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Eros-Agape Love – A Reflection on True Love

July 6, 2012 No Comments

July 5, 2012 / 


Eros-Agape Love

 By Deacon Antonio Sandoval

This article is an abstract of some portions of Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (DCE) (God is love).  I have taken the liberty to be selective and to paraphrase some of the ideas presented.  The Pope begins by saying that the form of love that stands out among all other forms is the love between a man and a woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness (DCE #2).  This love begins with eros, a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns (DCE #4).

It is important to understand that eros is not lust or merely physical attraction.  I recall when as a young man I experienced eros for the first time, I truly wanted to be my girl’s “knight in shining armor”.  I was concerned about my appearance and wanted my conduct to be authentic, respectful, and sincere.  For her, I wanted to be the best I could be, and the last thing I wanted was to cause her to sin.

Eros is rooted in man’s very nature and directs man toward marriage, to a bond that is unique, definitive and exclusive, (you and no one else) forever.  Such a marriage becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.  The close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has no equivalent in extra biblical literature (DCE #11)

Eros love is the beginning of the relationship between man and woman and between humans and God, but in time it must mature into agape love – the gift of one’s self to the other.  While eros is motivated by the expectation of personal happiness, agape love is more concerned with the care of the other.  It seeks the good of the beloved.  It becomes renunciation and is ready and willing to sacrifice (DCE #6).

The Pope makes it clear that love is a single reality, but with different dimensions at different times.  Eros and agape cannot be cut off from one another.  Man cannot live with agape love alone.  He cannot just give, he must also receive (DCE #8).

In God eros and agape love are one.  God is a passionate lover who searches for the beloved (us).  This is why the Song of Songs is part of Sacred Scripture.  This is why the Good Shepherd, Christ, is himself the lover, who searches for the lost sheep (us) to make us his mystical bride. The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel describe God’s passion for his people using bold erotic images.  God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution (DCE #9).  God’s eros for man is also totally agape, not only because it is given freely without any previous merit, but also because it is a love that forgives.  The eros-agape love of God for his people leads man into union with God, a unity which creates love, a unity in which God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one.  St. Paul said, he who is united with the Lord becomes one Spirit with him (1Cor 6:17) (DCE #10)

We need to model our marriages on the eros-agape love of God for us. We need to preserve the definition of marriage that God has given us, and we must not allow society to redefine it in any other way.

Read more by Deacon Antonio here


Antonio is a retired deacon in the Archdiocese of Denver. Last September his wife, Maud, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. They were told that she didn’t have long to live. Since she is 83 years old, they decided to refuse the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Last October they were sent to Hospice. They have now been there for 8 months. Antonio’s wife is not experiencing the symptoms of multiple myeloma other than the fact that she cannot move and has to stay in bed all the time. She is also in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. You prayers will be appreciated. Antonio spends the entire day with his wife.


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