Religion and Love in Dante
Charles Williams

Charles Williams

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Religion and Love in Dante



the Inklings

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Religion and Love in Dante

The Theology of Romantic Love


Copyright © 1990 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(published in one volume with Outlines of Romantic Theology)

The assurance that Christianity is or ought to be thrilling, whether as an adventure or a catastrophe, is in danger perhaps of being a little overdone. Christianity, like all religions, is, frequently, almost unmitigated boredom or even a slow misery, in which the command to rejoice always is the most difficult of all.
It has been, through all time, part of the monotonous admonition of the old to the young that such rapt visions do not last, and far too often the discouraged old have implied that the mere fact of the quick passage of the vision means that it was in some sense unreliable, untrustworthy, valueless. It is false; no second experience can, of itself, destroy the value of a first experience. Yet aged imbecility has this much to be said for it—the particular Glory of the first 'falling-in-love', the living sense of Perfection, does seem to be withdrawn. Time and habit veil it perhaps. But I would rather choose to believe that it is not merely so, but that the Glory which attended the vehicle of Love operates at the will of Love.
This too is a statement of what happens to the most ordinary people in love. A sudden apprehension of the Good takes place, and the very appearance of the admired form is at once forgotten in that and yet excites the mind to ardours of intellect. Such experiences may be brief but they are normal; they are the answer to the everlasting question whether Beatrice is Theology. She is, of course, Theology, but she is only Theology because she is Beatrice; unwomaned, she is also untheologized.
And if so high a potentiality lies in so many lovers' meetings, then those lovers might well be encouraged to believe in the Way and to become aware of what potentialities they hold. It is not to make us heavy and solemn; Eros need not for ever be on his knees to Agape; he has a right to his delights; they are a part of the Way. The division is not between the Eros of the flesh and the Agape of the soul; it is between the moment of love which sinks into hell and the moment which rises to the in-Godding.

text checked (note A) Jan '05

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