Love: Week 2
The Hidden Secret
Monday, January 4, 2016
Bonaventure, the Franciscan philosopher and theologian, taught, “We are each loved by God in a particular and incomparable way, as in the case of a bride and bridegroom. Francis and Clare of Assisi knew that the love God has for each soul is unique and made to order, which is why any “saved” person feels beloved, chosen, and even “God’s favorite.” Many biblical characters also knew and experienced this specialness. Divine intimacy is always and precisely particular and made to order—and thus “intimate.”
The inner knowledge of God’s love is described as joy itself (John 15:11). This inner knowing is itself the Indwelling Presence. But which comes first? Does feeling safe and held by God allow you to deal with others in the same way? Or does human tenderness allow you to imagine that God must be the same, but infinitely so? I do not suppose it really matters where you start; the important thing is that you get in on the big secret from one side or the other.
Yes, “secret,” or even “hidden secret,” is what writers like the Psalmist (25:14), Paul, Rumi, Hafiz, Bonaventure, Lady Julian, and many mystics called it. And for some sad reason, it seems to be a well-kept secret. Jesus praises God for “hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them only to the little ones” (Matthew 11:25). Well, what is it that the learned and the clever often cannot see?
The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once you experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes what is going on for you: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, changing the rules “for me,” nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and of course also, necessary suffering. This is the mystical vocabulary of the saints.
Gateway to Silence:
“There is nothing better or more necessary than love.” —St. John of the Cross
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), xviii; and Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 163-165.