"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

April 15, 2019

Love and labor

Filed under: Lent with St. Augustine — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 9:43 am

Augustine has many places where he contrasts doing things out of love to doing them, or not doing them, out of fear, and he considers love and fear to be in inverse proportion: the more you fear the less you love; the more you love the less you fear. Here the contrast is between love and labor or toil, the more you love the less you feel it burdensome; and love can even bring you to the point that you love even the toil, the effort. Lovers, he said, find easy what those who do not love find difficult or burdensome. Notice, once again, that living the Christian life is supposed to be something one may, and should, delight in.

So far from being burdensome, the labors of lovers themselves give delight, as, for example, the labors of hunters or fowlers or fishermen or vintners or businessmen or people playing a game. For when it comes to something loved, either there is no labor or the labor itself is loved. And think how shameful and painful it would be if one were to delight in capturing a wild animal or in filling one’s cask or sack or in throwing a ball, but not delight in gaining God. (De bono viduitatis, 21, 26)

I wonder whether St. Thomas Aquinas had a text like this in mind when he gave very down-to-earth explanations of two statements of St. Paul: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 1:20), and, “For me, to live is Christ” (Ph 1:21). He noted that people use expressions like, “That’s his whole life” or “She lives for that,” referring to the primary motive and goal of all their activities, and he used the example of hunters living to hunt or of people living to study. Brought up on spiritual authors who found deep mystical significance in those two Pauline statements, so deep I could not discover it in myself, I found Aquinas’s explanation wonderfully concrete, illuminating, and comforting.

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