Divine Eros

How do you address the Holy Spirit in your prayer life? I call upon the Spirit as my Higher Power, my inner guide, my mentor. But upon examination, I find terms of love are missing. My perception of the Spirit? The One who gets things done. When I need guidance as to what God wants of me, I turn to the Spirit. Or if I need courage to share my faith, I call upon the Spirit.

Of course, I am aware that in the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, we ask that the Spirit: “Kindle in us the fire of Your love.” I am aware too that theologians describe the life of the Trinity as the Spirit flowing from the mutual love of the Father and the Son.  Obviously, the Spirit has a lot to do with love, even the fire of love. But that perception has not penetrated my spiritual life. How do we explain this?

For the longest time, I suspect, we have attributed the actions of the Spirit to the term “grace”, the unmerited assistance given persons by God for their conversion and sanctification. In this view, there is a Higher Power who makes things happen, for which we are grateful, but not quite the Lover in our minds.

Further, the Spirit has been AWOL (absent without leave) for almost 2,000 years of Christian spirituality, until the Charismatic Movement rediscovered the Spirit for us in the Sixties. No doubt, the Spirit’s absence created a certain awkwardness of language. Instead of perceiving the Spirit as the source of loving assistance, we have lived our spiritual lives with the abstract concept of grace. Our spiritual love life needs rekindling.

Fr. Jules J. Toner, SJ states that faith is the radical work of the Spirit, and charity is the principal and crowning work of the Spirit. Let me suggest that we can come closer to an appreciation of the Spirit’s work if we recall Eros from Greek mythology. Eros is the son of the goddess of love who excites erotic love in gods and persons with his arrows. In our times, he gets a lot of publicity around Valentine’s Day.

For us, the Spirit is Divine Eros. The Spirit’s arrows are loving invitations to us to grow in faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and in the Spirit as well. These loving invitations are the calls of a Lover, calling us to expand our capacity for love. It is the Spirit who awakens our hearts to the possibilities of love each day. It is the Spirit who calls us each day out of our tombs to experience new life like Lazarus. It is the Spirit who invites us daily to live a life vision based on the primacy of love, the radical life vision that Jesus manifested for us.

The Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts through gifts of consolation. Through these gifts we experience our living faith increased in depth or firmness or purity or intensity or effectiveness. Through the Spirit’s consolations, we recognize that something beautiful is happening to us as we experience peace, joy, confidence, exultation and the like. When that happens, we know that we have been struck with the Spirit’s arrows. We know that Divine Eros, the Spirit of Love, is at work.

Of course, we cannot always expect such consolations, because they are the Spirit’s gifts. Let us be grateful when they come; in dry periods look forward with expectancy.

I believe that the Song of Songs in the Bible, which describes a torrid love relationship, is an allegory for the love relationship between the Spirit and ourselves. It is full of the language of desire and passion. Saints like Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross used this book to grow their spirituality. For the essence of the spiritual life is the heart’s surrender. Yet, we have no control over our hearts. We need to depend totally on the Spirit, Divine Eros, to direct arrows at our hearts to awaken them to greater love of God and others.

Perceiving the Spirit as Divine Eros radically changes our relationship with the Spirit and the tone of our spiritual life. Not that our perceptions of the Spirit as our Higher Power or mentor and guide are incorrect. They are correct, but they energize the faculties of our will and our mind, whereas the perception of the Spirit as Divine Eros energizes our heart which is really surrender of our total person to the Spirit—heart, mind and will.

If we could discover the Spirit as Divine Eros, we would be transformed. If the Church proclaimed the Spirit as Divine Eros, it would be as if the Risen Jesus launched the Spirit of Love into the world for the very first time.


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