Inspired by It’s Good To Be Here: A Disabled Woman’s Reflections on the Sacred Wonder of Being Human by Christina Chase, published by Sophia Institute Press, December 2019.
It’s that time of year again.
The quiet time between Christmas and spring, the time when online bloggers lament the long winter and Central Californians prepare for spring blooming and almond blossoms. It is the time for baby photo shoots in the orchards and Valentine’s Day. It is the time for mini-perfume sets and scented bath products for sale on Target end caps.
I embrace any chance for a festive celebration. I welcome the Belgium chocolates, Pink Champagne, and sentimental movies. I understand that Valentine’s Day can be a source of irritation for some who would limit it to a mere romantic celebration.
We should show love every day of the year, they say, arguing against its manufactured nature, accusing it of being a product of Hallmark’s reach through culture and need for big-box retailers to make a buck in February during the cold season.
when we look to children we see an example of how we can receive days such as these.
Children are not limited by the utilitarian ends of advertisers. A Valentine’s Day party is nearly as exciting as any holiday party except Christmas which comes with a vacation.
Children do not need an excuse to celebrate. For most of them, life itself is the excuse and candy is the accessory. We buy thin cardboard boxes of cartoon Valentine’s to be handed out at will, possibly with names written on them, possibly with a piece of chocolate taped to them, but assuredly with excitement. In exchange, our children receive scraps of paper with cartoon figures and possibly their name and possibly a piece of chocolate taped to it. These become treasures for the week.
Love extends beyond their inner circle to as big a circle as they can muster.
“Love is Love,” people say but love is a very particular, splendid and varied thing. There are many types of love. Each one has an important role in forming the shape of our lives. C.S. Lewis, drawing from Greek philosophy, identified four types of love.
Undoubtedly there is romantic love, called “eros.” There is “storge,” a bond of empathy, fondness and familiarity. There is “philios,” or brotherly love, that love between friends as close to siblings with shared values interests and activities. There is the love of self-gift and sacrifice, called “agape.”
Contrary to the message received about Valentine’s Day through romantic comedies, philosophically, the love of friends is considered grander than romantic love because it takes more of ourselves and shares more of ourselves. It is the thing that makes romantic love worthwhile in the end, worth lasting 50 years or more.
I cannot seek friendship only with the desire to be friends. I must look for shared interests and then the friendship will grow.
But what of “agape,” that selfless love?
During Advent, I read the book, It Is Good To Be Here: A Disabled Woman’s Reflections on the Sacred Wonder of Being Human by Christina Chase. As I sat overwhelmed by the exhaustion of my pregnancy, occupied with fear and the desire to hope for the health of my child at risk for a genetic condition, Christina Chase, who lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, grieves the fact that she can never marry or have children and confronts the fact that her life is wholly dependent on the caregiving of others. In the book she shares with the reader her journey, in that confrontation, in the question of suffering, in the grief of a life she cannot live and in the joy, the smile, the wonder, the depth of spiritual richness found only through suffering. She gives us her wisdom of the value of life and the role of love – self-giving love – agape.
“Illness and disability do not block our ability to be truly and fully joyful because our true and complete joy comes from living in harmony with divine love, and truly giving and receiving love.”It’s Good to Be Here, 62
“What every person can do, even someone who is in a vegetative state, is intimately participate in God’s love…In receiving loving care from others, they are enabling those others to encounter the divine.”It’s Good to Be Here, 160
So this Valentine’s day, share the love, of familiarity, friendship, romance and, above all, gift.