Participating in Love — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Participating in Love

Life as Participation

Participating in Love
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

I want to share again from the series of talks I gave years ago on the Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation:

For Paul, love is clearly the word by which he describes this participatory life. It’s what he calls the greatest of the gifts. For Paul, love is not something we do. It is something that is done to us, and that we participate in. It’s something we fall into. Our telling English phrase is wonderful. We say, “I’ve fallen in love.” We recognize love not as something we can achieve by willpower. As Eckhart Tolle teaches, you fall through your life situation into your real life. Everything here is simply a lesson—all your life situation, all your life events are used by God. They often are not consciously religious.

Paul uses several different words for love, but for the Great Love we fall into, the Great Self with the big S, the God Self, he uses the word “agape.” We translate it as unconditional love or divine love. It’s a love we receive as a gift. We do not manufacture it by willpower. It’s a love we can only participate in. It’s a life bigger than our own.

Paul does not speak of doing the deeds of the Spirit, but instead he speaks of the fruits of the Spirit, and love as the greatest gift of the Spirit. Love is something we abide in, something we fall into—usually when we’re out of control, when we’re failing and faltering and we can’t do it right. When we reach the end of our resources—and we have to start relying on a power greater than ourselves—that’s when we fall into the Great Love that is God. Alcoholics Anonymous discovered this many years ago.

For Paul, love is the realm for perfect seeing. When we’re in love, in agape, we are able to “see” correctly. When we’re reading reality correctly, we will love, we will know how to love, and we will be in love. We will not have a judgmental, negative, or critical stance. We’ll see what’s really happening. From some place we do not completely understand comes this capacity to forgive, to embrace, to compassionately understand, to let go, and to hand over my small self to the Big Self that we call God, or our Higher Power.

Paul writes, “Now we see through a mirror darkly, but one day we shall all see face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect, but one day I shall know as fully as I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Paul’s conviction is that he is fully known. He’s been fully seen all the way through, warts and all, and everything has been forgiven, everything has been accepted. The realization is if I could be fully known and loved and seen for what I am, then all I can do is return the compliment to the rest of reality and know back the way I have been known. [Read that twice.]

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Paul’s Corporate Understanding of Everything,” in Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation, disc 7 (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2002), CD.

Story from Our Community:
The Daily Meditations are a reflection and a confirmation of my psychological and pathological making. Thanks to Father Richard, I’m able to pinpoint and fix my spiritual understanding so that I have a new mindset. Like Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans, nothing… “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Elias M.

Image credit: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Figuras en el Castillo (detail), 1920, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: We cannot see where these women have come from or where they are going. What is captured here is a moment of participation: taking each step, one at a time, together.
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