Love and Rewards

“God is not loved without a reward, although he should be loved without regard for one.  True charity cannot be worthless, still, as ‘it does not seek its own advantage,’ it cannot be termed mercenary.  Love pertains to the will, it is not a transaction; it cannot acquire or be acquired by a pact.  Moving us freely, it makes up spontaneous.  True love is content with itself; it has its own reward, the object of its love.  Whatever you seem to love because of something else, you do not really love; you really love the end pursued and not that by which it is pursued…True love merits its reward, it does not seek it.” Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God VII. 17. trans. Emero Steigman (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1995), 20. [Emphasis added]

Bernard focuses on the spontaneous nature of love.  Divine charity transforms the soul.  True love (verus amor) does not seek a reward.  It is not an contractual agreement.  A lover’s desire reshapes her affectus (the word translated as ‘will’ above) and redirects it toward a new object.  Therefore, she seeks no reward from a human lover or God.       


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