He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Monday, April 11, 2016

Love it to Death: The Family of Love

I, like most people, first began to learn about love from my family.  I learned about love from my mother's tenderness, from her generosity, from the myriad sacrifices she made so that we her children might live more fully.  And I learned about love from my adoptive father, who was truly a father in showing me that life requires discipline, constant learning, and a strength used to lift up those who cannot lift themselves up.

I learned about love from my maternal grandfather, who showed me the great humility of love, and from my maternal grandmother, who showed me that love wields the sword of truth and also that it brings us our daily bread despite our ingratitude.  I learned about love from my paternal grandfather, who showed me that love was a matter of commitment, that love transcended mere affections, though it certainly included them.  I learned about love from my paternal grandmother, who showed me that to love God is to love His Church and all those made in His image as gently as He did.

I learned about love from my brother, who would give his cloak and his last morsel to eat to one who had none without a regret, and from my sister, whose passionate loyalty to those she loves is inspiring to me.  And I learned about love from my adoptive brothers and sisters, who welcomed me into their lives though our blood was not the same, showing me that familial love is not a matter of mere genetic kinship, that the love of a family is far bigger than a blood vessel.  I learned about love from my cousins who treated me like a brother, and from my friends who became, despite the lack of close blood ties, my brothers and sisters by the ties of love.

Though we may have hurt each other many times, love always brings us back together.  No matter how much blood has been spilled from pierced or broken hearts, love prevails in the family so long as we do not cast ourselves out of it and choose to live outside those bonds of love.  And just as love prevails in the human family, so too does love prevail in the divine family for those who love the Father and the Son, not casting themselves out of the bonds of the divine love by becoming slaves to the transient pleasures of the flesh.

And just as my experience of love began in the experience of the family, the family is also where Jesus the Christ entered fully into human love as He had already entered fully into divine love as the only-begotten Son of the Father.  In the Christian cosmology of love, God who is Love is also a family of persons, though one in essence.  Just as the human person is an imago dei, made in the image and likeness of God, so too is the human family made in the image and likeness of God who is the divine family of Love Himself.

Christ is the living Icon of Love, we human persons are Icons of Love, and the family that is full of love for all its members is also an icon of Love who is in Himself the Family of Love.  The Holy Family into which the Son of God was born of the virgin Mary is the Icon of the Family of Love, the divine family into which can be adopted as sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters in the Blood of Christ which in which we all share.  The Blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross, is how we are all members of the Body of Christ, the Church which is the family of Love Himself here on the earth, the family which is also triumphant in Heaven.

By the humility of Love, He who became flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone in order to conquer the death to which we all are subject and invite us into the divine household to become subjects of Love, Christ our God and King was born into the Holy Family of love, born into the world by Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.  By birth and by adoption, Christ was made a member of the Holy Family; just as Joseph was the adoptive father of Christ, so too is God our adoptive Father through Christ who became our brother in His Blood.

Christ shows us by His life that we enter into the family of love by both birth and adoption, that both the bonds of His Blood poured out for us and the bonds of His love which is unto death allow us to enter into the eternal life of divine love in the Family of Love.  Christ shows us by his death on the cross, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, that we enter into the Family of Love in Heaven after we suffer for the sake of love and die to our sins which separate us from Love.

By Christ's example, we are called to live life in full communion with the family of love into which we are born, and in full communion with the family of love into which we are adopted, and in the hope of full communion with the Family of Love in the heavenly household.  We are called to love to death each part of us that cannot partake of divine love by loving our family by blood, loving our family by adoption, and loving our triumphant heavenly family even unto the death of our sins.

We are called to let the love of that great family, Christ and the Church who is His Bride, sanctify us and make us holy members of the Church, of our adopted families, and our families by blood by serving them as Christ has served us, the service of great selfless sacrifice rendered for the sake of the beloved.

By the power of love, we are forever able to exist in the embrace of love, held always in the arms of a family entered into by blood, the arms of a family entered into by loving adoption, and held eternally in the arms of the Father in the heavenly home of the Family of Love.

Note: Photo credit goes to me.  The picture above is of an icon of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph).

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