Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Living Love for Lent

For some reason (perhaps because I'm reading John D. Caputo's The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion) this question from Augustine comes to mind for Lent: Quid ergo amo, cum deum meum amo? What do I love when I love my God?

I've decided that for Lent, rather than giving anything up or taking anything up, my discipline will be to seriously reflect on this question and its implications. What do I love when I love my God?

"God" and "love" are given, but as given they are also undefined. Both the love of God and my love for God (as well, 1 John 3 would have me know, my love for others, which is an expression of my love for God - the only expression it may ever have) remain mysterious. Open ended.

This is a question, then, like a Zen koan, without a rational answer. A question that defies rationality, and in so doing refuses to allow either "love" or "God" to be fixed. But perhaps meditating on the question will allow me to somehow live in the love of the God who 1 John (again!) says IS love. To live in love, and to live out love. To love this Lent. To let love - unfixed and undefined - become my habit.

There's no certainty in this. First, I am finite. Worse, I am a sinner, a selfish bastard in love with himself and thus incapable of love in any true and meaningful sense of the word (and yes, there's a certain irony to using "true" to describe a word that resists and resents all definitions of it). Beyond that, "love" itself, as well as the "God" who "is love" cannot be satisfactorily defined. There is thus no real test of either "love" or "God," no way for me to be certain either that I am loving or when I am loving that I am both loving God and loving as God would love.

But life is not without risk, and Lent is a time to meditate on, among other things, not just the possibility or even probability, but rather certainty of error. So I am certain that I will err in love, and so I beg that you reading this will in love forgive me when my love errs. Then perhaps we will live out in our lives what cannot be defined in our language; that is, live out the love of God.

Quid ergo amo, cum deum meum amo? What do I love when I love my God? Augustine's question, like all good questions, is unanswerable, if by "answerable" we mean can be answered in some definitive sense, with an answer that we can somehow deem "true" or "false." But this Lent it is my hope against hope that it is a question that can be lived.


Annie said...

Love of god is ultimately nothing more than self love, too. Why do you love god? Because god loves you. Because god will "save" you if you believe in him. Because god is going to give you eternal life with him (and all your friends and family).

If you really love god more than yourself, your family or life, think about this: would you like to be with god tonight? Without warning, dead and passed on to be with god. Or would you really rather live a little longer?

Sandalstraps said...


Why do you assume we can't, in a sense, be with God now? Is God so entirely removed from your world that you can't experience the divine in the present moment?

I think that it is dangerous for any theology to force a choice between this life and the next, or to disconnect this life from the next. You're here, now. Whatever you know of God, whatever you've experienced of God, is here now.

I John will not, by the way, allow us to make some sharp distinction between love of God and love of family, friends, loved ones or, I would argue, even strangers, arguing as it does that the test of one's love for God is one's love for others. Jesus makes much the same point when he, in his teaching, connects love of God with love of neighbor (and strangers are also, in Jesus' love-ethic, neighbors, for the neighbor is the one who acts like a neighbor, who exhibits God's holy hospitality).

I am, then, with God when I am with my family. I am with God when I am with my friends. I am with God when I am with strangers. I am with God when I am with the poor, the outcast, the dispossessed, those who the powers of this world have discarded for the scrap heap, those already considered dead.

Will I be any more with God when I breathe my last? We shall see. But I would not allow the hope of something else to keep me from seeing what I can of the presence of God in the here and now.