Eros. When the moon hits your eye . . .

Remember that song? Dean Martin? “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, THAT’S Amore!” They don’t write them like that anymore.

It tries to describe that moment when a man and woman suddenly behold the beauty of each other and experience that wonderful thing we call “falling in love”. Other familiar phrases happen here. Words like, “She just knocked me out.” Or, “When I saw him, I just melted.”

The Greeks had a word for this powerful reaction to an-other person. They called it “Eros”. It’s one of three words they had for “love”. The others are “Philos” (brotherly/sisterly love/ the love of truth) and “Agape” (self-sacrificing love).

You might see in the word Eros the word “erotic”, and here’s where things can get a little complicated. You see Eros is a good thing. It is given to us by God to open our eyes and hearts to appreciate the beauty of another person in both body and soul. It’s what Adam felt when he first beheld Eve. “At last!” he said. (Gen. 1). Something “erotic”, in the best sense, pertains to those attributes that delight the senses of the lovers and increase sexual desire.

But, as usual, we’ve found a way to mess things up. Our fallen human nature has taken the God given delight in another’s physical presence and turned it around. What was meant to be the entre’ to physical love between spouses (an admiring of the other, prompting the gift of ourselves to them) now becomes the temptation to “take” their beauty for ones own pleasure. We call this use of Eros for selfish gain, lust. The tendency toward lust is a state theologians call “concupiscence”.

Lust has an interesting power. Theologians refer to its “fascinating” or “hypnotizing” effects. Playboy built an empire on this tendency (especially in men). So intense is the sexual pleasure that it has the ability (unless checked) to suspend reasonable thought.

And here’s the crux of the matter. Human sexuality has a duel purpose: children and spousal love and friendship. The fundamental disorder of lust is that it separates sexual pleasure from the full purpose of sexual activity. It breaks the bonds that ties it to “meaningful sex” and pleasure becomes the sole purpose for the activity.

So there’s a big tussle going on. Reason says, “Look, this sex thing is only going to work if it has some rules attached to keep it focused on its purpose.” Unchecked Eros says, “Oh please, get real! Just look at him/her! I’m melting! What could possibly be wrong with this?” If it feels so good, what could be wrong?

So which will win? Right, Reason or Lust? In our fallen nature . . . lust usually wins. It overpowers our best intentions. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God’s will is felt to be burdensome and interferes with our sexual desires which are now separated from God’s wisdom for us. We become alienated from the Lover God created us to be.

This is where Jesus comes to save us. “God is love” scripture tell us. (1 John) Jesus is the love of God in human flesh. In him, as in no other human, there is the perfect union of Eros and Agape.

Did Jesus have Eros? You bet he did! He had a lover’s passion for human beings. His tenderness with sinners, his parables of the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 to search for the lost one, the father who searches day and night for his Prodigal son, the woman’s search for the Lost coin . . . all tell us of a love that is moved by Christ’s sharing in our human nature. God loves us with human love (Eros) perfectly united to selfless love (Agape) in Christ Jesus.

All this is forever etched in our hearts in the passion of the Cross of Christ. “In this God proves his love for us .” (Rm. 5:8)
So when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, re-member . . . our new life is to “love one another as Christ has loved us.” (Jn. 13:34)

Fr. Tim