Love spells God and forms both the raison d’être of Christianity and its most credible warrant. Love is ‘what it was to be’ God. In Him, being and action equate.
The conformity of being and doing, both in God as well as in love, entails that ‘to be’ is ‘to do’. As such, ‘to be’ is ‘to love’ and ‘to love’ is ‘to be’; hence love underscores the very being of God. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love, that undying goodness oriented towards the other, is a liberating dynamism that defines God and norms human existence. Undoubtedly, love is the motor of any meaningful life and the heart of Christianity, which runs on faith. As the most effective enabler, faith informs love and thus dissipates the lure of sentimentalism that is the character of this microwave and Snapchat epoch. Similarly, driven by hope, longanimity verifies true love and liquidates it of inanities and superficialities, rendering it truly Christian by pulling down its boundaries and retrieving its universal character (cf. Luke 6:32).
Since God is love, isn’t it a paradox to think of love as a sindustry? One indubitable fact is that, in our contemporary culture, love has become a suspect.
Many are less comfortable in saying ‘I love you’, which ordinarily should be one of the holiest of expressions. The connotation it has acquired over the years, as unnecessary baggage, has become a ready alibi to be wary of such expression.
Reflecting on the mystery of love as the crux of Christianity and the core of God’s overture to man in creation and redemption, one wonders how a word so holy can be treated with such a tremendous suspicion. The event of the feast of Saint Valentine, which has been taken as a festival of love, inspired this reflection.
The intersection of being and doing, relative to God, identifies Him as an Ontology of Caritas (dearness, charity) on account of which He is not just satisfied and enclosed in Se but as radical goodness creates, redeems and recreates. Similarly, love, which fundamentally indicates a relationship, is both a noun and a verb. It is, and it does. Hence, there is no passive love – there is no love that is not benevolence (goodwill), benediction (good word, speaking well of, blessing) and beneficence/benefaction (good deed). The presence of love entails active goodwill that blesses the recipient with good deeds. In these manifestations, the integration of the eros and agape translates as caritas – it spells loving kindness that endlessly instantiates God who gives in creation and for-gives in redemption. As the love that indicates undying goodwill for God and neighbours, caritas, in this way, goes beyond eros (cupiditas), which is a love that focuses on the desire for possession.
In caritas, the best of the other is the norm while in eros (cupiditas) the best for self norms. As a result, love is a good spell. It is indeed a godspell (gospel) – the good news of love is a form that informs all free and virtuous society. It transforms by being itself a performation that deploys the godly sheen and provokes goodness by fanning the embers of godliness.
Unfortunately, love has become a big industry, nay a sindustry. It has become an industry of sin where sin is produced, distributed and marketed. The forces of evil let loose this sindustry and ensure the commercialisation of love down the sin value chain in a very lucrative demand and supply of sin. Persons of different life persuasions and strata are caught up in this vicious triangle of love and buy without qualms. Love as an industry of sin sounds more like an oxymoron, but that is the reality. Entertainment, advertisements, businesses, festivities, especially the feast of St. Valentine, are all avenues of multiplying gain through the plagiarism of love. Love has been plagiarised by the devil, presenting pseudo-love as the ideal. The devil plagiarises by the subversion and corruption of the praxis and distortion of the meaning. Imperceptibly, he does that by subtly suggesting and encouraging ideas and proposing new praxes that appear innocuous but laden with culturally and morally damaging consequences. In a totalitarian manner, he seeks to take over the culture since it underpins individual and societal existence. The subjective causes and the historical motors of this plagiarism of love offer a glimpse into the devil’s project of attempting a thwart of God’s plan, which aims at the destruction of the good. Because he does not create, he mimics and plagiarises the already existing good. Plagiarism is no doubt his pastime.
Every true love is cruciform – it is in cross form: vertical and horizontal, sacrificial, redemptive and life-giving. It is an intersection of eros and agape in which agape purifies and perfects the eros, and the eros humanises the agape. It goes beyond self-gratifying sentiment to a decision to self-giving sacrifice.
Whenever love is plagiarised, it becomes a sindustry! It is such that whenever eros misses its appointment with agape, it settles for lust. In its failure to follow the light of agape, eros constitutes itself a dangerous poison of the spiritual life and ends up in a democratic value-free rebellion against truth, reason and order.
However, Christian love becomes perfect in the integration of eros and agape, that is, love as a given and love as a gift, in which agape becomes a natural consequence of eros. Without agape, eros risks becoming an error. Poisoned eros subjects one to the grips of instinctive drives and thus in such enslavement derails one from the path of reason and truth, thereby destroying destiny.
Crucial to this reflection is the proclamation of the good news of love in its power, passion and integrity. Thus, the Christian response to love countervails the devil’s counterfeit, which is a product of his plagiarism of the good. Thus expressed, caritas translates love as a permanent state of loving solicitude towardsas§2 one’s neighbours and their needs (cf. 2 Cor 13:11).
Christian love is, therefore, an icon of the Father’s love, which neither wanes nor dims. It is a sacrament of God’s love that overwhelms our unworthiness, which never fails nor disappoints, but rather wards and warms. It is a love concretely manifest in Christ’s salvific mysteries, who in his sand-writing episode restructures the sin infrastructure. While the fall of man atrophied eros, which was originally a power for divine and human communion, making it susceptible to error, in agape God intervened, and Christ concretised our redemption. As such, what is authentic in the human heart is perfected and fulfilled in Christian fullness. Caritas, the authentic Christian love, involves a divinised eros and a humanised agape.
Groping in hope for happiness in the midst of the ashes of darkness and sadness, hatred and headaches, Christians remain the embers glowing in the world for the new ecology of love.
•Fr. George Adimike writes from Onitsha