What Is Religion?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”[1]

Sometimes, holding onto the Mysteries of Faith is like holding onto a stack of smoke rings or trying to grasp moonbeams. The Dogma of the Holy Trinity, Hypostatic Union, images of the Sacred Heart, the Doctrine of Transubstantiation… Religion can seem a cluttered tedium of academic explanations. It almost makes me want to shake my head and walk away.

But then, I remember… Love.

Love is the highest Good, the highest Beauty, the highest Humanity. Whatever religion one practices or rejects, it is commonly understood, simply known, that love is the answer to everything. When there are difficulties with another person, what’s needed is the forgiveness, compassion, and patience of love. If others are troublesome or cruel, then it is with the strong arm of love that we are to guide them to their truest selves. When I am dissatisfied with the pot in which I am planted, I must learn to love the bloom that I can be – the bloom that I am created to be.

Love is the way. Love is the truth. Love is life. The visceral goodness, beautiful ecstasy, and full truth of life is love… and we know it. We are less than what we really are without it.

This knowledge can lead some to false, trivial excesses – defining, portraying, and seeking love as pleasure or even as pain. But, real love isn’t cheap, usable, or disposable. It isn’t invented or manufactured, it can never be forced – and, when love is real, it can never be lost or destroyed. Love is as intimate to the body as breath and heartbeat, and as infinite as Spirit and Infinity Itself. The Divine is divine because the Divine is love – pure, real love. God is love.

The knowledge of this truth does not mean that I should only be spiritual and not religious. God created me of flesh and spirit, God knows. And God loves all of me, the whole of me, body and soul. God doesn’t simply want to reach out to me in a spiritual way, but also in a physical way, drawing me into Divine embrace. Religion is where we catch at God’s reaching out to us. Sometimes, we may only catch at a small portion and be led, like a child by the hand, to the places of real love in the world. Other times, perhaps rarer times, our responsive reaching out catches us up entirely into the loving and intimate dance of covenant relationship, divinely loving always and everywhere.

Christ is God’s profound and tangible presence in the world, a being, like us, of body and soul, who is human, like us, but also Divine. Christ is Love Incarnate sent to us, coming to us, to take us up into the full embrace of Love. He does this through mysteriously divine actions – those as he walked and breathed upon earth, and those as he ever was and ever will be – loving in nature, loving in the world, loving in our hearts, moving and acting there to draw us ever closer to our Divine Source, to Divine Union, to the truth of who we are – to love.

Every dogma and doctrine of the universal Christian religion are simply, and profoundly, the means to this. As real as sunlight are the gazes, the caresses, the embraces… the infinite human/divine intimacy of love.

Unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase


[1] Jeremiah 31:3

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