Love is more than romance

Romance can be defined as, “an adventurous, mysterious and emotional love story or affair, which often lacks basis in fact or is exaggerated and idealized.”

Love is more than that. Love, as a virtue, is sometimes called charity. Love’s virtuous facets are said to be joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, humility and self-control (Gal. 5:22). It is related to our will, because, without our free will, love would be manipulation.

All virtue without love is absolutely useless, as well, because justice without love would become legalism, faith without it would be ideological duty, hope without it would become self-centeredness or presumption, courage without love would become recklessness, truth without it would become joyless discovery and wisdom without love would become cunning, humility without it would become false piety. Finally, all romance without love would become merely a fling.

Augustine called love the “life of virtues;” Aquinas, the “form of virtues.” Every other virtue must contain love as its essence and be rooted in the fountain of love as its source. No other virtue can be virtuous without being permeated by it.

Love, along with faith and hope, is considered to be one of the three theological virtues, in that they are infused as goodness in the human person by the grace of God. Through this virtue, we are united to the goodness of God. Aquinas had said that the love that God has for us, “infuses and creates the goodness which is present in all things.”

Our language has only one word for love. On the other hand, the ancient writings often make a distinction between four types of love. There is “epithemia,” a loving desire expressed in lust; “eros,” a kind of sexual or erotic attraction, expressed in self-fulfillment; “philia,” an affectionate kind of fraternal or brotherly love; and “agape,” which extends beyond the others, has devotion to the welfare of the other in mind, regardless of sacrifice, is taught by God and expressed in humility.

This last form finds its source in the very spirit and nature of God. Its beginnings are divine. It is virtuous love, which is spiritual, dynamic, unconditional, universal, supernatural and eternal. This kind of love is not simply romantic, given the true definition of the word.

Love is ageless. You can go back thousands of years to “The Book of Songs,” in the Bible, written in 500 B.C. This is a fantastic example of love in poetic form. Many people still blush when they read the poignant passion expressed in this biblical poetry for the first time. Because love is a spiritual reality, it is best expressed in the language of poetry. Words written about it are always best expressed poetically, because if its full essence has its source in the divine, how else can we really speak about love, except in poetic language?

We could never fully, and adequately describe, define, or express the divine essence in words, otherwise.

Michael Hickey is a local writer and poet who lives in Pelican Bay and Swampscott, Mass. His book, “Get Wisdom,” is published by Xlibris Div. of Random House Publishing, available at 1-888-795-4274, ext. 822,, or your local bookstore.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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