What does it mean to truly love?
Recently in a homily a priest asserted that one knew if she was loving correctly when her thoughts and actions were directed outwards, toward the other. Any love directed inward was false.
But what about correctly ordered self-love, I thought, where does that love find its place?
In his book “Thoughts in Solitude,” Thomas Merton (Trappist monk and great thinker) writes that in order to “know and experience our own ‘nothingness’ we must accept it, see that it is good, and love it.” He writes that “the spiritually poor man loves his very insufficiency.”
How can this be? How can I recognize that true love points away from me, that when directed inward I waste away, that I am utterly nothing…and also love that very part of myself.
When we ask this question what we are really asking is this: how does accepting my insufficiency help me to know God?
The key is this loving of our own selves, which is an active and therefore positive reaction, rather than a victim-like and passive resignation to nothingness.
Let us turn to the first reading. “Small as weak as you are, don’t be afraid; I will help you. I will make rivers flow among barren hills and springs of water run in the valleys. I will make cedars grow in the desert and acacias and myrtles and olive trees.”(Is 41: 14, 18, 19)
To accept and love our own insufficiency is to prepare ourselves to be vessels of God’s transformative love. We love our nothingness because it means we are capable of giving all of ourselves to work with, for, and through God. Our nothingness means we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible.
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Class of 2017
Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus – an arrival or a coming. In the context of the season, Advent means that the Lord is coming. Read more of the Advent introduction...
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