After examination as to fear of God and faith in God (see our previous article series on the Eucharist), there still remains the need of examination as to love of God. In order to examine ourselves as to whether we have no right to come to the Table of God, let us first consider what love is.
In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul calls love the bond of perfection, saying:
- “And above all these things (put on) love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Col. 3:14).
John the Divine, on the other hand, calls love God, saying:
- “God is Jove; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:15).
From an analysis of these two definitions of love we will get the idea of love of God, and will be able to judge whether we have love of God in our souls. The sum-total of all virtues is called perfection, and he that possesses all virtues without lacking any is called perfect. Love, called the bond of perfection, combines in itself all virtues, and is, so to speak, the basis and foundation of all virtues: wherever there is love, there also is to be found the whole congregation of virtues. Without love it is impossible for all virtues to coincide in one. Paul characterizes love, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, as the greatest and best gift of the Holy Spirit, the acquisition of which every Christian should highly value; and he interprets its worth by means of the following comparison:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
From these words it becomes evident that he that has love has all things. He, on the other hand, that has not love has nothing. Love, therefore, is the bond of perfection, combining in itself all good and honorable and desirable things, all virtue and all grace. Love has the power of combining and uniting into one all good things, and is, so to speak, the soul and life of all that is good. Our body has many members, which, being united together, make up a single organism. We can call our soul the bond of the perfect organization of our body, for without the soul the members of the body disintegrate, and the body perishes. So, just as the soul is the bond uniting the various members of the body into one whole, thus constituting a single perfect organism, love, too, is a bond of perfection, or, in other words, of all virtues, the sum-total of which is called perfection.
According to John the Divine, love is God. “God is love.” God is perfection. Love is perfection. Therefore, God is love. If love is the bond of perfection, as Paul says, God, who combines in Himself all perfection, is evidently love. Love, being the bond of perfection, is evidently also the bond of perfect persons. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, is a perfect person, as is also His only-begotten Son and Logos. The perfect Father and the perfect Son are united into one, as is written; “I and the Father are one,” so that the perfect love which combines and unites into one the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the bond of perfection and of perfect persons. This has all virtues, and this distributes the gifts; and this is the life-giving and blissful love that proceeds perpetually from the Father to the Son, and through the Son into our hearts, being poured forth in the measure of His grace. That is why the Divine says that God is love, meaning the Holy Spirit, the Lordly, the Life-creating Spirit, which is Love. Wherefore he says,
- “If we love each other, God dwelleth in us, and his love is consummated in us; by this shall we know that we dwell in him and he in us, that of his Spirit he hath given to us.” – 1 John 4:12-13
The giving of the Spirit is the giving of love when we have love in us, we have God Himself in us, for God is love. Paul indeed says:
- “The love of God has been effused in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given unto us.” Romans 5:5
From these words it becomes evident that the love of God effused in our hearts is identical with the Holy Spirit of God given to us, because the Spirit of God is love. Since the Spirit of God is God, John the Divine also said:
- “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
From the analysis and comparison of the two definitions of love given us by Paul and by John the Divine, we get the following idea of love. Love is a spirit of God that unites into one all good and divine things, and all good and divine men into one, with God; or, to speak after the fashion of Paul, love is the greatest and best gift of the Holy Spirit, the bond of perfection and of perfect persons. From this definition of love, it follows that only the souls, only the spiritual and supersensible natures, are capable of love; flesh and body being destitute of love. It follows, secondly, that souls having spirit of God also have love, and that good things cannot be combined and united with evil things. Love is the bond of perfection and of perfect persons, and only good and benevolent persons can be united into one through love, whereas the wicked and malicious are excluded from the congregation of the good. Love repels and rejects evil as much as it accepts and embraces good. Accordingly, in the face of evil, love becomes hate, aversion, detestation. Love unites into one all the virtues, but it cannot unite vices with virtues, nor the vicious with virtuous. For this reason John the Divine, who was most reliably conversant with love, says:
- “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15
The love that comes of God loves only all things that are good and divine, and shuns everything derived from the world, that is, in other words, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the haughty aspects of life, which are not from God the Father, but from the world. James the Apostle says in this connection:
- “O adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that love of the world is hatred of God? Whosoever would be a lover of the world, must become a hater of God. Or think ye that the scripture saith in vain, Unto envy longeth the spirit which hath made its habitation in us?” (James 4:4-5).
The spirit which hath made its habitation in us is the love of God, and makes our souls love God and things pertaining to God. But if our soul prefers the charms of vice and the wickedness of the world, the spirit of God becomes envious and departs from us. The love of God inclines us to all good things and divine things, and detracts us from everything that is evil and wicked. If you wish to examine yourself as to whether you have love of God in your heart, you can decide this matter as follows.
If you hate the world and everything in the world, but love God and everything pertaining to God; if you desire to be united with Christ and to become like Him; if you are willing to sacrifice yourself for Christ’s sake, just as Christ sacrificed Himself for your sake; if you renounce the will and sentiment of your flesh, in order to accept and receive the will and sentiment of God; if you cognize that you have been born of God, that you are nourished through God, and that you have your happiness in God; if you consider that all that is of God is yours, and that you are God’s; if, I say, you can see all these favorable conditions in yourself, you see nothing but the love of God above spoken of. The love of God is the bond of perfection, and it inclines him that has it towards and unites him with perfect Christ. Christ said,
- “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him.” – (John 6:56)
If, therefore, you have the desire to be united with Christ through the mystery of the Eucharist; if you contemplate the virtue and the virtues of Christ, and desire to acquire them; if you subject yourself to every sacrifice for the sake of Him who sacrificed Himself for your sake; all these facts are strong evidence that you have the love of God, and that you are worthy to eat the food of God. The duty of loving Christ imposes upon us the duty of communing and partaking of His body and blood; the second is a natural consequence of the first. He that loves Christ cannot avoid or abstain from communion with Christ. Love is the bond of perfection and of perfect persons. He that has love combines and unites with Christ, the perfect person, and thus partakes of His perfect nature. There is no worship more pleasing to God than coming forward and communing with fear of God, faith and love. Just as a father is gladdened by seeing his children arrayed round his table, so our heavenly Father is gladdened by seeing us round the divine table with our souls arrayed with fear of God, faith and love, and eating the bread of life everlasting. Unfortunately, however, we are today far astray from this God-pleasing form of worship. Divine mass being finished, we all turn our backs upon the great supper of God for ignorance of ourselves, for ignorance of God and of the divine gifts, for ignorance of the nature, of the purpose, and of the power of the mystery of the Eucharist. If we knew ourselves, if we knew God and the power of divine mystery, we would make the right use of the mystery, and would become virtuous and blissful like Christ. God, being good Himself, wishes us to be good and benevolent also, and for this purpose He created whatever He ought to have created. Let us therefore also do what we ought to do, that the good will of God may be done; otherwise we ourselves shall be the cause of our misery.