Quid est caritas?
Jesus, Mary, I love You; Save Souls!
Quid est caritas?
I have been reading through my old blog posts and I realize I have been writing on this one topic most of the time but sometimes I don’t get it across the way I want it. So this time around I will try to approach this from another angle.
I was playing the piano the other day. Instead of my usual Beethoven sonatas, I decided to play a piece by Schumann, Traumerei. Traum in German means dream. My piano teacher who is also my god-mother told me a long time ago when I was just a little girl, that this piece meant a dream of love. Schumann lived in the romantic era. His pieces are a stark different from my favourite baroque (D. Scarlatti) and classical-romantic (Beethoven) composers. I said on my blog that I play the piano. But before you have any ideas that I can play the piano very well, let me assure you that my fingers are a bunch of bananas – literally and I am very sure that the composers would turn in their grave if they heard me play. Coming back to the point, it was a change that day when I decided to take out my old pieces to play. I was pondering and wondering about this one thing, caritas or love. Why? Don’t ask me why, for the reason lies in my heart alone. There comes a time when every person wonders and thinks and reasons, I believe. I have been thinking about loads of things lately; part of growing up and loving I suppose.
Quid est caritas? What is love? Pilate asked Quid est veritas? What is truth? The answer to that question lies in pondering what really love is. There’s an old saying that love makes the world go round. Yes it does I will say right from the start. It is the very essence of the human spirit. Divine love takes this love a notch higher. It uplifts the soul. When you find this love, you comprehend a little what truth is. I can’t explain what truth is but when you find out the truth, when you ask questions and you get the correct answers, you will find, in your heart, that Veritas liberabit vos (John 8:32). Yes, the truth will set you free. It is a kind of liberation, when the knowledge sets in and knowledge then will bring understanding, then the love comes in and unites everything. So love is always the end product.
Thing is you don’t need a lot of knowledge to love. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t love, the knowledge does not bear fruit, nothing will bear fruit. :) I must confess I do not know a lot. What I’m writing here today, is a compilation of my thought process, something that I don’t know why I like to pen down, in case I forget (a little “hyper-compulsive”) and also because in the end, you want to share the love, you feel like telling and shouting it over the mountain top, because you are happy and because the other party involved is also happy, be it the love of God or purely human love. Some of you dear readers might be married, or might be in love so I guess you know what I’m trying to say. I’m not married yet and I must state again that I do not know a great deal but here, on my blog, I’d like to write about love/charity. Be it purely divine or human love, I hope you are able to relate to it, I hope at least I will try my very best, Deo volente, God willing.
I have the tune of the Traumerei somewhere playing at the back of my mind now. My piano is next to my family altar, where we have a huge crucifix hung up. (picture) As I was playing and thinking, I looked at Jesus hanging on the Cross. It became clearer, my head. Everything I was reading about, I was thinking about – just this one simple sentence. And to think it took me so long, so long to comprehend. :)
Love is the Cross.
I don’t want to make this sound overtly religious, or it might just scare everyone into not reading this long piece of writing. (Don’t mind me because I’m also a little long-winded, my mother sometimes calls me a grandmother, for a reason I guess, yucks.) But I guess you need to understand about the way I view certain things, to put things into perspective. St. Augustine defines religion as the science of God and men. Religion to me also, is a way of living life; it shows us how to live life. I was born a Catholic, but it took me a while to be a convinced Catholic. There was a turning point way early in my life, Deo gratias et Mariae. I was then still in the novus ordo. Then I started asking questions about the Church, because I was sick of praise and worship, tired of all the fake answers to simple questions. To put it very simply, I didn’t find any answers; it was all too simplified, too “man-centered”. I come from one of the “most modern” parishes in Singapore, maybe that’s why. I stumbled into tradition and soon after that, I became a traditionalist. And I love Latin. But that’s another story, for another time if I decide to write about it. But it was all part of the process of how I became a convinced Catholic, a convinced Roman Catholic. Mein Glaube ist mir sehr wichtig. My Faith is very important to me. And I have to thank God and Mother Mary for everything.
The Cross has taught me a lot about living life.
The Cross is Sacrifice. Love is Sacrifice.
I shall start with words from my dear patron saint, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Holy Face:
Here on earth, to live for love does not mean settling on Thabor; it means climbing Calvary with Jesus and looking on the Cross as a treasure.
The Cross has always been a fascinating feature of Christianity. Holy Scripture tells us that the doctrine of the Cross is a doctrine that was taught by Christ Himself, a point to note, way before He was actually crucified. [See Matthew 16:24, just before the transfiguration. See also Mark 8:34] One of the things that we can grasp by just looking at the Cross is that we see a man, bleeding and dying, hanging on it by nails so huge. We can see that the man is making a sacrifice; a sacrifice of his own life. We ask why he is doing that. His innocence, as we can read in the gospels, was shown throughout His whole trial. Even Pilate said that He was innocent. No one could give substantial evidence against Him. All they wanted and they wanted it really badly, edged on by their leaders, were to kill Him and ensure that He died by the cruelest way possible - Crucifixion. If we look closer, we see the blood on the man; we see the body mutilated on the Cross. We can infer that he was scourged and whipped to the bone then made to carry the heavy wood, then crucified. The body of the two thieves crucified by his side looked very different from this particular man. This man was but one bloody wound. This one innocent man who died in such an unjust manner committed this one supreme act of sacrifice, no one can compare. Faith teaches us that this man is Jesus and history and evidence can prove this. Faith teaches us that Jesus died to save us from iniquity; he bore the whole brunt, the whole burden of our sins. Saint Thomas Aquinas also says that one precious drop of blood from the Son of God was sufficient for appeasement, but Jesus went all out, He went all out for you and for me.
Well, only because He loves us, so much, even I cannot comprehend; for He is infinite love as much as He is infinite everything else, because He is God.
Love and sacrifice are two things so interconnected, they cannot be separated. Let us look at this from another perspective, one that we can relate to in our daily lives. If you say that you love someone, you say that you are willing to give your whole life to that someone. You sacrifice, you give and you just keep giving, trying to make the other person happier, makes you happy. The gift of this your whole self to that other someone constitutes a sacrifice on your part. First it makes you happy, second and albeit almost simultaneously, it makes the other party happy. There is a kind of joy in giving, a joy in adversity, a joy in sacrifice when you love someone. And in marriage, when two people decide to unite because they love each other, to be together for the rest of their lives, they give of themselves freely to the other, a very noble act of sacrifice; for as long as they live, they have to be of one heart and of one mind in order for a marriage to work. The two shall become one flesh. Sacrifice thus is an integral part of love, and integral part of charity that is needed for lasting, patient love, just like the love that we see on the Cross. Besides the love between a man and a woman, let us now look at the love between a mother and a child. And the greatest of this love, I must say, is the love between dearest Mother Mary and her Son, Jesus. Look again at the Cross. We see a woman, the mother of this man at the foot of the Cross. We cannot comprehend how she feels, for the sorrow she feels surpasses all the sorrows in the world. Her own flesh and blood is dying and she is just there, at the foot of the Cross, suffering in her heart. See her agony and contemplate her sorrow. How would a mother feel, seeing her son die in a battlefield?
A mother gives her life to her children. And most mothers do that, I hope. Sacrifice and love, two things so interconnected, they cannot be separated.
I see and observe my mother daily. She’s human too, with her faults, just like me, with all my horrible defects. But I see her giving her life to us, for the family. This valuable lesson I learnt also, that love is sacrifice, from her constant example. She gave me one very precious gift and till this day I thank her, that is she showed me how to look at the Cross, how suffering must be endured in a marriage, she showed me how suffering must be endured in a family and she showed me in a way what love is. She is still showing me and so is my father showing me, in his way, don’t worry daddy, I love you too. Deo gratias et Mariae.
Because Love is Sacrifice, ...
Onto the second point on what love is. Love unites. It is what brings souls together. One essential point about charity is that love craves for unity, for togetherness. That’s why the love between a man and a woman leads to marriage, a very obvious example. But of course, an integral part of marriage is also sacrifice as we expounded earlier. Marriage is not all about conjugal love and passions, it is about sacrifice. Unity in love entails that the two become one flesh that the two remain as one heart for the rest of their lives – that requires sacrifice.
Love craves for union. And there’s no greater union than that of divine love, the love of Jesus with us, through the Holy Eucharist. By Faith, we believe that the bread and wine is trans-substantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ at the august sacrifice of the Mass. The Holy Mass is the un-bloody sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, repeated on our altars daily. I wrote this on the Holy Eucharist and Holy Mass sometime back last year, on Christ my King. We eat Jesus; He gives Himself entirely to us. Something, only love can comprehend. The Cross shows that love is unity and that there is no love that does not want to unite himself to the object of his love. Jesus, by His supreme act of sacrifice on the Cross, brought together almost all nations under His fold, in a certain sense, for He died for all those from all nations that would finally go to heaven to be with Him. His death on the Cross signified the start of a new religion, the religion of the Cross, as distinct from that of the old religion (of the Jews), uniting diverse peoples under one banner, that of the Cross.
Love bears Fruit
Yes, it does bear fruit. Literally, we can see this in marriages, when whole families are formed. The children come into picture; they are the fruit of their parents’ love. Love is sacrifice, love craves union, this union brings souls together, brings two people together to become one flesh, which bears fruit – very simple, we see it in our very own lives.
Divine love does exactly the same thing. And the Cross bears fruit, in a manner, very sublime. We have established a relationship in the previous section, that of the Cross, the Crucifixion and the Mass. The fruit of the love of Jesus for souls culminates in the supreme act of the giving of Himself entirely, body and soul, to us in Holy Communion. It certainly is very beautiful as much as love is painful.
As Ruysbroeck wrote: “To be wounded by love is the sweetest solace and the most harrowing torture which a soul can bear. To be wounded by love: there is no fuller assurance that the cure is at hand. This spiritual wound causes joy and pain at the same time."
When two hearts become one, submitting to each other’s will is essential, for a marriage to work. A wife has to submit to her husband, to his will, for the good of the family.
This analogy is similar for divine love where we see that (in Saint Thérèse’s words) Perfection consists in doing God’s will, in being that which He wants us to be. As St. Thérèse wrote, so beautifully, in her autobiography:
"Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.
It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.
I also understood that God's love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul. Indeed, as it is love's nature to humble itself, if all souls were like those of the holy doctors who have illumined the Church with the light of their doctrine, it seems that God would not have stooped low enough by entering their hearts. But God has created the baby who knows nothing and can utter only feeble cries. He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him. By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur. The sun shines equally both on cedars and on every tiny flower. In just the same way God looks after every soul as if it had no equal. All is planned for the good of every soul, exactly as the seasons are so arranged that the humblest daisy blossoms at the appointed time."
Love makes us do things that reason sometimes alone cannot comprehend.
(To be continued)
In September 1939, after the invasion of Poland by Hitler’s armies, almost all the Franciscans of Niepokalanow had to leave their monastery. Before letting them leave for unknown destinations – for some exile, for others prison or death – Maximilian Kolbe said to them:
“Forget not Love.”
Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori.
Jesus, Mary, I love Thee; Save Souls!
Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)