The Way of Love. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became an [adult], I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
God is love. Fr. Thomas emphasizes in Part 5 of our program, “Divine Love: The Heart of the Christian Spiritual Journey” that God doesn’t just show love, but God is love. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, different gifts given to individuals which are meant to serve the entire community. The next chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is Paul’s great exhortation on love. He calls this way of love the most excellent path. It’s the path of the spiritual journey where we grow in love and let go of our attachments. It’s the path where we consent to receive the gift of inner transformation, where the divine life is transmitted to each one of us and then transmitted to the community, not so much through action but through being.
This growth in love that we experience on the spiritual journey is what Fr. Thomas likens to the movement of unconditional love in the Trinity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is not a feeling of love, but a self-giving disposition, the same dynamic that Jesus experienced in his relationship with the Father, his Abba. “The word Abba that epitomizes Jesus’ experience of the Father adds a tender, nurturing and compassionate understanding of the Ultimate Reality. It emphasizes what might be called the feminine side of Ultimate Reality.” Christ is transmitting through us as we are assimilating the experience of the Father as Abba, that eternal exchange of unconditional love.
“Divine love tirelessly gives itself away. It even seems to wish to throw itself away in order to manifest the divine urgency to pour out its boundless mercy and goodness upon all creation, especially upon human beings who can respond with gratitude, trust and self-surrender and fully enjoy it.”
-Thomas Keating, Manifesting God
The Living Flame of Love
by St. John of the Cross
- O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this
- O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.
- O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.
- How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.
- View the video excerpt “The Most Excellent Path” which is about 29 minutes in length.
- Reflect on what Fr. Thomas says about growth in love as another way to describe the spiritual journey. Often as we find ourselves letting go of attachments, we notice we are experiencing a growth in love. Are there places in your life where you experiencing this?