Monday, May 6, 2013

The Meaning of Love

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the third chapter of Colleen Caroll Campbell's book My Sisters, the Saints, in which she writes about Divine Mercy and Human Desire.

The day before Divine Mercy Sunday this year, I wrote the following ...
I have never before felt that martyrdom was an actual possibility in this life. Now I know it is. In fact, now I know that all of us are called to be just that, martyrs - witnesses at the deepest level - for Christ. Perhaps our martyrdoms will be white and not red; we may not spill our physical blood, but we will spill the blood of our broken hearts, united with His, pierced for our sake. Only if we love past the breaking point will our lives have meaning - and that destroys us, so that we can eventually say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)
I really think this is the answer to the question of the meaning of love, a question asked by all of us and answered incorrectly by the Westians, correctly but not completely by people like Fromm and Jung and the psychology of Eros, and completely by Divine Revelation.

***

In Chapter Four, Colleen talks about her frustrations with infertility, once she was married and looking to start a family.  With the help of the writings of Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), she realizes that motherhood need not be merely biological - that spiritual and social motherhood are quite legitimate.  Indeed, while G. K. Chesterton and his wife were unable to have children, Chesterton has become a spiritual father to thousands by means of his writings and intercessions.

This form of "sublimation" (to use a psychological term), this means of channeling desires that may be frustrated or inappropriate or disordinate into service of God and man, Colleen describes thus ...

If motherhood is more about what's in your heart than what's in your womb, I needed to stop waiting for a baby to use my maternal gifts.  I needed to start recognizing the opportunities I already had to nurture growth in others, defend the vulnerable, and make the world a more loving, humane place. ...
Discovering Edith inspired me to approach the substance of my work differently, too.  Her description of a woman's "personal and all-embracing" outlook shed new light on my desire to make my writing more personal, to integrate my work and faith more fully, and to nurture growth in my readers, rather than simply winning debates.  I had tried to squelch this desire in the past, fearing that a more personal, creative turn in my work would make me more vulnerable to criticism.  Reading Edith emboldened me to reconsider.  Perhaps the drive to bear fruit that I could not satisfy on a physical level could spill over into my work and make it more poignant, resonant, and real.  Maybe I could give myself permission to be more open about who I was and what I believed, to be truly maternal in my willingness to give to others until it hurt.

"To give to others until it hurt" - in other words (as I wrote before Divine Mercy Sunday and as I have written before) "to love past the breaking point".

***

This is nothing less than the key to redemption.

We will never find our hearts desire in things of this world.  The love we have for this world is good in and of itself, but is meant to be given wholly not to passing things but to the everlasting source of all things, to the Holy Trinity.

It is only by giving ourselves wholly in love for Jesus, a great burning sacrificial love, that we find meaning and life everlasting.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)



And so, dear sinner, if you, like me, love (like Othello) "not wisely but too well", and if in doing so you keep getting hurt and broken - and you keep hurting and breaking others (like Othello) - just know this.  

The love itself is never a sin.  The love comes from God.  He is the only lover who will never disappoint.  Love the way He shows us to love - not through fornication, adultery, cheating, stealing, lying; not through sex that's contraceptive, work that's pointless or a life that's hidden and safe.  

Love Him - with all of your heart, mind and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.  

Past the breaking point.

For such love has a meaning, a purpose, a destination.  Such love redeems all of our errors and our flaws.  And such love unites us with the Lamb, raising us to everlasting life.

1 comment:

Iqbal Hossain said...

I had read this quote before:

"If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yous, And if they don't they never were."-Kahlil Gibran Visites the Links
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