In the gradual unfolding of this encounter [with God], it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvellous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love. Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word. It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all man's potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God's love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself. Idem velle atque idem nolle—to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to a community of will and thought. The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self- abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy (cf. Ps 73 :23-28).
Deus Caritas Est 17
Reflection – Well, I’ve been at this blogging thing for over six months now, and just over 200 posts, which means I’ve been pretty much having a daily encounter with the writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict all that time, not to mention the year I spent immersed in his writings doing my thesis on his Marian writings.
So when I run across a passage like the above one, it is all the more astonishing how utterly astonished I am at this man, his clarity, wisdom, profundity, simplicity… I mean, the above passage clearly, briefly, beautifully and with a stunning depth of insight explains what it means to love God, and from that, what the very nature of love itself is. I hardly want to say anything about it – it’s just there, folks. Read it, meditate on it, take it to prayer. This is the path of love.
And this is what humanity is crying out for, underneath all our other cries and anguish. “I wanna know what love is (whoa whoa),” as the power ballad of my youth bellowed. Well, here’s what love is, this and nothing else. The rest is mere sentiment and hormones, which are not wrong (God made our bodies and emotions after all) but are not sufficient to see us through life.
This is why one of the few things that really gets my Gallic temper up is the persistent character assassination of Ratzinger/Benedict in the mass media, which deters so many people from reading him. He writes simply, clearly, and deeply, with a great understanding of the modern world and its struggles, and with a tremendous ability to show the modern world the path of Christ and the Gospel.
Because—and here comes my Gallic temper!—there have been lies upon lies told about this man by powerful people who shape the public perception, so many people will not read him, dismiss him, reflexively scoff at him. It is evil, and I for one don’t believe it’s entirely accidental. The one writer who in a simple, accessible, and authoritative way presents the path of Christ and the Gospel to modern people, who writes in a way that any reasonably literate person can follow his thought, has had his reputation blackened by calumny and lies (calumny and lies, I tell you!!!!!). As the church lady from Saturday Night Live used to say, I wonder who could be behind that? Could it be…. (if you don’t know the punchline, Google it!)
So that’s why I’m blogging – Ratzinger/Benedict has the vision, the answer, the Gospel proclamation we need today. He is able to tell us what love looks like, the beauty of truth and the splendour of goodness, the freedom that comes from obeying the moral law, the dignity of the human person in the light of Christ—everything our poor battered world needs so badly.
Read him. Encourage others to read him. It’s really important.(OK, I’m done ranting now…)