God is Love

The Pope just released an amazing letter to the Church, saying sexual love "is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings." "True eros tends to rise in ecstasy towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves . . . a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing."

"Even if eros is at first mainly covetous . . . a fascination for the great promise of happiness in drawing near to the other, it [becomes] less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants 'to be there' for the other.

Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word love: we speak of love of country, love of ones profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbour and love of God. Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison. So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?

Eros and Agape difference and unity

3. That love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings, was called eros by the ancient Greeks. Let us note straight away that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros only twice, while the New Testament does not use it at all: of the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, New Testament writers prefer the last, which occurs rather infrequently in Greek usage. As for the term philia, the love of friendship, it is used with added depth of meaning in Saint Johns Gospel in order to express the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. The tendency to avoid the word eros, together with the new vision of love expressed through the word agape, clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love. In the critique of Christianity which began with the Enlightenment and grew progressively more radical, this new element was seen as something thoroughly negative. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely-held perception: doesnt the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesnt she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creators gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine?

4. But is this the case? Did Christianity really destroy eros? Let us take a look at the pre- Christian world. The Greeksnot unlike other culturesconsidered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a divine madness which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness. All other powers in heaven and on earth thus appear secondary: Omnia vincit amor says Virgil in the Bucolicslove conquers alland he adds: et nos cedamus amorilet us, too, yield to love.2 In the religions, this attitude found expression in fertility cults, part of which was the sacred prostitution which flourished in many temples. Eros was thus celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine.

The whole letter, in PDF is here.
An Globe and Mail article is here.

More on apage, eros.