“The Primacy of Grace and God’s Love” (1/10/19)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
“Was it not your bliss that you could never love as much as you have been loved?” so asks Soren Kierkegaard as he ponders God’s love for us. What joy there is in knowing that God’s love for us will always infinitely surpass anything we could come up with. We are always just trying to catch up, as God’s immense love goes before us.
Our reading from 1 John captures the same sentiment of wonder as it announces, “We love God because He first loved us.” What joy! God loved us first, and more than we ever could in return. Earlier John says, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us.” How reassuring! God’s love is primary and the rock of our existence. It is because God first loved us that we love, both Him and our neighbor, as the two are so tied together.
Hidden in all this, we have a beautiful program of life. If we want to grow in our love for God and for others, we have to grow in our experience of God’s love for us, to open our hearts to his goodness and mercy for us. A 5th century church father and spiritual master named Diadochos of Photiki spoke well of this. He said, “To the degree that someone receives the love of God consciously in his soul, he truly enters into God’s love. He senses its strength in his bones and no longer knows himself, but is completely transformed by the love of God. When someone begins to perceive the love of God in all its richness, he begins also to love his neighbor and to cling to God with an irresistible longing. His heart now burns constantly with the fire of love.” (Phlkla, I p256)
It’s a beautiful program of life that Diadochos lays out before us, inspired by 1 John. We catch fire by drawing close to the Divine Fire, the God who is Love. We consciously receive the love of God into our souls more and more especially through prayer and contemplation. God’s love then soaks in, soaks in to our very bones.
But we also have opportunity to do so throughout the rest of our day too. We are so showered by God’s gifts and signs of his love! Yet they are mostly little things that we can take for granted: an act of kindness someone does to us, a smile, the warmth of the sun, providential events, all the ways God lovingly provides for us. We can find reason to bless the Lord throughout our day if we only had eyes to see Him and His love in the little things.
Yet the grace of Epiphany can help us here. For Epiphany is the love of God being made manifest to the world in the little Baby, Jesus. And there are epiphanic moments—moments of epiphany—when our eyes are opened to see God’s love in the little things.
We see God’s love in the little Baby in the manger. But also analogously we see God’s love in the little things of our daily life. It’s the same grace of Epiphany. The Divine Fire of Love blazes out at us from the little things and we too catch fire. We love, because God first loved us.