Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is love? Love is everything.

Jay Michaelson:

As has been observed since a seminal 1939 book by Anders Nygren, the Greek word used in the New Testament for love is agape, not eros.

Love is sometimes given because someone deserves it, but sometimes it is given regardless of whether someone deserves it. Both kinds of love are necessary.

Nietzsche wrote: "Love brings to light the exalted and concealed qualities of a lover – what is rare and exceptional in him: to that extent it can easily deceive as to what is normal in him." A competing view from Fr. Charles Curran is that one can give love regardless of whether the person is deserving of the attention: "[Agape is] the loving concern which is a total giving independent of the lovable qualities of the other." One might imagine that such love does not necessarily bring to light any "exalted," supra-normal qualities – but, on the other hand, it may bring to light some "concealed" qualities.

Nicolas Berdyaev described agape as a love that moves "downward," perhaps meaning toward the more humble and vulnerable.

All love brings new sufferings with it, and at the same time only love conquers suffering. It is divine-human love which conquers. Eros love has endless suffering in it; there is an element of insatiability in it. Love which is agape, the love which moves downward, not upward, does not include infinite craving. For this reason the two sorts of love ought to be combined, otherwise fullness is not attained.

William Ian Miller:

Passionate sexual love seems to set the standard [for the definition of love] – at least for the past eight hundred years in the West it has. Love worth having is Eros with a little philia thrown in; agape is for when you are older and need to do penance for Eros.

Christopher Phillips:

...Socrates, along with most of his fellow Athenians — until the polis entered a period of irreversible decline in his adult years — was informed and inspired by five types of love: eros; storge (familial-type love); xenia (“stranger love”); philia (communal and friendship-based love); and agape (self-sacrificial and even unconditional love). Socrates showed that there were no tidy divides between these forms of love; he acted in the world from the premise that one could not remake oneself, one’s society, one’s universe if one did not harness all these types of love in concert.

The Monks of New Skete:

The ancient Greeks had many different words for what we call love, each word touching on a different aspect of the reality. Agape means the benevolent love of a person as a human being, agapetos is the beloved, agapenor is to love in a strong, virile way, philia is love as friendship and affection, eros is driving, passionate love, imeros is the craving and obsession one has for someone who is present, storge is the love one has for blood relatives, philostorgos is tender love and affection, just to mention some.

The novelist Michael Novak:

‘Love is everything,’ said the old priest slowly. ‘Love purifies, love liberates. It frees men and makes them expand. It is tender because it springs from pain. It enlarges the beloved and the lover. It makes both realize how beautiful they are. It makes them throw their heads back with pride, look into the sky, forget their fears and loneliness and insecurity. Love somebody and see the difference it makes to him. And to you. See the suffering it brings.’ The old man’s voice spoke the words distinctly, slowly, almost laboriously. ‘You can love when you cannot feel. When you cannot think. When you cannot find God, you can always find your fellows. Even in your sleep you can love. Riccardo, you can take love as a star on the darkest nights. It is a borrowed light, not intellectual and clear, but sure and full of harmony. Love, and your life is worth its pain. Do not love, and you run counter to the universe.’

Love sometimes calls in pain rather than harmony between people. But love itself is harmony. It is essential to our universe.


Jay Michaelson. God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality. Boston: Beacon Press, 2011. p. 12.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Section 163

Fr. Charles Curran, quoted in Michael Dennock's Moral Problems: What Does a Christian Do? Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. p 61.

Nicolas Berdyaev. The Divine and the Human. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1949. p 84.

William Ian Miller. Faking It. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. p 181.

Christopher Phillips. Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Die-Hard Romantic. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2007. p. 14.

The Monks of New Skete. In the Spirit of Happiness. New York: Little, Brown, and Co. 1999. p 243.

Michael Novak, The Tiber Was Silver, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co, 1961. p. 170.

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