue sky speaks to us of the immensity of the Spirit of Christ. The waters speak to us of the purity of the Spirit of Christ. The trees: Wood speaks to us of the sacrifice of Christ; it was upon a tree, on the wood of the Cross that He became the Fruit of eternal life. The entire universe speaks to us of Jesus and of Mary, because it was in view of Jesus and of Mary that the whole universe was created.
And we, intelligent creatures created in the image and likeness of God, the closer we get to our models, to our exemplars, to the masterpieces that have come out intact from the hands of Christ, then the more we realize the project that God from all eternity has assigned to each one of us. And the plan for everyone is this: Through the multiple activities that man does on the face of this earth, we must arrive at loving God with our whole heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. Every activity of man upon this earth: the economy, work, sports, art, science, technology—insert whatever you want, but everything makes sense, everything stands the test if it has the love of God as its ultimate end. And love of God culminates in Christ.”3
Love truly is the point. It’s the the point and it takes us wherever we will go, following our love even to Heaven or to Hell.4 Where our treasure is, there also our heart shall be.5 “God is Love,”6 and we are created to live in that Love for all eternity. Christ came to spread this fire upon the earth.7 Is that the fire of charity with which I burn?8 Do I really love God above all his creatures? Does my love lift me and others up toward Him or weigh me down in attachment to the passing things of this earth? Do I love others with his charity9 for love of Him, seeking their greatest Good with a spiritual, nonexclusive, self-sacrificing love? May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be our Love and our Life; may the Immaculate Heart of Mary be our refuge, and the way that will lead us to God.10 “Pondus meum, amor meus.”
- St. Augustine of Hippo. Confessions 13, 9 ,10.
- “Before” not in the sense of a succession of time, since God is outside of chronos time and sees all in the eternal now. The point is that God wills in a perfectly ordered fashion, willing primarily the greatest end, Jesus, to spread his Love ad extra. Jesus and Mary are not just afterthoughts occasioned by the sin and fall of Adam and Eve.
- Padre Alessandro Apollonio. “La Madonna nel pensiero del B. Giovanni Duns Scoto” (4:00-11:12). Francescani dell’Immacolata, Aug 31, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut-qh6ZK3qM. Translated with Permission; Article, Translation, and Photo by Stephen Snyder, 2019; All Rights Reserved.
- Hence the rest of St. Augustine’s statement, “Pondus meum amor meus; eo feror, quocunque feror.”
- Lk 12:34.
- “Charity” specifically. “ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν” / “Deus caritas est” (1 Jn 4:8).
- Lk 12:49.
- For more on this, see Treasures of the Faith, Part 1: Put On the Lord Jesus Christ: https://corfidelis.com/2019/11/14/treasures-of-the-faith-part-1-put-on-the-lord-jesus-christ/ .
- Jn 13:34 & 15:12; Jn 15:4 & Gal 2:20.
- Our Lady of Fatima to Lucia: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”