How can one not look at creation and see  God’s love story.

How can one not look at the great relationships we have with one another and not know a God of love at work.

Tillich makes courage a great virtue.

Rahner speaks forcefully of a love that not only brings us past our limitations, but allows us to encounter the Unlimited.

The synthesis is the courage “ to love and to be loved.”

To look at the awe-filled home we are given is to certainly know God’s love in very good and concrete ways.  And it is indeed “very good “ (Geneisis.)   Who can blame the misguided pantheist standing atop the tundra peak or feeling the waves of the ocean at his or her feet for confusing  the gift with the giver.

Then there is  that even greater still… the presence of another knowing they are the image of God.  At our most palpable moments of earthly grace, we know that we love because of that which is larger than ourselves,  that One Tillich calls the Ground of All Being and Rahner refers to as Unlimited Being  

For Rahner this ability to love and be loved was the totality of human freedom, for Tillich it was the Yes which banished the angst of our ontological crisis.

Love as caritas  is composed of both agape and eros for it has both an ascending and descending component. (prominent in the thought of Benedict XVI and Tillich)

It is also both determined by God in universal ways (agape) and willed through human freedom in  individuated ways (eros.)  These two “qualities of love,” as they are called by Tillich inform and mitigate one another keeping agape from cold aloofness and eros from a selfish passion.

As Christians this caritas informs all of our morality.  It is where the Christian is “subject to no one” (in eros where the Christian chooses that and those to which and to whom they are bound) and the “dutiful servant to all” (in agape where if we are in a holy place cannot be resisted.)   It is the both the willed obligation of God and the passions of our own wills.

Though agape is an obligation, it is manifested in the desire of eros.  Gentleness, compassion, and mercy come from the desire that another should know good.  Salvation and the Church are in the realm of God’s desire for His children that we “should know Him and be happy.”

Though eros is passionate and known in art, music, and in sensual human love, it is also informed by agape allowing us to refrain from the desire to please ourselves alone  and opens us up to the same gentleness, compassion, and mercy through which God’s universal desire is manifested.

The place where this synthesis of agape and eros meet is caritas (the most fitting understanding of love and if we give love a single definition, it is what the definition should be) and is manifested in a creation that shows God’s beautiful handiwork as well as in human relationship that reflect a universal love, though these relationships may be individuated.

To practice this caritas requires the virtue of courage.  It is the courage to take up loving those who do not know love, to see God’s creation as that good gift to be both used and nurtured, and to passionately engage another person to whom we know we are called to be with.  To refuse these destinies is the lack of courage.  It also the putting down in some way those who do unlovely things even if we love them , using the beautiful creation if it benefits only a few, and sacrificing some love for those individuated relationships we are not called to.  To refuse to do these things also shows the lack of courage.  In short courage is our permitted will (that amount of free will we are allowed) to make caritas (the determined) happen.



Paul Tillich:  German-American Lutheran theologian.  He was uber-Protestant in much of his thought, but his conception of love is often seen as very Catholic.

Karl Rahner:  German Jesuit theologian who helped pave the way for Vatican II.  He is known for proposing that all people posses an innate knowledge of Christ even if they are unaware of it.

Agape: used here more in the ancient understanding of an unreciprocated and universal love.    Today many, particularly evangelicals who are very uncomfortable with eros, use agape in a way that more closely resembles caritas.

Eros:  used here in the ancient understanding to mean a love that involves reciprocity or loving that or who which is lovable.  Its use to refer to sexual love should neither be overstated or ignored.

Caritas:  Often translated as charity, though we have greatly narrowed the meaning of the word.  Though I have presented it here as that place that hold agape and eros together, its use does not negate the individual meaning of those terms and caritas as practiced by the Church, friends, families, people “in love” all involve varying degrees of agape and eros.

The photo is from a Creative Commons search.  It is used everywhere and I wish I could find the proper attribution for it.  I needed something that would express love in both an unconditional and reciprocated way and this seems to work.


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