This Agape Love


Agape

There I was in the classroom, discussing to a bunch of college students at 7:30 in the morning, that mysterious and often debated upon four-letter word. Even if the time of the subject and the subject itself – Theology – are challenges already for a newbie teacher, I felt the mood perk up, noticed that eyes were suddenly wide with curiosity and saw that tiny smiles were forming in usually sleepy faces. After each slide of showing familiar references in pop culture, from the poetic to the “jologs,” giggles filled the air. I even caught one student daydreaming as I called her attention. Oh love, see what you can do?

I proceeded to move into the four loves, engaged the class in a banter as I moved from eros to philia and then to storge. As I was about to discuss the love that would be my jumpoff from human experience to Theology, I caught myself discussing something from memory as an example. A prolonged Freudian Slip, I guess? I continued on, replacing “me” with “I have a friend.” And then at the end of the discourse I said, “…and then she found herself falling for this someone and desiring not to possess. Rather, she wanted his sanctity. She wanted his good and she prayed for it whenever the pain would hit her heart.”

“Is that the last love, Miss? That one they call Agape?”

Surprised that one student knew, I nodded, paused for a while and tried to make sense of what I just revealed to the class (who was clueless that it was me) and even to myself.

I clicked the next slide to bring me back to earth and well, this showed up:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

The discussion went on and then I briefly touched Agape just to deepen what love was in the philosophical sense. So I began with Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility to introduce love in its stages – attraction, desire and goodwill. 

  • “The feelings or attraction that one person feels toward another often begins suddenly and unexpectedly, but this reaction is in effect blind.
  • “Response to the qualities inherent in a person must go with a simultaneous response to the qualities of the person as such, an awareness that a person as such is a value, and not merely attractive because of certain qualities which he or she possesses.”
  • “A human being is a person, a person whose nature is determined by his inwardness. It is necessary therefore to discover and to be attracted by the inner as well as the outer beauty.”
  • “The subject in love is conscious of [desire’s] presence, knows that it is there at his or her disposal so to speak, but working to perfect this love, will see to it that desire does not dominate, does not overwhelm all else that love comprises.”
  • “A genuine love is one in which the true essence of love is realized — a love which is directed to a genuine (and not merely apparent) good.”

  • “Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities inherent in man.”

Then came the slide that made my heart sting at the realization that – without wanting, expecting or forcing any of it – I’ve fallen in love with someone I didn’t like to.

It is not enough to long for a person as a good for oneself; one must also, and above all, long for that person’s good.

My questions in my head, the pain I had in my heart and the lesson that I had to finish…imagine all that happening in an hour and a half! I finished the lecture rounding up all disciplines to give reason to the faith and finally relating agape, goodwill and the sacrifice in Calvary.

Fast forward to two chats with a good friend and a Divine Appointment and the acceptance that whatever this is is something beautiful from the Lord despite the many “why’s” that I may ask along the way.

“Basta ingatan mo siya. Alam mo na yun.”

“And that is what you call Agape – desiring the good of someone, loving without expecting anything in return. That love that He showed on the cross, He is letting you experience it in a different and unexpected way. This is good. This is from the Lord. Let Him tell you what this is for – for that person and for you as well.”

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.” (The Four Loves, C.S Lewis)

Funny isn’t it? How what a teacher can be discussing in the classroom will be met by God in such an astonishing way by letting the teacher firstly be a student of life and of the Master she proclaims? 

For whatever this is, I’m not quite sure. So many times I have asked the Lord to take it away only to discover that what is existing at present is actually a gift. From an antagonistic stance before the Giver of Love, from a defensive line “I do not welcome this feeling, Lord,” He transformed that into an appreciation of what is and this: “What a happy feeling this is, thank You Lord.” Which reminds me actually of what my literary hero wrote in his book, The Four Loves:

“Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God; Appreciative love says: “We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.” Need-love says of a woman “I cannot live without her”; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection – if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.

In a world that thinks love has to be (at all times) reciprocated and that love no longer exists when one is “no longer happy,” I am thankful I am able to experience, even if only a part, what love as goodwill is. I will always be forever grateful that once again, just like what He has been doing all my life (except that now this is a very surprising context of it), I was led to the foot of the cross. Wanting to know, waiting for things to unravel in His perfect time but enduring and pondering everything in one’s heart, difficult as it may be.

I will always be thankful that in my lifetime I found out that such a kind of love is possible to attain – this heartwrenching, painfully beautiful, paradoxical love called agape.

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