February 15, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

May the banner of God’s love be over us

Shirley Vogler Meister“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing symbol.

“And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

“If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] 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. … So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:1-8, 13).

Because Valentine’s Day occurs just before most readers receive The Criterion this week—and because many of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day over the weekend—I open “Faithful Lines” with verses from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.

Through the years when I’ve been asked what I consider my lucky number, I’ve always said “13” because of that passage. Some say my reason is illogical. Perhaps so since I surely am in no way superstitious about anything.

When it comes to love, however, those who know me realize that this is the virtue I appreciate the most in others and in myself.

It is also not an easy virtue to consistently follow. Perhaps it was during past Marriage Encounters that my husband, Paul, and I heard the slogan, “Love is a decision.” The bottom line: That is true.

Most of us have the innate ability to love, but sometimes we (meaning I, in this case) tend to trivialize the word with informal observations, i.e.: I love ice cream. … I love sitting in a sauna. … I love balmy days.

Such statements are silly compared to my saying, “I love God. … I love my family. … I love my friends.”

Yet, the word applies in myriad ways to all areas of life. Love also tends to ebb and flow like the seasons depending upon our physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.

The Greeks have three words meaning love: “Agape,” a sacrificial unconditional love—the kind of love God gives us; “Philae,” friendship and brotherly love; and “Eros,” love between husband and wife. With married couples, all three Greek words are necessary.

Love is not just a feeling. It is a way of life starting in infancy. If a child is reared in a loving, supportive environment, he or she will surely have the ability to love through adulthood.

To paraphrase the Song of Songs by Solomon in the Old Testament, God brought us to the banqueting house and his banner over us is love.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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