Role of love in human life

Image may contain: 1 person

Love plays a key role in human life, for God is love. (1 John 4:8). Heaven is the place where love reigns supreme. Hell is the place where creatures refuse to love. This is why Dante was right when he wrote: Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate. (Leave all hope ye that enter), (Inferno III. 9).

Man was created in God’s image and likeness: that is, with a capacity to know, to will, and to love. Original sin has crippled these gifts. It has darkened our intelligence, weakened our wills and frozen our hearts. We now have hearts of stone. The work of Redemption is to re-teach and enable us to love by imitating him who, out of love, died for us on the Cross. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Traditional Catholic teaching distinguishes between “natural” love and “supernatural” love, indicating clearly that the latter is much superior to the former. The former is called eros, the latter agape. Our aim is to compare these. Eros played an important role in pagan literature. Plato’s Symposium is dedicated to an analysis of eros. The greatness of love is eulogized in Orpheus and Euridice, Cupid and Psyche. Christian literature usually refers to natural loves, such as the love between spouses, love for one’s children, love for one’s parents, love between siblings, love between friends. Agape, that is supernatural love, is limited to love of God and love of neighbor.

In the modest frame of this article, I shall limit myself to discussing eros, the love that can exist between man and woman, and agape, the distinctly Christian love of neighbor.

Eros is a response to value. In falling in love, we clearly perceive the beauty, charm, lovableness, and uniqueness of the person who touches our heart. There elicits in us a response of “enchantment.” This is expressed in Tristan and Isolde: “Isolde, how beautiful art thou.” The beloved one delights us, just as we are delighted by the perception of a grand sunset or of sublime music, with the crucial difference that in the latter cases, the beauty is impersonal. In spousal love, the loved one is a person and therefore does not only possess a much higher metaphysical dignity but can return our love. Continue reading

Love (Theological Virtue)

Image may contain: 1 person

Love (Theological Virtue)

The third and greatest of the Divine virtues enumerated by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13), usually called charity, defined: a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.

This definition sets off the main characteristics of charity:

(1) Its origin, by Divine infusion. “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 5:5). It is, therefore, distinct from, and superior to, the inborn inclination or the acquired habit of loving God in the natural order. Theologians agree in saying that it is infused together with sanctifying grace, to which it is closely related either by way of real identity, as some few hold, or, according to the more common view, by way of connatural emanation.

(2) Its seat, in the human will. Although charity is at times intensely emotional, and frequently reacts on our sensory faculties, still it properly resides in the rational will a fact not to be forgotten by those who would make it an impossible virtue.

(3) Its specific act, i.e. the love of benevolence and friendship. To love God is to wish Him all honour and glory and every good, and to endeavour, as far as we can, to obtain it for Him. St. John (14:23; 15:14) emphasises the feature of reciprocity which makes charity a veritable friendship of man with God.

(4) Its motive, i.e., the Divine goodness or amiability taken absolutely and as made known to us by faith. It matters not whether that goodness be viewed in one, or several, or all of the Divine attributes, but, in all cases, it must be adhered to, not as a source of help, or reward, or happiness for ourselves, but as a good in itself infinitely worthy of our love, in this sense alone is God loved for His own sake. However, the distinction of the two loves: concupiscence, which prompts hope; and benevolence, which animates charity, should not be forced into a sort of mutual exclusion, as the Church has repeatedly condemned any attempts at discrediting the workings of Christian hope.

(5) Its range, i.e., both God and man. While God alone is all lovable, yet, inasmuch as all men, by grace and glory, either actually share or at least are capable of sharing in the Divine goodness, it follows that supernatural love rather includes than excludes them, according to Matthew 22:39, and Luke 10:27. Hence one and the same virtue of charity terminates in both God and man, God primarily and man secondarily. Continue reading

Saint Valentine

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

Saint Valentine

Priest and Martyr
(† 268)

The holy Priest Valentine lived at the time of the Emperor Claudius. He was held in high estimation, both by the Christians and heathens, on account of his natural amiability, wisdom and virtue. Claudius himself desired to see him, and on his being brought into his presence, said to him: “Why do you refuse to be my friend, when I wish to become yours? Nothing in you displeases me, but that you confess a faith which is against our gods.” Valentine replied: “O Emperor! if you knew the God I worship, you would consider yourself blessed to serve Him. He it is who has given you your life and your crown, and who alone can make you eternally happy.” One of those present interrupted him, saying: “What think you, then, of Jupiter,–of Mercury?” “I think that they have been wicked men, as their lives show,” answered the Priest;” and, therefore, they are unworthy to be called gods.” “That is sacrilege!” cried many: “Valentine deserves to die!” Valentine begged the Emperor graciously to lend him his ear, only for a short space of time, that he might defend his words.

Having received permission to speak, he placed the falsity, of the heathen gods and the truth of the God of the Christians so clearly before their eyes, that the Emperor, prepossessed in his favor, said to those surrounding him: “I must confess this man speaketh with much reason, and nothing can be said to confute his teaching.” Calphurnius, the Governor, who was also present, on hearing the Emperor speak thus, was filled with fear that he would embrace the Christian faith, and cried: “Valentine is a sorcerer, a blasphemer of the gods of the Empire! He must die, or an insurrection will break out among the people!” This speech alarmed the Emperor to such a degree that he gave up the holy Priest entirely into the hands of the Governor. Continue reading