Being a Catholic means accepting the will of God and Holy Mother Church. And that not only means learning and following the rules, but living out the rules for their purpose, which in the end is love.
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
What then, is love?
In a nutshell, Catholicism is a religion based off the teachings of Jesus Christ in Palestine, which were then clarified in Greek by St. Paul, then forever immortalized in Latin, which I think is pretty darn cool.
How then, do we love?
In Greek, there are four different words for love: Philia, Eros, Storge, and Agape.
Philia is a general sort of love. It’s where we get words like bibliophile (lover of books) or philosophy (love of wisdom). Philia is seen between friends or within a community of like minded people. It is the most general of the four types of love, but it has to be mutual. It is the love in proper friendship, where two people look out for each other not for one’s own sake, but for the sake of the other.
Eros is a complicated sort of love. From that word we get the word “erotic.” It is passionate and usually expressed in a physical, often sexual way. It can drive one mad or lead one to a greater truth. Eros is the feeling when a guy sees the most beautiful girl he has ever seen and falls in love at first sight. It can also be a feeling when one sees a friend and all of a sudden you have the desire to be with that person many a time. I am sure we can all say we have all felt eros at one point in our lives.
Now eros is complicated because it can be misused or it can be a catalyst for something greater. Eros at its onset is a physical desire to possess. It’s when I see a cute girl and wonder how it feels to kiss her and when I wonder how to go out pursuing that. That in itself is wrong because that is the sin of lust. It is the sin of using a person for one’s own pleasure. Using a person means objectifying that person and if we are to see the image of God in each and every single person, the last thing we should do is objectify them.
When one contemplates their erotic desire however, it can come out to two things. The first is that it can lead to a greater appreciation of beauty. Not just the outside, physical beauty of a person, but also the internal beauty of a person’s soul. If this doesn’t lead to romance between two people, then it becomes a platonic friendship, a relationship without physical attraction, but a deep spiritual love that both people have for one another. It is through this contemplation that we see transcendent truth and appreciate the beauty of the human soul for what it is.
If erotic love leads to romance, and in the Catholic sense, marriage, then at its fullest, it is when man and woman go past the physical, worldly desires, and then after seeing the inner beauty of each other’s souls, decide that they are suitable to become one. Proper dating is usually how one contemplates and sorts through erotic love. It is when two people learn more deeply about themselves and each other without using each other, and after enough time, it leads to marriage. Marriage symbolizes God’s unity with Holy Mother Church and gain the privilege of creating a new being through which God can give to life a new immortal soul.
Basically, erotic love is the hardest love we experience because it is a love of passion and desire, but we are called to control that love and reach for the sublime.
The third word for love is Storge. Storge is familial love; basically, it is a pure, natural love. It is the love good parents have for their children, and it is the love good children have for their parents. It is the natural love of a family. Most of us have felt it at one point or another, and ideally should feel it all the time.
Now the last word for love, Agape, is interesting. It is the love God has of man and the love man should have for God. It is God’s unconditional love; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16
God’s Divine Mercy is incomprehensible. He loved us because we are us, and so we are called to love one another because we are man. In Latin, agape is caritas, the word for charity. Hence we are called to love for the good will of one another. To look out for the well being of one another outside of one’s self benefit is agape. To turn the other cheek and pray for your enemies is agape. To give alms without looking for recognition is agape. To give one’s life for one’s friends is agape. Agape is loving each other as Christ loved us. This love is selfless and divine.
We are called to love.
We are called to love properly. We are called to all of the forms of love.
Proper love does not use; rather, it fulfills. It fulfills our desire to be one with each other and with God.
Let us continue loving one another.
“The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.” ~St. Maximus the Confessor