Ah, Love! But what is the real meaning of Valentine’s Day? Check out this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.
Ah, Love! It’s as perennial as the grass. So reads a line for the Desiderata. But what is love—really? St. Valentine’s Day presents us with a timely opportunity to look more closely.
St. Valentine was a kindly and generous bishop, so it’s interesting that his feast day has become a celebration of romantic love. I guess that’s what commercialism will do. Nobody buys chocolates, flowers, and cards out a great love of mankind. Such a love is not great for business but it’s sure what the world needs! That’s what St. Valentine was all about. Love is so confusing.
Part of the problem is that we only have one word for it in English—love. The ancient Greeks knew better. They had three words: eros, philia, and agape. Eros is romantic, sexual love. That’s the love you felt so strongly as a 16-year-old. Remember? Philia is brotherly love—the love you feel for your parents, siblings, and children. But St. Valentine’s love was the next one.
Agape love is what St. Valentine demonstrated in his life and actions. And that’s a key point—agape is about love in action, love directed towards others, not self. It is a self-sacrificing love, a love that lacks self-interest, self-gratification, and self-preservation. Agape love is motivated primarily by the interest and welfare of others. In the New Testament, agape is the Greek word most frequently used for the love for God, the love for mankind, and even the love for enemies. It means that we act in a loving way towards others. It means we use our mind and our might for the benefit of another, without regard for ourselves. It is not based on our feelings. In the famous words of St. Paul,
Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
(1 Cor. 13:4-7)
That’s a lot of things to keep in mind. During this week of St. Valentine, how about you try taking just one part of that as a daily mantra? Maybe, “Love does not take offense.” Even just that would be a challenge for most of us.
As always, the choice is yours. You can pick one aspect of love to work on, or none. Whatever you decide, I’ll love you just the same!
God Bless You!
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