Office of Spirituality 2/13/19
A Valentine Note from The Monastic Way by Joan Chittister
Ananda, the beloved disciple of the Buddha, once asked his teacher about the place of friendship in the spiritual journey. “Master, is friendship half of the spiritual life?” he asked. And the teacher responded, “Nay, Ananda, friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.
There are times when it seems that so much has been written about love that there is no more to be said about it. And, worse, sometimes it seems that so much that has been written about love that is pure drive! – unattained and unattainable. Or volumes are written about sexual manipulation without a word about the fact that good sex, holy sex, requires a good relationship. Or pure theory of a theological kind talks about “loving” God when I have yet to understand human love, let alone the divine. But love is none of those things, alone and entirely. Love is far more meaningful than that.
Love is something learned only by the long, hard labor of life. It is sometimes over before we’ve even known we ever had it. We sometimes destroy it before we appreciate it. We often have it and simply take it for granted.
Every love, whatever happens to it in the long run, teaches us more about ourselves, our needs, our limitations, and our self-centeredness than anything else we can ever experience. As Aldous Huxley wrote: “There isn’t any formula or method. You learn by loving.”
But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we live long enough to grow into it in such a way that because of it we come to recognize the value of life. As the years go by, we come to love flowers and cats and small infants and old ladies and life on the dock and the one person in life who knows how hot we like our coffee.
We learn enough about love to allow things to slip away and ourselves to melt into the God whose love made all of it possible. Sometimes we even find a love deep enough, gentle enough, tender enough to detach us from the foam and frills of life, all of which hold us captive to things that cannot satisfy. Sometimes we live long enough to see the face of God in another. Then, in that case, we have loved.
The poets and storytellers across time have told us about the dimensions of love that last. The poet Rumi wrote:
From myself I am copper,
through You, friend, I am gold.
From myself I’m a stone, but
through You I am a gem.