Because Love Comes from God, Not from Me

When I was an child, I loved as child. Now that I am a man, I wish to love as a man. CS Lewis offers advice about this in his book Mere Christianity. Msgr. Luigi Giussani (left) does more than offer advice, he shows the way, in his three-volume work Is It Possible to Live This Way? The third volume, Charity, is currently the focus of Communion and Liberation’s Schools of Community worldwide.

In Book III, chapter 9 of Mere Christianity, part of our YIMC Book Club reading this week, “Jack” Lewis draws the distinction between love as a feeling and love as an act of will. His simple advice is, Don’t wait to feel love for your neighbor, and for heaven’s sake, don’t sit around trying to pump up love for your enemy. Act as if  you love your neighbor and your enemy, and eventually you will love them.

This is good advice, of course. Try smiling when you don’t feel like it. Force your face muscles into a grin and hold it for a while. You will feel better. Lewis adds one grace note to this thought at the very end of the chapter:

The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, [God’s] love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

It’s a beautiful thought. Don Giussani goes much further.

Here’s a contrast: In Mere Christianity, Lewis discusses the three theological virtues, Charity, Hope, and Faith in that order. In the famous passage from 1st Corinthians, 13, St. Paul speaks of them as Faith, Hope, and Charity, and so does Don Giussani. Better, Giussani explains why.

Over the past two years, Schools of Community have read the first two volumes of Is It Possible to Live This Way?, Faith and Hope. Faith, Giussani writes, is founded not on a leap (of faith) but quite reasonably on a fact—the fact of Christ’s presence in the world. Hope is a completely reasonable extension of this fact into the future, our own future, where our destiny lies.

While so far we are only about 30 pages into volume 3, Charity (slow readers seem to predominate in CL!), it is clear where all this is leading. Because already Giussani is writing of charity not alone as an act of will but as a sharing in God’s gratuitous love for us. Without faith and hope, without the certainty that God exists, that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, in his Church, and in the companionship of those who share with us in this Presence, there can be no true charity. Lewis’s act of will is worthy, but how can it be whole?

I would quote Giussani at length, but his Italian-translated-to-English is an acquired taste, and I encourage you to learn more on your own, by checking out the CL Web site. But here are a couple of small bites of Giussani on charity:

Charity . . . indicates the deepest content, discovers intimacy, discovers the heart of the Presence that faith recognizes. 

Note that charity hinges on faith. And here:

The most intimate content of the supreme reality exists in experience, because it is felt, and, when followed, it produces an effect, it changes things. 

So love or charity does begin with a feeling—or it begins with faith, which prompts a feeling. A feeling that arises from the statement “He exists.” From that certainty, everything else follows.

Which is to say that love comes from God—as Giussani writes later, from God’s “gratuitous love” for us—and not from an act of human will alone, and certainly not from me. Sorry, Jack, but I’m afraid Don Giuss has got you covered on this one. Although to give you credit, Jack, I think you really might have loved School of Community.

  • Frank

    You know, I too noticed that Jack had it backwards. The original order makes all the difference, otherwise we're just a bunch of resounding gongs. Sheesh!

  • El Bolillo Tejano

    Warren,You are hitting on a very deep distinction of the Christian faith. I have thought about this much over the past year, and here you are writing on it. In modern times, charity is considered to be a "good"; and, much of this tradition of charity stems from the Roman Catholic culture that nurtured the growth of western civilization.You have hit the nail on the head: You wrote, "Charity does begin with a feeling-or it begins with faith, which prompts a feeling." After having been involved in many charities over the course of my life and feel like this subject is very complex. I feel like charity can be classified into various forms, but that Charity as we know it in the West, did not appear until Christianity appeared on the scene.One of the reasons that Rome fell to Christianity from within is because of the charity of the Christian women who served the wounded on both sides after battles. One of the reasons the Spanish, French and Portuguese missionaries were so successful in South America, Mexico, the Philippines and India was because of their Charity. The missionaries took abandoned children out of the gutter and gave them VALUE. Their charity showed the people of the world living in pagan cultures that they were "Children of a loving God." You are touching on a subject that can be written on for days But suffice it to say that hospitals, infirmaries, orphanages, retreat houses, and other catholic institutions emerged from first, Faith, then Hope and finally Charity ( Showing of God's Love to others). My only question for you, is, has Charity been watered down by the modern world so that it has lost some of it's foundation on Faith?

  • Anonymous

    1 CorinthiansChapter 131 1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, 5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, 6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. 9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. 13 5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  • Webster Bull

    @Bolillo Tejano,You ask, Has Charity been watered down by the modern world so that it has lost some of its foundation on Faith?CS Lewis's take on charity may prove that. And he himself pointed out (in the 1940s) that "Charity" had already come to mean almsgiving primarily. But please note: I am no expert on charity. I was just trying here to sort out my thoughts about Lewis and Giussani. Thanks a lot for your comment.

  • Anonymous

    Yes right on, But….the missionaries did not give abandoned children value. They recognized that abandoned children had value given by God. Sorry, but I'm a word nerd and I know that's what you meant!

  • Frank

    Don't let the title of this post lead us astray though. Because now that we are no longer ignorant of Christian love, and from Whom it originates, we must understand that we too are called to love. Therefore love, of God and from God does come from us as well. Therefore Love comes from God and as His disciple, Love must come from me too. I believe this characteristic is what really sets the saints apart. The full embrace of loving our neighbors as ourselves is a virtue easily recognizable in the saints.Call me Grasshopper as I am a neophtye in this regard with miles to go before I can even claim any progress along this road.

  • Frank

    From our friends at New Advent.

  • cathyf

    I think that faith, hope and love are really the same thing. Faith is the past of us in God, hope is the future of us in God, and love is the present. The "greatest" is love only in the sense that we live in the present.