In the fifth canto of Dante’s Paradiso, there is one of the most beautiful lines in all of poetry.
Dante has just made an unimaginable journey through the horrors of hell, the strenuous rigors of purgatory, and gets an incredible chance to glimpse the beauty of heaven. As he finally bursts into the outskirts of Divine Virtue, all who are gathered pronounce: chi crescerà li nostri amori:
Behold someone who will increase our love.
When we talk of Heaven, we often mention angels, streets of gold, perfect happiness…but more than anything it is a place of perfect love. The place where Perfect Love dwells. This is ultimate Beauty itself. This will be what we have longed for all our lives.
And the incredible idea he introduces here? Each new member of Heaven does not just take from the already-established love supply. They increase the love of Heaven by their presence.
I realize this is simply human poetry here, but I think he makes such a true and beautiful point. In some small way, the moments we practice loving purely here on earth accomplishes a similar goal. Have you ever noticed how either a negative or positive attitude gains momentum in a group of people? Like a virus, it spreads from one member to another, until someone who thought life was going pretty well suddenly finds himself restless and discontent.
In the same way, I would like to propose the thought that we can become part of a community of people increasing their love in ever-abounding ways. Suddenly, everyone we encounter becomes one “who will increase our love.”
“Growth in love always involves movement beyond the hardened boundaries of isolated self to the selves-in-relationships that make up community..There is no genuine life without love. Self-interests suffocates life. Life implodes when self-interest is at the core.”
“When I am confronted with my frequent failures in love, my instinct has always been to try harder. I recognize the poverty of my love…[yet] nothing changes.
“The reason nothing changes is that the focus is still on me–my failures, my remorse, my discouragement, my efforts. Love requires leaving all of this behind–all my self-preoccupation and all my willful striving…Regardless of the amount of love I tend to have naturally in my heart, it is not enough. The love I need is the love of God as his love becomes mine.” -David Benner, Surrender to Love
What will you encounter this week? A particular difficult assignment? A frustrating coworker or family member? One interrupted plan after another? My goal this year is to see these not as setbacks, but as opportunities to grow in love.
Likewise, the beautiful and enjoyable aspects of my week give me a chance to receive love as well as give. Whether good or bad, all is grace.
“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”
—W. H. Auden
Happy New Year, everyone!!