I sing of faithful love . . .
Oh when will you come to me? (Psalm 101)
The romantic comedy, “When Harry Met Sally,” has snippets of fictitious interviews with couples who have been married for many years. They are covered in smiles as they recall how they first met and how their love blossomed. Often the romance had shaky beginnings but ultimately (and we breathe a sigh of relief) the couple managed to work through these uncertainties to a happy union.
Who doesn’t love these romances!
Some of you may have happily discovered (as I have) that your relationship with God shares some common ground with your earthly romance. In addition to my own conversion experience (see last week’s post), I hear it from directees who speak of how their life changed when they realized that God had caught up with them. I hear it from them because when we finally connect with God we have this compulsion to speak of it, to share the wonder of it with any sympathetic listener we can collar.
Often the Divine Romance starts after a realization that something important is missing from life. Eventually there is that magic and miraculous moment when the One standing at the door and knocking, has finally been let inside. Life changes. There is hope. There’s the chance that maybe, after all, I am lovable. This has certainly been my story, and I know I’m not unique. Having been a “lapsed Catholic” for 21 years and then brought back, I know whereof I speak.
How can I refer to this experience as a Divine Romance? Isn’t this some kind of blasphemy?
There are all kinds of references in the Bible to the divine love affair. Typically the lovers are metaphorical, where the “husband” is God and the “wife” or “bride” is Israel, as in the book of the prophet Hosea (2:16; 21-22 ) :
I will allure her now;
I will lead her into the wilderness and speak persuasively to her. . .
I will betroth you to me forever:
I will betroth you to me with loyalty and with compassion;
I will betroth you to me with fidelity.
In these biblical situations God takes the beloved out of this world into a desert or away from the “city”, symbol of earthbound desires. She feels totally different from “normal” human beings, a stranger to the city (to use Michael Casey’s book title). There are things going on inside her that make her uneasy, uncertain of where she is going, wandering for ages like the chosen people in the desert. Difficult as this is, the beloved wants nothing else.
The most blatantly romantic book of the Old Testament is the “Song of Songs” which is usually explained as an allegory of the spiritual life, probably to hide its sensual character. Here, we find the couple in a playful hide-and-seek which turns serious as the Bride loses sight of the Bridegroom (3: 1-3):
On my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves—
I sought him but I did not find him.
“Let me rise then and go about the city, through the streets and squares;
Let me seek him whom my soul loves.”
I sought him but I did not find him.
The Bride’s search reflects the typical spiritual journey with its ups and downs, its crushing moments when the soul feels abandoned by the beloved. At moments like this, we need to hear the Lord speaking these comforting words through Pascal, French scientist and religious writer:
“Be of good cheer–you would not seek Me if you had not found Me.” (Pensées/Thoughts)
Or in the words of St. Augustine:
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!
Spanish mystic, John of the Cross, writes passionate lyrical poetry about the soul seeking the Beloved in the obscurity of faith, a night “more brilliant than the light,” because that is where the Beloved is hidden and where it is the lover’s happy destiny (dichosa ventura!) to find Him.
In more recent days we read the beautiful advice of the late Jesuit Father General, Pedro Arrupe, describing how Love, Divine Love, truly makes the world go ‘round.
Falling in Love
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
That is, than Falling in Love
in a quiet, absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
What seizes your imagination,
Will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
What you do with your evenings,
How you spend your weekends,
What you read, Who you know,
What breaks your heart,
And what amazes you with Joy and Gratitude.
Fall in love,
Stay in love
And it will decide Everything.