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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Love it to Death: The Full Communion of Love

Over 15 years ago, I formally entered into full communion with the Catholic Church.  That's probably an odd phrase to those who don't think of ecclesiology as a matter of full or partial communion, but rather in terms of self-identified membership in the congregations of various denominations.  Before I was a Catholic, my ecclesiology wasn't well-defined either way, in part because I was young and in part because post-Reformation ecclesiology is rarely well-defined these days.  Setting aside the issue of pre-Reformation and post-Reformation ecclesiological differences, let's get back to the matter of entering into full communion.

Full communion isn't merely institutional or canonical; full communion is intrinsically personal.  Full communion is the Communion of Saints, the communion of the person with her Creator, and the communion of Christ with His brothers and sisters in the Eucharistic feast.  Far from being impersonal, full communion is as fully personal as one can get.

And we know this from our personal relationships with others. When a person begins to develop a relationship with another person, and this relationship has sufficient benefit for her that she wishes to enter more fully into that relationship and establish a full communion of persons, then she is loathe to settle for a partial communion of persons.

She who truly seeks full communion will not accept the partial communion of a lover's mere physical presence and physical satisfaction; she will not settle for a communion that excludes the depths of his heart and the breadth of his intellect.  She will not accept the partial communion of a lover's mere intellectual engagement, bereft of his heart's fire and his body's warmth.

She will not accept the partial communion of a lover's heart poured out for her to hold while he holds back from her the deepest yearning for love which is in his heart and the most passionate yearning for the most intimate closeness of his body.  She will not be excluded from his brightest dreams and his darkest fears, from his greatest joys and his most heart-wrenching tears, or from his finest accomplishments and his most tragic failures.

All that he is, the fullness of his existence, is what she will accept.  No less than everything that comprises him is what she seeks; she will not rest until the body, the intellect, the heart, and the will which flow from his very soul are resting in her.  The lover wants her beloved to know her mind, to fill her heart with love by every word spoken to her, to hold her and lift her up with his arms, and to be her soul mate as she walks on the journey of this life toward the heavens.

There is no corner or crevice of his life into which she will not go who is seeking full communion, no secret of which she will not partake for the sake of suffusing his life with her love.  She loves him all the more because he has given her all that he is.  She does this not because she is selfish, but because she wants to give him all that she is as well, growing in love with him always through the process of a lifetime of radically mutual self-gift.

This full communion of persons sought with such passion and devotion by the love-struck suitor is also what the Church seeks with all of those who were made in the image and likeness of Love; she would have every icon of love enter into full communion with Her.  She is not afraid to enter into the darkest corners and crevices of our lives, not unwilling to share in the secrets of which we are most ashamed, loving us all the more because we are giving all that we are to Her.

She will not spurn us who have spurned Her and may spurn her yet again, turning away from full communion with the Church because it is too difficult to let Her cut the cords that bind us to the ego which ever draws us away from entering into the full communion of Love.  She will always stand with arms wide open, inviting us into the fullness of love which is a lifetime of radical self-gift to Her and to Him who established Her upon the Rock of Love.

She will always invite us to share all that we are with Her, to grow in love so as to be in full communion with the Church and all Her members.  To enter into full communion with the Church is to align the intellect with Her teachings, to pray with the heart of the Church, to serve Her with the virtuous acts of the body, to will that She be made holy by Christ Her Bridegroom, and to bring one's soul ever closer in unity with the Soul of Christ, He who loved the Church into being.

To enter into full communion with the Church is to give all that we are to He who gave us all that we are and all that He is for the sake of love.  To enter into full communion with the Church is to receive the Body of the Lamb who was slain for us and the Blood of the Lamb which covers us so that death will not take us from Him. To enter into full communion with the Church is to love to death all that separates us from receiving the Precious Body and Precious Blood of Love Himself, the one who loved us unto death.

The Holy Communion of Love which we are told by Love Himself we must eat and drink so that we might have life to the fullest is the fruit of the vine of Love, the ultimate expression of the full communion of Love.

By Vicente Juan Masip - [2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23065137

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