Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
--Christina Georgina Rossetti [1830-1894]
Let me begin with a riddle. What emotion plays the starring role in Johnny Cash’s song, “Ring of Fire;” Queen’s song, “Crazy lil’ thing called . . . .;” and the popular song, “. . . . . makes the world go round” (sung by a number of artists)?
Not money, not intellect, not hope, although all these things help - it's LOVE
Just think of how many millions of words have been written and spoken about LOVE. Throughout history every writer has turned to it. Shakespeare, Byron, T.H. Lawrence, even Aristophanes had a go at it. Then there are the songwriters and tunesmiths, such as Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, the Gershwins, and the beloved, (there's that word again), bard (poet) of Scotland, Robert Burns. At one time or another, all of these writers and most people in general have been smitten by the Beautiful Ailment.
How do we express this LOVE thing? Latin uses five letters to make two words, 'te amo'. French uses seven letters to form the words needed, “Je t'aime.” German uses 12 letters to form three words, 'Ich leibe Dich'. In Russian Cyrillic, speakers use 11 letters to form 3 words: Я люблю тебя. In contrast, Arabic speakers say, “أحب .” Gaelic typically says it indirectly as, 'Tha gaol agam 'orst' - It is love I have to/for you.
Then we come to Greek where there is not just one word for this phenomenon. There are three separate words for love, namely ' EROS', 'PHILOS' and 'AGAPE', each one representing different concepts of LOVE. Let us look at 'EROS' first. This is the sort of LOVE associated with the biological aspects of life. We are all familiar with the Greek god of love, Eros (the Roman equivalent of Eros is Cupid), that little fellow on his fountain in London’s Piccadilly Circus, star of Rev. Sidney Carter’s song.
"One leg up and one leg down, like an old cock-sparrow.
Flying over Piccadilly with 'is bow and arrow."
It is from the word, Eros that we derive the word erotic, but that is not the kind of LOVE we are looking at right now, so we shall set it aside.
That leaves us with 'AGAPE' and 'PHILOS’ to consider. We will look at PHILOS first. PHILOS is LOVE that exists or should exist between fellow creatures; this is the kind of Love that we should have for one another. From this word is derived the word “philosophy”, the love of knowledge, as well as the name of the city of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. In fact brotherly love is what we need an abundance of in our world right now.
Our last Greek word for love is AGAPE. Agape is the LOVE which exists between the Supreme Being and mankind. This Supreme Being has many names, among which are God, familiar to most of us, Jehovah, Allah, Great Spirit, and the Great Architect of the universe. Whatever name we assign, the Almighty Creator in His infinite wisdom created all things in His own way and in His time and having created them, loves them as a father loves his children with unconditional love. This love is genuine and wholesome. As God loves mankind, so mankind should love God. This then sets 'AGAPE' apart from the other types of LOVE, yet it does not separate them.
Let me bring these significant words together. EROS, the biological factor concerns the body/biology. PHILOS is the emotional factor that lays firmly upon us the responsibility of loving our fellow creatures. AGAPE is the two-way condition of spirit (i.e., God’s love for us and our response back). What we have is LOVE as a body, mind and spiritual experience.
Let me leave you with one last question. Jackie DeShannon was the first recognized singer of the song "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." Do you know the next line of this song? Consider what you can do this Christmas season to remedy DeShannon’s lament.
May AGAPE, PHILOS, and the peace of Christmas be with all creation. Robin Wilson