Saturday, January 07, 2006

more on love

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter points to C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves as a warm up for the upcoming papal encyclical Deus Caritas est (“God is love”), slated to be released in the middle of this month.

And he gives a brief description of one of the encyclical’s points. He writes, “Like Lewis, Benedict will argue that if the modern world could arrive at a proper understanding of the nature of love, many problems would be on their way to resolution.”

Well, I for one am looking forward to this first Benedictine encyclical.

And so heeding Allen’s advice and reading again what Lewis wrote, I come across two wonderful insights from the book.

The first is Lewis’ "diagram of Love Himself” which I posted last year on Good Friday: Love’s diagram meaning the Cross. Truly this is a powerful image and Lewis powerfully describes it:

the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocations as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath's sake, hitched up.

The second insight of his that captured my eye is equally powerful: earthly love can only hope for eternity if it has entered into a kind of dying and rising, a death and a resurrection, by entering into the Paschal Mystery—-being caught up in Charity Itself, reflecting God’s expansive and all-embracing love: in other words, a love that GROWS and EXPANDS.

And so, all our loves--- such as the love between a husband and a wife, the parents’ love for their child, their loving gaze on the world in which their child is to live [which is the theme of my earlier post, pointing to nuptial and familial love as a closer symbolic reflection of God’s expansive love]; our love for our friends, and yes, including eros in all its forms; love for country; for oneself—-become eternal only if we allow this love to unite with God’s own dynamic Love.

Here are Lewis’ words:

Man can ascend to Heaven only because the Christ, who died and ascended to Heaven, is “formed in him.” Must we not suppose that the same is true of a man’s loves? Only those into which Love Himself has entered will ascend to Love Himself. And these can be raised with Him only if they have, in some degree and fashion, shared His death; if the natural element in them has submitted—year after year, or in some sudden agony—to transmutation. The fashion of this world passes away. The very nature of nature implies the transitory. Natural loves can hope for eternity only in so far as they have allowed themselves to be taken into the eternity of Charity; have at least allowed the process to begin here on earth, before the night comes when no man can work. And the process will always involve a kind of death. There is no escape. In my love for wife or friend the only eternal element is the transforming presence of Love Himself. By that presence, if at all, the other elements may hope, as our physical bodies hope, to be raised from the dead. For this only is holy in them, this only is the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but that is a great description of a love that grows---a love that is not static and stagnant, but one that is moving, growing, perfecting, and living because it reflects and is united to the Source of all movement, growth, perfection, and life!

And such a love will live forever!

Read Allen's article here.

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