The Four Loves

If you type LOVE in the google search engine the result is about 13,250,000,000 results. When I talk to couples who are preparing for marriage I always ask them “what does love mean to you?” No two answers are the same.

The author C.S. Lewis wrote a book based on radio talks he gave entitled “The Four Loves”. These four loves were Affection (storge) which covers an array of loves. Like animals, the care of mother to babe is a picture of affection. It relies on the expected and the familiar. Lewis describes it as humble. “Affection almost slinks or seeps through our lives,” he says. “It lives with humble, un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…” Affection can sit alongside other loves and often does.

Then there is Friendship (philia). Lewis says this is often dismissed. “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves, the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” Why? Perhaps we know it’s the most time consuming, the least celebrated, the one we could live without.

The next form of love is Romantic love (eros). Different than friendship, lovers, “are always talking to one another about their love” and “are normally face to face, absorbed in each other,” says Lewis. The danger in romantic love is to follow blindly after a feeling of passion. Then, we celebrate the passion and think its absence means such love has died. Certainly, true romance is not so fickle.

Finally we have Charity (agape). This is the love that Jesus talks about in the Gospel this weekend. This is what we are all called to. This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. Affection, friendship and romantic love are each the training ground for charity to grow.

It’s also a rival to the three. Lewis mentions St. Augustine’s deep loss of a friend who says that such desolation is what occurs when we give our heart to anything but God. “All human beings pass away,” says Lewis. “Don’t put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of.” Yet, we are made to love and we are in want of it. If we play it safe, we are not living out the Gospel, but burying the coin in the safe ground, as the parable says.

Love gives meaning to our lives. We have all been called to love. Jesus has chosen us. “You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.”

God, my Father,
may I love You in all things and above all things.
May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in
Nothing is good that is against Your Will,
and all that is good comes from Your Hand.
Place in my heart a desire to please You
and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love,
so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest