How is it we are saved by you, O Lord, from whom salvation comes and whose blessing is upon your people, if it is not to receive from you the gift of loving you and being loved by you?

That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son of your right hand, the man whom you made strong for your own self, should be called Jesus, that is to say, Saviour, for he will save his people from their sins.

There is no other in whom is salvation except him who taught us to love himself when he first loved us, even to death on the cross.

By loving us and holding us so dear he stirred us up to love himself, who first had loved us to the end.

This is the righteousness of the sons of men: ‘Love me, for I love you.’ One seldom meets a person who can say: ‘I love you, in order that you may love me!’

But, as the servant of your love proclaims and preaches, you who first loved us did this, precisely this.

And that was not because you needed to be loved by us, but because we could not be what you created as to be, except by loving you.

Having then in many ways and on various occasions spoken to the fathers by the Prophets, now in these last days you have spoken to us in the Son, your Word, by whom the heavens were established, and all the power of them by the breath of his mouth.

For you to speak thus in your Son was an open declaration, a ‘setting in the sun’, as it were, of how much and in what sort of way you loved us, in that you spared not your own Son, but delivered him up for us all.

Yes, and he himself loved us and gave himself for us.

This, Lord, is your word to us this is your all-powerful message: he who, while all things kept silence (that is, were in the depths of error), came from the royal throne, the stern opponent of error and the gentle Apostle of love.

And everything he did and everything he said on earth, even the insults, the spitting, the buffeting, the cross and the grave, all that was nothing but yourself speaking in the Son, appealing to us by your love, and stirring up our love for you.

For you, O God, our souls’ Creator, knew that this affection cannot be forced in the souls of the sons of men, but has to be evoked.

And this is for the obvious reason that there is no freedom where there is compulsion, and, where freedom is lacking, so too is righteousness.

William of Saint-Thierry (c.1075/80-1148 On Contemplating God, 10, (translated by Sr Penelope Lawson, CSMV, Cistercian Publications), from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time Year 2.