“I love you.” Those are powerful words—or they ought to be, if “luv” becomes love. What is “luv?” We all recognize “luv” as that attraction and infatuation for someone else and the intense feelings that come it.
Now, I don’t mean to criticize “luv.” Not at all. In fact, St. John Paul calls this “eros” which is the “reciprocal attraction of masculinity to femininity and femininity to masculinity,” a God-given gift that begins with the senses.
As I write this, my Pre-Cana team of speakers is giving a day-long TOBET Seminar to 25 engaged couples who certainly “luv” each other. God invented eros to draw them to each other, which is good. But in TOBET’s Theology of the Body Marriage Preparation Book, following TOB itself, we remind them that such erotic attraction needs to be purified and deepened. As St. John Paul puts it:
…[I]t seems that love here opens up before us… another dimension of the person… which calls, invites, to another communion. This love has been called agape…. (TOB 113:5).
In other words, God gave us sexual desire to propel us into a relationship. But neither the human heart nor the body is meant to stop there. As St. Augustine taught, we long to know and be known on the deepest level. Married couples I know, some of whom are TOBET speakers, often struggled in their marriages, but they were able to persevere through the Holy Spirit’s purifying grace. Here’s my diagram that tries to “incarnationalize” this deep concept which is also communicated in Pope St. John Paul’s Love and Responsibility:
All of this is great in theory, you might say—and you meaning “you” and “me” no matter our state in life (I’m not married)—but can it even be lived? Yes. The key is to work intentionally on self-mastery, and then to open your human spirit to receive the Holy Spirit, as St. John Paul puts it (cf. TOB 51:6).
Need more concrete guidance than that? Let’s draw from The Body and Heart, our Level 7, Book 2 from The Body Matters.
There are five paths to purify our love. I suggest you focus on one of them.
- We can’t do it alone. Ask friends and your beloved to support you, especially through prayers. Ask them to give you loving, honest feedback on an area for growth.
- Don’t just rely on abstract thoughts. Do fun things to renew and purify your love.
- Don’t forget your prayer life. If we let God love us, we will experience agape love and will then be able to offer it to others.
- Boundaries remind us that love is not enmeshment; there are two “I’s” that become a “we” while remaining their own “I’s,” to paraphrase St. John Paul’s concept (cf. TOB 126-132).
- Practice self-mastery. Be conscious of a vice and work on replacing it with the opposite virtue. If impatience with your loved one is your vice, go to the extreme of seeing his or her tardiness as a gift to you. Really… it happens. It’s through metanoia, a “change of heart” (not meta-verse, an escape from reality!).
The purification of “luv” to love is possible… and, the bonus is that it even strengthens “luv”—that intense attraction that is now directed properly to the whole person through agape.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Co-founder and President of TOBET, Monica Ashour is author of 28 books and is an international speaker.