To some, even the use of the word “love” induces a visceral reaction, such, perhaps, has been its over-use. But as the Beloved Disciple reminds us:
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In Christ, God reveals His purpose to us. He did not write a manifesto or send us a list of things we must and must not do, He spoke to us in the only language we can understand – that is through another human life. Jesus tells us what God wants for us, but more, much more than that, He shows us what love means. We can understand love only through relationships, and that is what Jesus shows us – the true meaning of love.
That love is a manifestation of the eternal love that is the Holy Trinity. The sanctifying love of the Spirit and of the Son are poured forth for our salvation. it is through Jesus that we receive the gift of eternal life, not because we first love God, but because He first loves us.
If we love others, and He loves us, then, as the Catechism tells us, in this way the Trinitarian love is reflected here on earth as it is in Heaven. Human love is not the cause of our love, it is a manifestation of God’s love. It follows, as St John tells us, that those who claim to know God but do not manifest love speak under the influence of a false spirit. And yet how very hard it is for us to show love for one another.
St John outlines four ways in which God lives is us: if we love one another; if we have been given His Spirit: if we can confess that Jesus is the Son of God; and finally, if we abide in the love of God. If this is so, then keeping God’s commandments isno more burdensome than love itself. Love is not, as we know, without its difficulties. It is far from saccharine and always sweetness and light; but what we suffer when we love we do because we know that in this fallen world it must be so.
St Anselm of Canterbury prayed:
Lord, let me seek you in desiring you:
and desire you in seeking you.
Let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.
As so often when it comes to love, let us leave St Isaac the Syrian to have the final word:
In love did God bring the world into existence;
in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state,
and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things;
in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.
Fr Aiden Kimel has some wiser and deeper reflections on this theme here.
St Isaac the Syrian is to me always the proper spot to come to when discussing love.
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Indeed, he is our go to figure.
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I was glad to see St Anselm mentioned also. I think we also need to remember that far all its faults, the medieval period was also one of compassion. Priests, monks, and nuns served pilgrims, vagabonds, and local communities by tending to the sick and the poor, by teaching children to read and write, and by ministering in the midst of divisions. Did they get it right all the time? Assuredly not – but neither do we.
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