The Mercy of God on Us Apodes

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There are certain birds, Theotimus, which Aristotle calls apodes, because having extremely short legs, and feeble feet, they use them no more than if they had none. And if ever they light upon the ground they must remain there, so that they can never take flight again of their own power, because having no use of their legs or feet, they have therefore no power to move and start themselves into the air: hence they remain there motionless, and die, unless some wind, propitious to their impotence, sending out its blasts upon the face of the earth, happen to seize upon and bear them up, as it does many other things. If this happens, and they make use of their wings to correspond with this first start and motion which the wind gives them, it also continues its assistance to them, bringing them by little and little into flight.

Theotimus, the angels are like to those birds, which for their beauty and rarity are called birds-of-paradise, never seen on earth but dead. For those heavenly spirits had no sooner forsaken divine love to attach themselves to self-love, than suddenly they fell as dead, buried in hell, seeing that the same effect which death has on men, separating them everlastingly from this mortal life, the same had the angels’ fall on them, excluding them for ever from eternal life. But we mortals rather resemble apodes: for if it chance that we, quitting the air of holy divine love, fall upon earth and adhere to creatures, which we do as often as we offend God, we die indeed, yet not so absolute a death but that there remains in us a little movement, besides our legs and feet, namely, some weak affections, which enable us to make some essays of love, though so weakly, that in truth we are impotent of ourselves to detach our hearts from sin, or start ourselves again in the flight of sacred love, which, wretches that we are, we have perfidiously and voluntarily forsaken.

And truly we should well deserve to remain abandoned of God, when with this disloyalty we have thus abandoned him. But his eternal charity does not often permit his justice to use this chastisement, but rather, exciting his compassion, it provokes him to reclaim us from our misery, which he does by sending us the favourable wind of his most holy inspirations, which, blowing upon our hearts with a gentle violence, seizes and moves them, raising our thoughts, and moving our affections into the air of divine love.

St. Francis de Sales
Treatise on the Love of God
Book II / Chapter IX

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