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SATURDAY OF LENT WEEK 1

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When two people fall in love, like Anna Karenina and Vronsky in yesterday’s reflection, their language of love is intensely, exclusively intimate. Others may see it being spoken because the couple cannot hide their feelings for each other when they others are present but they are not part of their language community, outsiders.
 
God also has a language of love. It could be described as having a vocabulary of one Word through which the wonderful creative diversity of everything always continues to flow and multiply. Anyone who hears this creating Word through any small or immense aspect of the world experiences a new kind of intimacy with God. This is because it has opened up within us a new awareness of ourselves, what it is we come from and are travelling towards in the journey of our existence. To become more aware of ourselves means to discover a new closeness to God. Soon, however, we see that closeness isn’t what it is about. It is indwelling: ‘I in them and them in me’ as Jesus expresses it in the gospel of John. It is union.
 
This intimate-indwelling experience is the sign that our journey of existence is going in the right direction. The great difference in this language of God’s love compared with the love of eros alone is that it is universal and all-inclusive. This is why the love of God has its own name – agape – although this includes and integrates the love of eros and the love of friendship. Whoever loves lives in God, St John says. Every experience of love, in other words, leads us to God who is love.
 
Gregory of Nazianzen speaks of God’s language of love as including the beauty and order of the world and even of human society when it is healthily in harmony with nature.  But he also draws our attention to the universal and apparently indiscriminate, non-judgemental love that God has for humanity. God is like the sun that shines on the good and the bad alike. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Jesus concludes with the amazing command that we must learn to love just as God loves.
 
Love and compassion are inseparable and to realise it we need to allow the first exclusive expression of love to be broken open to include others, as when a couple have children. Love flows towards others and meets their needs as compassion. It starts with feeling compassion for the wounded on our own side, our tribe, our team, our party or our religion. But by its boundless origin it impels us to change our minds so that the same compassion can be directed towards enemies, those who are strangers or who make us fearful.
 
This is as much the highest theology as it is the clearest insight into the true nature and full potential of the human.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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