By Jasbir T. Singh |
I have never read a book about relationships. Well, okay, I once glanced at the book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, but this didn't provide me with much insight into what it means to truly love a spouse.
In fact, I had no clue what true love really meant until becoming Catholic at the age of thirty-three, and then discovering the works of Peter Kreeft. I am convinced that my conversion and formation as a Catholic have helped me to love my wife in a way that I never could have, had I remained in the secular world as an 'un-believer'.
Thanks to Peter Kreeft, and indirectly through C.S. Lewis, I learned that, love, really is the most misunderstood word in our English speaking society. The word, love, is so often misused that it has literally lost its meaning and impact. How often have you heard of the following expressions or something similar to them?
- "I love Shawarma."
- "I love playing ping pong and tennis."
- "I love my Ubuntu computer."
- "I love the fish in our aquarium."
- "I love my wife."
- "I love you."
I think it's fair to say that our secular society is pretty much obsessed with eros. Girls grow up to become young women hoping that their knight in shining armour will come along and sweep them off their feet (unrealistic romantic love). Boys and young men on the other hand, while also focused on eros, are more obsessed with objectifying women and sexual imagery, hoping to find their very own "Pamela Anderson" from Baywatch (unhealthy sexual addiction). The fact is that in both cases, eros is not the maximum type of "love" to be attained. In fact, I think it is a shallow existence if this is all there is to hope for in your "perfect" match. I say it is shallow because eros is highly emotional and based only on feelings.
Regarding eros, Pope Benedict XVI says:
An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, isOn the other hand, when agape comes into the picture, then true love arises, stemming from the heart and the head. It involves the complete giving up of oneself to another human being within the marriage covenant for life, "until death do us part". The fact that agape is voluntary and thoughtful means that it necessarily requires that a serious decision be made. That decision, ideally, should be made by a man in the act of proposing to a woman for her hand in marriage. Nothing is more serious and more committing than this. It should not just be a secular contract, but rather it should be elevated to the status of a covenant. In Catholicism, marriage is one of the seven sacraments, and for good reason.
not an ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man.
Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide
not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our
existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns. (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)
In my opinion, this 2000 year-old Christian message about how husbands and wives are to relate to one another still applies.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:21-30)Regardless of your religion, there are some common truths about how a man should love his wife. A real man knows that he will sacrifice himself for his wife in a heartbeat.
- Kreeft, Peter. Love. http://peterkreeft.com/topics/love.htm
- Kreeft, Peter. Matrimony. The Luke E. Hart Series - Basic Elements of the Catholic Faith, Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, 2001.
- Pope Benedict XVI. Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI to the Bishops Priests and Deacons Men and Women Religious and All the Lay Faithful on Christian Love, 2005.