Biblical Studies · Spirituality

Of love, compassion and the unexpected angel of mercy

Without passion there’s no compassion. In the same way there has to be eros in the mixture if there is to be agape as well.

Thus open this morning’s ‘Lent Daily Reflections’ by the World Community for Christian Meditation. Both those sentences ring entirely true to me. It is through suffering that we learn to be compassionate; and true love is always marked by agape and eros.

The reflections then refer to Luke 22:41-44:

[Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, ‘Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.’ Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.

I have quoted this passage from the fairly new Common English Bible. Anyway, the reflections conclude:

This is no fairy tale. For any mature person it resonates with our own experience. Aloneness, anguish, fear, physical symptoms, the unexpected angel of mercy. But at the heart of it is the love [Jesus] felt holding him, which empowered him to love those he did not even, at that instant, consciously know.

There are two insights in this that resonate deeply with me: that we are empowered to love by being held in/by love ourselves, and that it is particularly in those experiences of intense suffering that we meet the unexpected angel of mercy.

Spirituality

Two types of losses

At the beginning of Lent I decided to subscribe to the Lent Daily Reflections by the World Community for Christian Meditation. I am glad that I did, because they have contained many inspiring thoughts alongside some gentle, wholesome counsel.

Today’s reflection (Friday of Lent Week 4) talks about the anguish of loss, making the helpful distinction between two types of losses. One is described as the deliverance from an addiction or a compulsive delusion, which, while very much experienced as a loss at the time, in the end leads to freedom and a life lived with renewed vigour. The second type, on the other hand, is a ‘genuine death experience that drags us into a vortex of surrendering to something vaster than we can control’.

Experience of the second type, which they describe as ‘major surgery with a strong anaesthetic that puts us out’, can take a long time to heal and integrate and can change your life forever. It probably will!