And so, in this little letter, she invites us to enter with her the "peaceful and profound sea" found in the words "God is Love." Elsewhere, both in her Dialogue and in a letter to one Brother Matteo Tolomei, she analyses with keen insight the relations which redeemed humanity can bear to the Loving God; she tells us how the servant, obedient through fear, may become the friend, obedient through gratitude and desire for spiritual blessings; and how these lower loves, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, may be transformed into the love of the son, who seeks God for His own sake, "with nothing between." And how shall human love, when it has reached this point, reflect the love of Him who "needs not man's work nor His own gifts?" How become, not merely receptive, but active and creative? Catherine gives the simple Christian answer: "God has loved us without being loved, but we love Him because we are loved.... We cannot be of any profit to Him, nor love Him with this first love. Yet God demands of us, that as He has loved us without any second thoughts, so He should be loved by us. In what way can we do this, then, since He demands it of us and we cannot give it to Him? I tell you: through a means which He has established by which we can love Him freely, and without the least regard to any profit of ours: we can be useful, not to Him, which is impossible, but to our neighbour.... To show the love we have to Him, we ought to serve and love every rational creature.... Every virtue receives life from love, and love is gained in love, that is, by raising the eye of our mind to behold how much we are beloved of God. Seeing ourselves loved, we cannot do otherwise than love.... So thou seest that we conceive virtues through God and bring them to the birth for our neighbour."
Thus do Catherine's loftiest meditations end on the practical note. Her fundamental thought, here as elsewhere, is strikingly akin to the thought of St. Bernard. Love yourself not for your own sake, but for God! she constantly repeats. To the same effect, Bernard describes at length the progress of the soul till it reaches the highest stage, in which self-love is so lost that even gratitude is left behind, and man loves himself and God for the sake of God alone.
In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:
To you, most beloved and dear father, through reverence of the most sweet Sacrament, and son in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write and send comfort in His precious Blood, with desire to see you kindled, on fire, and consumed in His most ardent charity, since I know that he who is on fire and consumed with this charity sees not himself. This, then, I will that you do. I summon you to enter through this most ardent charity, a sea that is peaceful and profound. This I have just now found anew -- not that the sea is new, but that it is new to me in the feeling of my soul -- in that word, God is Love. And in this word, as the mirror reflects the face of man, and the sun its light upon the earth, so it is reflected in my soul, that all His works whatsoever are Love alone, for they are not wrought of anything save love. Therefore He says, "I God am Love." From this a light is thrown on the unsearchable mystery of the Incarnate Word, who by force of love was given with such humility that it confounds my pride, and teaches us not to regard His works, but the burning devotion of the Word given to us. He says that we should do as he who loves: who, when his friend comes with a present, looks not at the hands for the gift which he brings, but opens the eye of love, and regards his heart and affection. So He wills that we should do, when the Highest eternal goodness of God, sweet above all things, visits our soul. It visits us then with measureless benefits. Let memory act swiftly to receive the intention in the divine charity: and let the will arise with most ardent desire, and receive and behold the sacrificed Heart of sweet and good Jesus the Giver: and thus you shall find you kindled and clothed with fire, and with the gift of the Blood of the Son of God; and you shall be free from all pain and disease. This it was which took away the pain of the holy disciples, when it behoved them to leave Mary and one another, and gladly they endured that separation, to sow the word of God. Run then, run, run.
Concerning the affairs of Benincasa, I cannot reply unless I am at Siena. Thank Messer Nicolao for the charity which he has shown for them. Alessa and I and Cecca, poor women, commend ourselves to you a thousand thousand times. May God be ever in your soul, amen. Jesus, Jesus.
Catherine, servant of the servants of God.