Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Greatest of These Is Love

a few days ago during my early morning meditation, as i thought about the qualities of love, it struck me that the last quality that st. paul lists in 1 corinthians 13 is "love is eternal." suddenly i saw a connection between the eternal nature of love and the concept of resurrection, that is of the continuation of life after our present bodies fail. if the only permanence is God, this is the supreme characteristic of God: that love is eternal and permanent. as we give love to God, to ourselves, to each other, we participate in the eternal, in life that is unending.

i thought, too, of isaac watts' metrical version of Psalm 90, which begins, "Our God, our help in ages past." the stanzas that came to mind are these:

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op'ning day.

the verses of the psalm, and watts' poetic interpretation of it, contrast the eternal nature of God with the impermanence of human life and all of creation. the psalmist speaks of the fragility of life, reminding us that countless humans have lived and died, most of them forgotten. even those who are remembered through the ages are like a fading dream, one that barely lingers in the historical consciousness. eventually those mythic figures will be lost to the collective memory. only the love that is God is permanent, in the sense of being unchanging.

"as long as life endures," to borrow another of watts' phrases, our greatest good is to participate in the eternal that is love. in so doing, we share with God the power of eternity. my prayer for myself and for you is that we will love as fully as we can, refraining from hate, greed, and envy, eschewing the quest for riches and power, in favor of experiencing the divine.

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