Tuesday 28 June 2011

What is Charity/ Agape/ Christian Love of fellow men?


From Donald Attwater's 1930 Introduction to his modern English translation of Piers Plowman - Everyman's Library edition, 1957 [re-punctuated, somewhat].


'Chastity without Charity shall be chained in Hell', Langland says, and has done. Charity, that is, not a vague benevolence, an 'universal embrace', nor even just refraining from adverse speech and being kind (especially to those one likes); but the habit or virtue which enables men to love God above all things for his Own sake, and for His sake to love all their fellow men; the agape of St Paul.



Reading this passage induced a flash of what feels like insight.

Charity is:

1. The habit or virtue which enables men to Love God above all things for his Own sake.

2. And for His sake to Love all fellow men above themselves.

In other words, a Christian must first Love God above all other and then (and only then) can he, should he, Love his fellow men as they ought to be Loved.


The second cannot come until after the first.

Attempts to Love (in a Christian sense) one's fellow men must fail; unless and until there is Love of God.

To Love your fellow men, to Love your neighbors above yourself - these are concepts, instructions that must inevitably be misunderstood in absence of the Love of God, which must come first.


All this is perfectly plainly set out in the liturgy and throughout scripture, but that doesn't stop it being misunderstood; that doesn't prevent the point being missed - by me, by many others.


Those who have not achieved Christian Love of God (those who are not actually loving God) - such cannot understand, do not know the meaning of, Christian Love of their fellow men.

Therefore, in the absence of Charity, 'well-meaning' attempts to apply, to live in accordance with, Christian Love of fellow men must be futile, feeble, clumsy, prone to error and wrong emphasis; such attempts are prone to fall into harming people and unwitting devotion to the service of evil.


Indeed, this is precisely what we see in mainstream secular society and in worldly forms of Christianity: misguided attempts to 'love' one's fellow men, to love neighbors above self - without already-existing Love of God.

(Indeed with an active denial of God and hatred of Christianity).


To try and love fellow men above oneself without first loving God above all, leads by steps to the insanity of political correctness: to self-hatred and a materialist parody of Charity.


With PC, instead of Charity we get an impersonal, mathematical confiscation and allocation of worldly goods, coercive bureaucratic procedure displacing human morality, elimination of Love and its replacement with Altruism.

But Christian Love of fellow men can only be attained via the Love of God. 


1 comment:

Brett Stevens said...

Some years ago, it hit me out of the blue that one cannot love anything without love for life itself.

This love for life itself, which includes love for God and nature both, is the parent category of all love. If you do not love life, on what basis do you love anything? All, even self, originates in life. All is bound up with the processes of life and its cosmic order.

For this reason, I tend to default to the conservative everything-is-a-means-to-an-end viewpoint. Love of fellow men and love of nature are a conduit to love of the cosmic order, and through it, God and/or Godhead.