Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment

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Part of "Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment of Christian Life"(including discussion and questions of retreat participants) 

Tape 1, Side B

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Analogous, filial love, sibling love, romantic love, friendship love, spousal love, parental love. Then we mentioned the basic commitments of specifically Christian love. To love God, insists Jesus, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And then to love our neighbor as ourself. So one can talk about three dimensions here. We might ask, is it in that order that we are to love? This is the order that Christ sets forth. To love God, then our neighbor, as ourself, is a kind of an afterthought. In these conferences, I'm boldly reversing that order, and so we're going to start not with the love of God, kind of from above, but with the love of ourself. We're going to explore that. Is that legitimate in what sense, what forms and shapes it should take?


Then we'll discuss love of neighbor, then finally love of God. What could justify and motivate such an inversion of Christ's ordering of things? Well, we do have a good precedent in St. Bernard and his wonderful tract on the love of God. He said Christ's way is certainly the way originally planned by God, the disposition from the beginning. But unfortunately, there was the fall. Somehow things have gone wrong. And so we have to acknowledge in some kind of Christian realism that we just can't begin with the love of God. The little baby doesn't begin with ecstatic love of God, and then go to love of neighbor and then to self. But there's this first emerging primitive self-commitment and affirmation. And out of that comes some kind of awareness of the other, of mommy and daddy.


And then as that matures, the capacity through grace to love God. So Bernard's approach is an approach from below. It's kind of an experiential approach saying, let's build this thing realistically. If we solidly enough and in the best possible way love ourself, we've built the foundation in terms of what we can do through grace also. It takes grace even to love ourselves properly, to then reach out and love our neighbor and then love God. So that's the justification. But in the kingdom, it will be the other way around, and that's where we're aspiring to. But if we start with self-love, we obviously have all kinds of immediate problems. One is getting beyond self-love. Self-love seems after the fall so connatural to us, so inevitable.


And so lots of spiritual writers seem to put the question, is self-love legitimate at all? Is it not what we're trying to deny, what we're trying to get beyond? Or is it, as some were noting yesterday, the only point of departure, if we don't have that, we can't truly love another, we can't truly love God. So there's a whole range of possible positions regarding this self-love. And I'll just, as I say, throw out lots of this stuff and then try to come up with a basic theology of love that hopefully makes some sense of it, and then we can discuss and debate that. But you can take the position that self-love is really a heroic virtue, and as one or another was saying yesterday, a very difficult thing to bring off. Or you can hold it's not exactly a heroic virtue, but it's up there, at least a natural virtue.


Or you can hold it just kind of neutral, it's just instinctive, it's just there, it's neither good nor bad, it depends how we use it. Or you can hold it's at least a venial sin, to use good Roman Catholic language, self-love, this is what we're supposed to not do in the light of Jesus' witness and cross, etc. Or you can hold it's a mortal sin, it's the worst possible thing, self-love, self-centeredness, etc. So we've got a real challenge as we begin with this topic, the whole range. Psychologists are not at all agreed, and it's not clear they're meaning the same thing by the language, but certain texts of Freud seem to suggest he considers at best a neurosis. This is narcissism. This is when my affect is kind of locked, my libido is locked on myself. Remember that painting of some perhaps excessively sensitive young man who's gazing into the


lake and just enamored of his reflection there. Well, this is what we've got to get beyond if we're going to really grow psychologically. It's sickness, narcissism, to be cured so that we can be capable of loving another in a healthy way. Fromm disagrees strongly, and we'll have more to say about that, but he says, rightly understood, self-love is the foundation of psychological health. We have to build from there. Whatever you do with that psychologically, certainly in the Reformed tradition, there's a lot of hesitancy about self-love. Calvin talks of self-love as that pest, and Barthes says that true love is always of another. God will never think of blowing on that fire, which is self-love, which is bright enough already. Nigren, the famous Lutheran theologian, he says that is just a perversity to be overcome.


It's the very opposite of agape. Agape is essentially selfless. It's essentially self-forgetting, essentially going beyond self. So that this is the Reformed tradition, and there's much of that kind of line in the Roman Catholic tradition, certainly as Jansenism affects it. What we've got to learn is self-denial. This is a fairly recent book by a good Dominican theologian, Vittorino Ossende. Maybe Italian? Pathways of Love. So his topic's precisely ours, and the growth in love, how do you grow in love? Through self-denial. That's the very basis of it, how needful it is to go to God through the denial of self and of all things. Fortunately, he doesn't say of all other people, but of all things. So there's self and things. We've got to deny them to get to God.


Self-denial is absolutely necessary, for if God is all, and the soul is to receive this all within itself, it must empty itself of all else. The soul should then value nothing whatever, save God alone, all else, including itself the soul should esteem as nothing. So this is a classical kind of devotional, also ascetical, mystical language that we find a great deal of. So in terms of this, we should just set aside this morning's ponderings as, if anything, very ambiguous and leading into the way of sin, et cetera. St. Paul says, love seeks not its own, 1 Corinthians 13.5, and Jesus said, whoever would gain one's life must lose it. It would seem, perhaps, difficult to reconcile that with self-love, and yet again it is Jesus


who says, love your neighbor as yourself. Now what is he saying there? Is he commanding us to love ourself? That's one possibility. Or is he just saying we'll inevitably love ourself, that's just in us, so that that self-love should be the measure of our love of neighbor? That is, he's not approving of it, he's just kind of acknowledging it, and in a kind of a Semitic paradoxical way saying, that's the way we should love the other. Or is he possibly commanding self-love? Is self-love, in fact, even a good, and indeed, is Christ wanting us to love self? That's what we want to explore again this morning. There is a tradition, and it's an ancient tradition, it's a monastic tradition also, that we've got to start with love, here language is ambiguous, but at least of the soul, as St. Eret says.


St. Eret's wonderful classic, Spiritual Friendship. How many of you know this book by, oh good, well he is a English Cistercian writer, he's a contemporary of St. Bernard, this is a beautiful volume, affirming that Christian friendship is where we encounter the living God, where we encounter the living out of the gospel, it's a beautiful tract. But among other things, he says, we've got to start here. Truly, the person who does not love his own soul, will not be able to love the soul of another. That's just foundational for him. And one can find that in several other, a recent Jesuit, The Mind and Heart of Love by Darcy, D apostrophe RC. He says that self-love is an obligation, and again, the foundation for the whole rest of the edifice, at least psychologically. Merton says, a real obstacle to our journeying forth in spirituality is self-hatred.


I think this was noted yesterday, in doing Spiritual Direction. I think so many modern suffer from a, to use pop psychology language, a dreadful self-image, because of which they can't imagine anyone else loving them, because of which it's extremely difficult for them to love anyone else, let alone God. So in this perspective, which is quite different from the other, this is where we begin, and where we need to be truly committed. A Protestant theologian, Paul Ramsey, I think has a wonderful paragraph on, at very least let's take the minimal position that there is some kind of instinctual self-love built into us, and that at very least, Jesus wants that to be the measure of the way we are to love others. And I think he's got an interesting paragraph in this regard.


How exactly do you love yourself? Answer this question and you will know how a Christian should love his neighbor. You naturally love yourself for your own sake. You wish your own good, and you do so even when you may have a distaste for yourself, for the kind of person you are. Liking yourself, or thinking yourself very nice, or not, has fundamentally nothing to do with the matter of loving yourself. So here's a classic distinction we sometimes hear, that I think is very important, between liking self, or another, and loving self, or another. Liking God, or loving God. We want to explore this a great deal, but that's not what we're after. So one can have a disdain for lots of things one's done in one's past, or a deep anguish, or a deep compunction, thus the prodigal son, but still have a commitment to oneself.


After a failure of some sort, the will to live soon returns, and you always lay hold expectantly on another possibility of attaining some good for yourself. You love yourself more than you love any of the good qualities or worth you may or may not possess. Unsubdued by bad qualities, not elicited by good ones, self-love does not wait on worth. In fact, it is quite the other way around. Self-love makes you desire worth for yourself. I want to grow in the Christian way, because there's this fundamental commitment to myself. So I think, given the commandment of Jesus, at very least we can start there. But given that distinction between like and loving, maybe we can go a great deal beyond that. And so now, this could be an opportunity to discuss what on earth we mean by love.


What is the fundamental character and nature of love that makes it love, whether it's maternal love, or paternal, or filial, or friendship love, or spousal love, or love of God, or love of the universe, or love of enemy? Love of enemy is an interesting test case here. This is the radical challenge of Jesus. How do we love our enemy? Presumably, if the person is seriously our enemy, we don't like them. We may profoundly disagree with them. We might have all kinds of negative affect problems. Jesus doesn't ask us to deny all that, but even given all that, we're to love them. So how is that possible? If we can work that out, maybe we can work out how we can love ourself, even in times when we're maybe extremely anguished by what we have done or what we haven't done.


And then how we were to love everyone, and love God, et cetera. So this is three moments of love, according to St. Ehret. St. Ehret has another work called The Mirror of Love. It comes out of the, I think, splendid, rich, Cistercian, medieval tradition. It's very nourished by St. Gregory and St. Augustine, and even the Eastern Church. But three moments of love, that they can come in different order. Now, first of all, let's take non-Christian love. You start with attraction. It might be physical, it might be sexual, it might be intellectual, it might be spiritual. There's something in that other that draws me the way a magnet draws metal. It's not I choose to like the other, it's just, oh, that's someone I want to be closer


to for, again, any number of possible. Then if I ratify that personally, for my own freedom, for my own will, pondering and thinking about it, that's the second moment of volition. And then all this is tending, in hope, towards fruition. That is, the reciprocal response of love, love that is returned. And then the full enjoyment of love, whether it be the child's love, friendship love, maternal, paternal, these three moments are in any kind of love, possibly. This is the thesis we're going to throw out. But, again, very key, what comes first, and what's most important, and what's less important? I've got just the size of the order. I put volition rather small here, attraction and fruition. In the Romantic tradition, attraction is very important.


I was just swept off my feet by that person. Suddenly the birds were singing and the bells were ringing. I couldn't help myself. I just, that's the main thing. And then, again, the hope is for full fruition. She will love me in return and will be happily married ever after, et cetera, et cetera. Those are the two key moments. The less this is there, in a certain way, the more it's confirmed as wildly romantic love. There's nothing I can do about it. It's just, this thing is greater than both of us kind of thing. Now, in the tragic Romantic tradition, there isn't the fruition. There can't be. For one reason, maybe she's already married or something. So I pine away in my unrequited love. That's extremely moving and powerful. There's all kinds of literature about this. Or, if the fruition comes, that's a happy romantic tale.


There's a hedonist kind of playboy philosophy variation on this. I just want my pleasure. And I want to go with the, what do they say? Go with the flow, or if it feels good, do it, kind of thing. And then the enjoyment. And that's what I will, is just the whole package of pleasure. Now, that's all well and good. But it can lead into real dark stuff. It can collapse. What happens if attraction is the foundation, when attraction isn't there? This is the great problem of romantic love. All these sad cases of the intense, also erotic attraction that's there. At a certain point, it might just collapse. Then what do you do? Well, if it's all built on that, you just dump her. It's all over. I can't help it.


It was there, it's gone. We can't pretend, that would be dishonest. So I've got to find someone else. And if this is built on projection, then we're in real trouble. I don't know how many of you know that book by Johnson, Robert Johnson Wee, on romantic love. He says a great deal of romantic love is projection. I, as male, am repressing that anima, that feminine part of me. And every now and then I discover another, a female, and I can project it on her safely. So she becomes this ideal of what I've been repressing in me. And so, it's wildly out of control, because I'm not really in love with that flesh and blood woman. I'm in love with my projected anima that I'm trying to deny. But sooner or later, it doesn't work out, because I have to come to terms with that flesh and blood woman. Then the whole thing collapses, and I dump her, and go looking for another.


So, this is fragile, and a case might be built that this is one of the reasons of the fragility of matrimonial love, etc. It just doesn't work very often. I think the Archbishop of Canterbury called the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diane a marriage made in heaven, or something. It's a storybook marriage. Well, unfortunately, it was a little too much this stuff, and so it's gotten into the rocky areas. So, what St. Eric is saying is, for Christian love, we start in a very different place. And that place, basically, is Christ's command. You shall love, whether you feel like it or not, whether you're attracted or not. Love your enemy. So, it comes out of a command, not just a command, THE command. So, we have to obey. That's the foundation.


We have to obey in loving everyone, always, universally. And so, that's a rather different kind of foundation to it. As long as I'm going to just basically believe as Christian, I'm going to be committed to loving. Loving not as feeling great attraction for the other, admiring the other, liking the other, but as this commitment to the good of the other. This commitment to the final fruition in God of the other. That's what love is. Love of benevolence. This is pure Thomas, also. To will the good of the other is to be united with the other at this deepest level of the aspiration of the other, who also wills this ultimate good, whatever that be. You might not be clear on that. But this is what true love is. It's foundation. Then, these other two rather smaller, they might be there, they might not.


In love of the enemy, they're not there, at least at the moment, at least not in a... Jesus, when Judas comes up and kisses him, there's no great... It's not like Jesus and John. But Jesus continues to love Judas, no matter. From the command and for God, in God. So it's quite a different dynamic. Now, it's in this dynamic that we're to understand love of self. Because God made me. Because God made also me. I am image and likeness of God at my deepest level, whatever I've done or not done. That's another question. Just as I'm to love everyone else, whatever they've done or not done. So these are the three. And this fruition, we hope and pray, will come at least in the kingdom. And then it will be full. It has lyrical passages about the kingdom is where there is full fruition of love,


in mutuality. There, everyone loves everyone as dearest, most intimate friend. And there, the full attraction will be. So that's... But that might be reserved to the kingdom. That might not be enjoyed in this life with several. If it is enjoyed, wonderful, we don't deny that. This is precisely his definition of friendship love. Friendship love is where there is the attraction. And he means intellectual and spiritual. But it might also be physical. And where there is the fruition in reciprocity and mutual support, etc. So we're not against these. If they're there, all the better. But we just don't... They're not prerequisites to love happening. Here, they are prerequisites. And that's why when the attraction is no longer there, when the fruition is there, well, you know, it's divorce court kind of thing. Or in the friendship thing.


Or in our relationship to God. Or our relationship to whatever, our mom and dad, etc. Yes, what do you think of this? Is any of it or all of it... Does it help? Is it an obstacle? It's a good clarification. Pardon me? It's a good clarification. Thank you. Separating and naming it. What? Very good for me. What's that? Thank you. Usually, I don't think it's so... It's very difficult to make a difference between Christian and non-Christian love. No one ever does it. Usually, they say love. One asks for love, but what is love? What kind of love? And this is very good. And it's even good to repeat to others. To get them aware. Often, I had a right concept of the Christian love, and then I found out how love can be destructive, even in the version of romantic. Think about it.


It's very logical. Yeah? And the whole idea of love as willing the good of the other helps also for me very much. There you can get into tough love, for instance, and that whole thing. And also, in the first paradigm, there will be always anxiety, because there is an attraction and we will be always expecting something. Versus here, we come with no expectation. We are to love. That's it. There's nothing to worry about. You don't have to anticipate anything. We just begin with it. And then whatever comes will be, in most cases, good. And if it's not, it's like, well, so what? I still have to do it because I was taught by God. And it's not really command. It's sort of cooperation with that. I think it's less destructive. It's more peaceful. It will help to maintain the peace in the spirit versus the other one. Will it be greatly destructive? I think so. This is built on the rock of Christ's word. Karl Barth, I think, makes a wonderful distinction between commandment and law.


Law is laid on us from without. It can be arbitrary. It's not necessarily for our good. But command comes from our loving God who made us. So the command comes to us requiring our assent, but it's the law written in our hearts. It's what is there. So this is command in that sense. And in that sense, it's rock. So as you say, I don't know. Today this might be here. Tomorrow it might not be here in me, in them. I've always got to be placating them. Also, the two starting points, the foundation to both laws. One comes from me, self-attraction. It comes from me. The other comes from God. We build on our own. We are very likely to make a mistake and fail. If we build on something that comes from God, at least we know that the beginning is good. And then whatever we'll do later is, again, us. If we don't cooperate closely with God, we'll all fail in the process.


I think that's an extremely important insight and to deepen it. Because God lays this command on us, not in an arbitrary way or out of spitefulness or something, but precisely out of love. God's word comes to us as a word of love. So it's this word of love that is in us and enables us to love. So this comes up with a final, I think very theologically profound point, that when we truly love in a Christian way, our agape love is God loving in and through us. So it's then, finally, we can do it in a way that transcends our even dream. So we have a question here. Well, I find the word volition to be troubling to me. You say, we will then truly be able to love, we'll finally be able to do it. But I just find it far more ambiguous and difficult from day to day to know how I am to love this other person.


There's an assumption here that, as you mentioned, tough love. I don't necessarily know what the other person means. I used to work in a homeless shelter, and the conclusion of all those who ran the shelter is that I should not give anything to people who are on the street. I should not do that. 99% of the time I'm feeding their addictions. On the other hand, here's a hand held out to me, and all the admonitions to, come on, give the guy a quarter. When I deal with students in school, I don't always know what's the right thing to do, what's the true thing to do. I find then there are times when I'd rather react, just let me get out of this. I can't handle all this, it's too much. So I guess I find, I understand the distinction,


I think it's very thoughtful, but the Christian side is more difficult to live than is being suggested here, for me anyway. In one way it's the most difficult of all. It is the narrow way, it is the way of the cross. On the other side, Jesus says my yoke is easy, it's a paradox, it's the easiest, it's the easiest because it's what we most yearn for, it's what we've been created for. It's difficult because we've gotten so far from love. Regarding the specifics, yes, should you give to the person on the street who's asking, will this enable them to live, and just basic Christian commitment of love, or will they just use it for wine, so are you just feeding their addiction, so is this codependency and all those. This is not an easy solution to those questions, and we can't presume infallibility or knowing it all, and how to apply it, but if your commitment is basically for the good of the other,


that will motivate you to try to explore it more and more. There is a distinction between a person who's gonna rush off and use it for liquor and another who isn't. There are ways to make the gift so that it does end up food. I know an Episcopal parish in the city, they give food coupons, for instance, just to make the point. They want to give, they want to sustain life, they want to witness to Christian love, but without getting caught into patterns that are really destructive of the other. So Jesus sometimes is very severe with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Is he just lapsing into hatred there after preaching love so much, or is it his way of trying to bake through all their illusion and falseness so that they can finally die and then live? That is to say, love isn't always sweet and kind and stroking, love can be ferocious, love can be a firm shaking of the other, et cetera, but it is, it remains love when it's willing


the ultimate good of the other. And again, we might blunder there, but even if we blunder, I think the other intuits, what we really will for them, and they don't require of us infallibility or omniscience. So sooner or later, we'll make our point, which is the basic point, more than even the handout. I think many street people want, they just want the acknowledgement that they're human beings and that they're affirmed in their humanity, so. I think, here was a hand, and then, and then, yeah. Lynn. Well, in my experience, I would move volition over to the center and be the support of both the romantic and the other because as a committed Christian, I feel that those that I'm attracted to are in some way inspired by God.


That inspiration is there and it plants this in my heart and then I move on and in some way that also brings me to God. I found that love opens me, myself, where there is self-love, to a fracturing of that container that's me and that this love is then poured out not only to the one that I'm attracted to, in my case, having married my spouse and my children, but it pours out to others because of this fracturing of the love that I had for an individual which definitely began with attraction. But I was attracted to my husband at the age of 14. Now, you can say, well, you know,


that definitely was infatuation. Well, I feel at this time that it was really God's inspiration. It lasted for 30 years. It was not what you would call absolute perfection. It certainly had its ups and downs, but in that, I feel as though I was open more fully to giving to others. So I would move, which in the middle, kind of be the inspiration for the other also, as a Christian. Any model has its limits, etc. So I think what Ehren is wanting to get at at putting volition first is maybe not even first in the order of things, but first, we would say, kind of metaphysically or theologically. But it might be the very same point you're trying to make. That is, it's the key, but I think you're making a very good point


that attraction isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's not just a dirty thing. It can be extremely inspired by God, whether it be physical, spiritual, intellectual, and in fact, in the kind of friendship love Ehren is talking about, it's one of the great joys of love, the attraction to another. And as you say, it pulls us out of ourselves. It pulls us out of narcissism, etc. So I think your point there is very important. Attraction is good, and of course fruition, that's what the kingdom is. I think with a kind of Augustinian sobriety, Ehren suggests that any one of these steps can go very right or can go very wrong. I can will loving in the wrong way, in an inappropriate way, etc. I can be attracted for the wrong reasons. I can enter into fruition in the wrong reasons. We saw that dark, dark series of two films


on Canadian TV, The Boys of St. Vincent. And it's about orphans in a Catholic orphanage, and the religious brothers are sexually abusing them, except for one brother. But it's the whole problem of sexual abuse. And it explores in a rather deeper way also the whole psychology of one of the brothers who keeps insisting, I love this boy. Well, there's certainly attraction there. And for the brother, there's a kind of fruition. For the boy, it's traumatic. There's certainly volition. The brother goes after this thing, and he fights off the cops and the church investigators, etc. So, love when it goes bad is perhaps one of the darkest of things. There's a Roman phrase, Corruption of the best is the very worst.


So, that's the only point that... One of the points here is wanting to say, be careful with this love thing. Certainly be careful with attraction. Be careful with volition and fruition. Any one of these can lead right to the depths of all kinds of abuse, etc. O.J. Simpson case, whatever happened there, there was some kind of very intense stuff happening. But, I like your point that, on the other hand, attraction can be God-inspired and sustained, as can fruition. And so, in other ways, you could put volition at the center, right? Kind of holding it all together. It always needs redemption because my volition is always corrupted. I can never see the whole. I can never act with utter purity. I think that's what I'm trying to say. Yeah, we're limited. One thing, I think, is limits. Just our human limitation. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't see the whole. Only God sees the whole. But then the other thing is there can...


Sin can enter into this thing darkly. It always does. We have some hymns here. I tend to feel that, when you start with volition, you're starting with the premise of, I'm doing this because God called me to do it. In our American tradition, that command, that doing something that others told us to do is sometimes a bit restrictive. But I really feel that, in working with youth, in a lot of environments, and also my own, how do I feel about this person or that person being so changing, that it's not the premise for me. I think that it's good to have attraction and it's also good to act on that. But if you don't start off with volition, that relationship with God first, is what I equate with volition, then you're really not, I think, focused on what love really is or really centered yourself enough to really love.


And I just feel that there's, right now, today, a lot of just go with what you feel. Or if it feels good, it's right. And kind of throwing out the volition altogether and saying, you know, what's your heart saying? Well, what's your mind saying, too? And let's bring the two together. And which one should we start off from? Yeah, if there's no volition, which is coming out of freedom, I think Catholic theology would say there's no human act there, fully human. It's constrained. It might be constrained by my, just desires and eros, et cetera. But the more profound the love, the more profoundly free it is. I think that's a deep insight. Not, again, denying attraction, but somehow I've got to claim this. And so I think that's another reason that Aaron puts it first. I think will really comes from volition more than from attraction, because I can say I like this person, I don't like this person, or I don't want to talk to this person, or whatever.


But with volition, it's almost like I am going to love this person. I don't have to hang around them if I don't like them. But there's a kind of a sense of focus in my life, whereas if I'm going out of attraction, there's a real ambiguity that I think is not helpful. We might turn off the tape now and we'll continue with our discussion. In terms of human growth, this can be seen, and should be seen, I think, as a dynamic, as stages, etc. One way to trace it is in terms of human love. And I think Fr. St. Bernard has a wonderful tracing of this precisely as the moving from love of the other for myself to the capacity to love the other for the other. That's a real breakthrough. And then to love God for myself. I can't get along in this world without some big God up there


to defend me and give me what I need. But in moments of deep communion with God, I'm kind of bowled over by the intuition, this God is lovable as God. And as I move into that intuition, then love truly matures into a Godly love, which is not just the other for myself, very self-interested, etc., but the other for the other and God for God that's also the thing. So that's the deeper volition. And even the love Bernard says, the final stage, to love myself for God, to love This is the final stage of a Godly love. But we begin where we have to begin, with need love, as it's sometimes called, or very self-interested love, That's legitimate, says Bernard. I've got to love the other for what the other can do for me. The mother feeds me, keeps me warm, and the father


supports me, etc. That's okay. And the Our Father is just filled with petitions. We ask all kinds of things from God. But as we grow again in this love, we realize that it can free us from this continual turning back into the self-interest concern. Turn back on? I have something to say that you might want to quote. Okay. Unless we really experience love both from other people initially, in the beginning, and especially directly from God, we can't love. And it's interesting that Paul says in one of his letters that some of you seem not to know God at all. This means experiential knowledge of God's love. And I say this in shame of success. And if we really


experience God's love and are filled with that, we can come to a point where we cannot not love everybody. I think so. This is where contemplative prayer comes in and all these things. Contemplative prayer is just very fancy words for my entering into some kind of communion with God that is experiential and that frees me up from this kind of addiction to self-interest. And that can be transforming and should be transforming. It's a knowing God in this deeper way. And at that point then, so, at its best, contemplative prayer isn't just self-interest, and I want all kinds of exotic spiritual functions, etc. But it's to teach me the ultimate truth about things so that I will be able to live the truth of things, which is this


communion of love. It's in this sense, I think, that famous phrase of Evagrius, that the true theologian is the one who prays. The person who truly prays is the true theologian. It's to see the final wisdom of God experientially and then to live it. Okay, I guess we turned it off and we'll go back and forth with this.