Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love One Another

From time to time, I see some blog posters who choose a "word" for the year...something that they can go to and flesh out over those months. I am all for yearly goals but, for some reason, I can't jump into that kind of commitment right now. Yet, over the last several weeks, I have definitely been coming back to the same word again and again


The Greeks talk about Eros, Philia, and Agape  forms of love.

Eros is what gets everyone excited on days like Valentine's Day. In Ancient Greek, Eros means "intimate love". Eros, the Greek counterpart of Cupid, was believed to go around shooting people with "love darts" and spreading theia mania (madness from the gods). That is a nice descriptor, don't you think? I do think falling in love does feel a little bit like losing your mind. For sure, it often feels out-of-control, like you've been shot with some type of unseen arrow. It is a crazy, wonderful feeling but, if you've been lucky enough to experience this fantastic ride, you also know it's often fleeting and usually comes with a downside. 

Philia is often referred to as the love that exists within families but, turning back to the philosophers, their definition covers a wide range of situations...from a close friend to your hairdresser (I think, living today, I would also include most Facebook friends).
Aristotle gives these examples of Philia -   

"young lovers (1156b2), lifelong friends (1156b12), cities with one another (1157a26), political or business contacts (1158a28), parents and children (1158b20), fellow-voyagers and fellow-soldiers (1159b28), members of the same religious society (1160a19), or of the same tribe (1161b14), a cobbler and the person who buys from him (1163b35)." 

Agape shows us the deepest aspect of love; selfless love...the love of Christ, dying on the cross for us. The love He wants us to aspire to in all dealings. 

When Christ asked Peter "do you love me"? He used the form of Agape. Peter, understanding his humanness, could respond only with the "Philia" form of love. Peter knows that he is friends with Jesus but is unsure if he can reach that level of self-sacrificing love. 

C.S. Lewis defines Agape love as follows:
 "the highest level of love known to humanity – a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other.

Jesus refers to Agape love The Sermon on the Mount :
  You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love (agapēseis) your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love (agapāte) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?

—Matthew 5:43-46
I was talking to my friend the other day and we were reflecting on the fact that we, as Christians, are called to show Christ's love to all we meet. Ug. I can sit in Adoration for hours, pray the rosary, read and reflect on the Catechism but this love's hard for me. I'm a bit like Peter. I will help you and support you. I will want with all my heart to put your needs above mine. Sometimes I succeed. Often, though, my brokenness is too strong and I fail. I am selfish. I want to know why I should help when I already have so much on my plate? When I was praying the novena last week, the knot I asked Our Mother to untie was one in which I was putting myself before others. It's a frequent  theme in my life.

I think that's why these last four weeks have been such a gift. The blessing of receiving love and care from others, aside from meeting my spiritual and corporal needs, has been my realization that Agape, while an all-the-time thing for Christ and his Blessed Mother, probably comes more in spurts to the rest of us. The people who have been helping watch my kids and cook meals and run errands, they are shining with Agape love in those moments. What could be more love-of-other than cooking a meal and delivering it to a family who's mother is unable to feed her family? Who would volunteer to watch 5 kids unless it came from a completely selfless place? DH, more than anyone, has been so full of Agape love during this time. Of course, there are moments of short-temper and exhaustion. We are all human and I think our Agape capacity will always be limited. Still, there is hope. 

Striving to be the face of Christ means moving in that direction; trying to put others before me in all possible situations. Sometimes this is as simple as holding a door, or giving a smile. Often it is so much more difficult. In the last ten days I have had friends and neighbors who are going through major illnesses, losses, and life changes. I struggle with how to show the face of Christ to those dear people. What do I "do" to help a family who just had their much longed-for baby taken from the womb back to Heaven? How do I show Christ to the family who is struggling to transition from the home they've shared for decades into an assisted living situation, likely their last dwelling place on Earth? From this bed, how can I possibly help a young mother who is facing a dire health situation within her family? I was feeling more helpless than usual.

So, I prayed and I will continue to pray. When I am again "on my feet" I will be able to help in a more tangible way but, ultimately, I feel that most times prayer is the best thing we can do. Even then, there will be days and situations that don't have an easy solution. I am at a complete loss for my friends who lost their child. I know in His wisdom, God's will is good and correct but at the moment I'm so angry and sad about that situation. When, God willing, I get to heaven, it's going to be on the my Top 10 List of "what were You thinking?" ;0) So, I pray. I pray that they are given more grace because it is their cross to bear. I pray (and know fully) that God can listen to my hurt and anger and continue to love me abundantly as His flawed child. I am so blessed.

I'm not sure if this is what I had originally intended with this blog. I suppose, to try to tie it up neatly, I will wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. Show love to those you love and those you don't. Pray for the people who have hurt you. Help someone in need. Don't forget the other feast day on February 14th. Strive to make every day, not just tomorrow, a day when you choose other over self. Can you imagine a world where everyone made that decision?


  1. You mention the conversation between Christ and Peter. About a month ago, I heard Fr. Boniface talk about this passage on WAOB. He explained that in the Greek, the conversation really looked like this...
    Christ: Do you agape-love me?
    Peter: I philia-love you.

    I was totally blown away. This explanation makes that whole passage so much more meaningful, and I can't believe I had never heard it before in the literal translation! I wonder how many other scriptures are like this.

    1. Yes. The passage I mention is the way I heard it on EWTN quite a long time ago. I remember also how clear it all seemed after that explanation. I am sure there are many passages where the translation means everything.