In recent days on the forum I've raised the question of what, precisely, do we mean when we talk about the mercy and compassion of God [SEE: "Is 'God' simply one BIG Myth or Metaphor?" LINK]. To what I wrote there I might have added the phrase "the Love of God". This reflection on what we mean by "the Love of God" arose out of a discussion Fr Eugene Stockton has been having in recent weeks with a mutual friend here in the Blue Mountains. When we speak of "the Love of God" what, precisely, do we mean; or is an expression like this incapable of being expressed too precisely? What are your thoughts and beliefs on this subject? Tell us what you believe and think, not what you think someone like Pope Francis or Fr Eugene might like to hear. How do you experience "the Love of God"? ...Brian Coyne, Editor
The Love of God
by Fr Eugene Stockton
If ever there was a word so abused, so banalised and sentimentalised as to be now meaningless, that word is love. Contemplating its supreme expression on the part of God, there is all the more need for careful analysis and specification. In ordinary usage we can distinguish the love of charity, Greek agape, which is the love we might have for someone in need, wishing them well (benevolentia) and supplying their need (a unilateral relationship), and eros, the love which goes out to the beloved, drawing them into union with oneself (a reciprocal relationship). [To be dismissed is a false love which is focused on one's ego, as a vicious vortex, imploding in a black hole]. The process of exocentrism, one's engagement with the other, is an outward movement which can be described in three stages as outlined in The Deep Within, pp.28-29.
Divine love is simpler, partaking of both eros and agape. It is the love coursing between the three Divine Persons, as each empties self to the other (kenosis) and as the triune God spills out into the finitude of space and time, to the whole of creation. "God is love" is the startling assertion in St. John's letter [1 Jn.4:8].
One might quibble at that statement, because we normally distinguish between the subject (the one who loves) and the act (of love). But theology tells us that God is simple, without any more distinction, so that in God subject and act are one. Like a waterfall, God is pouring out of Self to the beloved, drawing the beloved into union with Godself.
The Deep Within showed how our prime archetypes in deep consciousness, deriving from the earliest experiences of infancy, are Mother and Father, and how they serve as templates to characterise later experiences of adulthood (pp.53-55). Primal people often applied them to the most awesome entities of their universe, venerating the Sun as All-Father and the earth as receptive, nurturing Mother. While we now recognise Sun and Earth as creatures of God, yet they supply powerful images of the numinous in our cosmos.
Science has shown that the sun is a powerhouse of nuclear reaction, converting its matter into energy, which is radiating out into space as sunlight. That sunlight, shining on the earth, is the source of all its heat, light and power. All life on the earth comes from the sunlight, giving rise to the greenery which lies at the base of the food chain for all living creatures, which in turn reach out to the sun (e.g. green tips and flowers). Even the heat and light which we produce from fossil fuels are drawing on the stores of ancient sun power. That sunlight is all pervasive, like an atmosphere "in whom we live and move and have our being". It is so dependable that we tend to take it for granted, until a crisis blocks it out even to a slight degree. We do well to reflect at times that all that sunlight, and all the benefits it bestows on us, is poured out on us at the expenditure of the sun's own mass converted to energy.
So the sun is a powerful analogy of the Godhead pouring Godself out in love on creation, offering light and warmth and life within the nurturing encompass of Mother Earth (eg. Church, society, family).
The love of God is in every smile, kindly act, noble aspiration. It shines to us through all that is Good, True and Beautiful, drawing us up to the One. Unlike the sunlight the love of God is not automatic, for God is mindful of each one of us as the Lover is mindful of the Beloved. But like the sunlight the love of God is all about us as a spiritual atmosphere, entering into every spiritual motion and channeling through us to our neighbour.
Fickle creatures that we are, we tend to take the all-pervasive love of God for granted. Hence, the importance for society of the vocation of the contemplative, being ever alert to the miracle of divine love. A fitting image of the contemplative (one with an Australian flavour) is the sunbaker, stretched out on the beach, lying still and quiet for long periods, with skin bared to the sun, soaking up every ray of sunlight. Jesus invites us: "Rest in my love" [Jn.15:9].
With this cosmic imagery in mind one might paraphrase (from the original Aramaic) the beginning of the Lords' Prayer:
What follows is a recording of the Aramaic Lord's Prayer lifted from a commentary my daughter, Phoebe Coyne, wrote for catholica back in December 2006 [LINK]
The Aramaic Lord's Prayer
Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4
Abwoon (Father-Mother of the Cosmos)
Abwoon d'bvashmayo, nethqadash shmok. Te-the malkutokh. Nehwé tseby o-nokh, aykano d'bvash'mayo of -ba'r'o. Habv lan lahma d'sunqonan yow-mano, Washboqlan hawbén w'kh-t'hén, aykano dof h'nan shba-qn l'hayobén. W'lo tahlan l'nesyun'eh, elo patson men bisho. Metol d'dilok hi malkutokh, w'haylo, w'teshbuh-to lo'alam 'o-l'min. Amén.
Eugene Stockton, submitted to catholica, 05 Sep 2016
Landmarks is an exploration of an Australian spirituality. Drawing on the cultural influences now in our land, it offers a graded, comprehensive presentation of gospel teachings, with an Australian diction and imagery. The reader may find in it fresh insights into traditional spiritual themes. Each theme is introduced in terms of an 'Australian setting', focusing on one particular aspect of the Australian experience. The body of each chapter analyses that experience, exploring the parallels with its biblical counterpart. The bible is used, not as a book about God or a store of normative texts, but as the story of a people, who are our spiritual ancestors. The attempt is made to insert ourselves into that story, with all its ups and downs, to identify our own experience in its unfolding, and through it to catch the vision of God which the past projects onto our present and future.