Ecstasy

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The etymology of a word is often useful to better understand its meaning. That is why good dictionaries usually provide not only the definition of the word but also its origin, where it comes from.

The word ecstasy comes, as many other words in modern languages, from ancient Greek. Etymologically, it means to place or to cause to stand out. If we consider the origin of the word, we immediately realize that “ecstatic love”, in its original sense would refer to a love so intense that causes one to literally be driven out of himself or herself. Of course, this would have nothing to do with being alienated, but simply reveals the radical nature of that love, which leads the lover to go out to meet the beloved, to pour himself or herself out for the beloved. True love is not about possessing but about giving. In fact, it is about self-giving. A self-donation that leads one to greater self-possession. In this regard, the prayer of St. Francis, Make me a channel of your peace, is very eloquent, it is in giving that we receive.

As much as some would have us believe that love is a feeling, we know full well that it is not. It is an inner disposition to do good to the beloved, even to the point of self-sacrifice. True love is diffusive, it is a self-oblation, it is a complete gift of self to the beloved that far from diminishing one’s personality, enhances it because it is in loving that a person’s true self is developed, nurtured, healed.

True love is the best antidote to alienation because it entails an outward movement that enhances one’s personhood. Love shifts the focus of the lover from a navel gazing, self-referential attitude to the beloved and in doing so it leads to an affirmation of the self.

That is certainly the case with the love of God, which is obviously perfect and infinite because it is from God. His love is truly ecstatic, it is so intense, so radical, so passionate that it leads Him out of Himself. Creation is the product of the love of God, who lacks nothing, is infinitely blessed and perfect with Himself, yet creates the universe and everything that exists because He is love. It is love so ecstatic that it causes Him to create everything that exists, not because of a compulsion but precisely and exclusively out of love. Truly, the love of God is ecstatic in its etymological sense.

Since the first object of the love of God is Himself, the love He professes for Himself must be ecstatic too. It is so in its etymological sense too. This fact helps us to begin to understand the nature of the God of Jesus Christ, the God of Israel, who is love and the Trinitarian nature of God that we are invited to celebrate and contemplate with special intensity this Sunday.

There is one and only one God, in whom there is a communion of persons because He is love and loves Himself with ecstatic love, love that goes out, stands out.

God’s self-revelation as love in the Bible is the most consequential and greatest insight of the religion of Israel. Everything else that God tells us about Himself, the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery, everything He tells us about our human nature and about our destiny makes full sense because God has revealed Himself to us as love. The way God interacts with Creation, his action in human history is caused by love. God cares about His people and delivers them from bondage in Egypt. Because He cares about His creatures he embraces our humanity becoming one with us.

We can also begin to understand the self-revelation of God as Triune. The love of God is so ecstatic that it causes Him to go out of Himself. It is so perfect, so profound and so real that in Him there are three persons, the Father who loves, the Son who is the object of that love, the beloved, and the Holy Spirit, the bond of love itself that binds the Father and the Son. There are three persons in God because He is love.

The Trinitarian nature of God, therefore, is not simply a theological concept, it is a reality that has concrete consequences for our everyday life. Firstly, because we would not exist if God was not who He is and had not created us, but also because the communion of persons and radical nature of that love that binds reveals the deepest meaning of the universe and of our lives and points to love, ecstatic love, as the summit of our existence.

Therefore, when we learn to love as God loves, pouring ourselves out for the beloved with a total and radical gift of self, not only we are growing in communion with Him and with one another, we are becoming more and more like Him who loved us first!

Fr. Roberto M. Cid