Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Tragic Nature of Human Love: Shattered Communion (TOTB Part III)

TOTB Intro; TOTB Part I; TOTB Part II

In order to have a truly loving relationship, the lover must be the beloved and the beloved must be the lover. In other words, loving relationship always walks a two way street. That is why we call a person who loves without reciprocation a stalker. This is also why we call a person who only receives love, never giving it, a leach. Any truly loving relationship functions as a dance – a perfect union of receiving and of giving. The female and male bodies point to this mutualism – this perfect exchange of gift and receipt.

The purpose of life is stamped on our bodies – we were made to give ourselves away in love so that we can perfectly enter a shared communion with another that begins to model and point to the union of love that has existed before all time between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Love, true love, is the communion of the total gift of self and the grace to receive the total gift of another. Tragically, though, this purpose of life, to which our created bodies point, is so often not experienced. A satisfying, holistic communion of love tends to approach the idealistic, the world of fairy land.


We shattered perfect beauty. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, love was breached. God’s love toward Adam and Eve was total – it had given everything – life itself. God’s love invited Adam and Eve to enter into the union that had existed eternally. Adam and Eve, recipients of the totality of the gift of God’s love, did not reciprocate total love in return. That ruined everything. The parents of our race received God’s total gift of Himself and yet, in the freedom provided by the nature of love, did not return the totalness of love. Loving communion just doesn’t work where the gift being received is not reciprocated with a gift given.

Everything fell apart. Adam and Eve, male and female, possessing bodies that modeled the very nature of divine love hid themselves from each other because they were naked! The body, that which physically modeled the most wonderful of stories, the story of God’s fruitful, faithful, free and total love, was seen to be a thing of shame. Adam and Eve hid their bodies! The naked body – that which spoke so clearly of union, of communion, of a total and mutual gift of self – was hid.

The naked body, before the fall, prompted in Adam the desire to give the gift of himself to Eve. But after Adam chose to only receive the gift of God’s love and not reciprocate love to God in its totality, when he looked at Eve, he could only see her selfishly, he could only see her for what she could give to him. This is a shameful thing! It is a desperately tragic thing for the symbol in our bodies of perfect union and gift to only be seen by another for their own selfish pleasure. Christopher West classically concludes at this point that a woman changing in a closed room who receives a knock on the door with the question, "Are you decent?" should not answer, "No," but, "Yes, I am decent, but you could not behold me in decency." It is shameful to see, in nakedness, only the gift to be received and not the gift to be given. Nakedness is not shameful, the body is not shameful, but to be looked on by another only as an object for their pleasure is shameful. This is why we wear clothes!

This is the tragedy of human love. We love selfishly – we struggle constantly to reverse the effects of the fall – to reverse the effects of the continual ease of choosing only to use others and receive love.

Love is truly meant to be a mutual gifting of self. We must find our way back.