“Love” is a word that can be a noun or a verb. I always remember the noun definition given to us in the seminary by our spiritual director, Msgr. William Cosgrove: “Love is a spiritual attraction based on virtue.” But I’ve never heard a definition of the verb “to love” that has stuck with me in the same way. I think one good reason for this is that we do not have a neat and succinct definition of You. If you stop and think about it, love is really the only verb we can predicate of You. You define the action of love. As St. John, in his letter, says: “God is love.”
So often we think of ourselves when we hear St. Paul’s words about love: it is kind, patient, long-suffering, holds no grudges, etc., etc; but, in every case it is descriptive of the reflections of Your love for us. Creation, covenant, incarnation, crucifixion, redemption, salvation – these are descriptors of the only word that can be predicated of You – love!
Sometimes, in scripture and in other places, we must hack through a jungle of anthropomorphic adjectives applied to You that help us shape our image of You. Too frequently we forget that we were and are made in Your image and not vice versa. That image is “love,” which is not an anthropomorphic word. To coin a descriptor, love is “Theomorphic.” It harkens back to the spiritual in Msgr. Cosgrove’s definition, but that is why it’s so hard to pin down as a verb - because it’s spiritual. To love is a spiritual phenomenon. It is not foreign to us, for we are spiritual beings made in the image of love. Yet, as in so much else, our senses rule and we live a corporeal life which veils our spiritual side. Evelyn Underwood in her book on mysticism characterizes our quest as “Theopathic,” that is, centered on love (God). Your love is the example we are to live by. To be bathed in that love and to want to share it with others is the very definition of the word “love.”