Infinity of God, Infinity of Love (Leo the Great)

In one of his Lenten sermons (Sermon 48.3), Pope St. Leo the Great says:

If God is love, charity should have no end since divinity can be closed off by no boundary.

Si enim dilectio Deus est, nullum habere debet terminum charitas, quia nullo potest claudi fine Divinitas. (PL 54.300)

Throughout his sermons, for Lent, for the November collections, for Advent, Leo calls the people of Rome to exercise charity. This call, though — this call is beyond the usual declarations that if you truly love Jesus, you will give to the poor (cf. Mt. 25). Almsgiving can always have a limit — 10%, perhaps?

But caritas, charity — well, this is more than almsgiving (although our view of things today has reduced it to thus, with our ‘registered charities’ and ‘charity shops’). This word is frequently used in Latin versions of the Bible to render the Greek word agape.

Caritas, agape, charity. This is the love for the unlovely. Unlike affection, eros, friendship, and such, this love is not necessarily motivated by anything within the beloved (cf. CS Lewis’ The Four Loves). This is the love we are to have for enemies — it is the love God had for us when were still his enemies, a love he displayed through his death on the cross.

God is love.

God is infinite and unbounded.

Love, caritas, is to be infinite and unbounded.

We are to love our enemies to the point of death. Leo’s call here implies that we are to devote our lives entirely to God out of sheer love for Him (cf. Bernard On Loving God), and, if taken alongside his many high ethical and ascetic discourses, we are to act out that love through acts of mercy and forgiveness of our enemies. We are to give to the poor not just a tithe but to keep giving until we see them raised up and able to fend for themselves. We are to forgive and interact with our enemies until we can call them friends. We are to shower kindness upon pagans until they become Christians and join us at the sacramental feast.

What might it mean for you to love infinitely today?

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5 thoughts on “Infinity of God, Infinity of Love (Leo the Great)

  1. Even prophets and saints do not love infinitely. Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh, and John wanted to call down fire from heaven and consume those who rejected Jesus. But God alone is gracious and longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. His Love is infinite because He didn’t spare His own Son.

  2. It is true that no human being can love infinitely. Yet the infinite love of God calls us to strive towards that infinity in our own lives, lived out in his grace.

  3. I agree. The question is whether our acts of mercy and works of love may not end up bringing glory to ourselves, rather than God. For instance, for all the works of love Mother Teresa had done, the world rewarded her the Nobel Peace Prize, rather than converting to her religion.

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