The Grace of Love

    When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
    And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
    Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

    – Kahlil Gibran, fromĀ The Prophet

Gibran’s words so aptly approach the very essence of Love. The Wiccan religion speaks little of it, and this is strange, for it is one of the very cornerstones of our faith. The Charge of the Goddess, so often quoted, tells us, “Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold — all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.” Too often, this statement raises an eyebrow… or a hope… that in Wiccan ritual, there is the legendary ritual orgy, masked under the veneer of respectability by the term “Great Rite”.

But to borrow a phrase, where’s the love?

Love is not an action, it is an emotion, though it best expresses itself in action, rather than words. Love is a state of being. Love is… well, poets and bards, lovers and philosophers have expended great effort to explain what Love is, to varying degrees of success. One of the most moving comes from the Christian Bible, I Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous. It is not inflated, it is not rude. It does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Many things can be mistaken for love, but love cannot be mistaken for anything else. Anyone who’s ever experienced real, genuine love will understand this. Infatuation, dependency, control, manipulative self-interest… all these things can take on the guise of Love, and in the absence of real Love, they can go undetected. But once exposed to genuine love, these pretenders are quickly unmasked, and they do not suffer well the light of day.

Love, as Gibran says, cannot be directed. Neither can it be pursued, as it is as ephemeral as the dawn’s mist when one attempts to grasp it, like a mirage when one chases it. But it is a consummate hunter, rarely giving any warning before consuming us.

But here, we must pause, and give careful consideration to the trap that seems to be set by Love: that we will be compelled by Love to remain with someone who is uncaring or abusive. That we will be yoked by Love’s duties, that we will be required “for love’s sake” to perform, when our heart is really elsewhere. To be vulnerable to every glance, every word of our beloved, especially when beset by the phrase, “Well, if you love me, you’ll…”

Take heart. Love isn’t stupid, or weak, or short-sighted. Nor does it demand that we be. True Love can express itself as a swift kick in the ass, and it has been known that genuine Love has directed one to end another’s life.

So what is Love? How do we bring it into our religion, or even should we? To answer the last question first, yes, of course we should. As for how, perhaps we can start with some of the simplest expressions of Love: acceptance. Love, you see, accepts the beloved unconditionally. That is the nature of Love. Again, it is not a stupid acceptance; it doesn’t require that we overlook abusive, destructive behavior.

Some say that we should start by loving the self, first. After all, how can we learn to love another if we harbor hatred for ourselves? And yet, particularly in American society, that is frequently how it goes. So, say others, we should start by loving another, and learning how to love, so that we may extend that love to the self.

I say recognize that Love knows no illusions of “self” and “other”. Love knows itself, fulfills itself. And recognizes that love of another is the love of self, and love of self extends to others, naturally.

Think on these things.

    When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
    – His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
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