Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
— Luke 11:11-13
We love because God first loved us.
— I John 4:19
There really isn’t a whole lot to do during quarantine if you don’t have any symptoms, and I haven’t had any. A normal person might binge Netflix or read novels. Being less than average in my taste, I, however, have been reading theologians and mystics. I turned recently to Hans Urs von Balthasar, an author worthy of reflection if for no other reason than so I can drop that name.
In his book Love Alone is Credible, von Balthasar argues that we find God not because we think really, really hard nor because we work so very hard at it, but because the very love of God dawns on us. Von Balthasar points out that the love of God is impossible for us to comprehend, precisely because our love is less than divine. He writes:
Human love, in its purely creaturely dimension, is a hieroglyph; in grammatical terms, it is always an inchoative, which never allows itself properly to be translated into the indicative mode.
What that means is we only ever see love as a sign of something greater (a hieroglyph) or as the beginning (inchoative) of something more that never actually comes into being. (I like sentences that require dictionaries to decipher)
I remember many years ago, walking the floor with our crying son, seeking to soothe him and feeling love deep within my heart for this little life that I didn’t even really know. Someplace along the way, it was as if the Spirit of God spoke to my heart and said, “your love, O Dad, is but a shadow of the love of the Father for you.” While a lot less elegant and maybe a bit more understandable, that is von Balthasar’s point. The love we see, the love we feel, the love we know here on earth is but a shadow that is Jesus Christ.
This season of Lent is about sitting silently before the love that is so much more than we could ever fathom until, in the words of the hymn “this earthly part of me Glows with Thy fire divine.”
What Wondrous Love Is This v. 1
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
Pastor Tom Greener