My Valentine gives me flowers – all I need do is walk outdoors where roses line my condo building, and throughout the summer the rays of the rising sun light the hollyhocks planted along the roadside, and then there is, of course, the profusion of wildflowers from spring to fall.
My Valentine gives me chocolate – through friends I receive the creamy dark stuff that comforts me; or, if need be, I can buy my own because I am fortunate enough to have a salary that is sufficient enough to allow a few luxuries.
My Valentine provides all I need and much of what I want. He is, in fact, the giver of all good and perfect things, as St. James wrote.
I was shocked the first time I heard God referred to as a lover – it implies such an intimate relationship, and the Almighty is omnipotent, unknowable, too fine, too immense, all together too much to be considered anything other than an object of worship. He belongs in a gilded sanctuary, not slogging along beside me through the slough of everyday life.
Perhaps that is one reason God became man. I cannot conceive of kinship with the mighty voice that spoke from the burning bush, but I can identify with the dusty preacher from Nazareth who enjoyed food, fellowship and a good joke, who was misunderstood and abandoned by his friends, who sweated and suffered right along with the rest of us on this mortal coil.
“I can have no other spouse but Jesus Christ,” St. Kateri Tekakwitha said, expressing a sentiment common to religious life. Consecrated women consider themselves married to Jesus, the bridegroom of the Church, of which we are all members.
“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek him is the greatest adventure, to find him is the greatest human achievement,” St. Augustine of Hippo wrote. This is a logical progression: When setting off on an adventure it helps to have an emotional attachment to the desired goal, and if one wants to devote time to discovering another person, an ardent connection is all but required. To find one must seek, and for each thing we know about God there is an entire universe we have yet to learn. Consider that we are made in his image, then realize that male and female we were created, yet even this most basic biological difference is in God somehow unified. The mind cannot grasp how this can be so; our language cannot describe the concept, which is not unisex nor androgynous nor asexual but something far beyond the meaning these words convey.
The poetry of St. John of the Cross is suffused with images of God as a lover, as a bridegroom, as the beloved who must be pursued up the mountain, through the woods, across green meadows. In a more prosaic moment, this Carmelite mystic advised, “Take God for your bridegroom and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you.”
I would like to show my appreciation for the prosperity I enjoy, but what exactly does one offer to a lover who created heaven and earth, who cannot enjoy wine and chocolate, who has no need of anything money can buy?
This Valentine’s Day, I can think of no better gift to give my beloved than that which he does not already have: my thoughts, my words, my deeds, through which he can if he wishes bless the world, if I but allow him the use of them.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.