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Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back ...
"You must sit down," says Love,
"and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.
(George Herbert, 1593-1633)
George Herbert's verse on the invitation by Love to communion with the divine is one of those compositions which you feel has said everything. The figure of Jesus in the gospel narratives is of one who gives love to all without question. He is not a legislator nor a judge but one who brings others to life through his own creative capacity of love. Most particularly, the outcasts of the time, the tax collectors and the harlots, all receive the invitation to sit down to a meal with him. To his closest friends, the disciples, and to the women who followed him and helped him, he was the same - the dynamic inspiration of the possibility of new life - a new Springtime where the motivation was of, and for, love. © Aelred Arnesen
It is understandable that through the Christian centuries the institutional church has seemed unable to communicate that dynamic, selfless love. Love doesn't seem to flourish or be the motive of the politics of religion or even of the devout hold of tradition on the lives of the faithful. And yet in the lives of many people of faith or no faith, that motivation of truly creative life has been found to flourish among us. It is as with Jesus. His capacity for love was, in a sense, something that was the result of who he was, and had become, as a human person. It is this personalness of Jesus that affects us all, that still gives the invitation to everyone - 'You must sit down and taste my meat'.
We all desire to be loved, but our greatest challenge and need in life is to give love from within ourselves. When that happens to any of us, and in our own particular circumstances, something is released within us and we achieve a greater potential as persons. This happened to the two people I mentioned in last month's letter, Rudolph Nureyev the great Russian dancer who defected from the USSR and Margot Fonteyn. Brought together by the then director of the Royal Ballet, in their dancing they came to love one another in the deepest sense we have been discovering. They each gave to the other the creative love which enabled each of them to expand into a new personal potential so that in ballet, on stage, they were, as Nureyev said, 'one person'. For Margot this extended her dancing capabilities by 15 years. The world saw this happen and it became the greatest ballet partnership seen in our time, which gave great joy to all who witnessed their performance.
Hopefully, to us, in our lower echelons of living, the permanent love of Jesus, the risen Lord, will also create in us that same spirit of the gift of love to those with whom we live and work.
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© Aelred Arnesen