Published Elsewhere sexuality

On Erotic Interruptions, and the Lovesick God

This piece was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on June 11, 2014. 

Falling in love is like falling ill. It often happens unexpectedly, and you don’t really realize what’s going on until you wake up one morning and find yourself in the throes of it. As finite created beings, we are often interrupted by that which is outside of ourselves. The interruption of desire disrupts our daily lives and drives us to active pursuit.

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa - Bernini

This is partly why the Ancients were so wary of erotic desire. It’s disruptive and not easily susceptible to reasoned control. It’s thrilling and exhausting. To desire another person is wearying. Love really can make one sick: few things are as painful as the unfulfilled desire to be near to another.

Of course, one must wonder if this is the way God feels about each of us every moment. However much we may desire to be near to another, God’s desire to be near to us is infinitely greater. And if we think that the beloved ought to respond to our love, imagine how much more we ought to respond to God’s love. If the responsibility of the beloved to respond were proportional to the love of the lover, imagine how infinitely great would be our responsibility to respond to a God of infinite love. If the lover were entitled to the beloved, no one of us would approach his or her love before God. Indeed, if we were to approach our beloved, it would only be with God’s permission, and never in a way which would interfere with God’s claim over the beloved.

In this way the sickness of erotic love can lead us to God: it can act as a constant reminder of how God’s sickness for us must be infinitely greater than our own sickness for each other. Indeed, God’s sickness is so great that it has killed Him; no living man has been so lovesick. So as we pine for our earthly loves, erotic desire ought to always remind us of the love of God. As we long to be near to another, so must we respond to God’s desire to be near to us.

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