To fall in love with God is to fall in love with man.  To come to know the truth of man is to come to know truth of God, to know God.  It is a matter of seeing man as he is and of seeing God as He has willed to be known.  When He came to reveal Himself fully, He descended to the likeness of man, but there was already a union of realities there.  The Incarnation was an act of infinite humility, but if man was made in His image it was not an act of absolute contradiction, or it would have been an impossibility.

Some argue about whether our love for God leaves us wanting in love for man.  Others counter that love of man leaves us wanting for love of God.  This is the tired debate of the “horizontal vs. vertical” orientation of our life and loves.  Of course, those loves intersect in the shape of a cross, because in the cross is the intersection of a shared reality (acknowledging, of course, that the “sharer” is God sharing His nature, creating the other, and uniting them both in His Son).  

To argue over the two acts of love is unnecessary, employed when someone wants to get out of the challenge and necessity of one side of the same coin.  The Church’s various formulations of the “Act of love,” a prayer adjusted and promulgated by the Church’s authority in the form of approved and indulgenced prayers, always includes speaking of the love of God and the love of neighbor out of love for God.  Note that the two “acts of love” are but one in the prayer itself – two recipients of the one act of love.  To argue over which takes precedent or comes first is like arguing over two hands clapping and trying to decide which hand made the noise.  (To give proper credit, that’s an analogy I borrowed from Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution).  

We cannot trust any formulation, or even implied disposition, that dispossess man or God from the love inspired when we consider the reality of their existence.  Love has a hierarchy to it, but hierarchy is not conflict, no matter what the Marxist continue to claim.  Hierarchy is order.  Hierarchy is peace in reflection of truth.

 If your understanding of faith leads you to a distaste for the love of man, or of a general frustration and dislike of man, it is not faith.  It is also probably nurtured by the internet and the powers of the air that control it.  Faith, nurtured by the Sacraments and study of the Sacred Scriptures, leads to acts of love, as St. James says: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14).  We know he meant deeds toward man, not only because James makes that plain in the next verses (about giving food and clothing), but also because faith acknowledges that we are men in a world of men, so our deeds are of course toward man in the world we actually inhabit.  

Thank God this doesn’t mean we have to be nice to everyone.  Good deeds are not just good manners, or a lack of offensiveness.  If that’s what love meant then parents could just coddle and spoil and call it a day. 

But we can easily slip into delusions of knowledge, where we equate faith solely with what we know, and knowing that others don’t know what we know.  This is understandable since faith is a virtue springing in the intellect.  But faith without love, as St. Paul put so powerfully, is clashing noise.  If our “faith” leads us to a disdain or condescension toward the “unknowing,” it may be a form of knowledge, but not faith.  It might be a comforting fad or gnostic sense of superiority.  The intellectual virtue of faith, directed and inspired by love, does something different than mere knowledge.  “Knowledge puffs up,” says St. Paul, “but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1).  Are you edifying or not?

Do not trust streams of teaching that do not orient you simultaneously toward faith and works, an intersecting and “crossing” life.  The Protestants and the Enlightenment revolutionaries fought over the two, but Catholics must always keep them together.  To love God and neighbor is the single act of love that comes from a heart alive and purified.  We will not have one without the other, because it is impossible.

03 / 22 / 2021
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