Apart from the usual seasonal highwater of summer marriages, there is certainly a lot of marching “for love” going on. And with that an increasing number of politicians clamoring to catch the love-wave for press alongside a fleshy mob or a local celebrity.
Although the subtext reads “acceptance of love” you’ll not find here a parade of agape or filial love but only that of eros. And not true eros either, which is sexual love perfected in supernatural love beyond the flesh. What we are left with then are really just city-wide marches for a pillar of the cultural revolution — “sex alone”, a kind of limited fleeting eros that left at its base without a higher love leads to endless frustration without fulfillment for the human person whose dual nature of body and soul longs for divine Eucharistic intimacy.
It may well be time for us to march to Pope Benedict XVI’s masterpiece — Deus Caritas Est, or even Dietrich or Alice von Hildebrand’s great insights both of which guide us into a deeper understanding of love and authentic experience of lasting joy.
Here are some excerpts to start off a true summer of love and a supernatural rainbow love in which God is true to his covenant by Christ Crucified.
“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….
…the lover will sooner or later realize that our human capacity to love is limited. We are not “love itself” but can at best “partake” of love. This is why the noblest eros carries within itself a note of tragedy. It can never achieve by itself what the very essence of love calls for. Humanly, our love is defeated.
The longing that burns in the soul of any true lover can only find its fulfillment in being transformed in Christ, and in no way from the fact that the intentio unionis has been eliminated. One only needs to read the mystics to realize how they longed to be united with Christ, and how they joyfully embraced the Cross where it is to be found in this vale of tears.”
— Alice von Hildebrand (Eros and Agape)
“Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.
6. Concretely, what does this path of ascent and purification entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine promise? Here we can find a first, important indication in the Song of Songs, an Old Testament book well known to the mystics. According to the interpretation generally held today, the poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate “love”. First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.
It is part of love’s growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being “for ever”. Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time. It could hardly be otherwise, since its promise looks towards its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal. Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfilment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est