Saturday, September 17, 2011

Love is Indeed Ecstasy

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.

Deus Caritas Est 6

Reflection – What a great passage this is! Pope Benedict winds together so many images, basic biblical themes, theological insights, and connecting them in a few well-chosen words with the practical reality of love and the challenges and struggles of our daily life. He is at his best here, ‘firing on all cylinders.’
It is his connection of the dramatic language of the exodus, the profound spiritual image of the grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying, the Paschal Mystery of Christ, and your choices and mine this day to love or not love that is so striking.
It is ‘connection’ that counts here. It is when I realize that my choice to be generous or merciful or hospitable in some small everyday way is, in fact, another step in my ongoing journey out of Egypt and slavery into freedom, that I can find the grace to do it. Otherwise, it’s just an endless chore, a burden, a misery.
When I become aware of myself as ‘seed’, as a little hard thing that has little value or weight… but great potential, a potential only realized when it is broken, ceases to be a seed, becomes something quite different… well then, when the pressures of the heavy soil I am planted in begin to strain and crack me, I am more prone to remain there, rather than fleeing, shrugging off the commitment, the demands, shying away from the sacrifice it entails.
And when I finally get that every movement of my being, every moment of my life, everything actually going on in and around me and every conceivable future possibility is taken up, united to, and transformed by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, becomes in that a small movement in the Great Dance of Salvation… well, I am likely to find joy in the life he has given me, whatever pains and burdens it levies on me.
‘Without vision the people perish’, the Scriptures say. Pope Benedict has vision, and generously and beautifully shares this vision with us. And it is all tied up with the earlier part of the encyclical, the purification of eros into agape, the true meaning of ecstasy in the Christian mystery, the ongoing call not to merely lose ourselves in some intense Dionysian release of pleasure, but to freely and nobly give ourselves—through, with, and in Jesus—in a solemn act of selfless love, lived out here and now in the duty of each moment.

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