Advent Spiritual Practice: The Act of Being a Loving Person

Advent Spiritual Practice: The Act of Being a Loving Person December 12, 2023

For the fourth in my series on Advent, I would like to discuss the practice of being a loving person. It would seem pretty straight forward, just love your neighbor as you would love yourself, that’s what Jesus tells us to do. But what if you don’t even love yourself? Or you were raised in a Christian tradition where you were told you were worth something with a condition. This condition could be certain acts, prayers, beliefs or maybe you were one of the hapless ones not elect to be saved.  

As a practitioner of Benedictine spirituality and in general a contemplative, I have studied many spiritual rules of life. The way of love is one of many spiritual rules of life. “A spiritual rule of life is a purposeful tool to help us grow into a more meaningful life with God. As such, following the practices in the Way of Love can change one’s relationship with God, us, and others with whom we share the earth. The Way of Love invites us to a rule of life that leads to incarnating Divine Love in the world, so it is appropriate to initiate a journey on the Way of Love during Advent, the season we slow down to get ready to welcome Jesus, God incarnate, anew” (Gamber and Zartman).  

I have been spending a lot of time recently getting ready for spring classes at the Community College. In my research this week, I was reading through Victor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and I found a nice section where he was offering his thoughts on love. On page 134, he offers these thoughts: 

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” 

 Another spiritual tradition I rely heavily on comes from the Buddhist tradition. Lovingkindness is a practice in which one experiences a feeling of benevolent affection, but in Buddhism, loving-kindness (in Pali, Metta; in Sanskrit, Maitri) is thought of as a mental state or attitude, cultivated and maintained by practice. This cultivation of loving-kindness is an essential part of Buddhism 

We live in a weird world right now. As I have done research for the two papers, I am having my students write in the spring, I have been thinking quite a bit about the notion of loss of meaning. In my practice as a therapist, lust is often conflated with love, and I find young people quickly jumping into bed with each other and then “catching feelings” or sometimes a permanent reminder of temporary feeling. When eventually the feelings subside, couples come to me, and I again often find them not really knowing who each other really are.  

This advent season, one must ask, “who is my brother and who is my sister? Are we really all that different? One of many things I have been criticized and one of the things that prohibited me from ministry was my openness to all traditions. This largely comes from my exposure to inter faith dialogue in college. But there is a lot to learn from other traditions. I spent a year with a Sufi teacher a few years back and it was a marvelous experience to see his face each Monday morning.  

A lot of reflections I have read for this week’s topic on the notion of love for Advent have to do with the love of God or the love that God has for us specifically. Seeped in the Wesleyan tradition and shaped by my experiences with open theism and most recently the work of Thomas J. Ord, I have really found resonance with the interpersonal, loving God, one who is with us in the midst of our suffering. Tripp Fuller’s pointing out Jesus’ specific name of God, Abba, which loosely translated as “daddy” brings it into focus for me. I can get my head around this. I love my kids and as a dad, I would do anything for them. As such, God, our loving parent, who knows us intimately and loves us unconditionally.  

This final week of Advent, let us also take direction from the Stoics when we are disgusted by the driver that cut us off, the rude cashier who is overworked and underpaid, or the political strife and social conflict going right now and just not. Love instead. Look kindly upon the struggles that are in front of you and see them as opportunities to grow. Those family members you are cross with? Offer lovingkindness; may they be happy, may they be safe, may they be at ease. That cashier? May they be happy, may they be happy, may they be at ease. And your own anxieties, fears, depressions and questioning of yourself? May you be happy, may you be healthy and may you be at ease.  



Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s Search For Meaning. 

Gamber, J., & Zartman, B. (n.d.). Journeying the Way of Love: Advent Curriculum. The Episcopal Church. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from 

Browse Our Archives