one word is not enough

Have you ever spent some time, a few days perhaps, totally and completely surrounded and immerse in love? Now I will admit that in a sense this is a trick question, for in order to adequately and truthfully answer it one must first understand to what form of love the question is referring.

God is Agape

God is Agape

And yes, love comes in many forms, but due primarily to linguistic limitations we find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between these forms and in doing so we have diminished love to its least common denominator, to its basest form. In truth, we have made love a cheap commodity rather than a priceless heirloom. It is no small wonder that we find ourselves confused in our relationships when we have no clear understanding of what it means to love.

Consider for a moment all the things that we say we love: our spouses, our parents, our siblings, our relatives, our friends. We say we love God, baseball, and apple pie. We love our dogs, cats, trees, flowers, cars, clothes, and so much more. Obviously we cannot love all of these in the same way. We cannot love pizza in the same way as we love our parents. We may love flowers but certainly not to the same degree as we love a friend, a brother, or a sister.

Love is clearly not a “one size fits all” word, yet that is what we have made it in our everyday argot. Rather than a single word to describe all the forms of love, the Greek language has five words for love; five words that distinguish between five very different forms of love.

  1. Mania – is the love of possession, an obsessive desire to own, even madness.
  2. Eros – is emotional love; the feeling of love.
  3. Philos – is friendship; sharing common interests; fondness for things.
  4. Storge – is love for a dependent; parental love.
  5. Agape – is love that requires no response; seeks the best for another; charity.

Without the means to differentiate between one form of love and another we find ourselves placing all forms into a blender and pressing puree. What pours out is no longer a golden elixir but a nauseous combination heavily weighted to its lowest forms. The sweet delicate taste of Agape has been completely overpowered by the urgencies of Eros and the obsessions of Mania. The beauty of Agape love has been transposed into an ugly, cheap four-letter word.

I recently spent four marvelous days totally and completely surrounded and immersed in four of the five forms of love (No Mania.) I cannot recall ever having had such an experience but I can only hope and pray to God that he will allow me to do so again for it was marvelous and life-changing. Celebrating a granddaughter’s birthday with her parents and her brother, I loved and felt love four ways and then some. Reuniting with classmates, some I had not seen for fifty years was heavy on the Philos, with a good measure of emotional Eros thrown in. Spending a few days and evenings with a dear friend was overwhelmingly the same. Offering the Eucharist to family, friends, and classmates was pure Agape.

God is Agape and he calls us to love others as we love ourselves, but we must know the difference.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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