Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Romancing the Rocks

For the longest time, I misunderstood romantic love to be the love between a man and a woman. The love properly ordered toward marriage. But I am beginning to understand that there is romance in everything.

Also, along the same lines, romantic love is often tied in with sex, as if the two went hand-in-hand. It's not that the two are entirely unrelated, but properly ordered, most romance is not sexual in nature (or perhaps, as taught in John Paul II's Theology of the Body, it might be better to say that not all our sexuality is ordered toward sexual activity).

Romance starts with our experience of the beautiful, whether something looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, smells beautiful, and so on. But it is not only from the experience of the senses directly, but also the mind. We can experience a beautiful idea or a beautiful personality.

Thus, we can "fall in love" with things as well as people. We see a beautiful mountain in the distance, and we want to get closer and climb it or touch it. At the least we want to take its picture, so we can preserve a part of our experience with the mountain to bring with us.

One of the things that helped me realize the greater dimensions of romance was having children. You fall in love with the beautiful little faces, the cute voices, the new personalities. You want to hug them and kiss them. You can sit and stare lovingly at them (when they aren't driving you crazy).

Of course, each love, for each person and each thing, is unique, but they are not an entirely different kind of thing. They are different in intensity, they have different components, they are associated with different roles and duties, but they are all loves of the beautiful.

And properly ordered this all points to God. As Plato discovered using pre-Christian philosophy, God is the perfect beauty, and the source of all beauty. And as the the scriptures tell us, Christ came as Lover, to be the bridegroom of the Church, to unite himself with us in a kind of heavenly marriage.

So all that is beautiful, all that we love, should remind us of God. We should be thankful for all the good that he presents to us here on Earth. And when we marvel at the beautiful things he has given us, we should feel even greater awe, wondering how much greater is the source of all beauty and love.

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