St BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
(1090 – 1153)
The fourth degree of love: when you love yourself for God’s sake.
Happy is the one who has been found worthy to attain to the fourth degree, where one loves oneself only for God’s sake.... When will we experience this kind of love, so that the mind, drunk with divine love and forgetting itself, making itself like a broken vessel (Ps 30:13), should throw itself wholly on God and, clinging to God (1 Cor 6:17), become one with him in spirit and say, “My body and my heart have fainted, O God of my heart; God, my part in eternity” (Ps 73:26)? I should call holy and blessed the one to whom it is given to experience even for a single instant something which is rare indeed in this life. To lose yourself as though you did not exist and to have no sense of yourself, to be emptied out of yourself (Phil 2:7) and almost annihilated, belongs to heavenly not to human love....
We must make this desire: that as God willed that everything should be for him, so we too should will that nothing – not even our own selves – may be or have been except for him: that is, according to his will, not ours. The satisfaction of our needs will not bring us happiness, nor will chance delights, as does the sight of his will being fulfilled in us and in everything that concerns us. This is what we ask every day in prayer when we say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).... To love in this way is to become like God. As a drop of water seems to disappear completely in a quantity of wine, taking the wine’s flavour and colour; as red-hot iron becomes indistinguishable from the glow of fire, and it own original form disappears; as air suffused with the light of the sun seems transformed into the brightness of the light, as if it were itself light rather than merely lit up; so, in those who are holy, it is necessary for human affection to dissolve in some ineffable way, and be poured into the will of God. How will God be all in all (1 Cor 15:26) if anything merely human remains in us? The substance remains, but in another form, with another glory, another power.
On Loving God, chs 8 - 10