The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 37.


The Seven Laws of Love

The Blessed Mother is recorded as speaking only seven times in Sacred Scripture. These seven words are here used to illustrate the seven laws of love.

1. Love Is a Choice. Every act of love is an affirmation, a preferment, a decision. But it is also a negation. "I love you" means that I do not love her. Because love is a choice, it means detachment from a previous mode of life, a breaking with old bonds. Hence the Old Testament law: "A man, therefore, will leave his father and mother and will cling to his wife. ..." (Gen. 2:24) Along with detachment, there is also a deep sense of attachment to the beloved. The desire in one is met by a response on the part of the other. Courting love never asks why one is loved. The only question love asks is, "How?" Love is never free from difficulties: "How shall we live? How can we support ourselves?" God loves man even in his sin. But He would not intrude upon human nature with His Love. So He woos one of the creatures to detach herself, by an act of her will from sinful humanity, and to attach herself to Him so intimately that she might give Him a human nature to begin the new humanity. The first woman made a choice which brought ruin; the New Woman is asked to make a choice for man's restoration. But there was one difficulty standing in the way: "How shall this be, seeing I know not man?" But since Divine Love is doing the courting, Divine Love shall also supply the means of embodying Itself: He that is born of her will be conceived by the Spirit of God's Love.

2. Choice Ends in Identification with the Beloved. All love craves unity, the supplying of the lack of the self at the store of the other. Once the will makes the choice, surrender follows, for freedom is ours only to give away. "My will is mine to make it thine" is on the lips of every lover. Freedom exists for the sweet slavery of love. All love is passing from potency to act, from choice to possession, from desire to unity, from courtship to marriage. Since the very beginning, love was spoken of as making man and woman "two in one flesh." One soul passes into another soul, and the body follows the soul to such unity as it can achieve. The difference between prostitution and love is that in the former there is the offering of the body without the soul. True love demands that the will to love should precede the act of possession.

After God had courted the soul of a creature, and asked her to supply Him with a human nature and when all difficulties of how her virginity could be preserved were cleared away, there came the great act of surrender. Fiat. "Be it done unto me ..." - surrender, resignation, and the celebration of the Divine Nuptials. In another sense, there were now two in one flesh: the Divine and human natures of the Person of Christ lived in the womb of Mary, God and man made One. In no person in this world was there ever such unity of God and man as Mary experienced within her during the nine months in which she bore Him whom the Heavens could not contain. Mary, who was already one with Him in mind, was now one with Him in Body, as Love reached its peak in mothering the wandering word.

3. Love Requires a Constant De-egotization. It is easy for love to take the beloved for granted and to assume that what was freely offered for life needs no repurchasing. But love can be treated either as an antique that needs no care, or as a flower that needs pruning. Love could become so possessive that it would hardly be conscious of the rights of others: lest love so degenerate into a mutual exchange of egotisms, there must be a constant going out to others, an exteriorization, an increased searching for the formation of an "us." Love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. Words of love must be translated into action, and they must go beyond the mere boundary of the home. The needs of neighbor may become so imperative that one may have to sacrifice one's own comfort for another. Love that does not expand to neighbor dies of its own too-much.

Mary obeys this third law of love, even in her pregnancy, by visiting a pregnant neighbor, an old woman who is already six months with child. From that day to this, no one who boasts of his love of God may claim exemption from the law to love his neighbor, too. Mary hastens - Maria festinans -across the hills to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is present at a birth at this Visitation, as she will later attend a marriage at Cana and a death on Calvary: the three major moments in the life of a neighbor. Now, no sooner does an angel visit her than she makes a visit to a woman in need. A woman is best helped by a woman, and the one woman who bears Love Divine within her casts such a spell over another woman with child that John the Baptist leaps with joy in her womb. The bearing of Christ is inseparable from the service of Christ. God the Son had come to Mary not for her sake alone, but for the sake of the world. Love is social, or it ceases to be love.

4. Love Is Inseparable from Joy. A woman's greatest joy is when she brings a child into the world. The father's joy is changing a woman into a mother. Love cannot endure without joys, although these are sometimes given as prepayments for later responsibilities. The joy of love goes out in two directions: one is horizontal, through the extension of love in the family; the other is vertical, a mounting to God with our thanks because He is the source of all love. The miser is devoured by his gold, the saint by his God.

In moments of ecstasy, lovers ask where their love will end. Will it run out as feeble drops of rain upon the parched sands of the desert without joy, or will it run like rivers to the sea, and back again unto God? Love must seek an explanation for its ecstasies and joys; it asks, "If the spark of love is so great, what must be the flame?"

Where the ecstasy of love comes from God, it is only natural that its joy should break out into song, as it does in the Magnificat of Mary. Somehow Mary knows that her love will have a happy ending, even though there will be revolutions dethroning the mighty and unseating the proud. This Queen of Song now sings a different song from all other mothers. All mothers sing to their babes, but here is one mother who sings before the Babe is born. She says only a Fiat to an angel, she says nothing to Joseph, but she chants verse upon verse of a song to God, Who looked down on the humility of His handmaid. As the infant leaped in the womb of Elizabeth, so a song leaped to Mary's lips; for if a human heart can so thrill to ecstasy, what joy did she know, who was in love with the Great Heart of God!

5. Love Is Inseparable from Sorrow. Because love, which demands the eternal for satisfaction, is compassed by time, it always knows some inadequacy and discontent. Trials, bereavements, and even the changes and rhythms of love itself prove a strain even to the most devoted lover. Even when love is most intense, it often throws the lover back upon himself, and he becomes conscious that, despite his desire to be one with the beloved, he is still distinct and separate. There is a limit to the total possession of another in his life. Every marriage promises what God alone can give. The saints have the Dark Night of the soul, but all lovers have the Dark Night of the body.

If Mary is to feel the sorrow of love, she must feel the separation from the Beloved which comes during the three days' loss. Despite the will to be one with the Christ-love, there comes an estrangement, a separation, a change in moods as she asks: "Son, why hast thou done so to us?" "Knowest thou not that we have sought thee sorrowing?" The course of true love never runs smooth. Not even the most spiritual love is exempt from aridity, spiritual dryness, and a feeling that one has lost the Divine Presence. In humans the superabundance of love sometimes destroys love, so that after a while love becomes a duty. In Divine Love the richness of Divinity and its superabundance creates a need, so that the absence of God, even for three days, causes the soul the greatest agony it can endure in this vale of tears.

6. All Love, Before It Mounts to a Higher Level, Must Die to a Lower One. There are no plains in the kingdom of love. One is either going uphill or coming down. There is no certainty of increasing ecstasy. If there is no purification, the fire of passion becomes the flicker of the sentiment, and finally only the ashes of habit. No one is thirsty at the border of a well. There is no such thing as loving too much; one either loves madly or too little. Some wonder, in their satiety, if love itself is a snare and a delusion. The truth is that the law of love must always operate: love that does not mount perishes. The joys and the ecstasies, unless they are freshened by sacrifice, become mere friendships. Mediocrity is the penalty of all those who refuse to add sacrifice to their love, and thus to prepare it for a wider horizon and a higher peak.

At the Marriage Feast of Cana, Mary had an opportunity to keep the love of her Son only to herself alone. She had the choice of continuing to be only the Mother of Jesus. But she knew that she must not keep that love for herself alone under the penalty of never enjoying love to the fullest. If she would save Jesus, she must lose Him. So she asked Him to work His first miracle, to begin His public life, and to anticipate the hour - and that means His Passion and Death. At that moment, when she asked water to be changed into wine, she died to love of Jesus as her Son, and began to mount to that higher love for all whom Jesus would redeem when He died on the Cross. Cana was the death of the mother-Son relationship, and the beginning of that higher love involved in the Mother-humanity Christ-redeemed relationship. And by giving up her Son for the world, she eventually got Him back - even in the Assumption and the Coronation.

7. The End of All Human Love Is Doing the Will of God. Even the most frivolous speak of love in terms of eternity. Love is timeless. As true love develops, there are at first two loves facing one another, seeking to possess one another. As love progresses, the two loves, instead of seeking one another, seek an object outside both. They both develop a passion for unity outside themselves, namely, in God. That is why, as a pure Christian love matures, a husband and spouse become more and more religious as time goes on. At first the happiness consisted in doing the will of the other; then the happiness consisted in doing the Will of God. True love is a religious act. If I love you as God wills that I love you, it is the highest expression of love.

The last words of Mary that were spoken in Sacred Scripture were the words of total abandonment to the Will of God. "Do whatever He tells you to do." As Dante said: "In His Will is our peace." Love has no other destiny than to obey Christ. Our wills are ours only to give away. The human heart is torn between a sense of emptiness and a need of being filled, like the waterpots of Cana. The emptiness comes from the fact that we are human. The power of filling belongs only to Him Who ordered the waterpots filled. Lest any heart should fail in being filled, Mary's last valedictory is: "Do whatever He tells you to do." The heart has a need of emptying and a need of being filled. The power of emptying is human - emptying in the love of others - the power of filling belongs only to God. Hence all perfect love must end on the note: "Not my will, but Thine be done, O Lord!"