The famous saying “He loves me … he loves me not” comes from one of the oldest and most loved classical ballets, Giselle.
In a scene from the 1841 ballet Giselle, a peasant girl, is presented with a daisy by her love Albrecht, a duke. Albrecht and Giselle dance and she plucks the petals from a daisy to divine his sincerity.
The result is of course with all the plucking the flower is destroyed!
When attempting to make any comment on the second reading from this Sunday’s liturgy, 1Corinthians 13: 1 – 13, which is headlined ‘The Gift of Love’, I feel somewhat like Giselle – too much plucking and the entire flower is destroyed.
Apparently, the Inuit language has thirty words for snow.
This reflects the need for clarity in the culture’s complex relationship to snow. Sanskrit, the basis for most East Indian languages, has ninety-six terms for love.
Ancient Persian has eighty; Greek has four, English only one.
English does not have the breadth, scope, and differentiation for the feeling experience of love like Sanskrit and Persian.
If it did then we would have a specific word to use in our appreciation of mother, father, husband, wife, lover, sunset, house, or God.
St Paul wrote in Greek, so there may be value in a very brief look at the four words used in Greek.
The first Greek word is ‘storge’ which may best be described as ‘affection’; the second Greek word is ‘philia’ or ‘friendship’; the third word is ‘eros’, or ‘romantic’, and the fourth is ‘agape’, or ‘selfless’.
It is this fourth word ‘agape’ that St Paul uses in his description of love in Chapter 13.
I have attempted to illustrate by a diagram – the four-leaf clover.
Each leaf holds one of the energies of love, and each is critical to the formation and structure of the leaf, as each is critical to the formation of the human person.
Pluck/remove one and there is no longer a four-leaf clover.
Each of these elements we carry as a human person, made in the image and likeness of our God (Imago Dei), and at certain circumstances in our life, one of these energies will be activated either by myself, by another, or by a situation I encounter.
When I live out of (and perhaps live into) love I am showing my God to my world.