“The beloved is said to be in the lover, inasmuch as the beloved is in the lover’s affections… [even] in the absence of the beloved, because of the lover’s longing towards…the good he wills to the beloved with a love of friendship.”
“… in the love of friendship, the lover is in the beloved, inasmuch as he reckons what is good or evil to his friend, as being so to himself.”
The power of will is astounding in what it can effect in us, and in others, every day.
Human life is always about presence. And presence cannot be taken for granted. As Thomas Aquinas notes, absence is opposed to presence. Often we are separated in some way or absent from those that we love.
Certain kinds of absence we cannot remove, at least not completely, but rather we need to endure. For instance, if a loved one has died, or moved away, or is just away for a time, there will be a real absence. Other absence comes in the form of a distance in heart and affection, which has its own challenge.
Physical absence itself can be tricky—we might overcome it to some extent by technologies that allow for communication at a distance. This can be a very reasonable thing to do. At the same time our habit of turning to technology can make us miss other things in our power to do.
Physical distance, as well as emotional distance, can be addressed in a real way by acts of our will—which require no technology.
Acts of love in the will cause presence. This is a powerful reality always within our reach. Thomas Aquinas writes of how love causes lover and beloved to ‘inhere’ in one another.
Let’s consider examples. My dear child lives at some distance, or I am simply at work or on a business trip apart from my spouse for some length of time, long or short. I can choose to will the good—the flourishing or happiness—of my beloved. This willing can be toward the person as he is right now, or toward something I hope and pray that he might achieve or become.
Either way, in and through this willing I am IN the beloved, and the beloved is IN me. In a real way. This is not a mental trick or pretending. The stronger the willing, the more real the interpenetration of persons. Prayer can be a powerful expression of this will toward the other.
One thing we can always practice is pausing and making an act of will, a choice to rest in the good of the other, or a choice to want the good of the other, whether actual or potential. In this loving and free act we are together—not as fully as we would want, but really and truly nonetheless.
The point here is not that the beloved will necessarily ‘feel’ my love from afar. Rather, my loving choice primarily brings about something in me. But at the same time, I should not underestimate the power of my love to do something real in those I love.
SABBATICAL NOTE: I am on sabbatical from teaching in the classroom this semester. This great blessing allows me to have more time for my intellectual work, as well as for rest and rejuvenation with my family. Due to my different schedule, I will occasionally miss a Wednesday Quote in the next few months.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is considered one of the greatest of medieval theologians. He called Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) ‘the Philosopher’ and wrote commentaries on all his major works. These quotations are from his major work the Summa theologiae, first part of the second part, question 28 on the effects of love, article 2.
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