Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Real love in real life

Every day at Mass I see them, side by side in their usual pew, shoulders touching, and white-haired heads bowed slightly over their missals. With a dignity and grace born of the Faith, they sit silently before Mass begins, then quietly rise in unison as the priest enters the church. Soon he helps her to kneel slowly and stiffly, and then he too kneels slowly and stiffly beside her. They are as a pair of angels beholding the Holy Sacrifice from their favorite little corner of the world. They are a knight and his lady whose dignity age could never remove. Theirs is a beauty which is all too rare, a beauty which comes from loving God first and best, and loving each other in Him.

Lately I have wondered about real love. I believe in it with all my heart; I know that it exists, but where? To see this husband and wife is an accidental joy which God gives me each day to show me that real love can be found in this world. It is a gift. And it is that love, after the gift of life, which is His greatest gift to us.

The Mass has ended. They kneel for a time, spending these moments with God as though time matters not at all, then rise slowly, stiffly in unison. He takes her coat and helps her, very gently and carefully, to put it on; his gallantry is such a lovely sight. Then he takes her arm and guides her tenderly into the aisle where each in turn genuflects, but only partly; their aged knees will allow only so much movement. Then, arm in arm, they quietly leave the church. As they pass me I can't help but notice that their eyes look for all the world like stars twinkling in the heavens, and that their faces have a radiance that is not of this world.

Yes, that is love, and I have seen it. It is real love in real life. And tomorrow, by God's grace, I will see it again.

Real love

What is married love? It is triune--the lover, the beloved, and God. It seems that we forget that God must be the third partner in marriage for it to be real love, and that He must always be our first and best love. We love the ones we love because we see the goodness in them that only God can put there. He has placed in each one of us a longing for the infinite which is Himself; and, without God, no human love can satisfy our desire for infinite love. Only God can do this. It is only in loving God with and in our beloved, selflessly and sacrificially, that we truly love him; and that love which is real never dies but grows stronger with each passing day. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, "Two human loves make one divine." And, as Dante said of Beatrice, "She looks on Heaven, and I look on her." But in looking on her, Dante saw the Heaven which Beatrice saw; and so she led him to God. This is the lifework of marriage: to lead each other to Heaven. Only real love can do this; and real love never fails.

Recipe for a relationship

"My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarelling with you as often as may be."

--Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice