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Love may cost something to somebody and it may not cost anything to anybody. Either of these could be true if love is quantifiable. Is love quantifiable? What is the unit or measure?
As a Catholic, I believe that love is a person. This belief was taught to me by the Word of God. 1 John 4:16b specifically states that ‘God is love’. God is a person. God is infinite. Therefore, love is ‘infinite persona’. Love is not simply a feeling or an emotion that articulates a thought or feeling or sentiment or need. Through God’s love poured out in man, man lives love. He illuminates this innate characteristic of the Triune God in ways which not only satiates human faculties but also enflames the soul within.
Among the greats of ancient philosophers, Aristotle believed that in-order to love another person one needs to know how to love one’s own self. This should not be understood as selfishness because Aristotle makes is very clear that self-love for him means that which is expressed in the love of virtue. In other words, this great Greek philosopher cautions about the danger of a person’s pursuit of self-love by means of seeking and acquiring self-pleasures, wealth, power, which runs every risk of exploding into a life of bad habits, bondages, vices and evil. Self-love by the love of virtue teaches true means of loving the another person. Irrespective of whether that person is your beloved or a stranger. Why should we love our own selves, because God’s word says, “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14). Having God as our creator is enough for us to love ourselves. This is true in the case of every human person.
If we love ourselves by love of virtue and hence learn to rightly and sincerely love one another, then we will have no ambiguity about how to love those who have ‘died, yet will live forever’. The souls of the faithful departed await the beatific vision by a ‘fiery purification’ from every stain of sin, in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a, “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It further teaches that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
(Pic: Jacopo Vignali’s portrait of St. Michael the Archangel freeing the souls in purgatory)
Purgatory is not only the realm of purification of those who have died in God’s grace and friendship, but is also a temporary abode of souls who experience indescribable thirst for an ‘indispensable act of love’ by the souls living on earth. This indispensable act of love is praying for the souls in purgatory. This act emanates only from the love of virtue, by the very example of the Son of God, Jesus. Christ the perfect mediator and spotless vessel of prayer to the Father for the living and the dead, teaches us to pour out our love to the souls in purgatory by praying for them and offering small and big sacrifices, the biggest being the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist.
We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to love another as He loves us, (John 13:34-35). ‘One another’ does not end with the people on earth, but reaches far beyond time and space, into the realm of God’s chosen, who are soon, not yet, about to ‘live in the presence of God’. These suffering souls, “who are detained”, as articulated by St. Basil the Great, long for our love through our prayers and sacrifices. This ‘All Souls Day’ onwards, let us daily, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “help and commemorate” these beloved, suffering children of God.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. +
~ John Roger Anthony