Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Portrait of Eros Love

Lewis’ descriptions of love are breathtakingly accurate. I think these are the best explanations that I have ever read. The two aspects I would like to focus on are the distinctions he makes between Eros and Venus and his reminder that love may start spontaneously but then must be nurtured and cared for if it is to continue.

Lewis depicts sexual attraction as a component of Eros which he calls Venus. Venus is described as want of A woman and a needed pleasure, whereas Eros is the opposite: want of THE woman and an appreciation of pleasure. Eros obliterates the desire for pleasure and simply appreciates the pleasure for what it is. It also obliterates any recognition between giving and receiving that pleasure. Eros is a selfless love in which pleasure is the by-product. As Lewis points out, two people in love will not be deterred if they are told that their future will not be happy. On the other hand, Venus is a selfish love the purpose of which is pleasure. I think these distinctions are important for us to remember especially in a culture that emphasizes the Venus component of being “in love.”

Lewis goes on to describe these two components in terms of the roles a man plays while experiencing each. But I will only focus on the description of the role played in Eros love. I think Lewis does an excellent portrayal of the relationship not only between a Christian husband and wife but also between Christ and His church. The Christian husband takes on the role of Christ. This means he is the head of the marriage as Christ is the head of the Church. Despite common associations this really means that he is a servant. As Lewis says he now wears a crown of thorns symbolizing his suffering for his wife. The husband loves the wife despite all the imperfections. Lewis’ words on the subject of the love between Christ and His church and thus the roles the husband and his wife play are beautiful: “This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is- in her own mere nature- least loveable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely… As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like never despairs.”

Lewis says that while this love is often attained without any initial effort it will be lost or will become a god if we do not work for it later on. “It is we who must work to bring our daily life into even closer accordance with what the glimpses have revealed” says Lewis. The initial effortless Eros shows us the beauty of such love but afterwards we must work together to make those glimpses last for more than the initial effortless love. As Lewis says, “We do the works of Eros when Eros is not present.” All this reminds me that love is not merely a feeling but also an action. Love is a challenge to us to shape our own will so that we remain faithful. This can only be done through a conscientious decision on our part before the testing of our faithfulness and the support of our friends, church, and Jesus Christ.

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