Fourth Sunday in Lent (almost)

I didn’t preach last Sunday, the fourth in Lent. And whilst I had planned to do the discipline of digesting the readings and writing few thoughts for the blog regardless, it didn’t happen and I let it go!

I have, however, been lecturing on LOVE in lent. Giving three lectures for the ecumenical council of Heidelberg/ East Ivanhoe. So it has occurred to me quite belatedly, to post a favourite snippet from last week’s lecture on “God is Love.” 

Here ’tis… Picking up from the observation that Augustine equated divine work of love with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

SONY DSC

Saint Augustine was so moved by the image of Romans 5:5—the outpouring of the gift of God-who-is-Love into the human heart—that he functionally equated the gift of Love with the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is, for Augustine, they are one and the same thing—the Holy Spirit is Love.

. . .

In the tradition of Christian theology across the centuries, generally speaking there are two suggested locations for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. The first, which I would guess is the perspective most familiar to most of us, is that the Holy Spirit is present in the work of redemption. We receive the Holy Spirit in conjunction with receiving the testimony of Christ, as a seal of our salvation from sin in Christ. Hence, the Holy Spirit is primarily Christ’s spirit, as the son proceeded from the Father, so the spirit proceeds from the son.

There are a number of theological difficulties that. I believe that it has locked Christians into an hierarchical authority structure for both God and church. If there is no love outside of redemption then we are all doomed, so lets not go there.

There is another perspective that locates the Holy Spirit’s presence in the work of creation. At the foundation of the world as narrated in Genesis chapter one, the breath, ruarch, spirit of God enlivened the word of creation.

Some theologies, take this to be grounds for a kind of universalism. Love, the Holy Spirit, is the creative life-force, the universal energy that sparks life. I have many friends whose hold to this theological narrative. But if the weakness of love exclusively located in the Christian story is authoritarianism, for me, the weakness of love located in a single universal story is that it is in danger of ‘flattening out’ the rich diversity of human experience and difference is essential for love.

Love requires an ‘other’ to be in relationship with. Even when we speak of loving ourselves we assume we are talking about different aspects of our self. This relationship must be allowed freedom to from, or else it is not love, it is coercsion or control. Love is a connection with someone or something thing that is not our singular self.

Feminist Luce Iragaray, and actually Simone de Beauvoir before her, argued that articulation of the feminine is essential because of this of human tendency to reduce difference. If the feminine is not articulated then the default story is masculine. The same goes true for religious singularity. If only one religious story is spoken then only the most dominant story gets spoken. This is no ground for inter-faith dialogue. So, if we are to entertain a religious universalism, love demands that it is personal.

In Christian mysticism, the personal and the universal come together. In prayer, there is only the individual, perceiving body, and the experience of the moment or the encounter. So for the mystic, the separation of redemption and creation is not an option. These two possibilities of love in Christ and love in all creation find their integration and that was the subject of last week’s lecture.

So, in the wisdom of Catherine of Siena, the love mystics perceive:

All has been consecrated.

The creatures in the forest know this,

the earth does, the seas do, the clouds know

as does the heart full of

love.

Strange a priest would rob us of this

knowledge

and then empower himself

with the ability

to make holy what

already was.

 

To love in Christ is to come back to our true selves. Our true home. As Augustine said, ‘our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee.’ The love present in creation and redemption are one single thread of divine love in the universe, not two separate strands. They are the same because God is the same.

A Rule-of-Love

Painting by John Zurier, Sorgin.

Painting by John Zurier, Sorgin.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:9-13

Notes from a Sermon, 10 May 2015

Jesus commands us to abide in love and keep his commandments. But this is not, it seems, merely a pre-ordained set of rules, for Jesus clarifies, ‘I command that you love one another’ (John 15:15).

New Testament scholar Leon Morris has suggested that Jesus is emphasising a particular quality of love in this teaching to his disciples, rather than proscribing particular behaviour in a set of rules, which was how the old covenant commandments had come to be treated. It is not the command to love that is new, but rather the motivation and relational centre that is new, and which we recognise as Christians as ‘the new commandment’ to love one another as Jesus has loved us.’ Morris says, ‘the meaning appears to be to make the commandments one’s own, to take them into one’s inner being.’ Hence, the phrase ‘abide in my love.’

In the first letter of John the disciple whom Jesus loved (for that is most likely who the letter is attributed to) says that our love for Christ shall be known through our keeping the commandments. In particular John had in mind Jesus’ commandment that we love one another as he loved you. ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ The way of Jesus is committed relationships. Hence, it is no surprise that the monastic tradition offers us some help here, with a handy bit of language to describe the call to live by the commandment to love.

Painting by John Burier, After Paulo Shiavo 2013

Painting by John Burier, After Paulo Shiavo 2013

When a group of Christian men or women set up a new monastic order, seeking to leave the everyday responsibilities of life behind in order to fulfil the commandments in a more direct way, they inevitably set a form of guidelines which will mark out their particular way of life, based largely on the charism of a leader, like Saint Francis, or Saint Ignatius of Layola, Saint Theresa of Calcutta. These guidelines for living are called a Rule-of-Life. The Rule of Saint Benedict for example, which Benedictine monks and nuns have followed for 15 centuries, has 73 chapters, each of which contain instructions on different aspects of community life meal times and manners, ownership of property and the hours of prayer and labour.

In addition here is another phrase – ‘the rule-of-love’. The rule-of-love is more or less the opposite of a rule-of-life: it prescribes the ethos and the value of the community rather than the specific habits and actions required to express faithfulness to God. A rule-of-love is a matter of the heart. It is internalised, whereas a rule-of-life is externally imposed for the sake of community.

The rule-of-life is a vision statement, whereas the rule-of-love is a values statement.

It is the rule-of-love that is essential in our present cultural context, where the understanding of love is changing so substantially and so rapidly. Love used to be held sacred in marriage for example. Now romantic love is held up to be the ideal, boosted by Hollywood driven fantasy’s of perfect bodies and perfect lives.

Love also used to drive our social institutions – think for example of the way ‘charity’ has changed it’s meaning over the last couple of centuries. It used to mean love, now it means handing over some money somewhat resentfully.

Love used to mean commitment and obedience even in the face of death. Think for example what it meant to love one’s country and head off to war! Now, the biggest obligation n of love is to ‘follow one’s heart.’

So, should it surprise us that Christian theologians and Church leaders and faithful followers across the globe are now in sometimes radical disagreement as to what is loving and what is not? Is a couple living together before they are married breaking Jesus command to love? Is a child moving across the globe where they have no capacity to care for their elderly father and mother breaking the commandment to love as Jesus loved? Is walking past a bigger in the street failing to love?

At the moment, when we are in dismay as to what the ‘rules’ are, we must turn to the rule-of-love and follow our hearts. God has placed love into our hearts by the holy spirit, so even if we don’t have socially established norms, even then we can abide in love and make a decision to love as Jesus loved. Because love is in us. All the time. In all circumstances. If we are abiding in Jesus love, through the holy spirit, we always have a choice to turn to that love and translate it into our own love for others.

Note. I came across the work of John Burier in a 
Huffington Post article which you can read here.

The Power of Love

Oh yes, there was much 80s music through the duration of my PhD studies! Here’s another 80s classic that has played through my head constantly the past 4 years – Huey Lewis and the News – The Power of Love!

huey-lewis-and-the-news-the-power-of-loveYou don’t need money, don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
That’s the power of love!

This song particularly came to mind when I was stuck in a mental loop over the question: what kind of THING is love?

Is it an action? An emotion? An event or a kind of power or metaphysical entity?

Well, in the end the answer came not from books but chatting around the kitchen table one night with my two boys. We were talking superhero characters (do boys ever grow out of superhero mythologies?!) and naturally the conversation turned to the question ‘if you were a superhero what would your superpower be?’

I declared proudly that I already have a superpower!

What Mum? What is it?

My superpower is love, I say.

‘Oh but everyone has that’ says my 10 year old!

Well, yes actually, I had to admit that I was in full agreement – everybody is born with a capacity for love as an innate human superpower, it’s just that we tend to lose what we don’t use.

So that’s when I began to really understand Huey’s wisdom:

First time you feel it, it might make you sad
Next time you feel it it might make you mad
But you’ll be glad baby when you’ve found
That’s the power makes the world go’round

There are three more scholarly opinions that I will happily point you towards to back up Huey’s more colloquial wisdom. First is Barbara Friedrickson. As a researcher of human emotions, she argues love is a ‘prime emotion’ which is triggered by experiences of connection. In Love 2.0 she says,

First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike. [Moreover,] love is the momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between yours and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviours; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.

Second, I held the wisdom of Franz Rosenzweig in my mind through-out my pondering on this thing called love. Rosenweig drafted his monumental work, The Star of Redemption in the trenches of World War II, and you can feel the desperation in relation to question of love. He says,

Love is completely fulfilled in the moment in which it exists. . . . Thus love is not an attribute, but an event.

Finally, several things fell into place in my thinking about love when I read Thomas Merton’s essay On Love and Need. I read Merton quite late in the piece, in terms of my thesis research, and it was a beautiful gift to do so. In Merton I discovered a fellow traveller and lover who brought strands of my intuition in his words.

In reality, love is a positive force, a transcendent spiritual power. It is, in fact, the deepest creative power in human nature. Rooted in the biological riches of our inheritance, love flowers spiritually as freedom and as a creaturely response to life in a perfect encounter with another person. It is a living appreciation of life as value and gift.

All of these wisdoms – the boys, Huey Lewis, Friedrickson, Rosenweig and Merton – came together in my thesis in the following paragraph:

Love is a continuous present movement towards the good of an-other in response to connection with that other. If the connection is lost or interrupted, the love may or may not be sustained, but it will need to be re-fired by another, and then another connection – imagined or actual – if it is to continue to result in a movement of some kind. This movement is not an attribute or an aspect of love so much as a constant activity or action. It is difficult to choose a suitable word for the movement of love that is wholly in the moment, essentially generative and making way for more moments to come, to arrive from the future fantasy about permanent connection, in to the here-and-now of actual connection. Whether love is a praxis, an energy, an event or a power each of these words for the movement of love are adequate enough, but more satisfactory when held together, along with other grasping definitions. It is enough, though, to make a start, and to get on with the conversation.

$(KGrHqZ,!ogFBvNMg+h6BQj)Bj,p2g~~60_35

Of course, as a work of Christian theology, when I was asking the question about definitions of love, I was trying to make sense of the biblical material on love, particularly on the passage from 1 John 4, where John declares that God-is-love. But I’m gonna leave that for another post, and another 80s tune. Keep your ear to the blog-o-sphere for my next post with the Bangles: Do you feel my heart beating? Is it burning… an eternal flame?

Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

Wolf, Naomi Vagina: A New Biography (London; Virago, 2012)

I write this response to Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography with some trepidation because the reviews of this book have been passionate and polarised.  So a word first responding to the conversation surrounding the book – it really depends on what you expect the book to do for you, as to whether you find it satisfying.  There is a whole audience of women who might be able to engage with soft-edged Wolf who can’t cope with the hard-core political rants of Germain Greer (who, by the way, was scathing in her SMH review).

Naomi Wolf is a journalist, so this is a chatty, pop culture kind of ‘biography’ of the vagina; brought to life with anecdotal stories of her own and others.  Several reviewers criticise the reporting of science  in the book, because the storytelling obscures the complexity of a still emerging body of scientific research, which is probably a valid criticism, but again misses the point that Naomi is a journalist crafting a particular story for her readership.

Actually, as an ‘everyday woman’ I find Naomi Wolf quite inspiring!  How many women would seek out the medical advice of their gynecologist because they experienced a loss of enjoyment in the bedroom as a problem?  How many women would even notice a loss of feeling in their inmost parts?

Wolf’s point is basically that there is a whole stack of emerging neuro-biological science which backs up some very ancient wisdom around the mind-body-creativity connection in women’s sexuality.  Much of this wisdom seems to be marginalised in the West, so she investigates the reasons for that and explores how we might interpret the sexual experience of women differently, if we take this new science seriously.  At one end of this spectrum she describes the refugee camps of Congo where an ocean of women, mutilated in an act of war, are cut adrift from their identity as community builders, and therefore resisters in a time of war.  At the other pleasurable end of the investigation, she compares Western medicalised notions of women’s bodies with cultures that emphasise the sexual fulfillment of women as goddesses in order that they might mediate fecundity in the common life of the community.

“By looking at recent science, and asking questions in person and online, I found that the vagina’s experiences can – on the level of biology – boost women’s self-confidence, or else can lead to failures of self-confidence; they can help unleash female creativity or present blocks to female creativity.  They can contribute to a woman’s sense of the joyful interconnectedness of the material and spiritual world – or else to her grieving awareness of the loss of that sense of interconnectedness.  They can help her experience a state of transcendental mysticism that can affect the rest of her life – or leave her at the threshold of that state, inviting that there is something ‘more.’  This latter experience, in turn, can lead not only to a decrease in her desire for sex but can also risk a tincture in the rest of her life of what can only be called ‘existential depression’ or ‘despair.'” (p. 5-6)

This post is much more of a musing than a review, so if you’d like to read a review I more or less agreed with, check out Helen Brown in The Telegraph.

Would I recommend you read it?  Absolutely!

 

On Love, or Going to Bed with a Stranger by Bradley Onishi

I met Brad in Dublin recently.  Not only is he a great guy and a creative thinker, he’s a good writer!   I particularly appreciated this recent post from his blog and decided to share it with you.  Check out more at Unreasonable Revelations.

On Love, or Going to Bed with a Stranger

My fiancee and I celebrated an anniversary recently, an occasion that always provides time for a good conversation about the improbable path we have taken to make it this far together. In light of our upcoming wedding, the memories we shared over dinner were especially vivid, and meaningful.

All in all, the day gave me a chance to think about something I have thought alot about over the past couple of years–the differences and similarities in how we love significant others and how we might love God. One of my many rants is about how we have transposed a certain idea of what the love of God might give us onto what the love of what our Soulmate might give us. I hinted at this when I wrote a piece on the last episode of Lost for the Huff Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bradley-b-onishi/i-once-was-found-and-now_b_586861.html

The condensed version of the rant goes like this: we have constructed an idea that the love of God provides us with the missing piece to our mortal, solitary existence. God’s love is the missing puzzle piece and his pure, unadulterated, unconditioned love provides the answer to the question of both who we are and what we are. What’s strange is that we have transposed this version of monotheism into a version of monogamy. We have an idea that out there some where is a Soulmate that is the missing piece–the missing puzzle piece–to my life, one that will make me whole, fulfilled, and truly myself. That last part is key. The Soulmate, like God, is the one who truly gives me to me–makes me my true self. God and the Soulmate are the One. If I could only meet the One, then I could live happily ever after.

For many reasons, I don’t buy this version of either the love of God or the love of Soulmate. In fact, when I thought back to what I thought of love before meeting my fiancee, I realized that although I studied, read, and wrote about love constantly–I was allergic to it. It took me years to figure out why, but now I understand that it was because it felt like if being in love meant meeting that which would complete me–complete me in such a way that nothing was at risk, at play, or uncertain–then I would be dead, or walking dead. For a while I believed that this was just a me problem. I was allergic to love and thus would have to decide to give in to the personal, societal, and familial pressure to find love and settle down or remain a grumpy, existential, and solitary philosopher for the rest of my days.

Things changed when I decided to change my notion of love. Without going into a ton of detail, over the course of time I began to realize that love is not about being so close to someone that you share everything. The idea is not to get so acquainted that the otherness is squashed. Love is not about becoming melded into one being–one identity–one existence.

It is just the opposite. Love is about otherness. Love is a commitment to wake up each day and try one’s best to help the other person be–to take up his or her existence in ways that are intentional, genuine, and without fear. It is a commitment to get to know an unknowable Stranger. Love is about pursuing that which eternally evades but eternally seduces. Love is about the infinite desire of two ferociously mortal creatures who are not the answer to the question of the other’s existence–but the deepening, prodding, pursuing voice of one who can’t complete you and refuses to try.

Love is not completion. Love is the beautiful irresolution of mortal temporality–a fantastic jaunt in the wilderness of mortality, tears, hope, frustration, pain, despair, community, and loss. It doesn’t solve anything. It only reveals that both of you, separately and together, are irresolvable.

More than anything, love doesn’t mean meeting the One–the One who will give you you by completing you. Love is about the Stranger, the one who reminds you that you will always be a stranger here, and thus a stranger to those whom you love.

When we sat at dinner that night, I realized I was sitting across from someone with whom I am intimately familiar, but who I do not know–do not possess–do not understand. I also I realized that if I did, I wouldn’t be looking forward to marrying her. It reminded me of  a passage in a novel I was finishing when I met my fiancee. At the end, the narrator writes down what is more of a prayer than a proclamation.

It goes like this:

I used to think that someday I would meet the One; I would meet the One for whom I was destined—the only One—the One that was for me. I used to think I would meet the One that would give me the stability, the unity, and the identity of an unchanging, unlonging, settled soul. I used to think I would be converted and in doing so receive the salvation of earth—love. I used to think love was being converted to One—to becoming fully united with one—and letting our respective selves pass into a Selfsameness that surpassed words, surpassed all other relationships, and colored every breath of our interaction with the world.”
“Okay.”
“I will never love you that way; in fact, to do so would be to kill both of us. I don’t want a love that takes my breath away, or yours for that matter. I don’t want a love that is akin to death. I don’t want the end of desire—the end of need—the end of longing.”
“Okay.”
“No, if I am going to love you it will always be as a stranger. You will always be a stranger to me, no matter how long we spend together. You will always be strange to me; you will always be other. Instead of the One, you will be the Other. We won’t be united. No. We will stay infinitely separate. The distance between us won’t ever dissipate. No. We’ll always be isolated little souls treading in the sea of singularities. You will always be away—apart—altogether different. And, that is how I will love you. I will love you with a longing that will only stop when the possibility of myself stops. I will love you infinitely across a distance I know cannot be overcome, most of all, because it is an eternal one and I am so, so mortal. I will love you as a stranger in my home, in my arms, one I cannot, will not understand, comprehend, or grasp. I will love you as a blurred, bedazzling appearance I can’t reduce, and therefore, one that demands my attention, my devotion, my interest in ways I can never fulfill. I won’t love you as my One. I won’t kill you or me, even though I want to. I won’t love you as the One. I’ll love you as my Other—as the Stranger inside me: the one crawling around, touching me in places I didn’t know I had—places exhilarating and uncomfortable at the same time. Every day I will try unsuccessfully to understand you, even though I will only experience the distance between us. I’ll love you as a haunting calling me ever toward you. I’ll love you as a foreigner inside myself—inside a land with precarious borders and unknown topography. I’ll love you even though I can’t, even though time and eternity won’t let me.”
Okay, I understand.”

Interview with Gillian Rose by Vincent Lloyd

I came across this great piece yesterday, which is available on-line through the author’s website.

Gillian Rose

Vincent Lloyd is Assistant Professor of Religion at Syracuse University NY  who has spent quite a bit of (scholarly) time with Gillian Rose, one of my reddresstheology favourites.  Lloyd introduces this 1995 interview with Andy O’Mahony for RTE Radio with a very accessible introduction to Rose’s work.  He chooses the six key phrases which display Rose’s pre-occupations and offers a brief explanation.  For Rose…

‘Philosophy must start in the middle’

‘Ethical life is risky, there are no guarantees – we are all victims and perpetrators’

‘Ethics is politics is metaphysical’

‘Modernity is characterized by dualistic splits which postmodernity continues’

‘Ontology is a false substitute for metaphysics’

‘Love involves risk and vulnerability’

The interview itself betrays Rose as a much lighter character than her writing sometimes suggests and certainly confirmed my liking of her: if you’ve been intrigued by my work on love I recommend you go and read the whole interview, which took place just one month before her premature death.

Here are a few of my favourite grabs:

AO’M: You mentioned the disappearance of eros, meaning a desire or hunger.
GR:  Eros ranges from sexual desire to intellectual curiosity.  It’s just a hunger, I think that’s a good way to put it, because a hunger acknowledges a lack, but knows also that it can be filled.  If you just say, as some people do, that Platonic eros is lack, you’ve only got half of it.

                – – –

AO’M:  Point to those philosophers, those thinkers, who see eros  in more full-blooded, more positive terms…
GR:  I don’t think there are any now.  I think that is what’s missing from philosophy at the moment and that is what I’m trying to restore in my own work.  In the tradition, I think it’s in Rousseau, Hobbes, Marx – I even see it in Marx – Freud.  I think it’s in all the great thinkers, but not in deconstruction or other French thinking.*

AO’M:  ‘If I knew who I was’, says you, ‘I wouldn’t write.’
GR:  I don’t like it when people say, ‘I’m writing this book as a woman, as a Jew, as a Catholic, as a black.’  Those are things that need to be explored in order to know what they are.  We write in order to explore what they might mean.  To put them there as fixatives is fascist.  They are not fixed things, to be a woman, to be a Jew, to be a black, to be a Catholic.  They’re highly mobile, volatile things.  If you’re growing, you don’t even know what they are from one minute to the next.  So you can’t start your book by saying, ‘This is where I write from.’  You’ve got to find where you write from by questioning where you start from.

                  – – –

AO’M:  You say at one point in Love’s Work, ‘I’m highly qualified in unhappy love affairs.’
GR:  Perhaps some people have over-construed that.  I do say at the end of the book that I have had two very successful long-term relationships.  I don’t want to appear as simply a waif of love.  Nevertheless, that statement was introduced strategically and realistically because I wanted to explore what it is to be love-able and what it is to be non-love-able – I mean loveable and capable of love at the same time – and that’s why I introduced it in that dramatic way.  It is true, of course, because I have had a lot of unhappy experiences – otherwise I wouldn’t grow, would I?

AO’M:  Did you see any pattern?
GR:  Certainly I did.  One tends to think, first of all, that things are happening to you.  What you have to discover from unhappy love affairs in your own agency and your own ambivalence.  I think some forms of feminism detract from women being able to do that.  They teach women that they’re oppressed, and they don’t encourage women to see their own active involvement in situations where they may indeed be unequal.  But you need to see your own involvement in that, commitment in that, in order to move beyond it.

AO’M: You talk about the rage that some women feel towards other men in their lives that often masks an even greater rage expressed in terms of choosing an incompetent partner.
GR:  There’s a syndrome, which I discovered in myself, and which I see in other women, whereby you’ve very angry with men, maybe your father, and therefore you choose a partner who it’ easy to be contemptuous of.  I think that’s a syndrome that needs to be recognized more.  I would put that generally: we don’t talk enough about the power of women, we talk much too much about the powerlessness of women.

AO’M:  The power residing in what?
GR:  In being a mother, in being a lover … that women are not always on the weaker side of things, they’re often on the stronger side of things, but nevertheless representing themselves to themselves as weaker.  Therefore they don’t understand their own agency in their choice of love object.

               – – –

AO’M: You say that to spend the whole night with someone is agape.  We normally make a distinction between agape and eros, that agape has something to do with relating to God, eros to our fellow humans.
GR:  It’s more that eros is about desire and apage is about care.  If you don’t simply make love with someone and then leave, but spend the night holding them, it’s much nearer care than desire, or it’s the beautiful mix of the two.

AO’M:  But how absolute a distinction is it?
GR:  I don’t agree with Nygren who makes an absolute distinction between agape and eros.  I think eros fulfilled always becomes agapic.#

AO’M:  Where is friendship, then, in that mix?
GR:  Friendship is also a very beautiful and important thing.  it could all be seen under the sign of friendship.

Go to Vincent Lloyd’s webpage to read the whole interview here.

                          ____________________________________

* Remember that Rose is commenting almost twenty years ago – if she were alive today I think she would agree the situation has changed somewhat, and I think that she would very much like Jean-Luc Marion’s recent book The Erotic Phenomenon.
#  I cheered out loud at this point when I first read the interview!  Absolutely!!  Can’t agree more!!!  It’s captured masterfully in this piece by ‘soul scape’ artist Louis Parsons

Eros and Agape

Spirituality of Love #6 – ‘Love is life itself’ by Chelle Trebilcock

a snapshot of material presented at solace ‘tuesday stuff’ may-june 2012

see spirituality of love #1 (20 June)  for more details

spirituality of love #6:

Human romance contains an invitation into divine romance,

and divine romance leads into freedom, healing, forgiveness, grace, love.

For me… it’s all about Jesus.


LOVE IS LIFE ITSELF by Chelle Trebilcock

“I know who you are”
declared his gaze
and I fell over once again
stumbling like a cripple
paralysed by longing
desiring
hoping.

If only love were rational
and could be brought into line by cognitive will.
Instead
love rises up from the depths
and until it is free
it is the leviathan of dark waters.

Love is but a made up word
and should not be expected to carry the weight
of the experience it is striving to name.
And yet I find I need to say those words ‘I love you’
and I need to hear those words ‘I love you’
and we need to know those words ‘I love you’
in power and in truth.

It is simple.
I am summed up by these four blesséd letters
containing all life and meaning
and all I ever want ever again
is to love and be loved.

Love
is life itself.

Spirituality of Love #5 – love poem by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

a snapshot of material presented at solace ‘tuesday stuff’ may-june 2012

see spirituality of love #1 (20 June)  for more details

spirituality of love #5:

the mystical love of God is like a rainbow and the human loves one of every colour

A POEM by Rumi from Divan 499, poem 3

Look at that face
those manners
that frame
those cheeks
those arms and legs
That complexion
that strength
that shining orb
filling out the shirt

Shall I compare to cypress? meadows?
to tulips? jessamine?
to the candle or the candelabra?
or to the rose dancing in the breeze?
O Love come like an agiary, assuming form and hue
Robbing the caravan of hearts along the highway
Good sir! Give us some respite.

In my flame and fire I pass the night to dawn
How blessed my victory at “The Sun in the zenith”
I spin around his bright org,
greet him without lips
throw myself down to earth
before he calls out “Come get it!”

Rose garden and paradise on earth you are
the eye and the light of the world you are
and also searing pain of the world
when your steps turn to cruelty
I come to pledge my life
you say
Don’t bother me, go!
I bow and obey and withdraw
you say
Come here, you fool!
His image joins company with fiery lovers
May your face
never for a moment
leave our sight!
Heart, patience!
Why so distracted from your focus
Do you ever steal an hour of sleep,
of a morning? in the evening?
The heart replies
His beauteous face
those two bewitching narcissi
his brow of hyacinth
rubies sweet to taste
Love,
everywhere blessed by fair name and good repute
last night I christened you anew:
Pain Incurable

You,
the splendor of my being
the mover of my spheres
send flour, my dear, as grist
to keep the mill from grinding to a halt and spinning free

No more will I speak,
say this line and that’s enough:
My being melts in this desire
Befriend us, Our God!

(from Divan 499, poem 3)

Spirituality of Love #4 – ‘Love’ by Sebastian Moore

a snapshot of material presented at solace ‘tuesday stuff’ may-june 2012

see spirituality of love #1 (20 June) for more details

spirituality of love #4:  

happy love relationships negotiate the space between you and me with freedom and grace 

There is a line in this prayer that I kind of think is heresy, but all in all I think it is an extraordinary piece.  I’m afraid I have to give it a strong language and sexual references warning though – so don’t read on if you need your prayer tamed!

LOVE by Sebastian Moore

Christ! I’m ready now –
ready to get lost in the evangel of people’s bodies
accuracy of the flesh
kiss of truth
we cannot say what we are
we can only be to each other
touch each other with truth
and a miss is as good as a mile.

When I was a kid
that is yesterday
I kept myself within bounds
and sowed the dream out of bounds
the pleasure of the flesh without the bone
and thus was straddled between two childhoods
of the law and of the flesh
straddled, castrated, unmoving
unable to embrace
for the dreamed-of-lips were without truth
and truth without flesh
and I nowhere.

When suddenly is the new power
to bone the flesh from far-off galaxies
and quiver each to each
in the inerrant star-dance of people true to each other
and true to me who hardly know myself
the child who paddled in the still pools of the flesh
soft flesh soft light the still forbidden poison
as I laugh now at the forbidden nowhere.

O the wretched rag-bag of the unresolved
containing ‘I love you’ and ‘people are important’
and the absurd Law which filled the one with guilt and tried to bone the other
while the whole thing collapsed in a heap of shapeless me.
Now I am shaped to you and you
and we give each other the bloody obvious kiss
written in light years of the beginning.

Now we begin to love
and old God groans like a teacher who has laboured
from the beginning a lesson that was too obvious for the class
‘At last you’ve understood? You don’t say!
I gave you a law when the semen splashed off the vaginal wall into galaxies of direct speech
and you made the futile roundabout, the rules
in which it was impossible to say what you meant or what anything meant
and so I gave you my bloody obvious Christ
and still you kept your clothes on and went round and round
Him: honestly I was almost prepared to junk him and try again,
anything to get that one thing from you
to sing each other’s names
in the ribbed glory of my eternal making.’

‘I love you’ we said in the old world
and forgot the world, clinging to me and you,
but now the world invades
crushes the ancient sentence into a word
that is you me him
the universe has caught up with us and caught us up
into the word flesh crash –
Christ! how I love you.

In Sebastian Moore & Kevin Maguire, The Experience of Prayer (London; Darton, Longman &  Todd; 1969)

You may or may not have noticed that Sebastian Moore is a reddresstheology favourite.  Here’s some others of his poems:

wisdom

this, the call

if I could just be one, no longer two

in the body

and one of his theology monographs:

let this mind be in you


Spirituality of Love #3 – ‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver

a snapshot of material presented at solace ‘tuesday stuff’ may-june 2012 

see spirituality of love #1 (20 June) for more details

spirituality of love #3: 

‘glass half full’ love overflows from a fullness of love in our body/being in order to become a blessing to others and to ourselves

‘glass half empty’ love grasps at love in others in order to fulfil our own needs and too easily becomes a burden to others and a disappointment to ourselves

WILD GEESE by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.