Monday, January 6, 2014

God Is Love

"Love and do what you will; if you are silent, be silent in love; if you shout, shout in love; if you correct, correct in love; if you spare, spare in love. Let the root of love be within and nothing but good can spring from this root." These well-known words come from the commentary of St. Augustine on the First Epistle of St. John. For Augustine,"God is Love" sums up the whole Bible and the saint's central teaching, which ultimately means that a person who loves is a free person.

A meditation on this teaching of "love and do what you will" (Dilige et fac quod vis) appears in the Kyeongyang magazine. Written by a priest who has made a study of the Church Fathers, the article explores what it means to experience freedom, and concludes that a person who is truly free is enjoyably aware. Using this heightened awareness to understand the incarnation and the resurrection allows for greater understanding of the Hebrew Bible, deepening even further our understanding of what it means to be free.

He then uses three other Latin phrases in the writings of the saint to help us understand. The first is from a sermon on Zacchaeus: "He saw because he was seen" (visus est, et vidit). It was because Zacchaeus was, first, loved unconditionally and accepted by God that enabled him to see; it was the beginning, for him, of change and understanding.

The second phrase "Love gives us sight" (Ubi amor ibi oculus), though used  by St. Thomas Aquinas, was  taken from the writings of Augustine. A person may have been baptized and received communion and thus  considered a member of the Church, but by wicked actions he is actually outside the body of the Church. The standard which  determines the rightness of our actions is not the act itself but the intention. Words that are violent in rebuke may be said with great love, and soft words and actions may have the appearance of love but in reality are wicked. The difference is similar to that between a father who punishes his child to correct him, and a slave master who caresses and uses loving words to deceive and seduce.

And the last Latin phrase: The will is freer the more it is subject to God (eris liber, si fueris servus ). To love and be loved is dangerous, for leaving the door of the heart open to receive love opens oneself to death. Jesus was an example of this love. Augustine uses the words from Romans 5:5, where Paul says: "For God has poured out his love into our hearts." Augustine uses this phrase 20 times in his writings. We are shown the descending love of God, and it is our imitation of this love that gives us strength.

In conclusion, the cross was the meeting place where freedom and servitude became one. It is only when one is the slave of love--the slave of  grace-- that one is truly free. It is only then that one is free from egoism, pride, self-indulgence and injustice.

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