The greatest is love

Artur Stelmasiak

A few years ago, during one of her poetry evenings, the theatre and film actress Ewa Zietek said that although she knew many beautiful texts about love none could compare with the words of St Paul. According to her only St Paul conveyed the whole truth about love. Theologians also support this view since no other text could present all attributes of love so precisely and completely.

When love is ill from envy

In his first Epistle to the Corinthians St Paul writes that 'love is patient, and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage it does not take offence or store up grievances; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.' According to Brother Tadeusz Rucinski, FSC, patience in love is necessary. Today we often experience love like eating a sandwich quickly, i.e. nervously and impatiently, in a fast food bar', writes Br. Rucinski in his book 'Powiedz, jak mam Cie kochac?' [Tell me How I Am to Love You?]. 'Instead of savouring it and enjoying the taste... we behave as if we were to penetrate the whole man, to be melted like the ore. Great love does not depend on intensive experiences... these are not stormy love affairs', says Br. Rucinski. In his opinion haste is devil's son while God is the father of patience.
Kindness in love is expressed by generosity. 'True love gives and does not expect a reward', Br. Rucinski thinks. 'Sometimes love is ill from jealousy. It happens when you love only because your beloved belongs to you. The danger appears when you want to escape from such love. Then this love annoys you and it will take revenge and will destroy you... until it consumes you because love consumes and shares only with nobody'. Eleni is of the same opinion. 'Some people can treat another person as if he was their property. Such love can turn out to be fatal', says the well-known pop singer.

Joy in someone's existence

In the most famous Hymn of love St Paul wrote that love never seeks its own advantage. This is the key to love, which we call 'personalistic love' today. Since to love is not to accept only this side of another person which suits us. Then we would love ourselves in other people. 'You always say that you love. You miss...You and you... and what about me? And where is we?' Br. Rucinski asks. Love cannot have any egoism. It is joy in someone's being. 'In love I believe in acknowledging otherness, in delight at another person', says Prof. Barbara Skarga in one of her interviews. 'When you want to make another person be like you, your love is shallow and most often ends tragically' Prof. Skarga stresses.
Love means being able to forgive - love does not store up grievances. 'Write on the sand the offence you meet, but carve in the granite stone the good you meet', writes Br. Rucinski. He thinks that forgiveness does not only heal the person we ask forgiveness for, but also us, those who ask for forgiveness. The fact that love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth makes it last for ever. 'Love must be tested in fire like gold; only little love crumbles in a test of fire. Great love is purified and flames up' Cardinal Wyszynski claimed. Therefore, 'purified' love endures all things and can only be strengthened by all failures. 'Love is transcendental. It goes beyond our earthy existence', Br. Rucinski says. According to him 'love flies through death like through a garden gate...leaving time, space, clocks and calendars on this side'.

One loves for nothing

'My God, life is not only to take it. Life is not to continue idly. And to live one must give oneself', we often hear Stanislaw Sojka sing these words. Love does not only mean receiving but also giving. St Paul tells us that true love 'never seeks its own advantage'. In his teaching John Paul II also repeated that giving is important to love. 'It never happens that man who does good is only a benefactor himself. At the same time he receives good, the good another person receives with love', stresses the Holy Father. Therefore, the Pope always emphasized the act of unselfish gift. He thought that only true love could stop one person from abusing the other. He used to convince us that we were also beneficiaries of our love for others. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of 'The Little Prince', explained that truth about love. Once he said that 'true love is never worn out. The more love you give the more love you have. True love begins when you do not expect any reward', writes Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Fr Jan Twardowski expressed similar beliefs almost through his whole life. He claimed that 'one does not love for anything but in spite of everything, one loves for nothing'. According to John Paul II people often call love what has nothing to do with it. 'Selfishness was called love. This is extremely false', the Pope stressed. 'Since love is a selfish gift of oneself. This is dynamism which cuts the ties of our egoism', the Holy Father added. Love is not given once for all. Like faith love undergoes constant and dynamic evolution. 'Since love is never something ready, something that is only 'given' to woman and man, but is always something given as a task', wrote Karol Wojtyla in the 1960s. 'In a way love never 'is' but 'becomes', the future Pope wrote in his book 'Love and Responsibility'.

God is Love

St Augustine says 'the measure of man is how much he can love'. But love need not reveal itself in big, extraordinary deeds. 'True love is most often manifested in details of daily life, for example when we turn with kindness and love to our children, spouse or other accidental people', Eleni thinks. And Piotr Szczepanik sang years ago, 'To love - is so easy to say. To love - means not asking for anything...In this word there is the colour of heaven and rust-coloured dust of bitter days'. And none of these words have become devalued. Actually, all texts that have ever been written about love, written in different languages, cultures, epochs, are still valid. And what does Christianity speak about love? Christianity claims that God gives love to people. Love is a gift and a task at the same time. Since we were created out of love and for love. And loving we resemble our Creator most. For love crowns our humanity - love is the sense, contents and purpose of our existence, the source of happiness. 'God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him', the Holy Father Benedict XVI began his first encyclical with the words of the Letter of St John. The Pope stresses that these words express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. The Pope explicitly shows that love should be the consequence of our faith. He stresses that it was God that loved us first. Our love is not a commandment any longer but an answer to the gift of love that God come to us with. Because God is Love every Christian should be driven by love. We live for God that is for Love. 'We were created for love since God is Love and created all things out of love', said John Paul II. Therefore, we long for God-Love so much. This longing, according to John Paul II, is in each of us. And the sense of our lives is love.
Once St Augustine said, 'We do not go to God by some way but by love'. That's why, a betrayal of love means a betrayal of God himself. It is a betrayal of one's principles. 'There are terrible crimes in the world but perhaps the biggest crime is to kill love', writes Boleslaw Prus. He was right. Since when man kills love he sends Christ to die on the cross again.
According to the French philosopher Fr Michel Quoist love is beautiful but at the same time love is a difficult adventure, which lasts all life but is in bloom only at the final encounter with God-Love. Therefore, the deepest desire of every man's heart, before his desire of life, is his desire to love and a feeling that he is loved. This is the true hunger of man. 'No wonder, stresses Fr Quoist in his 'Talks about Love', since man was created out of love and to love'.

Love came to the world

The coming Christmas makes us reflect on the sense and quality of love. This holiday tells us about God's love for man. As St John the Evangelist writes, 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends'. Therefore, Christmas is the biggest mystery of love. It shows us how little Babe comes to the world to live among us. He comes to testify to love. To show us God's Love. Love that comes from God-Love in its purest form. 'Prince of Peace, born in Bethlehem, will give up his life on Golgotha so that love reigns in the world'. Several dozen years after that birth St Paul of Tarsus wrote, 'So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love'.

"Niedziela" 51/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: