Peter Falkenberg Brown
 
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Life Begins in God’s Embrace

~ a Christmas meditation on the gifts of love

Dec 14, 2019

“Deus est auctor amoris et decoris.”

I start with the premise that “God is the author of love and beauty.” The love that reverberates through the universe was not created by humans. It also could not have appeared mechanistically, formed from a random explosion without source or intent.

The provenance, the source, the chain of love is always at least one step above its recipient. A life begins and grows and in the best of circumstances receives love from something higher and older than itself. Plants are nourished by the generosity of light and warmth and water. Newborn animals experience love and security nestled against their mothers and sometimes experience a transcendent love from an animal mother of a different species.

Painting of "Berceuse (Le coucher)" [Lullaby (Bedtime)], 1873, by William-Adolphe BouguereauThe life of a human infant, conceived by parents who love each other, specifically begins in an embrace of love, and then grows in the loving home of the mother’s womb. When the child is born, and nestles against the mother’s breast to nurse and sleep, the nourishment of love provides the foundation of the child’s existence.

One might ask what all of this has to do with an unprovable and invisible God. We may have felt the embrace of love from our mother or father, or other humans. But how can that mean that we are loved by God?

The immaturity of human parents can also obscure or destroy a person’s perception that their life began with love. Some human beings may say that their life has been cold and hellish and devoid of love entirely. Yet even with the worst of parents and the worst of lives, there is always evidence of love if one is willing to observe the gifts of love that too frequently go unnoticed.

What is a gift? It is something that we receive; something that we did not create or control; something that is coming to us from outside of us. A good gift brings us joy, delight, and happiness. If we receive a gift that we appreciate, we may feel grateful and thank the giver. It’s also common to feel loved by the giver of the gift, and that feeling of being loved often creates in us an emotion of love for the other person. The joyful experience of receiving a gift from another human is easy to grasp and understand—and hopefully remember.

Yet, there is something more. If a gift is something that brings us joy, then how do we respond to the gifts of life and existence? Are they real and palpable and valuable to us? We may often fail to notice them, but when we do, and as we notice them more fully and frequently, what happens to our soul, our feelings, and our perception of being loved?

When I see a heron fly by, or watch a chipmunk pause in its journey, stand up, turn, and look back at me, or stand quite amazed as a deer walks up to eat grapes from my hand, I feel overwhelmed with the singular conviction that I have received a gift.

We all receive so many gifts from nature, from life, from people, and from the universe, that it is truly difficult to keep track of them all. Some are usually not even considered gifts but do indeed qualify, because we receive them from a source outside of ourself. We wake up in the morning and find that the blood is still flowing in our veins. We’re still breathing! What wonderful gifts! How momentous a gift is the invisible air that we breathe. Who sent that to us? Air is all around us, always embracing us, and it would be terrible if it were not. What Generous Benefactor created and organized the gift of air?

The feeling of being loved by an invisible source grows exponentially as we notice the gifts of love that we receive every day. Even gifts from human beings are not just from those fine individuals, because their love is part of a continuum of love that preexisted their birth. Thus, a gift from one person is a gift from the Creator of love and the creator of gifts. No one can say, “I created love. I created beauty,” no matter how far back in history one goes.

Imagine if we lived in a cold, random, and mechanistic universe that had no gifts, no love, and no beauty. Fortunately, that universe does not exist.

If a person is blind from birth and has never seen the faces of his or her mother and father, but has very often been embraced by them and has heard countless words of love from them, that person will know—not believe, but know—that they are loved by their father and mother, even though they cannot see their faces. In the same way, even though we cannot see God, can we not know that we are loved by God?

Our perception is multi-layered, and our five physical senses are important. But even more important are the senses that allow our hearts to perceive and feel the love that is given to us. When we begin to notice and experience the love that comes from a transcendent source, we will begin to feel embraced by that Divine source of love. We will begin to feel that our soul can breathe in the reception of that love, and that life begins with that embrace of love.

It is a subtle shift of mind and feeling that has enormous consequences. That shift can happen slowly, in the normal course of our lives, or it can happen under extreme duress.

In the book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote this description of the illumination he experienced in the depths of his suffering in a Nazi concentration camp:

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.

To me, there is nothing more beautiful or wonderful than the experiential knowledge of my Beloved, the knowledge that life begins and continues in God’s embrace of love.

 

Painting of “Berceuse (Le coucher)” [Lullaby (Bedtime)], 1873, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Oil on canvas, 112 x 86.5 cm (3 ft. 8 in. x 2 ft. 10 in.), Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center, www.artrenewalcenter.org

Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”

~ Deus est auctor amoris et decoris. ~


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