Love is love from the black root.
Love is to forgive;
and what is more than to forgive,
is to understand …
Love is to press on the cross,
and be nailed to the cross,
and die and rise again …
Love is to resurrect!
Dulce María Loynaz del Castillo
By Alayn Hernández Fernández, SJ
Today, millions are celebrating Easter, recalling the event that marked a before and after in the Western calendar- the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not my interest in this essay to expand on the theology that has been written about this event. I prefer to focus on what we can learn from the divine, and certainly also fully human attitudes about it.
As you surely understand, dear reader, from the quote above, the issue that concerns me is the resurrection as an expression of love- as an exemplary expression of love; and, therefore paradigmatic to how we should approach it- gradually, so as not to be at risk of being imprudent and dying from an overdose. If we approach it in small doses, we will not be scandalized by it. Let me explain.
For Christian theologians (I refer to the Christian who has deepened and thought about his faith, not only the academic), Easter gathers a single event of supreme donation – of extreme love, that in the absence of another way of expressing it, must be called death and resurrection. Easter does not designate an episode in two acts, but rather one single and unique love event. It is like a coin; Love taken to its ultimate consequences with two faces to be understood and learned: death and resurrection.
Easter reminds us of two very important things that can happen in the background in these religious celebrations. The first and perhaps the most difficult to digest for our modern mentality is the unavoidable gratuity of divine Love -and of any love. To reiterate, in Christian words, the cross surrounds the inescapable, inexcusable, inevitable, essential gratuity, and incomprehension of the love offered, and the very real possibility of its rejection.
Love in its first instance is not a bilateral game; it is always a one-sided offer, a rope that rises from hope. Love is a pure and superlative act of faith. That is why I say that it is important to keep in mind the gradualness in aspiring to emulate this paradigmatic love that we celebrate at Easter. A reckless forgetfulness of our own personal reality, an over-estimation of our faculties or a foolish lack of humility can lead to a fatal break.
In the Fourth Book of Metaphysics, Aristotle says: «Being is understood in many ways, but these different senses refer to a single thing, to a same nature.» We can say the same thing about love, and in many places and with different voices in our culture we preach, at least in name, this plurality of love- although very often we minimize its free dimension and what is likewise the possibility of confrontation, rejection or simply ignorance of our offer. The realities of the cross do not require further explanation, because many voices already do so from different points of view.
I want to claim in all cases the frequent oblivion of this gratuity. Oblivion that is expressed in the vilification of the one who rejects what is often accompanied by active and punitive condemnation. It never ceases to amaze me that the charge that Jesus imputes on the cross to his executioners and persecutors is not evil and villainy but ignorance. In tune with this surprising statement against the narrated facts, I can not help remembering that J. R. R. Tolkien said that men are more fools than bad. This is where a slightly un-thought of aspect of the other side of Easter, the Resurrection, becomes relevant.
The resurrection, in the context of this reflection, highlights two things (among many others of course). First of all that the option to love is in itself Life, invigorating, not merely revitalizing, but life-giving in all senses of the word Life. It confers an authentic and inextinguishable life to those who are on their way. That is to say, the one who loves, is the one who can fully define himself as living in the human and divine sense. The second aspect is Hope, the optimism that Love transforms reality definitively, breaks the attempts of rational containment and embraces it and overflows by populating reality and recreating it. This hope, which accompanies the original faith that sustains love is expressed in non-invasive persistence. Persistence that does not withdraw the offer, but patiently waits for the beloved to mature his decision, to acquire understanding and responsibly respond, again to where it is possible to understand, and respond to something that even in our human scale, constantly escapes us.
So on this Easter let us remember: Love leaves us vulnerable to suffering rejection and its infernal torment. But when love is embraced, there is no rejection that can kill us forever. Love is the most aggressive and successful force and manifestation of Life. Knowing this, each one will decide if he runs the risk of embarking on the path to his own Passover.