Falling in love is like falling ill. It often happens unexpectedly, and you don’t really realize what’s going on until you wake up one morning and find yourself in the throes of it. As finite created beings, we are often interrupted by that which is outside of ourselves. The interruption of desire disrupts our daily lives and drives us to active pursuit.
This is partly why the Ancients were so wary of erotic desire. It’s disruptive and not easily susceptible to reasoned control. It’s thrilling and exhausting. To desire another person is wearying. Love really can make one sick: few things are as painful as the unfulfilled desire to be near to another.
Of course, one must wonder if this is the way God feels about each of us every moment. However much we may desire to be near to another, God’s desire to be near to us is infinitely greater. And if we think that the beloved ought to respond to our love, imagine how much more we ought to respond to God’s love. If the responsibility of the beloved to respond were proportional to the love of the lover, imagine how infinitely great would be our responsibility to respond to a God of infinite love. If the lover were entitled to the beloved, no one of us would approach his or her love before God. Indeed, if we were to approach our beloved, it would only be with God’s permission, and never in a way which would interfere with God’s claim over the beloved.
In this way the sickness of erotic love can lead us to God: it can act as a constant reminder of how God’s sickness for us must be infinitely greater than our own sickness for each other. Indeed, God’s sickness is so great that it has killed Him; no living man has been so lovesick. So as we pine for our earthly loves, erotic desire ought to always remind us of the love of God. As we long to be near to another, so must we respond to God’s desire to be near to us.
Chris Damian recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing degrees in Law and Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He can be found on Twitter @UniversityIdeas.
Thanks for the beautiful reflection. As a gay man, it only seems possible, or even conciveable, that a life according to the Church’s teachings would satisfy me when I am immersed in the experience of Christ’s love. In those times, I know I can do whatever God is calling me to and that it will be worth it in the end. But if I leave that emotional/spiritual space, no set of arguments or theology are going to convince me that these wildly frustrating teachings are worthwhile. You’ve drawn a powerful road map in helping direct us back from temptation into recognizing God’s love as the antidote to struggles with chastity.
And that road map is valid for heterosexuals too!!! 😃
Love your response! The true, deep love of Christ is the only thing that sustains.
Yes it is. And it truly fully doesn’t discriminate. God is wonderful!
There is a C.S. Lewis quotation on the edge of my mind that says something similar…basically the idea that if we really understood the love of God and His determination to pursue us, it would be almost frightening. Wish I could remember it! Great article!
This short contemplation is powerfully and richly stated. I can imagine, as God sees us as his progeny, he marvels at each and every new birth longing to be involved with us; sharing in all our intimate moments and being the one who transforms our inner being into a sublime magnum opus. When I have had such desires I say to myself, God must love her exponentially more than I and that makes me pause.
Today’s mass reading included John 3:16, made for some incredibly profound reflection in light of this post. To be completely in love, to be completely smitten and o be in so much pain to sacrifice such greatness for the sake of such a small piece of the universe, what a thought!