All Day (Friday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 3: Friday The Great Commandment “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:36). Jesus, who is the truth itself, always
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 3: Friday
The Great Commandment
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:36). Jesus, who is the truth itself, always proceeded directly to the first principle. It was clear that the greatest commandment should have to do with God, which is why he chose this passage for his answer: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). Here God’s greatness is proclaimed in his perfect unity, from which it follows that we ought to consecrate to him our love, thus making him reign in our hearts. The love that we must give to so perfect a being should also be perfect. This is why the Savior answered the question by referring to the Scripture passage that commands the perfect union of all of our desires in God. Yet for fear that an ignorant person might suspect that binding all of our love together into our love for God would leave none for our neighbor, he added the second precept to the first, carrying the love of neighbor to its perfection by again showing that the law commands that we “love our neighbor as ourselves” and using the word neighbor instead of the word friend that is in the law (cf. Lev. 19:18 in the Douay-Rheims), because the more general word neighbor extends our charity to all those who share our common nature, as the Son of God had already explained in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29).
Here, then, we see the entire law summed up in its two most general principles. Man is thus perfectly instructed about all his duties, for he sees in the blink of an eye what he owes to God, his Creator, and to men, his equals. Here is the whole Decalogue: the first table is contained in the precept to love God, and the second in the love of neighbor. Not only is the Decalogue contained in these two precepts, but “all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40), for God here teaches us not only our exterior duties, but also the inner principle by which we ought to act, which is love. The one who loves lacks in nothing toward the one whom he loves. And he instructs us gently, not obliging us to read and to understand the entire law — which the weak and the ignorant would not be able to do — but instead reducing the whole to six lines.
Moreover, lest our attention be dissipated by considering each of our duties in particular, he includes them all in the single principle of a sincere love, by saying that we must “love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . and your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).
Let us adore eternal truth in this admirable abridgement of the law. How indebted to you am I, O Lord, who gives me the whole substance of the law in just a few words! When, to give my mind its suitable exercise, I read the rest of your Scriptures, these two precepts will be the thread that leads me through all of the difficulties of that profound book. They will resolve and untangle every difficulty. O God, I praise you! O Jesus, be blessed! O Jesus, I will apply myself to meditating upon this admirable summary of heavenly doctrine. I wish to meditate on these words so full of light, so that I may be sensible of their power and fill myself with them. O Jesus, give me that grace! O Jesus, fill my soul with your Holy Spirit, which is the eternal and subsistent love of your Father and of yourself, so that he may teach me to love you both, and to love with you, as one and the same God, the Spirit that proceeds from you both.