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.
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