Meditations on themes of Advent week 4: Love

Below we offer the 8 categories of love as understood through a Greek lens: eros (erotic love), philia (friendship), agape (universal love), ludus (playful love), storge (family-kinship love), philautia (healthy self-love), mania (obsessive love), pragma (mature, enduring love). From which forms of love do you draw your strength and connection?

All You Need Is Love — Beatles lyrics

All You Need Is Love
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love
Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need …

PHILIA
Friendship … considered a love between equals. — Mateo Sol

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. —Euripides

We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story. ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

… friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. — Simon Sinek

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s a kinship among men who have sat by a dying fire and measured the worth of their life by it. ― William Golding, The Spire

There is on the earth no institution which Friendship has established; it is not taught by any religion; no scripture contains its maxims. It has no temple nor even a solitary column … However, out fates at least are social. ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings

To be with old friends is very warming and comforting. — Ian Ziering

In the outworks of our lives, we were almost strangers, but we shared a certain outlook on human life and human destiny, which, from the very first, made a bond of extreme strength . . . At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire … ― Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays

EROS
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

The Greeks, it will be recalled, regarded Eros, the god of love, as the eldest of the gods; but also as the youngest, born fresh and dewy-eyed in every living heart. — Joseph Campbell

Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities. — C.S. Lewis

Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.  — Anne Carson

Eros seizes and shakes my very soul like the wind on the mountain shaking ancient oaks. — Sappho

You can’t deny Eros. Eros will strike, like lightning. Our human defenses are frail, ludicrous. Like plasterboard houses in a hurricane. Your triumph is in perfect submission. And the god of Eros will flow through you, as Lawrence says, in the ‘perfect obliteration of blood consciousness. — Joyce Carol Oates

LUDUS
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope. — Anne Carson

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. ― Toni Morrison, Jazz

he placed his hands
on my mind
before reaching
for my waist
my hips
or my lips
he didn’t call me
beautiful first
he called me
exquisite
– how he touches me
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

 

PRAGMA
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time. — Mateo Sol

 

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. — Anna Strong

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. — Ann Landers

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao-Tzu

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. — Leo Buscaglia

The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants the fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

Love is not a mold that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person—together. Love knows no one can fill up in us what we lack in ourselves. But coming to live what we know about love for the sake of others, as well as for our self, is the one thing that can possibly stop the restless sleep that comes with loneliness. — Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight

STORGE
Storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and … children … can even be found among childhood friends … — Mateo Sol
I thank God that I’m a product of my parents. That they infected me with their intelligence and energy for life, with their thirst for knowledge and their love. — Shakira
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. — Elizabeth Stone

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. — Roald Dahl

Without warning he had become witness to something that stretched back through the eons, ties both elastic and enduring, surpassing death, surpassing life. She was his child. It was as simple as that and that complex. ― Kim Harrison, Into the Woods

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common. — Lyle Lovett

So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness. ― Alexander McCall Smith

Cousins by chance, friends by choice.  — Proverb

MANIA
Obsessive Love. … that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance. — Mateo Sol

I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it. ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

I love you. I hate you. I like you. I hate you. I love you. I think you’re stupid. I think you’re a loser. I think you’re wonderful. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be with you. I would never date you. I hate you. I love you…..I think the madness started the moment we met and you shook my hand. Did you have a disease or something? ― Shannon L. Alder

AGAPE
Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. —Neel Burton, Psychology Today

Do love. Don’t just think love, say love, have faith in love, or believe that God is love. Give up the idea that your ideas alone can save you. If you know the right words, then bring those words to life by giving them your own flesh. Put them into practice. Do love, and you will live. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.― Jimi Hendrix

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. — Victor Hugo

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.” AND “I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me.” — St Mother Teresa 

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. — William Butler Yeats

Many can give money to those in need, but to personally serve the needy readily, out of love, and in a fraternal spirit, requires a truly great soul. — Saint John Chrysostom

Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted. — Richard Rohr

PHILAUTIA
Self Love: The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not unhealthy vanity and self-obsession …Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”. — Mateo Sol

All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself. — Aristotle

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit. ― Eartha Kitt

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. ― Carl Jung

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh


 LOVE: A Listening Heart
— Joan Chittister

There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart whose true north is God. It bends toward the Voice of God with the ear of the heart and, like sunflowers in the sun, turns all of life toward the living of the Word.

This listening heart is pure of pride and free of arrogance. It seeks wisdom—
everywhere, at all times— and knows wisdom by the way it echoes the call of the scriptures.

The compass for God implanted in the seeker’s heart stretches toward truth and signals the way to justice.

It is attuned to the cries of the poor and oppressed with a timbre that allows no interruption, no smothering of the Voice of God on their behalf.

These seekers hear the voice of God in the cry of the poor and oppressed, and they “immediately put aside their own concerns” and follow God’s call in their actions.

Monastics cling to the community in order to know a wisdom not their own, to discover the tradition on which they stand, to heed the Word of God together with one heart and one mind—embedded in many shapes and forms, and brought to the fullness of God’s will for them in mind, heart, and soul.

They give themselves to mutual obedience in order to create a common voice— a communal voice— that can be heard above the clamors of self centeredness. And they do the hard work of community-living and decision-making together, “not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness”— so that none of the actions taken together are done in vain, so that the Reign of God can come sooner because we have been here.

In a Monastery of the Heart, Benedictine listening honors the function of leadership to point us in the direction of truth, but knows that neither dependence nor license nor authoritarianism are a valid substitute for communal discernment, for seeking truth in the light of one another’s wisdom.

Communal discernment is a holy hearing of prophetic voices among us. It comes out of listening to others and responding to them in the name of God, so that as a community we can move forward together, one heart at a time.

Benedictine spirituality requires careful listening and responding to the Word of God, to the call of the Jesus who leads us, and to the call of the community that is the foundation of our spiritual life.

It is not an obedience that rests on blessed ignorance, or infantile dependence, or reckless irresponsibility, or military authoritarianism, or blind submission in the name of holiness.

A truly listening heart knows that we lose the chance for truth
if we give another—any other— either too much, or too little, control over the conscience that is meant to be ours alone.

And yet, at the same time, mutual obedience, real obedience, holy listening forever seeks the spiritual dialogue holy wisdom demands.

In a Monastery of the Heart, it is the acceptance of wisdom not our own that asks of us the spiritual maturity that listens first and always to the Word of God— and allows the Word to be the testing ground of every other demand made on our lives.

It is obedience to the greater law of love.

An authentic claim to obedience does not deny another person’s independence and autonomy of thought. On the contrary, it hones the seeker for the sake of the growth of the community and the spreading of the Word.

This listening with the heart to the insights of another is not the obedience of children, or soldiers, or servants, or minions. It is the obedience given to a lover, because of love alone.


“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”

― Charlie Chaplin