All posts tagged: agape

Dante and the Liturgical Formation of Desire

  On an allegorical level, the pilgrimage depicted in Dante’s Divine Comedy is an exploration of the landscape of the human soul. Our choices create the various kinds of existential hell, purgatory, and paradise experienced on this mortal coil. In Dante’s vision, our experiences of misery, our moments of conversion, and the blessings of bliss take place with attention to our concrete histories—with the persons, places, memories, and events that make up our complicated lives. It is difficult to remain a mere tourist-reader with Dante; we are enticed to become pilgrims and expose our tragic-comic lives to his “believable vision.”[1] As he guides us through his vision, Dante helps us think about liturgical participation, not as one option among many, but as a privileged site for the ordering of our loves—as the source and summit of our Christian lives. Dante masterfully illustrates that one of the central challenges of our lives is the arduous integration of eros and agape, of desire and self-giving love. While the power of eros promises self-transcendence through intoxicating intimations of …

Holy Thursday: When Love Enters a Cosmos Turned in on Itself

When pure love, divine love, agape, enters a world turned in on itself, a world whose operating system is self-love, closed off by fear from any other possibility, such pure love is neither fully received nor fully reciprocated. In such a fallen and rebellious cosmos, that pure love, divine love, encountering indifference, denial, and rejection, is not welcomed with humility and delight, but is refracted in suffering. Such pure love can be expressed fully in a sinful and contorted world only as sacrifice. For rational creatures whose will is wounded—that is, for us—real love, pure love, agape, will always involve some kind of dying. St. John tells us that as Jesus initiated his Last Supper with his disciples, he was fully aware of what he was doing, fully aware of what this meal anticipated and made sacramentally present, fully aware of it was going to cost him. Further, the Evangelist links this full knowledge with a fullness of love, the real impetus of his action, commenting that Jesus loved his own—and loved them perfectly, or …

Witness of the Holy Fool

Dostoevsky’s task as a novelist is to portray the self-sacrifice of the holy fool in such a way that readers will recognize its beauty and want to participate in it. —Harriet Murov The moment I knew that grad school was getting to me was the moment that I found myself deeply identifying with the manic-depressive protagonist of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov’s troubled state of soul manifests itself in long, circular interior diatribes and labyrinthine monologues, clearly the entrails of a mind coming unhinged. Raskolnikov is no idiot. He is a sharp and intelligent young man. The modern intellectual milieu that he inhabits, however, is a world devoid of Christ, and accordingly, Raskolnikov’s ability to make sense of the world has begun to break down. In trying to make sense of the world on the terms of his reason and his self alone, Raskolnikov has lost his mind. His intelligence, without the guide of charity or faith, leads him to a hellish despair and emptiness. It has led him to a …