03 December 2018

Give me your unconditional 93.

The 15th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.
Wherein we pray for Love.
When I first began the AWC devotions, almost a year before I actually joined, it struck me as funny to spend 14 prayers ruling out sex just to pray for love at the end. That will tell you more about me than it does about the devotions, really, but this is a true confession: even after trying to live the Church's teaching on sex for a couple of decades, I still confuse sex and love. The prayer here is abrupt after all the other prayers. "Give us love". The intention, "for love" is so nebulous: the person saying the prayers has more to learn with each repetition. What do we want? Love! When do we want it? Now!

Repeat the prayer daily for a while to get something else.

Love is the source of all the virtues for which we have been praying in the previous 14 prayers: the love of God is not eros, nor is it philia or friendship. It is not storge or marital love. God's love is agape. It is more than a feeling or even an action: agape is grace, God's very presence, God's very self. God is Agape says St John. To pray, to deeply beg God for agape, it to pray to be enfolded into God's presence and action in the world. We cannot share in his essence: but we can participate in his energies, and by Grace we can become as he is in his nature. This prayer, this begging for love, is the true beginning of salvation. And in asking for Love, in asking for God's present action in our lives: we are surrendering our lost ideas of "I, Me, Mine" to God's idea of the divine dance.

All the other prayers arise from this. Only in Agape can we surrender all the other powers of our souls to God. Only in Agape can our memory be healed, our affectivity be turned to God, our five senses be tuned to the divine actions in the world. Only in living Agape can we let go of the false hand railings the world throws up around us. Only in Agape can we walk by faith and not by sight.

Agape is not a feeling or an emotion. When a teenager hears that "God is love" one is apt to think of the way one doodles "Mr and Mrs High School Football Star" during algebra, or the way one might day dream about asking that one special girl to the prom. That's not love. To be perfectly frank, that's hormones running amok. Our hormones do that. Love is an act of the Will. It come after the hormones.

Even the occultists know this, realizing that the Greek letters for "Agape" add up to 93. (Each letter in Greek is also a number.) That same number, 93, is the sum of the letters in the Greek word for will: "Thelema". So they teach "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" and also "Love is the law". They misread the signs though: and made all acts of self-will out to be acts of Agape. I can do what I want and it's love that lets me do it. Aleister Crowley discovered this, but we still hear from occultists today like Oprah and Osteen. What they should have seen in that 93 pairing is that the human will must be subordinate to the Divine Love.

To Agape (love) is to Thelema (will) the good of another as other. It's not a case of "I love you because you complete me" which is just a particular case of narcissism. Nor is it a case I love you so we can do what ever we want.  Since "good" must be on Divine terms, it cannot involve leading anyone into sin. We fail to love when we are engaging in sexual acts contrary to the Divine Will. Like the high school students at the prom, we think or imagine that to be love, but it's only hormones. Many of our most-favourite "love stories" are better understood as Hormone Stories or stories of Egotism masquerading as Love: folks who leave their spouses, children disobeying their parents, people giving into their bodily drives with nary a rational sense about them. King David discovered this with Bathsheba. You don't get to instant love just because the neighbor lady is naked on her roof. (Why was the neighbor lady naked on her roof?) What you get is murder and a child conceived out of wedlock, and Nathan the Prophet satirizing you to your face.

Real love doesn't happen until decades later when you're sweeping up the sawdust your construction working spouse brought home, or making the kids lunch while they are sick in bed. Golde and Tevye learn this in Fiddler on the Roof after 25 years of marriage. Love was not something they knew about at the beginning of marriage. It was not something they learned until there were kids and houses to clean and cows to milk and even sex had stopped. Then they could finally love.

It takes love to turn our wills over to God, to turn our bodies over to God, to turn our memories and emotions over to God. It takes love, in the end, to yield our passions to God and finally see in him our salvation. So we pray for Love. Love is an act of the will, driving towards the good of another, at self-sacrificial speed.

We must love the other, our neighbor, as though they were our very self: while sacrificing our self on the altar of that Love as God did himself, loving us so dearly.

Love is the beginning and end of these intercessions: it is the thing without which all the others are not possible. It is the thing that finally arises when all the other steps have been completed. Acquiring the virtues leads you to love, but you cannot acquire the virtues at all without love first.

God is love.

Love is God's presence, God's grace active in your life - even before you knew it. Any act of love - any true action taken because of real agape - is God's action in your life. We pray for love that we might finally be saved but also that we might, more and more, come to share in God's actions in the healing of the world which we have, perhaps, for too long helped tear up.

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