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Learning the Way of the Love Which Creates Equality
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
August 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Love creates equality, says St. Augustine of Hippo in one of his sermons. St. John of the Cross reiterates the same principle in his Spiritual Canticle: "It is the property of love to place him who loves on an equality with the object of his love." Love creates equality. This is an important spiritual principle.CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Love creates equality, dilectio facit aequalitatem, says St. Augustine of Hippo in one of his sermons (No. 371). St. John of the Cross reiterates the same principle in his Spiritual Canticle (27:6n): "It is the property of love to place him who loves on an equality with the object of his love."
Love creates equality. It is a fundamental spiritual principle.
It is important to understand what St. Augustine and St. John of the Cross mean by this love which creates equality, as the love they speak about creates equality not by bringing men down, but by raising men up. This love which creates equality has an upward pull, not a downward bent.
The "love-which-creates-equality" of which St. Augustine and St. John speak is, of course, the love of God.
Now the term "love of God" is wonderfully ambiguous. Grammarians will recognize that the phrase can be understood either as an objective genitive or a subjective genitive, i.e., it can either mean that God is the object or the subject of "love." So "love of God" may mean "God (as subject) loves man (as object)." But it can also mean "man (as subject) loves God (as object)."
In short, "love of God" can mean the love that God has for man, or the love that man has for God, or both.
What is notable is that the "love-of-God-which-creates-equality" must be understood as having both objective and subjective components. It is a two-way love of God which creates equality, and not a one way love of God which creates equality.
For there to be a love which creates equality, God must love man and, in turn, man must love God. There must be a union of wills between God and man, and for there to be a union of wills, there must be mutuality. Love must be mutual.
It takes two to tango, we say. What is true in dancing is true in the spiritual life. It takes two to have a love-which-creates-equality.
Man could love God all he wished, but that would never make man equal to God. Man's love of God alone--if such a thing be even possible without grace--is not a love-of-God-which-creates-equality.
Similarly, God could love man all he wished, and in fact God does, but that would never make man equal to God. God's love of man alone is not a love-of-God-which-creates-equality.
Now man cannot love--on his own--God. Man's love is insufficient, and must be supplemented with God's own love. God, says St. John of the Cross, is pleased with the growth of our souls, but the only way that our soul can grow in love of God is for the soul to become in a manner equal to God. This is something clearly outside of the soul's unaided power.
This is exactly the point of St. John the Apostle who states: "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) The initiator of the love-of-God-which-creates-equality is God. He loves first.
The God who loves first is the one who came down to our level when His Word visited us in Christ, "Who "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found in human appearance." (Phil. 2:6-7)
St. John of the Cross explains what can happen to a soul when it takes this love of God proffered to the soul by God and loves God with it, or rather with Him, as the love God gives man to love Him with is the Holy Spirit, a person. "Thus the soul loves God with the will and strength of God Himself, being made one with that very strength of love wherewith itself is loved of God. This strength is the Holy Spirit, in Whom the soul is thereby transformed." (38.4)
But again, the love which God has for us, and the Love which God gives to us to love Him with cannot--without us--be the love-of-God-which-creates-equality. To paraphrase St. Augustine, He who loved us without us, cannot love us with a love-which-creates-equality without us.
St. John of the Cross recognizes how mutuality is required for the love of God to create equality. In his Spiritual Canticle (12:7), St. John states: "when the union of love occurs, . . . it may be truly said the Beloved lives in the loving soul, and the loving soul in the Beloved. Love produces such a resemblance by the transformation of those who love that one may be said to be the other, and both but one."
While God's love of us is perfect, our love of God--at least in statu viae, while on pilgrimage on earth--does not reach perfection. "Beloved," says the Apostle John, "we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2)
So the love-of-God-which-creates-equality is not perfect while we live by faith in this valley of tears. Even Saints--who asymptotically approach this love as closely as possible while on earth--do not achieve this sort of equality arising from perfect love. This is the stuff of heaven.
This perfect union of love must await heaven, where we shall know God fully even as we are fully known by God. (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12) It is then, St. John of the Cross tells us paraphrasing St. Paul the Apostle, that we shall love God even as we are loved by God, though without absorption into God. We do not get absorbed into the Absolute and disappear and become one in this manner. "Though in heaven the will of the soul is not destroyed, it is so intimately united with the power of the will of God, Who loves it, that it loves Him as strongly and as perfectly as it is loved of Him; both will being united in one sole will and one sole love of God." (38.3)
There is, of course, a downside to all this. If, despite all of God's love, we do not use the love that God gives us to love Him with, and do not love Him in return, then it follows that we are loving something else, something other than God. In short, we are inordinately in love with some sort of creature, whether one created by God or one of our own devising.
This love of creature is exclusive of love of God inasmuch as it puts Him in second or lower place. It is a disordered love, since it places the creature above the Creator. It is what is at the essence of idolatry, of pride. In a sense, all sin is idolatry, the result of pride.
Unfortunately, love of creature exclusive of love of God is also a love which creates equality, but it need not be mutual. In fact, in a lot of cases, that creature which is inordinately loved cannot even love back (e.g., money, celebrity). But this ersatz or false love-which-creates-equality is one that tears man down. Indeed, it deforms him. It uglifies him.
In his Ascent to Mount Carmel (I:4.3), St. John of the Cross speaks about this kind of love of creatures which creates equality by bringing man down. The soul becomes like those things it loves; indeed, the soul actually becomes lower than the creature it loves because it becomes subject to it, enslaved to it.
The inordinate love of creatures or of pleasures obtained from creatures is, of course, what sin is. As St. Peter Julian Eymard--that champion of the Blessed Sacrament--succinctly states: "Inordinate love of creatures or of pleasure is what has perverted the heart of man and driven him away from God."
The conclusion of this inordinate love not pretty: "He that loves a creature becomes as low as that creature, and, in some ways, lower," St. John of the Cross tells us in his Ascent to Mount Carmel, "for love not only makes the lover equal to the object of his love, but even subjects him to it." We injure ourselves, deform ourselves, make our souls ugly through an inordinate love of a created good.
Not only does such a love create equality by bring us down to a level lower than the beasts, it also affects our relationship with God, even---if the love is disordered enough--severing it. "For the low estate of the creature is much less capable of union with the high estate of the Creator than is darkness with light," St. John of the Cross tells us. "For all things of earth and heaven, compared with God, are nothing." Todas las cosas de la tierra y del cielo, comparadas con Dios, nada son.
Because all things of earth and heaven when compared to God are nothing, and our inordinate love of such relative nothing makes us lower than the relative nothing, the soul that loves inordinately "is likewise nothing in the eyes of God, and less than nothing; for, as we have said, love makes equality and similitude, and even sets the lover below the object of his love. And therefore such a soul will in no wise be able to attain to union with the infinite Being of God; for that which is not can have no communion with that which is."
This inordinate love of creature above God also makes our souls ugly, unable to be transformed by beauty, which is God. Deformity, St. John of the Cross tells us, "cannot attain to beauty."
He warns us: that "all the grace and beauty of the creatures, compared with the grace of God, is the height of misery, and of uncomeliness. Wherefore the soul that is ravished by the graces and beauties of the creatures has only supreme misery and unattractiveness in the eyes of God; and thus it cannot be capable of the infinite grace and loveliness of God; for that which has no grace is far removed from that which is infinitely gracious; and all the goodness of the creatures of the world, in comparison with the infinite goodness of God, may be described as wickedness. . . . And therefore the soul that sets its heart upon the good things of the world is supremely evil in the eyes of God. And, even as wickedness comprehends not goodness, even so such a soul cannot be united with God, Who is supreme goodness."
Love creates equality. Remember the principle. Be wary, then, what and how you love.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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