Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the nature of love

Today's Office of Readings has the following:

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop

Love desires to see God

When God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, he immediately acted to call it back to himself with love. He invited it by his grace, preserved it by his love, and embraced it with compassion. When the earth had become hardened in evil, God sent the flood both to punish and to release it. He called Noah to be the father of a new era, urged him with kind words, and showed that he trusted him; he gave him fatherly instruction about the present calamity, and through his grace consoled him with hope for the future. But God did not merely issue commands; rather with Noah sharing the work, he filled the ark with the future seed of the whole world. The sense of loving fellowship thus engendered removed servile fear, and a mutual love could continue to preserve what shared labor had effected.

God called Abraham out of the heathen world, symbolically lengthened his name; and made him the father of all believers. God walked with him on his journeys, protected him in foreign lands, enriched him with earthly possessions, and honored him with victories. He made a covenant with him, saved him from harm, accepted his hospitality, and astonished him by giving him the offspring he had despaired of. Favored with so many graces and drawn by such great sweetness of divine love, Abraham was to learn to love God rather than fear him, and love rather than fear was to inspire his worship.

God comforted Jacob by a dream during his flight, roused him to combat upon his return, and encircled him with a wrestler's embrace to teach him not to be afraid of the author of the conflict, but to love him. God called Moses as father would, and with fatherly affection invited him to become the liberator of his people.

In all the events we have recalled, the flame of divine love enkindled human hearts and its intoxication overflowed into men's senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes. Yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain? But the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, despises all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire which impels it toward things that are forbidden. But why Continue?

It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they merited was nothing to the saints if they could not see the Lord. A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love. It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me your face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me your face. Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted actually to see what they mistakenly revered.

The point I'd like to make in posting this, is that, as Thomas said, we act under the motive of love, even if we are sinning; we place a lesser love above a greater love;

For example, the Catholic who leaves the Church for a nice warm and fuzzy protestant congregation, who says "I'm not being fed" - is seeking something much less than God, with whom he is being fed. St Paul said their god is their belly and their glory their shame, but in light of Chrysologus' item above, it is a little love, placed above the greatest love, Deus Caritas Est.

Chrysologus also gives us insight into the violence and hatred of the so-called gay movement. Their love is real, although a lesser love, but it drives to irrationality, knowing no bounds. This is why the word "disorder" is so wonderful, even while it is being maligned with such vigor. For it is rational to love pleasure, and it is rational to love God, but it is out of order to reverse them, just as:

1,2,3,4,5... is in order, but
4,1,5,2,3... is not in order.

The parts are there, the order is, will, "dissed"

BTW, it was St. Augustine who said that we can know what we love, for we name ourselves with what we love.


  1. It is interesting that Peter Chrysologus makes so many references to the Old Testament in describing the love of God.

    Frequently one hears the claim that the God of the Old Testament is One of anger and severity, while the God of the New Testament is one of compassion, as though we did not profess One God, Who is Lord of both the Old and the New Testaments.

    No doubt about it, the Old Testament portrays the love of God with imagery that can be a difficult nut to crack.

    "Kings in their splendor he slew,
    for his love endures forever."

    ... like Og of Bashan, and that other poor sap. And what sort of love is this that slays king? Og is certain to find this puzzling, and so is Pharoah. But the Psalmist is unmistakeably insistent on this point: these calamities are direct consequences of love.

    It might be better not to aim for an effortless grasp of the Old Testament message. Strive, rather, to see His Face.

  2. Thanks for that insight into the word, disorder. I have a neice who is living a "disordered" life, her and her partner think that because they love each other and are faithful to each other that God cannot possibly call that wrong,for they love God too.

  3. Shirley,

    This is why original sin was often called "the sin of Adam" - Eve was deceived, but Adam placed a higher value on maintaining peace with his wife, than maintaining peace with God. Disordered.