Sunday, November 22, 2009

Love Sees with New Eyes


There is a dimension of truth which most of us have tragically lost and need to recover, a dimension that cannot be put into words and sentences, though words and sentences can be used to suggest it.

All premodern societies had this other dimension, even the ones who were very far from having the propositional truth, the Christian content of revelation. This other dimension is a vision, a perspective, a habit of seeing rather than a specific thing seen. If we do not have this habit—this vision—then our theology will not sink much deeper than on a conscious, rational level.

The thing I speak of can be called myth, imagination, analogy, or sacramentalism. All four words are slippery and ambiguous. Rather than trying to define them, let me give an example. Indeed, let me give the crucial example for our purposes here, for our topic is the theology of love and how it applies to our lives. Without this way of thinking, such an application, such a connection between what God is and what we are, is tenuous and strained.

Since God is the Creator and since creation reflects and reveals the Creator, and since God is love, all creation somehow reflects and reveals love. That is a logical argument, but my point here is not to deduce the conclusion but to see it,to understand it, to stand under it. If God is love, all creation must reflect love. Yet we do not habitually look for these reflections. For instance, we no longer understand, except as a quaint historical curiosity, the idea that sexual love is not just biological. We have lost the idea, implicit in almost all the languages of the world except English—which has no masculine and feminine nouns—that human sexuality is the human version of a universal principle. When other languages call the Sun "he" and the moon "she," they are not simply projecting the human reality out onto nature, but seeing something that is really there. One version of this is the famous Chinese yin and yang. Another is the Indian marriage ceremony in which the groom says to his bride, "I am heaven, you are earth." She responds, "I am earth, you are heaven."

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