The Empire of the Dove (Part 1): Love Minus Zero

The Empire of the Dove (Part 1): Love Minus Zero May 19, 2018
Roma, Basilica di San Clemente, mosaico, dettaglio By Rita1234 – CC BY-SA 3.0,

Love one another, with a love so limitlessness it is divine.

That is the one command refracted in all other true commands, attested by the entire Johannine corpus traversed in the liturgical readings of Eastertide.

Love minus zero/no limit, Bob Dylan so aptly expresses it, and it is the most necessary thing for life. Everything grows from the Cross, as displayed in the riot of acanthus and doves in the San Clemente apse mosaic. Love one another as I have loved you—from the throne on which I am tortured, that midway height of heaven’s unrequited love for earth.

The Kingdom of God is ruled from that throne. And if evangelization means anything, it means flocking to that standard like the San Clemente doves, becoming fruit of the vine of the Cross, Spirit-filled incarnations of love. The reason the “new evangelization” has done nothing to gentle this savage culture is because we have not given up the savagery of our own narcissism. Or as I like to put it: the first rule of evangelization is to not be a jackass. Whether of the right, left, or center.

We await Pentecost. We await the filling of our hearts with a love that is more than self-tickling or self-care. A love majestic enough to set up a Kingdom of light amidst the slaughter-bench of history.

For us proud denizens of the commentariat, there are simple imperatives. Never forgetting that not a blessed one of us has everything right (indeed we have no idea where we might be most wrong), we will do the needful thing, which is most congruent with the liberal republican political order we ought to be revitalizing: treat each person we interact with as if he or she possesses the dignity of a person loved by God with a limitless love.

The more we savage other people, the more we torture the Heart that loves without limit. See, Jesus is utterly defenseless, because that’s what love does to us: it means there is no recourse. A loving heart is bait for all the hunger of this chaotic ocean of self-feeding. If you want to stop hurting, then stop loving. But that’s the opposite of being alive.

What would it take for us to love each of our fellow human beings (yes, the monsters included) the way Jesus loves each of us? It would take everything from us, all vital fluids emptied. A heart bleeding out. But more to the point: what would it take for our fellow human beings to love me the way Jesus loves me? It’s the same bloody picture. IF there is someone in your life who actually loves you, who doesn’t abuse you and won’t leave you, you know the Spirit of Christ has come among you.

But this Spirit is resisted. Everywhere. In each of our hearts. The Kingdom comes, but it must subdue our arrogance first. Pacify us. Make us into doves docile to the Dove. As Walter Benjamin writes, “The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as victor over the Antichrist.”

The Spirit of incarnational love would fill this world. That event, which we call Church, must happen in my heart first.

Though the seas of our ungraciousness cover all, in the floodwatch of the Dove, a vigil is kept.

Hopkins says it best:

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Pentecost is coming. May the chaotic ocean become life-giving streams through us. May fresh winds blow us into new places of the heart. And may we all be baptized with fire.


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