Renoir's Rules Affirm Our Lenten Need for Sacrificial Love

Modern society, like the society of pre-war France upon which Renoir turned his lens, strives to convince us that love is nothing more than an emotion, and we can (indeed, we must) follow it wherever it leads us. But love is much, much more than just an emotion; love is self-sacrificing and unselfish, a conscious mortifying of one's own wishes and desires for the good and happiness of another. No one can sublimate themselves in such a manner without being deeply and irrevocably invested, no matter how hard modernity attempts to assure us of the contrary. True love, whether romantic or platonic, philia or agape, means self-giving; that is the simplest and truest rule of the game we're playing, and no amount of marketing or redefining can make it otherwise.

The happiness of the Marquis and Marquise is undermined by their mistaken belief that love is subject to one's slightest whims and desires, and that there is no price to be paid for emotional autonomy. But it is the very paying of that price that makes love stronger and more perfect. Attempting to play the game without following that rule will leave us disqualified before the starting gun has even sounded.

And that would be a great tragedy, because, as we know in our quietest and clearest moments, this game is the only one worth playing.

Lent is an annual opportunity to apply the unalterable rule so manifest in Renoir's film to the most important relationship we will ever have. It is a challenge to rediscover, revitalize and refine our love for Christ through the very self-sacrifice and mortification that He so perfectly models for us.

3/11/2011 5:00:00 AM
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  • Joseph Susanka
    About Joseph Susanka
    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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