Introductory Note:

As students of Jesus we are invited into a deep study of life with the Master of Life as our teacher. We can be at ease as we delve deeply into topics concerning all the most important questions of life. What else would be worth paying most attention to other than that of love? Our approach to the study of love should be one of curiosity, intellectual rigor and openness. Take your time to prayerfully consider the ideas concerning love in order to embody them in your daily living.

Ville Kavilo

Excerpt from The Four Loves

God is love. Again, Here­in is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us” (I John 4:10). We must not begin with mys­ti­cism, with the crea­ture’s love for God, or with the won­der­ful fore­tastes of the fruition of God vouch­safed to some in their earth­ly life. We begin at the real begin­ning, with love as the Divine ener­gy. This Pri­mal love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plen­teous­ness that desires to give. 

The doc­trine that God was under no neces­si­ty to cre­ate is not a piece of dry scholas­tic spec­u­la­tion. It is essen­tial. With­out it we can hard­ly avoid the con­cep­tion of what I can only call a man­age­r­i­al” God; a Being whose func­tion or nature is to run” the uni­verse, who stands to it as a head­mas­ter to a school or a hote­lier to a hotel. But to be sov­er­eign of the uni­verse is no great mat­ter to God. In Him­self, at home in the land of the Trin­i­ty”, he is Sov­er­eign of a far greater realm. We must keep always before our eyes that vision of Lady Julian’s in which God car­ried in His hand a lit­tle object like a nut, and that nut was all that is made”. 

God, who needs noth­ing, loves into exis­tence whol­ly super­flu­ous crea­tures in order that He may love and per­fect them. He cre­ates the uni­verse, already fore­see­ing – or should we say see­ing”? there are no tens­es in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails dri­ven through the medi­al nerves, the repeat­ed incip­i­ent suf­fo­ca­tion as the body droops, the repeat­ed tor­ture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the bio­log­i­cal image, God is a host” who delib­er­ate­ly cre­ates His own par­a­sites; caus­es us to be that we may exploit and take advan­tage of” Him. Here­in is love. This is the dia­gram of Love Him­self, the inven­tor of all loves.


For the dream of find­ing our end, the thing we were made for, in a Heav­en of pure­ly human love could not be true unless our whole Faith were wrong. We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a man­i­fes­ta­tion of His beau­ty, lov­ingkind­ness, wis­dom or good­ness, has any earth­ly Beloved excit­ed our love. It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite under­stand what we were lov­ing. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dear­ly famil­iar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a par­ty to, has made, sus­tained and moved moment by moment with­in, all our earth­ly expe­ri­ences of inno­cent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His. 

In Heav­en there will be no anguish and no duty of turn­ing away from our earth­ly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the por­traits to the Orig­i­nal, from the rivulets to the Foun­tain, from the crea­tures He made lov­able to Love Him­self. But sec­ond­ly, because we shall find them all in Him. By lov­ing Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do. But all that is far away in the land of the Trin­i­ty”, not here in exile, in the weep­ing val­ley. Down here it is all loss and renun­ci­a­tion. The very pur­pose of the Bereave­ment (so far as it affects our­selves) may have been to force this upon us. 

We are then com­pelled to try to believe, what we can­not yet feel, that God is our true Beloved. That is why bereave­ment is in some ways eas­i­er for the unbe­liev­er than for us. He can storm and rage and shake his fist at the uni­verse, and (if he is a genius) write poems like Hous­man­’s or Hardy’s. But we, at our low­est ebb, when the least effort seems too much for us, must begin to attempt what seem impos­si­bil­i­ties. Is it easy to love God?” asks an old author. It is easy,” he replies, to those who do it” I have includ­ed two Graces under the word Char­i­ty. But God can give a third. He can awake in man, towards Him­self, a super­nat­ur­al Appre­cia­tive Love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our nat­ur­al loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true cen­ter of all human and angel­ic life. With this all things are pos­si­ble. And with this, where a bet­ter book would begin, mine must end. I dare not pro­ceed. God knows, not I, whether I have ever tast­ed this love. 

Per­haps I have only imag­ined the tast­ing. Those like myself whose imag­i­na­tion far exceeds their obe­di­ence are sub­ject to a just penal­ty; we eas­i­ly imag­ine con­di­tions far high­er than any we have real­ly reached. If we describe what we have imag­ined we may make oth­ers, and make our­selves, believe that we have real­ly been there. And if I have only imag­ined it, is it a fur­ther delu­sion that even the imag­in­ing has at some moments made all oth­er objects of desire — yes, even peace, even to have no more fears — look like bro­ken toys and fad­ed flow­ers? Perhaps. 

Per­haps, for many of us, all expe­ri­ence mere­ly defines, so to speak, the shape of that gap where our love of God ought to be. It is not enough. It is some­thing. If we can­not prac­tice the pres­ence of God”, it is some­thing to prac­tice the absence of God, to become increas­ing­ly aware of our unaware­ness till we feel like men who should stand beside a great cataract and hear no noise, or like a man in a sto­ry who looks in a mir­ror and finds no face there; or a man in a dream who stretch­es out his hand to vis­i­ble objects and gets no sen­sa­tion of touch. To know that one is dream­ing is to be no longer per­fect­ly asleep. But for news of the ful­ly wak­ing world you must go to my betters.

Excerpt tak­en from The Four Loves: An Explo­ration of the Nature of Love (Houghton-Mif­flin-Har­court, 1971).

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >