03 November 2007

What is Love... and Love... and Love... and Love?


I love my mom...

I love my friends...

I love my fiance...

I love brownie sundaes with whipped cream and hot fudge?

All of the above is true, at least for me. I've made each of these statements at certain times in my life (and no I won't disclose which one more than the others!).

LOVE - Same word in each statement, but meaning something totally different each time.

Quick Greek Lesson:

Storge - Affection, familial love
Philia - Friendship love
Eros - Physical love, object love
Agape - Unconditional love

The Greeks have FOUR different words for love. I'm not saying we need to add any more confusion to the English language (or maybe I am) but the fact that we can say "I love my wife" and "I love pizza" in the same sentence and not raise any eyebrows is a problem. The L word is completely misused today, most especially among young people.

So how about that brownie sundae? What kind of love does that fit under?

Well, no one is related to a brownie sundae, so it's not family love. There may be some pretty lonely people in this world, but even lonely people have better friends than something that melts if not consumed within ten minutes of buying it - not philia. Can you "agape" a brownie sundae? Sure, but I suggest you seriously consider counseling if you're willing to take a bullet for your dessert (even if it comes from Applebee's). That leaves one possibility - Eros. Yes, the same way of loving that is meant to go hand in hand with agape, is used to describe my feelings toward brownie sundaes.

In Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope brilliantly explains the intended relationship of Eros (which seeks to receive) and Agape (which seeks to give). We can see why eros would be the love of objects such as favorite games, sports teams, and food. In saying we love those things, we're expecting to get something from them. This is not a bad thing. What is bad is when we apply this to the human person, and neglect agape. What is bad is when people think that love is something they should "feel" and something that should make them happy.

Too many people out there are looking for love in order to GET, not give. And what our Holy Father would say, much more eloquently and with much deeper implications than I can convey right now, is that it is only when you love unconditionally (as Christ did on the cross) that you get anything in return. It starts with making someone else happy. Happiness comes with bringing joy to others. This is when the eros becomes a physical expression of the agape.

Jesus happily died on the cross for us. Despite His pain and suffering, He was never bitter about what He did. He understood the relationship and he knows that real love is in laying down your life for the one you love - the Church, His Bride.

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